10 Ways To Be More Persuasive

by Stephen Mills on May 21, 2010

Persuasion

Everyone has a message.  Everyone wants to be more persuasive.  Whether you are an employee working for someone else, an owner of your own business, a student, a blogger, etc. you need to be heard.  In that sense we are all marketers.  The world is drowning in information and when you speak you need to make sure your message gets results.

The following are 10 ways to be more persuasive.  They are all proven effective in controlled experiments and many are taken from Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive.

  1. Social Proof – When the course of action is not clear, people look to others for guidance (even though they will deny that fact).  Put more simply, people tend to do what other people similar to them do.  This behavior is programmed into our genes and is well established.  Social proof is more influential when we are observing others we perceive to be similar to us.  So if you are trying to sell someone on something, be it an idea or a product, a powerful method is to show how others like them have already bought into it.
  2. Mirroring – People respect, like, and are most easily influenced by people who they perceive to be similar to themselves (see Social Proof above).  So one way to influence someone is to mirror them.  Mirror their speech and their actions.  If you verbalize back to someone something they have said and in the same words, you instantly become more influential.  The same thing applies to posture and actions.  If you want to influence Mike, then you need to act like Mike.  If he is leaning back in his chair, then you would be wise to do the same.
  3. Offer Few Choices – People are paralyzed by choice and if given too many options, will simply fail to choose anything.  So if you are offering up alternative products, services, or ideas, be sure to limit the choices to only a few.  Two choices is often better than three.
  4. Reciprocation – Do someone a favor and they are more likely to return it.  There is an interesting twist to this.  People who do you a favor once are more likely do do you another favor in the future.  Once someone has done you a favor, in their mind you become more important to them; you must be worthy of their time.  So get someone to do you a small favor, and they are more likely to listen to you or do you an even bigger favor in the future.  The best way to get them to do you a favor in the first place is to do one for them.
  5. Baby Steps – We want to act consistent with our previous actions.  Further once we buy into something or someone, we tend to become much more committed to it or them.  This is the foot-in-the-door technique.  No matter how small a step you can get someone to take as far as agreeing with your idea, product, or service, those small steps will lead to larger steps in the future.  This even works on yourself.  Start small.  Get your target to say yes to anything first, and then they will be much more likely say yes to what your really after.
  6. Labeling – Marketers use this one on you all the time: “You seem like a smart person and smart people buy X”.  Tell someone they are smart, sophisticated, thrifty, a risk-taker, etc. and ask them to take an action consistent with that label.  There is a powerful inner drive to stay consistent with what we have demonstrated in the past.  If someone labels us, we believe we have demonstrated that trait (especially if it is positive).
  7. Ask the Right Question – Recently I was given a pitch for a timeshare.  All throughout the pitch, the agent was asking me and my wife questions about what would we do or what we would like to do.  This was leading to the final push on the actual sale.  Before asking someone to do something, get them to say they would do it or something consistent with it.  Get them to verbally express an inclination or desire to do something.  Then when asked to do something consistent with what they have previously expressed, they are much more likely to agree.
  8. Smile – Smiles are powerful influencers.  People like people who smile.  But your smile needs to be authentic.  Humans have a remarkable ability to detect false smiles (it’s all in the eyes).  So find something in the other person that you can authentically appreciate and then smile about it.  In general, just practice looking on the bright side of things and being happy.  You will naturally smile more and thus be more influential.
  9. Keep it Simple – I once read that studies showed the most persuasive writing was written at an 8th grade level of comprehension.  This is true even among people who were capable of comprehending much more complex language.  There is a convergence of data showing that simple is better.  Simple and easy to remember names and ideas are the best.  Resist the urge to show off your knowledge and sophistication and instead  K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid).
  10. Scarcity and Exclusivity – Making whatever you are offering, including ideas, unique and thus scarce is a very effective technique.  People love and value what is scarce.  Think about a high-end Mercedes sedan.  Part of what makes it so desirable is the fact that it is rare; the overwhelming majority of people cannot afford it.  At first glance scarcity might seem to be counter to the social proof phenomenon described above, but in reality they go together.  When you buy the high-end Mercedes, you are joining and exclusive club of rich and sophisticated people who also value such quality and sophistication in an automobile.  They are people like you.  Mac owners are a small minority of computer owners, but they also believe they are a group of exclusive and sophisticated computer users.  They know better.  So offer something unique, but package it in a way that when people buy into it, they also are attracted by the social proof of others.

If you liked this and are interested in more I suggest you check out the very useful book: Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive.

What do YOU think?  Leave a comment and join the conversation.

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{ 2 trackbacks }

30 Proven Ways to Be More Persuasive | OnlineMBA
October 30, 2011 at 11:08 pm
30 Proven Ways To Be More Persuasive | Young Upstarts
October 31, 2011 at 4:33 am

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills May 21, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Hi Stephen, I think there is a shift under way in the way people respond to traditional persuasion techniques. Not that they don’t work anymore, because they do. I just don’t think they work as well as they once did. Two factors are at work here. People are wise to many of the standard persuasion methods. And they are so overloaded that they are ignoring the pitch, no matter how well crafted it is. Transparency and community seem to be gaining ground, which I see as a real positive.
.-= Jonathan – Advanced Life Skills´s last blog ..Can Positive Thinking Really Improve Your Life? =-.

