How to Get What You Want

Need a raise or a discount in a shop? We chatted to a mentalist to find out how to get exactly what you want

According to experts, body language accounts for 55% of communication, while 38% is tone of voice, and a mere 7% is with the words we use. Effective communication can also help us to get what we want, both personally and professionally – we spoke to an expert to find out how. Well-known South African mentalist Gilan Gork ( has been entertaining audiences for years with his ‘mind-reading’ demonstrations; he also hosts corporate workshops on how to use the art of influence and persuasion to get ahead.

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Gilan believes that simply by understanding the basic principles of persuasion, as well as making slight changes to your behaviour, you can learn how to become more influential. But is it ethical? Whether we’re conscious of it or not, we use persuasion and influence to get our own way on a daily basis. It can be as simple as trying to convince your partner to watch your choice of movie, or getting a colleague to help you with a difficult project. Sound a little like manipulation? Influence is a tool that can be used for good or evil, explains Gilan, but using it for your own gains requires negative manipulation and this is not something he endorses.

‘My focus is on positively influencing someone’s decision-making, to create a win-win for both parties.’ The three ‘Qs’ Gilan says there are three questions we ask ourselves subconsciously when someone is trying to influence us: 1. Can I trust you? 2. Do you care about me? 3. Can you help me? If the answer to each of these is ‘yes’, then you’re likely to be influenced – it’s like a mental fail-safe to prevent you from doing something you don’t want to do. So how do we get other people to answer these questions with a ‘yes’? Create authority From an early age, we’re conditioned to follow authoritative figures. Just look at how children are told that they need to listen to their teachers, parents, or the police – and in general, they do. By creating a sense of authority around yourself, you make it easier for people to trust you. It’s tricky, though: you can’t bestow that authority on yourself, it has to come from someone else.

How? Just like doctors often display their medical degree in their rooms, you can do the same. If you have a website for your business, include positive testimonials from customers. These can be in the form of written reviews or even a collection of videos. People are more likely to believe you’re trustworthy when they hear it from someone else. You can also speak about what other people have said about your business or service, but be careful not to make yourself the hero of the story; rather put the person who you helped at the centre of the story and focus on how they have benefited from working with you. Tell a story Words may only account for 7% of communication, but don’t undervalue the power of a good story. Because we think in pictures, we have a natural habit of simulating the story in our heads. A strong narrative can be quite persuasive in getting people to relate to you and your ideas. How? Try use non-confrontational language.

Rather than issuing an instruction like, ‘you must do this’, try to get people to relate to you and the advice you’re giving them. If a fitness coach went on stage at a health conference, for example, it would be confrontational for her to say, ‘You all need to stop eating so much!’ A nonconfrontational – and more effective – approach would be for her to use her own personal journey with weight loss as a relatable story that will draw the audience in with phrases like, ‘I realised if I wanted to reach my goal weight I’d have to make better decisions about food.’ According to Gilan, the moment that someone can see the similarities between themselves and you, the more likely they are to listen to you, and take your advice. Gilan also suggests that when talking about a potential scenario where you and a client could end up working together, use words like ‘we’, as this reinforces the intention of doing something together where both people benefit. Reading body language You can gain insight into what someone’s thinking by noticing their posture, gesture or stance.

‘While we can be careful with our choice of words, it’s very hard for us to change natural, non-verbal cues like tapping our foot,’ says Gilan. The trick? Look for harmony between what someone is saying and what their body is doing. ‘It’s almost like listening to someone playing an instrument that is so obviously out of tune. It’s these kinds of movements that help you to read a person better.’ The biggest mistake people tend to make when reading body language is interpreting one signal in isolation. ‘Think of these signs like a word that could have many meanings,’ says Gilan. ‘It’s assumed that if someone has their arms crossed that they’re angry or not open to your ideas. But the room could be cold or they simply find the position comfortable,’ explains Gilan. Instead, look for three signals that point to the same thing. ‘For example, if someone’s arms are crossed, they’re leaning away from you, and their legs are crossed, it’s likely that they aren’t too interested. But first check that the aircon isn’t on full blast,’ adds Gilan.

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