Persuasion is power. Almost everyday of our human lives and social interactions are made up of attempts to influence others to see things from our point of views.
Persuasion is not a bad thing until it crosses the line into becoming manipulative and exploiting others into doing things against their will or that they are uncomfortable with. We're talking about persuasion that when put to good use can win over and inspire others.
Here are 6 ways we can learn from to increase our persuasive skills in today's competitive world.
1. Reciprocity: Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.
We generally dislike feeling indebted to others. The principle of reciprocity states that people naturally feel obligated to pay back their debts. We feel the need to give back to those we have received favours from.
A study done by Dr. Robert Cialdini found that by approaching people in public to answer surveys, asking people for
Interestingly, using norms of reciprocity to get what you need from people can often be more effective than using money. To support this statement, my field of work requires me to gather data informally by approaching people in public to answer surveys and I’ve often found that asking people “for a favor” to complete surveys is more effective than offering people $5 for their time to do the same surveys.
Reciprocal norms are thus extremely powerful as a means to persuade and influence people. Give first and the other party will most likely do the same.
2. Certainty: Being assured by others feels good
Uncertainty is a scary feeling. We don’t like feeling unsure of what to do. One way people reduce this feeling is to observe what other people are doing. There is a saying, "There is safety in numbers" - if you are doing what the majority of people around you are doing, you're less likely to be singled out and judged.
Imagine you are in a new country and unsure of where to have dinner at. You see that Restaurant A has a longer queue than Restaurant B. Most of us will be drawn to Restaurant A simply because we perceive it as have better food due to the long queue.
How you can apply this to your life is when talking to someone you'd like to persuade, it helps to tell them what other like-minded people prefer, or to reassure them that their decision is the "right" one as other people have also done the same. You may find yourself having an easier time getting them to listen to you.
3. Authority: Being assured by someone important feels even better
People have a tendency to obey authority figures. Somewhat similar to point number 2 above, when people receive recognition from someone important like an expert or respected leader, it becomes another way for them to validate their point of views so that others are more likely to listen to them.
When trying to persuade someone, it helps to engage the help of someone of authority to validate what you're trying to say. It could be a professor or expert in the topic that you're trying to pitch. I'm sure these people are more than willing to listen and offer some excellent advice most of the time.
This will give you a certain trustworthiness as you're basically "borrowing" their persuasiveness instead of just banking on your own.
4. Consistency: People want to follow through
Humans have a deep-seated need to be seen (and validated) as consistent. Once we commit to something or someone, like making a promise or signing a contract, we’re likely to follow through on that commitment.
In the mid-1960s, psychologists Jonathan Freedman and Scott Fraser decided to explore the “foot-in-the-door” technique. This is a popular sales tactic where you start off by asking the customer to fulfil a small request that's usually very easy to agree to. Once that has been fulfilled, it is usually easier for the customer to agree to a larger request later on.
The psychologists asked some homeowners if they would agree to place a large signboard on their front lawn stating "Drive Carefully". Only 17% of the people they asked agreed to it. However, another group of homeowners were first asked if they were willing to stick a small sticker on their window that reads, “Be a safe driver” (which almost 100% agreed to). Then, two weeks later, they asked the homeowners whether they can place the large "Drive Carefully" signboard on their lawn. A whopping 76% of this second group agreed!
What does this tell us?
The “foot-in-the-door” technique exploits our fundamental human need to be consistent. This consistency effect is stronger when the promise is made publicly or in writing, because now there are consequences to breaking that promise. You can apply this technique personally when persuading someone by requesting for a small favour and then slowly building it up to a bigger one.
5. Scarcity: Supply and demand
Scarcity is defined as the image of certain things becoming more attractive when people think that there is limited availability. The harder it is to get something, the more valuable it gets.
People often use scarcity to gauge whether something is valuable and worth their time. This is why you hear about Singaporeans queuing for over 7 hours for Hello Kitty charms simply because they exist in limited quantities. FOMO! - Fear Of Missing Out. Humans hate the idea that they are missing out. Of course, I prefer the local term 'kiasu'.
How you can apply this in your life is to be strategic about advertising your availability. Emphasise the scarcity of your time to inflict urgency to others. It may just help you to persuade others to listen to you better due to your high demand.
6. Likeabilty: The more you like someone, the more you'll listen to them
This one is a tough nut to crack. Obviously, we can't expect every single person to like us. But the principle behind this technique is to focus on making yourself likable and work to cultivate a positive image of yourself. It doesn't mean to flatter other unnecessarily or to become fake about it.
There are many ways you can compliment someone sincerely, such as thanking them for playing their part in the group project, congratulating them for an accomplishment, or even on an outfit which you find stylish. We’re attracted to people who make us feel good about ourselves and most importantly, if they are willing to co-operate with us.
Ever had someone you don't particularly like in the same group as you are? As long as you know that person is willing to cooperate and contribute his part in the group project, it can make you appreciate him more as you get to know him better. Take the perspective of the other side by working to find a common ground and signal a willingness to work together.
That may work wonders in making you a genuinely likeable person.