Almost anyone is more likely to respond to a request when she thinks she herself will benefit from it. So to be persuasive, dangle an incentive. For example, if your neighbor’s barking dog bothers you, give her the name of a trainer that you’ve used in the past and say, “She may be able to help you, as well.” And while you’re making your case, try to reduce your use of self-referential pronouns (I and me) in favor of you. That way, you’ll sound more concerned with the other person’s needs than with your own.
Erik Gensler is the president of Capacity Interactive, a digital-marketing consulting firm in New York City.
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Talk to the Top Brass
Consumers often ask to speak to customer service or a manager if they have a problem with a company. Forget that step—go online to find out who the CEO or president is and write to that person. Politely provide specific information on how you would like your problem to be rectified (maybe you want a replacement product or just an apology for bad service). A CEO is much more likely than, say, a call-center employee to care about the reputation of his company—and to want to keep your business.
John Tschohl is the president of the Service Quality Institute, a customer-service training company in Minneapolis, and the author of The Customer Is Boss: A Practical Guide for Getting What You Paid For and More ($20, amazon.com).
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Focus on the Small Stuff
Broad critiques are hard for people to absorb. So address minor issues first. For example, if you’re the parent of a teenager, don’t hound her about her poor homework habits and lax approach to chores all at once. Instead, ask her to unload the dishwasher. Later, remind her about her algebra. Over time, these piecemeal victories can add up to substantial change.
Guy Winch, Ph.D., is a New York City-based psychologist and the author of The Squeaky Wheel: Complaining the Right Way to Get Results, Improve Your Relationshipsand Enhance Self-Esteem ($15, amazon.com).
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Practice Asking for What You Want
You don’t instinctively know how to ride a bike or do long division; you have to learn these skills. Same goes for advocacy. That is, after all, why attorneys go to law school: They have to master the art of making a convincing argument. Women in particular need to routinely ask for what they want, since they often equate asking with being confrontational. Try it right now. Call your credit-card company and haggle for a better interest rate, or negotiate a price with a seller on Craigslist. In time, you’ll perfect your approach.
Lindsey Chow is an assistant district attorney at the San Francisco District Attorney’s office.
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Indulge Your Audience
Every rock star tailors his patter to his crowd (“We love you, Detroit!”). It’s a winning strategy: To appeal to someone, open the conversation by referring to something you have in common. As a lobbyist, I do this when I’m meeting with lawmakers. If they can connect their personal interests with the causes that I’m fighting for, my arguments will stand out. Besides, anyone can get in the door once. If you want to return, people have to enjoy talking with you.
Diane Blagman is the Washington, D.C.-based senior director of governmental affairs at the law firm Greenberg Traurig.