Art of Persuasion: How to Get People to Actually Listen to You

Have you ever felt invisible – where people aren’t listening to your viewpoints? The lack of organizational listening hinders success at all levels.

Listening is the salient communication skill in business that’s inexpensive to implement but can make a huge difference in profits.

But there’s a difference between listening and hearing. Listening is an active process. A person’s ear receives the information and processes it to make it understandable and utilized.

Unfortunately, published reports indicate people only pay attention to 20 percent to what’s said to them. Huh?

Unless you’re a great communicator, whether you’re in a one-on-one conversation or in giving a speech, it’s worth noting that the sad truth is your audience only listen to part of what you’re saying. Worse, much of what they hear you say is easily forgotten.


Firstly, folks hear thousands upon thousands of words daily. It’s easy for them to become conditioned to information overload.

They might be looking at you and they’re probably hearing what you have to say. But there’s a difference between hearing and listening.

Hearing your words is a simple process.

However, actual listening by your audience members takes a conscious effort and concentration so their brains processes the meaning of your words, which can be committed to memory.

Secondly, the person doing the talking often has to overcome emotional filters.

People often prejudge, perhaps they don’t like you personally, or are instantly thinking of ways to rebut your points, or they’re failing to fully listen because they’re preoccupied with formulating a question while you’re speaking.

The secret is engagement

Great speakers are engaging – they’re able to get their audiences to listen intently so they don’t react but respond – to think about how to productively reply.

In the art of persuasion, if you want to be a successful speaker you need to manage to keep your audience from evaluating your sentences and convincing them to control their tendencies to prove you’re wrong.

Obstacles to success occur if the people are negative, don’t like the speaker or are tired of the subject because it’s been previously discussed.

The key to enticing others – to take in your information, remember it and to respond favorably – is to engage them well in the presentation of your ideas.

Here are five recommendations to maximize your art of persuasion:

1. Be empathetic

Theodore Roosevelt had it right: “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

To paraphrase Mr. Roosevelt, your audience will listen more carefully to you after you’ve shown you’ve listened to them.

The trick is to acknowledge your audience in your presentation. This is true whether you’re in a group discussion or giving a speech.

For instance, if you’re in a small group discussion, compliment what someone has said and then build on what they’ve said and say something like “Here’s a thought to build on her/his thoughts…”

If you’re leading a team project, say something such as: “Each of you has given great input and I’m using your ideas in this plan.”

If giving a speech, it’s helpful if you survey the audience in advance with a questionnaire. Then, in your speech announce the results of the opinions.

In any of these situations, you’re complimenting and acknowledging credit for the persons while you’re showing leadership.

2. Have succinct, easy-to-understand points

The people are more likely to retain your salient points if you have simple points to which they can relate and if you reiterate them.

So, introduce your key points in these ways: “Here’s an important thing…” or “My point is…” or “We profit, if we…”

“You can speak well if your tongue can deliver the message of your heart.”

-John Ford

Again, reinforce your key points with repetition – at the beginning of your comments, in the middle and at the conclusion.

And, oh yes, show conviction and speak with confidence with something like, “So, I strongly believe we’ll succeed with…” or “With this innovative solution for success…”

3. Number each of your key points

Organize the structure of your content with key points and count them to help your audience take notice.

For example, count your points with something like, “The first…” or “The second…” and so forth.

By describing a clear structure with your points, you’ll be more persuasive.

4. Go slow

The trouble with some public speakers is that they hasten their speaking. Often, they speak faster than the audience members can process what’s being said.

It’s important to speak casually by emphasizing key points and giving weight to each important point.

Timely pauses between points are vital to help people to absorb what you have to say.

And speaking with conviction are also very effective in getting people to pay close attention.

5. Use positive body language and mannerisms

Good eye contact, facial expressions and remembering the dos and don’ts of gesturing will influence how well people will listen to you.

Look at every person in the room. Make certain to make eye contact with each of them.

Animation shows passion for your ideas. Moreover, it makes your speaking voice more animated and influential because your audience will pay closer attention to what you have to say.

Sit or stand erectly. This conveys confidence for optimal listening.

To engage your audience, use open gestures – especially when conveying your key points. To show confidence, never fold your arms.

Your audience will stay engaged with positive body language and mannerisms.

So, make it easy for your audience to listen to you – fully – with their hearts and minds.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are more communication tips:

Acting, Speaking Coach: How to Improve Communication with Others — If you’re having communication problems with someone important in your career or life, chances are one or both of you will profit from tips in honest communication.

