Working in a team, you meet all kinds of personalities.
You have the leader-type – determined, and raring to go; the silent busy bee worker type – always in the background but strictly adhering to deadlines. As you move along the spectrum, you’ll find the big talker – always kind of in your face in group discussions, always ready with ‘constructive criticism’ to share that does not reflect in their own assigned tasks and the scary dude across the street, just kidding, you have the “ghost-er” who basically reads all your messages and never replies, and a whole lot of other personalities in between. Sometimes, you’re lucky and get put into a brilliant team where the dynamic just seems organic, where all of you are headed for a wonderful learning experience together. Other times, you might end up with a bunch of people who are barely on the same page, each tugging stubbornly at whatever task that ties you all together, and you end up losing faith in the prospect of doing teamwork or any form of group work.
As young adults, it’s not unusual for us to form certain habits. When it comes to picking team members, some of us would rather just complete the task, not seek to ‘create’ any sort of bond, aside from being teammates who each perform their own assigned duties; some like the idea of building new relationships over new experiences and oftentimes, this clash of interests can result in feelings of resentment. Resentment towards people who seem like they’re more interested in socialising over finishing work, and vice versa.
So, this clash of interests and priorities discerns a necessary skill which any member of an organisation has had to build, either as the recipient of it or as the one projecting it: Persuasion. Of the team member types previously mentioned, some of those types, when you meet them, you will see them practically gush persuasion, and you find yourself involuntarily ‘enslaved’, just kidding. For some people, no matter how hard they try, they just can’t get a good idea or suggestion across, and sometimes, their failure in doing so wrecks their self-esteem and confidence. Ultimately, it is not too far-fetched to say that persuasion is crucial to provide a springboard in which we can prove our other talents.
Think back to any interview you attended. You had to convince the interviewers of your worth right? It might have been a clear-cut comparison of academic excellence, but with the more open-ended questions, it’s usually persuasion that can make a candidate stand out. Ever heard of that saying ‘They can talk just as convincingly as a used-car salesperson”? And what about all the great figures in history who used persuasion to achieve extraordinary things? Brains and intelligence might be the first step required for any change, but persuasion should definitely not be overlooked.
Thus we come back to our initial problem: team members. How does one make use of persuasion in ensuring smooth teamwork and high efficiency? Let us take a look at some of the basics laid out by Jason Nazar in “How to Persuade People.”
First off, is his No.1 Principle, “Persuasion is not Manipulation”, he talks about the difference between coercing someone into doing something compared to getting someone to do things that help both you and that particular person. So when you want to get someone on board with a plan, try thinking of why they should want to help you, then this will become more convincing for the other person. Second, another principle set out was “Set Expectations”; in it an example of how setting low expectations that were fulfilled may sit better with your teammates compared to setting astronomically high expectations but failing to succeed. Every time you start a new project or work with a new team, spare some time to align everyone’s expectations and that way the team gets to start off from the same starting line.
Another key skill of persuasion is “Creating Urgency”, which motivates people to get moving, and start working on whatever you just persuaded them to do. Tasks need to be completed, and people need the motivation to get moving, so what better motivation than an impending deadline? And the last pick of the principles is “Learn to Transfer Energy”. Teams will always have a mix of personalities, and it is fairly easy for one teammate’s mood to affect the entire team. As a persuasive team member, you need to be the one that’s in touch with their teammates and the best way to do so is by active listening. Bubbly energy that is transferred to others morphs into a pushing force that can breath new life back into the team. And if the limelight is not your thing, then it’s okay to do small actions like maintaining eye contact, laughing or generally just keeping your responses filled with excitement.
It’s easier said than done, and there are no immediate persuasion hacks that one can just memorise to use in real life. However, practice does make perfect, and if one can start to be more self-aware of the way they interact and indirectly ‘practice’ their persuasiveness, people ought to be able to improve their persuasiveness. As the world changes and society’s norms are redefined, persuasion may very well become an extremely vital part of the new ‘norm’. It is a fundamental skill that can help you attract investors, sell products, build brands, inspire teams, and trigger movements.
So ask yourself, are you #persuaded by now?
Written by: Pei Xian, Earlnie, & Yohen