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Increase Your Persuasiveness with These 6 Principles

A group of people sitting around a table in a meeting.

​Do you want to be more persuasive in your HR role? Incorporate herd mentality, fidelity, reciprocity, authority, scarcity and likeability, said Brad Karsh, CEO and founder of JB Training Solutions, a Chicago-based learning and development company.

Karsh shared those secrets of success during a June 13 concurrent session, "Become an InfluenceHR," at the SHRM Annual Conference & Expo 2022 in New Orleans.

At the core of persuasiveness is understanding the person or audience and adapting your message accordingly, not being manipulative, Karsh said.

"Persuasion starts with that most human of skills—empathy," he said, quoting Robert B. Cialdini, an American psychologist and author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (Harper Business, revised edition 2006).

Karsh explained each of the six principles of persuasiveness:

Herd Mentality

"There's safety in numbers. We kind of like to do what everybody does," Karsh said.

The comfort of knowing what others are doing when making a business decision can be supplied by getting buy-in from others, offering relevant case studies and presenting a trio of options.

For example, you can use this approach to convince management to implement a new performance management system that you're recommending, by:

  • Noting you've run this idea by 15 managers who all loved it, or pointing out that the system has been tested with three internal groups who all liked it.
  • Sharing a case study of what a leading Fortune 500 company has done with the system.
  • Presenting three options, not necessarily all cost-related. Option one might include mostly existing elements of the current performance management system, option two might include both new elements and existing elements of the current system, and option three might include only new elements.


Fidelity is the idea of defending a commitment you have made. And whether that commitment is to a sports team or a business decision, individuals tend to hold fast and defend their choice when it's challenged.

You can tap into this feeling of fidelity by posing questions designed to elicit agreement, Karsh advised. The conversation might look something like this:

"You agree our current system could be better? And you'd agree that we need to deliver feedback more regularly? Then you'd also agree that in order to do that, we need to make sure our people have the right system?"

Follow this up by asking what drawbacks your audience sees in the organization's current system, and ask permission to research different systems.


Reciprocity is the idea of exchanging something for mutual benefit, such as bringing a dessert to share for a friend who is hosting a dinner party. In the business world, you can use reciprocity to gain concessions for an idea you are pitching. Or it might be as simple as thanking your audience for taking time to discuss the new system because it shows their concern for the organization.

A part of reciprocity may involve making concessions, Karsh noted, because this recognizes your audience's concern while allowing what you're pitching to be considered on a trial basis. For example, if management balks at introducing a wholly new system, suggest it be tried as a pilot program.


Get backing for your idea from someone in your organization who is seen as credible and has authority—and make that approval known.

Also, if presenting to key stakeholders, consider inviting a high-level member of your organization who likes your idea to your presentation.

And don't forget to dress with authority when making your presentation. Suits and uniforms convey a sense of professionalism, Karsh advised.


The idea that a product is scarce or an opportunity is fleeting can persuade others to take action, Karsh said. It could be a small window in being first to market, an expiration date or limited supply of a product you are recommending to your organization. If that is the case, include that information in your presentation.

Management may find it compelling to know, for example, that the price for the new system you are recommending increases in four weeks or that a decision is needed by a given date in order for the organization to launch it by an important deadline.  


Being someone who is trustworthy and likable can go a long way in being influential, Karsh noted. He cited findings by Harvard social psychologist Amy Cuddy, who found likability is driven by: 

  • Listening more than you talk.
  • Shifting the spotlight to others.
  • Giving before you receive.
  • Not acting self-important.
  • Admitting your failings.

Integrity is at the core of being persuasive, Karsh noted.

"When it is done the right way," he said, quoting Dorie Clark, author and professor at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, "persuasion is simply a subset of effective communication."


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