Persuasion Techniques



factor influence persuasion
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casual overload rule of thumb
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mint (2) identify significant
ethical chance credential
host scarcity consensus
owe context obligation
favor strategy conduct (3)
tip (2) influence fortune cookie
tip (2) airfare go through the roof
invite consider personalize
unique announce take off (3)
lose (2) proposal change (3)
display credible recommendation
consult contract simply put
employ authority implement
hardly attempt real estate
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manner inquiry expertise
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towel outcomes negotiation
genuine behavior in common
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series effective draw my attention
reuse share (2) it turns out
miss (2) point out comparable





Researchers have been studying the factors that influence us to say “yes” to the requests of others for over sixty years. And there can be no doubt that there is a science to how we are persuaded.

Now a lot of this science is surprising.

When making a decision, it would be nice to think that people consider all the available information in order to guide their thinking.

But the reality is very often different.

In the increasingly overloaded lives we lead, more than ever, we need shortcuts, or rules of thumb to guide our decision making.

My own research has identified just six of these shortcuts, as universals that guide human behavior.

They are:

1) reciprocity
2) scarcity
3) authority
4) consistency
5) liking
6) consensus

Understanding these shortcuts and employing them in an ethical manner, can significantly increase the chances that someone will be persuaded by your request.

Let’s look at a closer look at each in turn.

1. Reciprocity

So the first universal principle of influence is reciprocity.

Simply put, people are obliged to give back to others for a behavior, gift or service that they have received first.

If a friend invited you to their party, there’s an obligation for you to invite them to a future party you are hosting.

If a colleague does you a favor, then you owe that colleague a favor.

And in a context of a social obligation, people are more likely to say “yes” to those that they owe.

One of the best demonstrations of the principle of reciprocation comes from a series of studies conducted in restaurants.

So the last time you visited a restaurant, there’s a good chance that the waiter or waitress will have given you a gift — probably about the same time they bring your bill.

A liqueur perhaps…or a fortune cookie…or perhaps a simple mint.

So here’s the question: does the giving of a mint have any influence over how much tip you’re going to leave them?

Most people will say “no” . . . but that mint can make a surprising difference.

In the study, giving diners a single mint at the end of their meal, typically increased tips by around 3%.

Interestingly, if the gift is doubled and two mints are provided, tips don’t double — they quadruple, a 14% increase in tips.

But perhaps most interestingly of all, is the fact that if the waiter provides one mint, starts to walk away from the table . . . but pauses, turns back and says, “for you nice people, here’s an extra mint . . .”

Tips go through the roof: a 23% increase — influenced not by whatwas given, but how it was given.

So the key to using the key of reciprocation is to be the first to give and to be sure that what you give is personalized and unexpected.

2. Scarcity

The second universal principle of persuasion is scarcity.

Simply put, people want more of those things that they can have less of.

When British Airways announced in 2003 that they would no longer be operating the twice daily London to New York Concord flight because it had become “uneconomical” to run — sales the very next day took off.

Notice that nothing had changed about the Concord itself: It certainly didn’t fly any faster…the service didn’t suddenly get any better…and the airfare didn’t drop.

It had simply become a scarce resource. And as a result, people wanted it more.

So when it comes to effectively persuading others using the scarcity principle, the science is clear.

It’s not enough simply to tell people about the benefits they’ll gain if they choose your products and services, you’ll also need to point out what is unique about your proposition, and what they stand to lose if they fail to consider your proposal.

3. Authority

Our third principle of influence is the Principle of Authority, the idea that people follow the lead of credible, knowledgeable experts.

Physiotherapists for example are able to persuade more of their patients to comply with recommended exercise programs if they display their medical diplomas on the walls of their consulting rooms.

People are more likely to give change for a parking meter to a complete stranger if that requester wears a uniform rather than casual clothes.

What the science is telling us is that it’s important to signal to others what makes you a credible, knowledgeable authority before you make your influence attempt.

Of course, this can present problems: you can hardly go around telling potential customers how brilliant you are; but you can certainly arrange for someone to do it for you.

And surprisingly, the science tells us that it doesn’t seem to matter if the person who introduces you is not only connected to you, but also likely to prosper from the introduction themselves.

