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How to Persuade a Stubborn Audience

How to Persuade a Stubborn Audience

If your friend is a renowned pizza lover, it probably won’t take much convincing to persuade him to split a pizza with you – especially if he’s hungry. But unfortunately, not all audiences are so easy to persuade. Some audiences are inherently stubborn, either because they’ve attached their identity to a specific opinion because they feel like they already know everything there is to know about the topic, or because they simply aren’t open to other perspectives.

How do you persuade these stubborn audiences and motivate them to take a desired action?

Examples of Stubborn Audiences

There are many types of stubborn audiences, and they tend to be stubborn for independent, unique reasons. For example, some people are resistant to the idea of using (or even trying) a bidet. For many people within this cohort, toilet paper has been the standard for decades. They’re not open to trying something new because this is a consistent, habitual activity that would suddenly feel alien and unpleasant if it underwent a significant change.

However, some people form rigid opinions about things simply because they don’t understand them or because they buy into misconceptions about them. For example, some people today still refuse to swim if they’ve eaten recently due to an urban legend about the association between recent eating and cramping in the water.

The strategies and tips we’re about to provide should be suitable for persuading a wide range of stubborn audiences.

How to Persuade a Stubborn Audience

These are some of the best ways to persuade stubborn audiences.

Know who you’re dealing with.

The first and most important tip is to know who you’re dealing with. Is this person stubborn because of their values? Their religion? Their perceived identity? Misunderstandings? All of these possibilities demand different types of approaches, and you’ll be dead in the water if you choose the wrong approach for your target audience. Always do your market research first.

Don’t advertise your desire to persuade.

People like to see themselves as steadfast, consistent, and resilient to external influences. Accordingly, if you outright tell people you’re trying to persuade them, they’ll probably shut down and refuse to buy anything you’re selling. Don’t make it obvious that you’re trying to persuade someone or change their mind; it will make your job much easier.

Reinforce identity (rather than dismantling or attacking it).

People tend to hold onto their identities very, very tightly (despite evidence that a looser grip is beneficial). If their opinion is associated with their identity, separating the two will be almost impossible. Instead, it’s better to reinforce the identity in your pursuit of persuasion. For example, if someone believes a certain action is against their religion, you won’t get them to take that action by extolling the benefits of that action. Instead, you’ll be much more successful if you somehow manage to convince them that the action is acceptable or even favorable within the boundaries of their religion.

Establish your authority.

You’ll have a much easier time persuading people if you can establish your authority and expertise. Depending on your audience, you might be able to accomplish this by showing off your credentials, speaking to past experiences, or demonstrating your knowledge on the topic. No matter what, you’ll need to prove that you’re a person worth listening to.

Cater to emotions.

You may also successfully cater to emotions, especially among emotion-driven cohorts. If you can’t persuade someone from a position of authority, you might be able to persuade them by appealing to strong emotions, such as making them associate a product with a favorable trait, like charitability.

Use objective facts and logical reasoning.

Not all people respond well to emotional elements of persuasion. To reach these people, you’ll need objective facts and logical reasoning. Cite statistics and data to prove your points, and use well-reasoned, logical arguments to move your position forward.

Anticipate and attack common objections.

Overcoming objections is a critical strategy in sales and marketing, and it’s important for any persuasive exercise as well. Anticipate the biggest objectives that your audience members are likely to raise. Acknowledge them, give them serious consideration, and explain logically why they shouldn’t be obstacles to moving forward. Avoid straw-manning these objections, or you could lose your audience.

Becoming More Persuasive: Charisma and Likeability

Whether you’re attempting to persuade an audience as an individual or on behalf of a brand, it’s important to realize that any entity will instantly become more persuasive if it seems charismatic and likable.

Humans aren’t especially rational creatures. We like to believe that we’ll change our minds in response to the revelation of new, meaningful facts. But in reality, we’re unlikely to change our minds – even in the presence of those facts – if we don’t like or don’t get along with the person presenting them. Conversely, if you develop yourself to be more charismatic and likable, you’ll need a much smaller arsenal of persuasive techniques to do the heavy lifting.

It’s not possible to make everyone like you. But you can demonstrate personality traits and habits that naturally attract (most) others to you. People appreciate authenticity and sincerity over all else, so don’t try to be someone (or something) you’re not – and definitely be willing to crack a few jokes and showcase your sense of humor. You can also build rapport with genuine compliments and flattery – as long as you truly mean what you say. Further development in this area depends on the type of audience you’re trying to reach, so remember what you learned in your market research.

Is It Worth It?

The big question to ask yourself is whether it is worth spending the time and effort necessary to persuade your stubborn audience. As marketers and salespeople, it’s often better to choose an audience that’s easier to persuade; you might artificially limit the number of people you can reach, but you’ll make your job of reaching them much easier. Examine the situation carefully before you decide how to proceed.

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