5 Ways to Win People Over
1. Puncture Your Own Ego
Years ago, a journalist went undercover at several restaurants—one of them mine (Union Square Cafe)—with the aim of bribing the maître d’s to score a table. In his article, he wrote that my host had taken the cash. I was mortified and wanted to repair the damage. When I knew the writer would be at an upcoming industry function, I prepared myself. When we saw each other, I walked over and slipped him a $50 bill. He joked that he was keeping it, and then we had a great conversation, which ultimately led to a friendship. Getting defensive gets you nowhere with people. Instead, be willing to show humility and, above all, humor.
Danny Meyer is the owner of six restaurants in New York City and the author of Setting the Table ($27, amazon.com).
2. Don’t Be Needy
People can smell any sense of urgency, and they’re easily turned off. An audience wants to feel like it’s in good, stable hands, and a comedian needs to exude that tone while putting aside her own insecurities. This rule of thumb applies to just about any attempt at persuasion. If I get the feeling that a person desperately wants something from me (not including one of my kids), I am more reluctant to give it up. For instance, when an agent goes overboard trying to ingratiate himself with me, I run the other way. So the next time you want something from someone (no matter how much), try acting cool and blasé.
Susie Essman, a stand-up comedian, is a regular cast member on HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm and the author of What Would Susie Say? ($25, amazon.com).
3. Tell Someone (Nicely) What She Has to Lose
Although most folks say they want to hear what they can gain by taking your advice, they’re actually more influenced by what they have to lose by not heeding it. For example, you’ll get further with your boss if you emphasize the revenue you’ll miss out on by not pursuing a project, rather than by citing any potential benefits. That’s why the phrase “Don’t miss it!” is more effective in ads than “Take this opportunity.”
Noah Goldstein, Ph.D., is an assistant professor at the Anderson School of Management, at the University of California, Los Angeles, and a coauthor of Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive ($25, amazon.com).
4. Throw a Curveball in Conversation
This is my go-to technique when I’m faced with a person who isn’t receptive to what I’m saying. Recently one of my clients was in a terrible mood, so rather than press my point, I took a 10-minute break to show her pictures of a friend’s home that I knew she would love. She instantly relaxed, and her mood shifted. Soon enough, she was speaking enthusiastically about the opportunity I was pitching. Going on a tangent—as long as it’s one you know the other person will be interested in—really works.
Alison Brod is the founder and president of Alison Brod Public Relations, based in New York City.
5. Reiterate the Other Person’s Argument
As an online journalist, I often get yelled at for something I’ve written. These attacks usually appear on other people’s blogs, and (as long as they’re rational) I try to repost them on my own. Doing this helps prevent “flame wars” (an escalating exchange of nasty cyberdialogue), because I am listening to and stating their opinions, after all. Outside of the Internet, the same rules apply. If you’re trying to explain to your kid that he can’t stay up late, begin by stating his opinion—“Look, I know that you want to read the last 492 pages of Harry Potter”—before adding your two cents. Even if he’s reluctant to concede the point, he’ll appreciate the fact that you listened to him in the first place.
Ben Smith is a political blogger on Politico.com.