Being proficient in the art of being persuasive is often misconstrued as being manipulative, duplicitous, or fraudulent. However, being persuasive entails much more than just trickery or deception.
Persuasion is unquestionably a useful ability to have, whether you’re negotiating a transaction or trying to get support for a cause.
You might be wondering, what exactly is persuasion? It’s the ability to use words to gently guide others towards embracing a suggestion or taking a specific path.
Persuasion is not limited to grand speeches or elaborate schemes. In fact, it’s possible that you’ve used persuasive techniques unconsciously in your daily conversation with loved ones, colleagues, coworkers, and even strangers.
Nestled within the realm of persuasive techniques, a treasure trove of skills awaits—tools to seamlessly integrate your desires, needs, and aspirations into everyday conversations.
Persuasion, a nuanced craft, is the key that unlocks doors to more favorable outcomes and a life brimming with contentment.
Picture this: Armed with these persuasive strategies, you can gently guide your children towards choices they might have otherwise overlooked, coaxing them to savor those crisp vegetables and succulent fruits.
As an employee, it may entail persuading your manager that you are deserving of a raise. Employing persuasive techniques in your daily life is more than just getting what you want.
Additionally, it helps in fostering stronger bonds, establishing trust, and encouraging constructive change.
Let’s look at seven proven persuasive techniques that will give you the power to convince anyone to do anything.
This strategy is based on a powerful and deeply ingrained psychological trigger – the Law of Reciprocation. Persuasion expert Robert Cialdini, in his book Influence: Science and Practice, states that:
“One of the most widespread and basic norms of human culture is embodied in the rule for reciprocation. The rule requires that one person try to repay, in kind, what another person has provided.”
Think about this: when someone did you a favor, you felt obligated to return the favor. You’ve just moved into a new neighborhood.
Your neighbor from across the street offered you some homemade pastries. Won’t you be tempted to invite them over for tea to reciprocate their kind gesture?
When you reach out to someone, offer them something beneficial or out of a gesture of appreciation. You should be able to persuade them to do something for you.
Dr. Cialdini shared an example of reciprocity. Restaurant waiters enjoyed a 3% increase in their tips when they gave diners a free after-dinner mint.
When they offered 2 mints, their tips spiked by 14%. If the waiter offered a second mint immediately after placing the first with the bill, the tips increased by 23%.
Of course, people have a proclivity to abuse the Law of Reciprocation. It’s especially bad when it’s used as a pressure tactic or a front.
Use this law with sincerity at all times and your persuasions will most often be effective.
We value what is scarce. When something is limited or potentially inaccessible, our first thought is that it must be valuable. This is the law of scarcity, which states that there are limited resources but human desires are unlimited.
We are psychologically hardwired to react against anything that is perceived as losing our freedom of choice. Remember when you were a teenager and your parents imposed a curfew?
You would probably want to violate it because it limits your freedom of choice.
When you establish the impression that something is hard to come by, you have created the perception of scarcity. Because humans are motivated by the fear of missing out (FOMO), your persuasion powers are enhanced when you elicit scarcity.
One of the classic cases of FOMO is people queuing up for “limited-edition” sneakers.
Using time constraints is a common scarcity strategy to persuade someone to take action. Retailers often use limited-time offer ads to promote their products and to remind customers to:
“Act now, before time runs out.”
Scarcity is a powerful persuasion tool, but how skillfully it’s used determines how effective it is. You can use a low supply, a high demand, or a time limit to generate scarcity.
Communicate the sincerity of scarcity to improve your persuade, but never use ‘fake’ scarcity.
When people are unsure about their choices, they will most likely seek behavioral advice from others. This is the power of conformity, where people will look to social proof.
The classic experiment, conducted in 1968 on a crowded sidewalk in New York City, perfectly illustrated the powers of conformity.
One people was asked to stand motionless for 60 seconds on a busy street corner while gazing upward. They then keep track of who else is viewing them.
They noted that 4% of passersby looked up.
The researchers repeated the experiment with five males staring skyward and the number of people who looked up quadrupled. When 15 people stood and stared at the sky, the number of passersby increased by 45%.
This experiment demonstrated that what other people do has a significant impact on people. Psychologists refer to this as “social proof.” The “many” are used to influence the “few” in this basic yet effective strategy.
To conserve energy and reduce detergent-related pollutants, hotels have been encouraging visitors to re-use their towels. However, these demands were unanswered for years until they put up a sign that read:
“The majority of the guests at the hotel recycle their towels at least once during the course of their stay.”
As a result of this campaign, 44.1% of their customers re-use their towels at least once throughout their stay.
As Cialdini puts it
“What the science is telling us is that it’s important to signal to others what makes you a credible, knowledgeable authority before you make your influence attempt.”
So how do you use social proof to give you persuasive power? Get others to do it for you. Customer testimonials, market statistics, and social media likes are unbiased sources of social proof.
Another strong tool for persuasion is authority. This, too, is based on the reality that humans are wired to respect and obey authority.
We tend to trust doctors, teachers, and religious leaders because they have the expertise and are deemed trustworthy.
