6 Proven Ways to be Persuasive

Being persuasive is key to influencing people, making good deals and being an effective leader. But what makes us say ‘yes’?

Being persuasive is not a case of controlling or manipulating someone, like a hypnotist or a puppet-master. It’s a case of creating mutual trust. They need to feel that you’re the best option. So how can you be more persuasive?

Scientific research carried out by Dr. Robert Cialdini suggests that when making decisions, people are often faced with information overload. In the digital age we live in, where information is so readily available, it’s easier than ever to be overwhelmed by a flood of different options. So we rely on shortcuts to guide decision-making. The research outlines six universal shortcuts, or ‘principles of influence’ that can help you be persuasive.



Every social interaction is a kind of contract, based on obligation. If someone asks you a question, you’re obliged to respond. If someone gives you a gift, you’re obliged to give one back. Reciprocity means people are more likely to say ‘yes’ to those they feel they owe.

This is why waiters bring gifts alongside the bill in restaurants. It influences customers to give a more generous tip. Research shows that (on average) giving a customer one mint will lead to a 3% rise in tip. While giving them two mints will lead to an even higher, 14% rise. But it’s not just what you give, it’s how you give it. If the waiter creates a sense of exclusivity, (“For you special people, we’d like to offer these mints”), there’ll be a 23% rise in tip.

Be the first to give is key for being persuasive. And make sure the gift is personalised and unexpected.



People want things more if they perceive them as rare. It’s why we like diamonds. If something seems scarce, people are drawn to it.

When BA announced they were retiring the Concorde service because it was economically unsustainable, their sales saw a massive boost. Customers were flocking in for their last chance to have that experience.

When you’re illustrating the benefits of your position, outline the ways in which it’s unique. Tell the person what they stand not only to gain, but what they stand to lose if they go elsewhere.



People are more likely to follow experts.

For example, Doctors will be more successful in encouraging their patients to follow their advice if they hang a copy of their medical degree on the wall. The same is true with the power of Uniform. People are far more obedient towards those in uniform; it confers a sense of authority.

Ask yourself what’s your equivalent of hanging the degree on the wall? How can you signal your own authority? One technique is to have someone else introduce you. Even if it’s clear that this person knows you, and may stand to gain from singing your praises, it still gives strangers reassurance that they’re dealing with someone with authority.


Consistency and Commitment

Although people are often unpredictable, they like to feel consistent. Commitment is a good initial technique of persuasion. Look for ways to make people commit to small actions.

In hospitals, the receptionists found that by asking the patients themselves to write down the time of their next appointment, they’d become far less likely to miss it.

A small amount of action on their part goes a long way. If someone engages on their own terms, then you can begin working towards a mutual end goal. Seek out voluntary, active and open commitments, preferably in writing.



Everyone would rather say ‘yes’ to someone they like. Of course, getting people to like you is a much larger question, but in this context there are three simple factors that can help you be more likeable.

We like people who are similar to us.

Try to establish common ground. Share things about yourself. If people feel they have something in common with you, they’re 90% more likely to want to work together.

We like people who pay us compliments.

Not only does it make people warm to you, it creates the sense that you are confident, and speak with authority.

We like people who can cooperate with us.

Don’t try to be the boss. Show that you’re willing to collaborate and compromise.



People often look to the actions and behaviours of others in order to determine their own. There’s strength in numbers. So don’t rely solely on your own powers of persuasion, point to the feelings of others.

Being persuasive is important, but it’s also easier than you think. Follow these six principles of influence, and you’ll find the key to persuasiveness; trust.



Photo courtesy of stocksnap
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