Careers and Employability Service

Persuading, Influencing and Negotiating Skills


PERSUADING involves being able to convince others to take appropriate action. NEGOTIATING involves being able to discuss and reach a mutually satisfactory agreement. 
INFLUENCING encompasses both of these.




These skills are important in many jobs, especially areas such as marketingsalesadvertisingand buying, but are also valuable in everyday life. You will often find competency-based questions on these skills on application forms and at interview, where you will be required to give evidence that you have developed these skills.


One scenario where persuading skills can be important is the job interview, but the following tips are valuable in many other settings.persuading-skills

  • Focus on the needs of the other party. Take time to listen to them carefully and find out about their interests and expectations. This shows that you are really interested in them and they are then more likely to trust and respect you. It will also make it easier for you to outline the benefits of your proposal in terms they understand.
  • Argue your case with logic. Do careful research on your ideas and those of your competitors (if there are any) and make sure that any claims you make can be verified.
  • The more hesitant language you use such as "isn't it", "you know", "um mm" and "I mean" the less people are likely to believe your argument. (Journal of Applied Psychology)
  • Use positive rather than negative language: instead of saying "You're wrong about this", say "That's true, however ...", "That's an excellent idea, but if we look more deeply ....." or "I agree with what you say but have you considered ....".
  • Subtly compliment the other party. For example: "I see that you've done some really excellent research into this". Even though they may realise this is being done, evidence shows that they will still warm to you and be more open to your proposals.
  • Mirroring the other person's mannerisms (e.g. hand and body movements). A study at INSEAD Business School found that 67% of sellers who used mirroring achieved a sale compared to 12% who did not. People you mirror subconsciously feel more empathy with you. However, it can be very embarrassing if the other person detects conscious mirroring so it must be very subtle. You need to leave a delay of between two and four seconds before the mirroring action. See our body language quiz for more on this.
  • Try to remember the names of everyone you meet. It shows that you are treating them as an individual.


Negotiating to win

This involves pursuing your own interests to the exclusion of others: I win: you lose! Persuading someone to do what you want them to do and ignoring their interests: "keeping your cards hidden". Pressure selling techniques involve this.

Whilst you might get short term gain, you will build up long term resentment which can be very disruptive if you ever need to work with these people again.

Jennifer Chatman (University of California, Berkeley) developed experiments in which she tried to find a point at which flatterybecame ineffective. She found out that there wasn’t one!

Of course, flattery based on round the positive attributes and deeds of other people is much more likely to be helpful and effective, and you will feel better about it too!

Negotiating jointly

  • This involves coming to an agreement where everyone gets what they want, 
    reaching a mutually satisfactory agreement: win-win
  • You need to establish mutual trust, so it requires honesty and integrity from both parties.
  • Both sides work together to come up with a compromise solution to suit everyone's best interests.
  • Each party tries to see things from the other's perspective.
  • Assertiveness is the best way here: being passive or aggressive doesn't help.

A strategy for successful negotiations

  • Listen carefully to the arguments of the other party and assess the logic of their reasoning
  • Clarify issues you are not clear about by asking how, why, where, when and what questions.
  • List all the issues which are important to both sides and identify the key issues. Identify any personal agendas. Question generalisations and challenge assumptions.
  • Identify any areas of common ground.
  • Understand any outside forces that may be affecting the problem.
  • Keep calm and use assertive rather than aggressive behaviour. Use tact and diplomacy to diffuse tensions.
  • Remember :NO is a little word with big power!

    How not to negotiate

    When deciding how many battleships were required by the UK, Winston Churchill wryly noted: "The Admiralty had demanded six ships; the economists offered four; and we finally compromised on eight." 

  • Use both verbal and non-verbal persuasion skills. Use open, encouraging body language such as mirroring, not defensive or closed.
  • Know when to compromise. Offer concessions where necessary, but minor ones at first. 
    Distinguish between needs: important points on which you can't compromise 
    and interests where you can concede ground.
    Allow the other party to save face if necessary via small concessions.
  • Make sure there is an agreed deadline for resolution
  • Decide on a course of action and come to an agreement.
  • The final agreement needs to be summarised and written down at the conclusion of the negotiations.
  • Plan for alternative outcomes if you can't reach agreement.


It is very easy to defeat someone, but it is very hard to win someone. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam (former President of India)

Use ideas persuasively

  • Keep the attention of others.
  • Explain the benefits of your argument.
  • Develop a line of reasoned argument
  • Put your points across clearly and concisely
  • Understand the concerns and needs of the person you are dealing with.

Gain support 

  • Emphasise how costs and problems can be minimised
  • Handle objections.
  • Challenge the points of view expressed by others.
  • Get other people to support your views.

Develop strategies.

  • Use a range of approaches and strategies to gain support for ideas.
  • Give an example of when your idea has been used successfully in some other context.
  • Make concessions when required to reach agreement: work for a win-win situation.
  • Form long term relationships.


  • Negotiating to win (see above)
  • Gain power by undermining the position of others.
  • Don't show respect for others views. Put down their ideas.
  • Impose your own views rather than reasoning with others.


The six laws of influence

In his seminal book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion Professor Robert Cialdini gives six laws or rules which govern how we influence and are influenced by others.

The law of scarcity

Diplomacy: the art of letting someone have your own way.

There are three sides to any argument: your side, my side and the right side.