We have a tendency to obey people in positions of authority, even if we don’t really agree with them. According to Cialdini, the three symbols of authority are titles, clothing, and trappings.
And authority does not have to be legitimate; the mere appearance of it is powerful enough. It’s ingrained in our nature to obey authority.
Hence, all it takes to command respect is a high-ranking title or a uniform. The other symbol of authority, as described by Cialdini, is appearance.
It’s ingrained in our nature to obey authority. Hence, all it takes to command respect is a high-ranking title or a uniform. The other symbol of authority as described by Cialdini is appearance.
Sometimes, all it takes to display high status and authority is a fancy car and some expensive clothes.
Hence, your clothes reflect an image that tells others how to treat you.
Even in the absence of real, legitimate power, symbols of authority can strengthen your authoritative status. A white lab coat, a police badge, a high-end car, and jewelry can all help to boost one’s authority.
Even if you are not an authority or an expert you can still use this strategy to exert influence. You can leverage on the testimonials, quotes and images of authoritative figures to enhance the credibility of your business.
Just make sure that is done legally.
The more likeable you are, the more persuasive you will be. This persuasion strategy is based on the fact that we are more likely to be persuaded by people we like.
“If you could master one element of personal communication that is more powerful than anything we’ve discussed, it is the quality of being likable. I call it the magic bullet, because if your audience likes you, they’ll forgive just about everything else you do wrong. If they don’t like you, you can hit every rule right on target and it doesn’t matter.”
Cialdini listed 5 powerful elements of likeability that will enhance your persuasive powers. You can use a combination of these elements to boost your powers of influence:
Good looks are frequently associated with positive characteristics such as trustworthiness, honesty, a sense of humor, and dependability.
If you can discover common ground with someone, you can connect with them. This can be in terms of opinions, background, personality or interests.
Being able to genuinely praise and compliment someone will draw them to you. As the saying goes, flattery will get you everywhere. But do not go overboard.
Working closely with someone to accomplish a mutually important goal is an extremely effective way to expand your influence.
When you associate yourself (or your product) with something positive or attractive, your persuasive ability is enhanced. Advertisers often use this strategy when they link their products to professional athletes.
People tend to behave in a manner that is consistent with their values and image. If you can persuade someone to commit to anything, their sense of consistency will drive them to carry it out.
Their intention to honor it will lead to the fulfillment of that commitment. They don’t need additional persuasion from you.
The commitment principle postulates that once you commit to something or someone, you are more likely to keep your word.
People are compelled to remain consistent with their commitment. Because consistency is a trait regarded highly by society.
The principle of commitment also functions because, as humans, we frequently adopt mental shortcuts to speed up our decision-making.
We make so manydecisions every day that we will try to limit the number of decisions made. We do this by referring to past decisions as a guide.
Hence, this is in line with Cialdini’s take on consistency:
“…the desire to be consistent with what we’ve already done. If you see yourself doing something, it’s only in keeping with what you’ve already done, to do something that is likewise congruent with those actions. We like to be consistent.”
All you have to do to make your persuasion attempts effective is convince someone to make a small commitment. And they’ll do everything they can to make sure they’re being consistent by sticking to their word.
Contrast is the idea that you can make something more appealing by contrasting it with something less appealing. This persuasion strategy works by altering the perception of the facts. Despite this, the facts have not altered.
When you make decisions, you often compare and contrast the decision item with a reference object. Consider two objects, one heavy and the other light. If you lift the heavier one first, you’ll probably estimate that the second object weighs less than the first.
The power of contrast strategy utilizes the fact that we are hardwired to look for differences between things. It is based on the perception that the items or events happen one right after the other.
Timing is very important when using the power of contrast. It loses impact if the two contrasting items are not presented together.
When a customer walks into your store looking to buy a suit and shoes, always sell the suit first. After paying $2000 for a suit, a $500 pair of shoes seems like a bargain.
And if the customer can fork out $2500, throwing in a $50 tie probably won’t matter much to him.
Once you have a firm grasp on this concept, your degree of persuasiveness will increase significantly. Because when you use this strategy in persuasion, people will mentally overcome their own objections.
These methods are built on the assumption that people are “mental misers.” Mindfulness necessitates a significant amount of mental energy and effort.
However, we are constantly on the lookout for mental shortcuts. We don’t have the time, inclination, or ability to pay attention to what’s being said. Instead of depending on facts, logic, and evidence to make decisions, we take mental shortcuts and rely on our instincts.
Our brains go into automatic mode when we respond to signals without thinking. We are pre-programmed to react to persuasion triggers when our brains receive the proper cue.
If you’ve ever attempted to persuade someone to do something for you, you will probably appreciate the power of persuasion. Your persuasive skills can bring more opportunities into your life.
Start to work on mastering the art of persuasion and you’ll discover that things get done considerably faster.
With persuasive abilities, you may avoid doing everything on your own. Others will pitch in to help you accomplish your objectives.
In conclusion, being proficient in the art of being persuasive goes beyond the negative connotations associated with manipulation or fraud. It’s a skill that, when honed and utilized effectively, empowers you to communicate your ideas and motivate others to action.
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