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Employability Skills

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 marketing, sales, advertising and 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.

  • 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
  • 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.
  • Try to remember the names of everyone you meet. It shows that you are treating them as an individual.

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! 

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.
  • 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.

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.

Influencing – Being able to persuade others and negotiate to reach an agreement

Why do employers want these skills?

In the workplace there will frequently be conflicting demands on time, or differences of opinion or attitude for which these skills are key in trying to reach agreements where all parties are happy.  In certain job roles they will be more important than others, for example in any role where you might be responsible for client or customer relationships, or for managing others, the ability to influence and persuade people is key. 

Examples of how negotiation and influencing skills can be developed or evidenced

  • Team sports.
  • Suggesting changes to a course representative.
  • Persuading others to support your idea in a group situation.
  • Negotiating sponsorship for an event or publication.
  • Convincing a colleague, manager or anyone else to take a course of action when they were initially reluctant to see your point of view.
  • Suggesting changes in systems, a course of action or ideas and convincing others to support this. This could be in a group setting at university, in the workplace or any other team situation.
  • Political canvassing.
  • Successful advertising of an event.