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Stephen Mills May 22, 2010 at 7:01 am

I wish I could be as optimistic as you are Jonathan 🙂

I do think what you say is true, I just think it applies to such a small percentage of the population, it doesn’t amount to enough. It’s interesting that in some experiments in human psychology that subjects will be told what is going to happen and they often seem helpless to prevent it.

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Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills May 25, 2010 at 11:57 am

There was a movie on TV about 30 years ago called “Pray TV.” It was about a TV evangelist who was scamming his viewing audience (big surprise). The whole premise of the movie was to expose the scam. The 2 lead roles were played by very famous actors, and their shady tactics were fully exposed. Here’s the point: In spite of the above, 70,000 viewers called the bogus phone number (you know, “operators are standing by to pray for you. Call…..”) and wanted to donate money to the preacher.

So, I tend to agree with your conclusion. I’ll be optimistic for the small percentage and hopeful for the rest.
.-= Jonathan – Advanced Life Skills´s last blog ..A Personal Growth Lesson From A Little Bird =-.

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Benjamin Koshkin May 21, 2010 at 7:38 pm

Makes good sense.

Benjamin Koshkin

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Stephen Mills May 22, 2010 at 7:01 am

Hello, Benjamin. Thanks for taking time to comment 🙂

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Positively Present May 22, 2010 at 8:53 am

Excellent suggestions here, Stephen! There are so many reasons that persuasion can be used and I really appreciate the tips you’ve offered here.

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Stephen Mills May 22, 2010 at 5:51 pm

Hello Dani, thank you and no problem! 🙂

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Mike May 23, 2010 at 10:49 am

Excellent, one of the best posts I have read in a while since it is so useful to me. I have a few major meetings with big brands coming up, and its great to keep these in mind during our conversations.

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Stephen Mills May 24, 2010 at 8:05 pm

Hi Mike 🙂

Thank you so much. See you around.

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Jonny May 25, 2010 at 4:05 am

I would add that overriding all these great points is confidence. Personally confidence and confidence in what you are talking about ensure that all the above points are carried off effectively.
.-= Jonny´s last blog ..Why My First Business Sank Spectacularly And How To Keep Yours From Meeting The Same Watery Fate – Part 1 =-.

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Nea | Self Improvement Saga May 26, 2010 at 11:15 am

These are all good tips on persuading others, but I honed in on “Offer Few Choices.” Although we all love variety in theory, many people get overwhelmed if there are too many different ways to customize. For sales people, an excessive amount of options can mean confusing, and ultimately losing, a customer.
.-= Nea | Self Improvement Saga´s last blog ..Why Living a Passionate Life is the Daddy of Self Improvement Ideas =-.

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Misanthropy Today June 1, 2010 at 1:37 am

how about use weapons or threats? i think that should be added

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Ralph June 10, 2010 at 7:40 pm

Really good list! I’m not a fan of mirroring though. Every book I’ve read said that you should mirror because it makes the other person feel comfortable. I guess I like to find a way to connect with someone on a personal level with hopes that it will make them more comfortable. Then, the mirror happens naturally. I think I prefer to connect by conversing not just body language. Nice blog you’ve got here. Will give this a Stumble.

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Brent Trotter June 17, 2010 at 5:01 pm

Excellent points Stephen.

I like mirroring in particular. Works really well, and is really fun. You get better at dealing with people of all sorts.

p.s. labeling is one of those “advanced” sells techniques. It’s glorious.

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sir jorge August 2, 2010 at 4:55 pm

this most certainly makes a lot of sense
sir jorge´s last blog post ..Alkaline Trio Goddamnit Review

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Jaky Astik May 14, 2011 at 10:28 am

When you don’t have any more stories to tell, you no longer exist. That’s how world works. Persuasion is similar to change. You have to create new things and show them off to the world and explain the important.

Humanity could have easily survived without clothes, yet, it’s persuasion that makes it compulsory to wear clothes today..that’s why.
Jaky Astik´s last blog post ..9 Powerful Processes to Expand and Popularize Your Next Big Idea

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Michael Bradham December 11, 2013 at 10:05 pm

Looks like a lot to meditate on. Heres to 20 Days Meditation Honoring New Year: http://llavealhighway.com/20-days-meditation-for-new-year/
Michael Bradham´s last blog post ..Book review: The Human, The Orchid, and The Octopus by Jacques Cousteau and Susan Schiefelbein

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blog.internetowy-marketing.com.pl October 6, 2014 at 3:16 am

I do not even know how I ended up here, but
I thought this post was good. I don’t know who you are but certainly you are going to a famous blogger if you are not already 😉
Cheers!
blog.internetowy-marketing.com.pl´s last blog post ..blog.internetowy-marketing.com.pl

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