Public Speaking: How to Earn Loyalty, Trust from Your Audience — For success in giving a speech, you must be able to bond with your audience. How? If you use a simple technique you can earn loyalty and trust with your audience members. Many speakers, however, overlook using the technique.

Communication: Avoid 10 Phrases to Improve Your Image — Many professionals unknowingly undermine their careers. That’s right. They either self-destruct or limit their career potential by giving away their power in communication.

10 Management Attributes for Effective Communication — Communication skills are critical for managers. People with enhanced abilities in communication typically have successful relationships at work and home. Good communicators typically have 10 attributes.

Communication – You Can Train Yourself to Stop Stressing — Feeling pressure is one thing but allowing it to morph into stress and tension means you’re giving away your power, which inhibits your performance.

“You can speak well if your tongue can deliver the message of your heart.”

-John Ford


Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

Communication – You Can Train Yourself to Stop Stressing

It’s OK to be nervous before giving a speech or when you’re entering an important round of negotiations. Feeling pressure is one thing but allowing it to morph into stress and tension is another.

When you allow this to happen, in a sense, you’re giving away your personal power, which inhibits your performance.

“Some of the most prominent patterns in the landscape of modern life are tension, stress and self-absorption,” says Eric Stone, a leading expert in how to improve communication with others, public speaking and performance.

“All aspects of public speaking, communication and performance are affected by negative tension and its two compadres,” he acknowledges. “Conversely, positive aspects of tension, stress and self-absorption do exist. Studying for an exam, performing in front of a large crowd, high-stake activities, giving birth, etc.”

Mr. Stone, a former New York City stage and television actor, operates Speakers and Artists International, Inc. ( in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Dangers of self-absorption 

“Self-absorption is the constant influx of thoughts of the same quality or theme but that are left unchecked and unobserved; it can be a quasi-permanent or chronic focus on specific situations or scenarios where the main character usually is, well, ourselves,” he says.

“According to numerous case studies, self-absorption or self-preoccupation is one of the leading causes of what can be called negative stress,” Mr. Stone points out. “In various frequencies, risk factors include anxiety, fear, nervousness, hyperactivity, irritability, helplessness, difficulty sleeping, hopelessness, fear or anger, blame, as well as cynicism or distrust of others.”

Tension from failure to listen

“We become negatively tense when we stop listening to how we really feel in our bodies. We lose our ‘witness consciousness,’” he asserts.

“Problem solving is deeply affected by tension,” adds Mr. Stone. “In my experience, tension is in essence a refusal or a resistance to trusting how we feel within the moment at-hand and distrusting the natural physical-emotional flow of our experience (sensations, feelings, thoughts, insights, etc.).”

Consequences of tension

“Negative tension breeds self-consciousness, righteousness, worry, insecurity, hyperactivity, uptightness, melancholy, anxiety, attention deficit, depression, sadness, paranoia, etc.,” he observes. “Part of being cultured and ‘fitting in’ is to display an impressive array of quite clever personal, professional and social disguises or role-played attitudes to hide our negative tension.”

Eliminating tension

“Negative tension resides and expresses itself as physical pressure in the body, emotional pressure in the heart, and/or mental pressure in the mind,” Mr. Stone adds. “Part of the battle to relieving stress and tension is to become aware of it ‘in the body.’”

Tension release

He says relaxation and tension release must start in the body.

“It clears the way for new dimensions and offers considerable creative advantages in matters of communication, public speaking and performing,” he says.

“Relaxation that begins in the mind is a watching exercise,” concludes the expert. “We watch the mind but the anchoring occurs in the body starting in the breath.”

So it starts with breathing. Hmm, the LaMaze technique comes to mind.

You don’t have to become a student of the method developed French obstetrician Dr. Fernand Lamaze in the 1940s. But if you focus on your body’s breathing and movement, you’ll start training yourself to stop stressing in communication.

From the Coach’s Corner, more key points for speech-making:

Public Speaking Tips – for Speeches in Accepting Awards, Honors — So you’re about to be honored for your pro bono work, volunteerism, or for creating a foundation to fund scholarships for education. But you get stage fright or don’t know how to most-effectively frame your acceptance speech?

How to Get More Opportunities as a Guest Speaker — Strategic consultant to technology and media graciously shares her recommendations on how to be invited to speak at events for your niche industry.

How to Obtain the Most Profit from Speaking Opportunities — A strategic consultant to technology and media shares her secrets to making the most of your opportunities from a speaking event.

9 Tips to Connect with People after You Make Your Speech — Typically, in making a speech at a public forum, businesspeople hope to get a return on their investment — here’s how you can get a strong ROI.

“If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn’t ask me, I’d still have to say it.”

-George Burns


Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is also a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.