Whether in the office, networking event, boardroom or courtroom – the skill of persuasion is a essential tool for any budding professional. However, being and becoming persuasive, like any carefully crafted skill, requires practice and persistence. There is no magic formula or secret algorithm that will transform you into a confident, personable and persuasive powerhouse overnight. Rather, persuasion is only effective if it emanates from a genuine space within your own personality. This is a skill that you must personally cultivate and fold into your manner of communicating with others. In order to become more persuasive, try to incorporate some of the following principles of persuasion.

Principle #1: Reciprocity is the first step in becoming more persuasive

If someone does something nice for you, you will in turn feel obliged to do something nice for him or her. It is a simple truth that has been ingrained into many of us since childhood. Being persuasive requires you to leverage that reciprocity by doing small, but meaningful things for others. Identify peoples needs, and offer them something of value – that doesn’t cost you too much. Even a thoughtful and unique compliment can go a long way. When it is your turn to ask for a favour, others will much more happily oblige. Even if they are not happy about helping, they will feel compelled to do so due to the social credit you hold in your favour.

Principle #2: Persuade those with whom you have a RAPPORT

The sociological principle of homogamy can be simplified to following terms: we like people like us. This is the same principle behind the colloquial saying “birds of a feather flock together.” To develop a strong rapport with someone in a short amount of time, try to be of the same feather. Listen and observe carefully of your target audience. Mirror their actions, their style of language, and their tone of voice. By sending these verbal and non-verbal cues of “likeness,” your target audience will instantly feel more comfortable around you, let down their guard, and be more perceptive to your conversation. Chris Dyson explains that a “very powerful way of establishing rapport with someone else is to adopt the language style of their preferred representational system.” Once you develop a rapport and establish this base level of comfort, your audience is more open and ready to hear the persuasive argument you have prepared.

For more tips about how to make a great first impression and generally be more likable, be sure to read this.

Principle #3: Be persuasive because you have a PURPOSE

Speaking of argument, don’t argue. Although being persuasive may seem to require a lot of pomp and circumstance, the truth is that people won’t believe you if you aren’t truthful. If you are constantly attempting to persuade someone to do or not do something, the value and merit of your social credibility decreases and people will generally become defensive and leery of your intentions. Instead, pick your battles wisely. Call your persuasive powers into action when you have a purpose, when you genuinely require some action to be taken or ceased. Kevin Daum of Inc. explains that it is “the person who rarely asks or argues that ultimately gets consideration when they strongly advocate an idea, especially when they do it with power and persistence.” His advice is to argue less. When it comes time to advocate, do so zealously; but, persuasive people know how to pick their moments of advocacy with purpose and sincerity.