Always and never are two words you should always remember never to use.

You can close more business in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.

Dale Carnegie

Items are more valuable to us when their availability is limited. Scarcity determines the value of an item.
For example if a customer is told that an item is in short supply which will soon run out they are more likely to buy it. Time also works here. A time limit is placed on the customers opportunity to buy something. Customers are told by the seller that unless they buy immediately, the price will increase next week. Auctions such as ebay create a buyer frenzy often resulting in higher prices than the object's value. If something is expensive, we tend to assume that it must be of high quality because it is in demand: one jewellery shop doubled the priced of its items and were surprised to find that sales increased!

For example, if you let an interviewer know that you have other interviews coming up, they will be more interested in you as you are perceived as a sought after candidate.

The Law of reciprocity

If you give something to people, they feel compelled to return the favour.  People feel obliged to return a favour when somebody does something for them first. They feel bad if they don't reciprocate. "You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours".

After someone has turned down a large request, they are very likely to agree to a smaller request. This is why shop staff are trained to show the most expensive item first. A salesman who suggested a 3 year warranty costing £100 found that most customers refused but were then happy to buy 1 year warranty costing £30.

The law of authority

We are more likely to comply with someone who is (or resembles) an authority. In other words, people prefer to take advice from “experts". There is a deep seated duty to authority within us learned from parents, school, religious authorities etc.

The law of liking

We are more inclined to follow the lead of someone who is similar to us rather than someone who is dissimilar. We learn better from people who are similar to us. We are more likely to help people who dress like us, are the same age as us, or have similar backgrounds and interests. We even prefer people whose names are similar to ours. For this reason, sales trainers teach trainees to mirror and match the customer’s body posture, mood and verbal style.

Research at the University of Sussex found that people more easily remember faces of their own race, age group or gender than those of others.Lemmings

It's also very important to remember and use people's names.Others are much more likely to like you and respond to you if you say "Hello Sarah" rather than just "Hello".

The law of social proof

We view a behaviour as more likely to be correct, the more we see others performing it. We assume that if a lot of people are doing the same thing, they must know something that we don’t. Especially when we are uncertain, we are more likely to trust in the collective knowledge of the crowd. This explains herd or lemming behaviour. For example when there is panic in the stock market everyone follows everyone else and sells, however great investors such as Warren Buffett, know that this is the time when the best bargains are to be had, and instead, buy.

The law of commitment and consistency

Consistency is seen as desirable as it is associated with strength, honesty, stability and logic. Inconsistent people may be seen as two-faced, indecisive and "butterflies": never committing themselves for long enough to complete tasks. People will do more to stay consistent with their commitments and beliefs if they have already taken a small initial step.

If you can get someone to do you a small favour, they are more likely to grant you a larger favour later on. If someone does you a favour, let them know afterwards what happened: they will appreciate your feedback and may be able to help you further in future.

We evaluate a university more positively when we have got into it or a car we have bought when we own it. We look for the good points in the choice we have made or items we have bought as this justifies to ourselves our consistency of choice.




  • Arguing your case in a seminar
  • Getting club members to turn up for events!
  • Fund-raising for a local charity
  • Telesales job in the vacation


  • Negotiating the rent with your landlord
  • Negotiating the late handing in of essays
  • Resolving disputes on a staff-student liaison committee
  • Resolving an argument between friends

Describe a situation where you have had to NEGOTIATE a solution to a challenging situation

On arrival in Spain I was confronted with a completely different organisational structure within the university. I was the first man to go to Valencia from my university and my role there was to test this new exchange programme and to negotiate the terms for future exchanges. I found that the structure of the courses were to the disadvantage of the Kent students and would affect the overall result of the degree. As the spokesperson for the UKC students I had to influence both sides on reaching a new agreement.
I explained the situation to the academic staff at UKC and negotiated new terms for the exchange programme.
Being the spokesperson of my university, I successfully persuaded the administration in Seville to accept these conditions during this period. I learned that it takes sometimes a lot of time, effort and patience to achieve common agreements, especially when two different cultural backgrounds are involved.

How have you used your communication skills to PERSUADE others to follow your lead?

As a camp counsellor I was responsible for a hut housing a group of ten children, helping the children settle in to the camp and encouraging them to join in activities. The hardest part was getting the children to keep the hut tidy and join in the daily 'household chores' session - a problem which I found was shared by other counsellors.
We decided to motivate the children by turning this session into an inter-hut competition with a progress chart and prizes and arranged for the camp director to carry out daily inspections. I produced a wall chart to show the points awarded to each hut and explained to the children how the points would be won and lost.
The competitive spirit transformed the children's attitude to tidying up as each hut worked as a team to keep their surroundings clean and tidy. There were no more problems with children 'disappearing' at clear-up time & parents were amazed to hear how involved their children had become in this activity.

Please describe a situation where you had to PERSUADE someone to do something. How did you go about it? Were you successful?

Last year I was living off-campus in a student house with friends. The place was quite old and did not have a functional television aerial. I was in charge of liaising with our landlord. I called him up to ask if he could fix it for us.
He was reluctant to do so unless we paid but I persuaded him finally by saying that it would be beneficial for him as it would be easier to rent the house out for next year. Also, it would be unfair on us to pay for an aerial that we would only use for about nine months.
I was successful with my persuasion and reason. The aerial was fixed at no cost to us.


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Last Updated: 09/08/2017