The Science of Persuasion

  • Introduction
  • 6 ways to increase your influence
  • Conclusion



Robert Cialdini wrote a great book called The Psychology of Influence.  In this book he examines some of the key ways people can be influenced by “Compliance professionals.”

Getting people to say “yes” is a multi-billion dollar industry.  In fact you might say it is the only business that exists… Think about it.

Influence is a skill that everyone on earth needs-we all use it on a daily basis.  You might say that everyone on earth is a salesman, and, ultimately, we all get paid on commission… Think about it.


Researchers have been studying the factors that influence us to say “yes” for over 60 years.  They have found that there is most certainly a science to getting people to how we are persuaded.  It would be nice to think that we gather all the relevant information and weigh it out logically and rationally, but that is simply not how humans operate.

In reality we use shortcuts to guide our thinking.  Understanding some of these shortcuts will increase the chances that someone will be persuaded by your request.

What follows are some factors that will encourage people to say yes to you.  This can be applied to business and sales as well as everyday conversations.


6 ways to increase your influence

1. Reciprocity

We live in a social world.  The principle of reciprocity is that people feel obliged to give back to others when they have received first.  In a social context, people are more likely to say yes to people they “owe”. 

To use this principle is to be the first one to give, and be sure that what you give is personalized and unexpected.  It shouldn’t be a big gift, just demonstrating a little bit of thought and genuine goode will.

For example, studies have shown that when done correctly, a waiter who gives a gift of a mint with the bill will receive significantly higher tips than a waiter who brings no mint.  

2. Scarcity

Science has shown that people want more of the things there are less of.  People naturally and sub consciously place a higher value on scarce or rare items.

It is not enough to communicate the benefits of your offer… you should also point out what is unique about your proposition, and what they stand to lose if they refuse.

If you want to use this principle, let people know in a subtle manner that this is a limited time offer, or that supplies are few.

3. Credibility

People are persuaded by authority and credibility.  The presence of authority implies the absence of uncertainty and doubt-both of which natural repel people.

You should let others know what makes you a credible and knowledgeable authority before you make your proposal.  A great way to demonstrate credibility is to show that you know what you are talking about (but not too much, less is more here).  Uniforms, diplomas and introductions are a good way to signal authority and credibility.  You could also mention your experience in the field.


4. Consistency with previous statements / actions…

People like to be consistent with the things they have previously said and done.

This can be activated by looking for and asking for small initial commitments that can be made in advance of the real proposition.

Look for voluntary, active and public commitments toward your goal.  For example, you can ask someone if they like fast food french fries, and if they say yes, you have a commitment that will later increase your odds they will agree to go to lunch at a fast food restaurant.  You can ask if they are concerned about road safety, and if they say yes you have a commitment that will increase your chances they will agree to wear their seat belt.  You can give the pen and paper to the customer to write their own appointment day and time.

5. Liking

People prefer to say yes to people they like.

But we may think its tricky to get someone to like us.  How can we get someone to like us? especially strangers and in short interactions.

There are three proven ways to get someone to like you in a short period of time.

1) Ask questions.  Listen to their responses. Become genuinely interested in this unique and wonderful person in front of you. Be genuinely interested in their story, their personality, their quirks, their fears and wishes, their family, their history.  Make them feel important and special by actively listening instead of talking too much.

2) Share similarities you have.  As they talk, you can share anything you may have in common.  It doesn’t have to be significant.  It can be that you also have a sister, or also have a cat, or that you like spicy food too!  Find similarities and share them.

3) Give genuine compliments.  Don’t try to give fake compliments because they often feel fake and forced.  It is worth taking the time and effort to seek out something you genuinely appreciate and let it be known.  Again, it doesn’t have to be significant, it can be “nice shoes” or “I like your hair” or “that was a smart thing to do.”

If you do these three things, people will leave the conversation feeling good and feeling postie about themselves, and therefore about you, and are more likely to be influenced by you.

6. Consensus 

Humans are herd animals. People will look to the actions and behaviors of others to determine their decisions, especially when they are uncertain.

Let people know that many people similar to them have made this decision and were happy.  This is a much more effective appeal than other methods.

Tell them “Millions of people have don’t this and it worked for them”, or some applicable variation of that.



The science of persuasion and influence is an intricate part of our psychology.  Knowing more about the factors that influence our decision can help us to have a more productive and effective impact on the world around us.  It can also open our eyes to the workings of our own psychology and the factors that influence our decisions.

This can be very beneficial to our lives as we build empathy and understanding about those around us, and ourselves.  We can learn more about how the world works, and we can have more peace of mind as we understand ourselves and others better.  

Overall we can use this to improve our own life, and the lives of those around us.


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