6 Secrets of Persuasion

If you need to communicate professionally, you’ve probably read your way through tomes of sales and negotiation literature by now. There is a plethora of tactics, techniques and tricks out there which purport to help you sway partners over to your side.

But what is the underlying foundation of all these techniques?  How can they all be brought under one simple roof?

Comprehensive research by Professor Robert Cialdini of Arizona State University (PhD in Psychology), a leading scientist in the field of Persuasion, shows that all of that advice can be incorporated into no more than six basic categories.

And here they are, from a psychological point of view, the 6 principles of communication that will make people more inclined to say ‘Yes’ to your proposals:

1. Reciprocity

We are more inclined to say yes to people we owe. If I do you a favor first and later ask for another one in return, it’ll be harder for you to refuse.

2. Scarcity

Everybody would like that last piece of the pie. If there is a limited amount of something available, it appears to us to have a higher utility value, as we want to make sure we do not miss out on it.  When something is restricted, we fight really hard to get it. We just don’t like to have our freedom (of mind, of experience, etc.) restricted. After Concorde announced its imminent cancellation of transatlantic flights, it was booked solid.

Think about ‘last minute’ offers, or offers ‘while stocks last’ or even Amazon with its ‘only 2 more copies available’!

3. Authority

A principle also present in classical rhetoric, authority means we are more inclined to believe those whom we consider competent and knowledgeable and respectable in their fields. Research showed people were more likely to do business with real estate agents that had previously been introduced to them as very experienced and competent.

4. Consistency

Most of us like to think of ourselves as rational, consistent individuals. To avoid appearing erratic in our behavior, we are most likely to say yes to demands which are in line with something we have done before.

When approached about placing a large sign in favor of traffic safety on their lawns, most people said no. However, when they were first asked to put a small traffic safety sticker on their doors, and only subsequently asked to take it one step further and plant the large sign, considerably more agreed to it . Why? Because it felt like the natural continuation of their previous actions. It was consistent with the first ‘yes’.

This is what many books call the salami slices strategy.  🙂 One small compromise followed by another, more significant one, etc.

5. Liking

What I like to call ‘affinity’. We are more inclined to agree with people we like or with whom we hold views in common.

6. Consensus

Yes, deep down we are usually inclined to conform. We want to be in consensus with what other fellow humans did. In one experiment, a hotel trying to convince its guests to reuse towels used the ecological argument and saw a 17% increase in reused towels. When they used the consensus argument, however, (‘75% of our previous guests chose to reuse their towels’), the increase was almost 30%!

For the original research and more detailed information, see also www.influenceatwork.com.

Have a nice day!



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