Gentle Persuasion: Subtle Ways To Get What You Want

Medically reviewed by Nikki Ciletti, M.Ed, LPC
Updated February 19, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
The ability to communicate your desires to others tactfully is a useful skill. Mastering the art of gentle persuasion can help you get what you want without coming off as demanding, pushy, or self-centered.

Additionally, it can help you learn to connect with your peers and develop solutions that are mutually beneficial. If you’d like to know how to ask for what you want in a diplomatic—yet convincing—manner, there are several strategies you may consider adopting. Below, we’re going to outline 13 simple principles of gentle persuasion that can be followed in a variety of situations to help you achieve your goals.

1. Know what you want

Learning to advocate for yourself isn’t always easy

Before you can get what you want, it helps to know exactly what it is you’re seeking. The more defined your end-goal is, the easier it may be to argue your case or convey your wishes. This area of persuasion is often the one that takes the most time and planning. You may find it helpful to narrow down your expectations to the options that best fit you while also thinking about how flexible you’re willing to be. If you can communicate your needs in a clear way, you may have a better chance of convincing others to help you meet them.

2. Be kind

The phrase "you catch more flies with honey than vinegar" is relevant here. Thanks to basic psychology, we know people are often more likely to want to find solutions when they're treated with respect and made to feel valued and comfortable. If what you want requires the help of others, kindness may be key. For example, if you’re speaking with someone in customer service, making small talk with the person assisting you, smiling, and behaving courteously could help you ensure a positive outcome. 

3. Do your research

The more information you have to back up your claims, the more likely you may be to influence others. Whether you're after a job, admission to a college, or a bank loan, someone will likely ask you why you should be given what you want. Doing plenty of research can help you support your claims. 

Take, for example, a situation in which a potential employer asks why you’re the best person for an open position. This is a chance to impress them with your dedication to your end-goal. You can discuss various ways you relate to the values of the company, present facts or statistics about why you're the best fit, or provide them with information on industry trends that back up your value to the organization.

4. Mirror others

Behavioral mirroring is a technique often used in sales, through which one person subtly takes on the qualities of another. For example, if a client you're working with is a fast talker and laughs a lot, you may want to keep up with their conversational pace and congenial attitude to form a connection with them.

Though mirroring can be useful, you might want to avoid copying others’ communication style and gestures too closely. You can show someone that you have qualities in common while also maintaining your own personality. In many cases, you may be more likely to get what you want from someone else if you align with their sensibilities while remaining authentic.

5. Act the part

Sometimes, acting as if you already have what you want can help you actually attain it. Research suggests that an individual’s receptiveness to a message can be affected by their perception of the power of the sender. So, if you want a promotion to a certain position at your company, for example, it can help to dress, talk, and act like you already fill that role. The more others can associate you with a goal you’ve set, the more likely they may be to help you achieve it.

6. Show confidence

A father is gently persuading his son to do his homework; they are both looking at each other and have happy expressions.

When a person is confident, it often shows—from the way they speak to how they shake someone's hand. Positive emotions and self-assuredness have been shown to boost performance at work, school, and other settings. Having confidence can open doors because it can lead others to trust you and your ability to get the job done. If you struggle with your self-esteem, consider practicing self-care, using positive affirmations, or working with a mental health professional. 

7. Make eye contact

Meeting the gaze of an individual you’re attempting to persuade may enhance their perception of your trustworthiness. When attempting to convey your ideas or beliefs to someone else, avoid looking down or glancing at your watch frequently. Eye contact can communicate respect, a desire to listen, and a genuine interest in connecting with another person. 

8. Be proactive

Pursuing your goals in an active manner can help you meet your needs more thoroughly. If you wait for others to offer their support, you may not get what you deserve. When you want something, think about the various steps you can take to make it more attainable. For example, if you’re attempting to convince a potential employer to hire you, preparing thoroughly before the interview, asking questions during, and sending a thank-you note afterward can help set you apart. Having a proactive approach to achieving your goals can signal to others that you’re self-sufficient, reliable, and dedicated.

9. Be direct

Gentle persuasion doesn’t always have to involve subtlety. Sometimes, a forthright and direct approach can help you influence others more effectively. Asking for what you want politely and clearly can win you points, particularly with people who value such a straightforward way of interacting. For example, if you’re negotiating the rent with your landlord, it may help to simply lay out the reasons you think a certain rate is fair. 

10. Sell yourself

When attempting to persuade others that it’s in their best interest to help you, it’s often best to frame the situation as a win-win. For example, a common strategy when writing a cover letter or answering questions during job interviews is to focus on how you can solve problems for the organization. Instead of simply discussing ways a job might benefit you, try to sell yourself by discussing actionable ways you can help them. Don’t be afraid to highlight your best qualities and help them see the value you bring. 

11. Follow up

Sometimes you do not get an immediate answer when you ask for the thing you want. In this case, it can be important to set reasonable expectations. Let the person you are talking to know when you will follow up with them. For example, if you are waiting to hear back on a job opportunity, consider telling the interviewer or recruiter, "I will touch base with you next Friday if I don't hear from you before then”. Doing this puts the responsibility back on the person you are negotiating with to uphold their end of the deal and meet your expectations.

12. Be flexible

A couple are standing up and dancing; the man is looking at the woman and has an amused expression.
Learning to advocate for yourself isn’t always easy

While you may have an idea of exactly what it is you want, it is often wise to have a range of acceptable outcomes. If you’re auditioning for the lead role in a movie, for instance, set that goal, but consider also accepting supporting cast roles. Sometimes it will be difficult to have your needs met on the timeline you desire, but you may find that other options can help you on your way to achieving your original goal. 

13. Don't waiver

Lastly, when you ask for what you want, persistence can be crucial to your eventual success. If you know you deserve something, try not to capitulate, or accept less. For example, if you billed a client a specific amount, and they failed to send the full payment, tactfully asking them to make up for the discrepancy is within your rights. Learning that it’s OK to ask for what you want and avoiding letting others take advantage of you can be challenging, but it can lead to numerous benefits in the long run.

How online therapy can help

Studies show that online therapy can be an effective form of care for individuals experiencing mental health concerns that may impact their ability to advocate for themselves. For example, in one study, participants reported experiencing improvements in social anxiety symptoms following an online therapy program, which included a focus on skills like assertiveness and public speaking. Additionally, the study notes the increased cost-effectiveness and convenience of online therapy when compared to in-person counseling.  

If you’re looking for advice on how to better fulfill your needs, consider connecting with a licensed therapist online. With an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, you can work with a mental health professional remotely, which can be helpful if you struggle with shyness or social anxiety. Your therapist can also connect you with useful resources, such as informational articles geared toward helping you boost your confidence, connect with others, and overcome personal obstacles. 


Gentle persuasion doesn't have to involve artfulness or deception. Often, we can get the things we need by simply working hard, being kind and confident, and showing up for ourselves. If you want to build your skills in any of these areas and take the next step toward your future, consider utilizing an online therapy platform for advice and support. You deserve to have your needs met and your mental health looked after.
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