07/21/2014 12:05 pm ET Updated Sep 20, 2014

The Bride's Guide to Powerful Persuasion and Getting Everything You Want

The journey that takes you through your wedding and into your new marriage is going to involve a complex series of negotiations. Everything, from what your soon-to-be-mother-in-law wears to the wedding to when (or if) you have children, will be negotiated and decided. The more persuasive you are, the more likely your negotiations will get you what you want.

Persuasion is not easy to define. Wikipedia says "persuasion is a form of social influence; the process of using rational (not necessarily logical) and symbolic means to guide or bring someone towards adopting an idea, attitude, or action."

As a professional mediator I've learned that persuasion is not about dragging someone along. And, it's not about manipulating or tricking them either. Instead, persuasion is about getting people to see a bigger picture and buy into your ideas. You can use the power of persuasion to get what you want if you master these five tactics.

Tactic #1. Figure out what you really want. Before you open your mouth, ask yourself "What do I want?" (I suggest you pull out a notebook and write down your answer.) Once you are clear about what you really want, put your desires temporarily aside. Now ask yourself these four questions:

  1. What are five possible ways to get me what I want?
  2. Which way will encounter the least resistance?
  3. Whose help do I need to enlist to get what I want?
  4. What can I offer in exchange for that help?

Tactic #2. Know your budget. Before you begin any significant undertaking (a wedding, a home purchase, etc.) you should know the overall budget. While individual line items may change as you negotiate priorities and trade-offs, you should always be clear -up-front -- on the limitations each person has placed on their contribution to the final costs. Yes, it is true that without this restriction you might get more out of them. But, you then risk creating resentments and hard feelings that can last a life-time. Heed this warning! In the joy of the moment, it's easy to look the other way. Don't do it!! Kathryn Huffer, a wedding planner, with Beach Promises, in Naples, Florida says "budgeting is the most important thing you can do to ensure a stress-free wedding." And, ultimately, having the money talk now will pave the way for being able to hold the difficult discussions every family eventually gets to.

Tactic #3. Figure out what's in it for the person on the other side. Whether the other side is your parents, the florist, or the girl-friend planning your bachelorette party, the more you know about how this other person can benefit, the easier it will be for you to convince him or her to do what you want. (BTW, don't expect the person on the other side to know what's in it for you. They cannot read your mind! You have to tell them exactly what you want from them, or you will not get it.)

Tactic #4. Create a safe space. Will you be asking for what you want in Grandma's kitchen or in a lion's den? Our perceptions of our environments trump reality. Your job is to make every place feel like Grandma's kitchen. Otherwise, any hint of a possible threat may trigger a guarded or defensive response. Powerful persuasion won't happen if the person on the other side is guarded. To get that guard lowered you need to create a sense of physical and emotional safety. When human beings (and other animals) feel safe they relax, play, mate, eat, and sleep. You are much more likely to get what you want when the other person is in a relaxed stance instead of the warrior pose. Here are six things you can do to get someone to lower his or her guard and feel safe.

  • Point out commonalities you share. Are your motivations, values, or concerns the same? Point them out. Play up the "home team" connections that you share.
  • Disclose something about yourself that shows your weakness. But, choose carefully as this information could be used against you or your argument.
  • Watch your body language. The person on the other side will be reading what you say and what you don't say, both verbally and with your body language. Avoid sending messages that threaten an attack. And, avoid mixed messages. If your words say one thing while your non-verbal message says something else, it is the non-verbal message that will be believed.
  • Give-up or Give-in. But, don't give up the ship. Instead, find something minor to sacrifice. This will encourage the person on the other side to reciprocate.
  • Go to Grandma's kitchen. Set up the environment so that it smells good and feels friendly. (Hint: this may require the involvement of comfort food.)
  • Make "I want to find solutions that work for you and for me" your mantra. It's difficult to argue with you when you are saying "I want to find solutions that work for you and for me."

Tactic #5. Think it over. Do NOT react emotionally. You are no longer that girl in the toy store. Think things through, sleep on it, and wait for the inevitable unfolding. Do not allow suppliers or vendors to push you into a decision based on their reports of scarcity. You will almost always get a better price if you don't sign-up during the sales presentation. Instead, call later and ask for a discount before you commit.

One last thing. Before you start persuading, remember that trying to persuade someone to change who they are is useless. Personal change doesn't come as the result of an external force. So, if something is not working for you, save your breath and figure out how you can change yourself, your outlook, your attitude, or your situation. This might be the best way to get what you want.

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