One group of real estate agents were able to increase both the number of property appraisals and the number of subsequent contracts that they wrote by arranging for reception staff who answered customer inquiries to first mention their colleagues’ credentials and expertise.

So customers interested in letting property were told, “Lettings? Let me connect you with Sandra, who has over 15 years of experience letting properties in this area.

Customers who wanted more information selling properties were told, “Speak to Peter, our head of sales. He has over 20 years of experience selling properties. I’ll put you through now.”

The impact of this expert introduction led to a twenty percent rise in the number of appointments, and a 15% increase in the number of signed contracts.

Not bad for a small change informed from persuasion science, that was both ethical and costless to implement.

4. Consistency

The next principle is consistency. People like to be consistent with the things they have previously said or done.

Consistency is activated by looking for, and asking for small initial commitments that can be made.

In one famous set of studies, researchers found, rather unsurprisingly, few people would be willing to erect an unsightly wooden board on their front lawn to support a drive safely campaign in their neighborhood.

However in a similar neighborhood close by, four times as many home owners indicated they would be willing to erect this unsightly billboard.


Because ten days previously, they had agreed to place a small postcard in the front window of their home that signaled their support for a drive safely campaign.

That small card was the initial commitment that led to a 400% increase in a much bigger, but still consistent change.

So when seeking to influence using the consistency principle, the detective of influence looks for voluntary, active and public commitments — and ideally gets those commitments in writing.

For example, one recent study, reducing missed appointments at health centers by 18% simply by asking the patients, rather than the staff, to write down appointment details on the future appointment card.

5. Liking

The fifth principle is the Principle of Liking: people prefer to say yes to people that they like.

But what causes one person to like another?

Persuasion science tells us that there are three important factors: we like people who are similar to us. We like people who pay us compliments. And we like people who cooperate with us towards mutual goals.

As more and more of the interactions we are having take place online, it might be worth asking whether these factors can be employed effectively in let’s say online negotiations.

In a series of negotiations studies carried out between MBA students at two well known business schools, some groups were told, “Time is money; get straight down to business.”

In this group, around 55% were able to come to an agreement.

A second group however were told, “Before you begin negotiating, exchange some personal information with each other. Identify similarities you share in common.

Then begin negotiating.”

In this group, 90% of them were able to come to successful and agreeable outcomes, that were typically worth 18% more to both parties.

So to harness this powerful principle of liking, be sure to look for areas of similarities that you share with others, and genuine compliments you can give before you get down to business.

6. Consensus

The final principle is consensus.

Especially when they are uncertain, people will look to the actions and behaviors of others to determine their own.

You may have noticed that hotels often place a small card in bathrooms that attempt to persuade guests to reuse their towels and linen.

Most do this by drawing the guests’ attention to the benefits that reuse can have on environmental protection.

It turns out this is a pretty effective strategy leading to around 35% compliance.

But could there be an even more effective way?

Well it turns out that about 75% of people who check into a hotel for four nights or longer will reuse their towels at some point during their stay.

So what would happen if we took a lesson in the principle of consensus, and simply included that information on the cards and said that “75% of our guests reused their towels at some time during their stay. So please do so as well.”

It turns out that when we do this, towel reuse rises by 26%.

Now imagine that you stay in a hotel, you saw one of these signs. You picked it up and you read the following message.

“75% of people who have stayed in this room have reused their towels.”

What would you think?

Well, he’s what you might think: I hope they’re not the same towels.

And like most people, you probably think this sign would have no influence on your behavior whatsoever.

But it turns out that changing just a few words on a sign to honestly point out what comparable, previous guests have done was the single most effective message, leading to a 33% increase in reuse.

So the science is telling us that rather than relying on our own ability to persuade others, we can point out to what many others are already doing — especially many similar others.


So there we have it: six scientifically validated principles of persuasion that provide for small, practical, often costless changes that can lead to big differences in your ability to influence and persuade others in an entirely ethical way.

They are the secrets from the science of persuasion.

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1. The main or real idea of this video is how to make people buy from you or getting them do things for you. Is this right or wrong?

2. Is this based on speculations and opinions, or scientific research?

3. Reciprocity essentially means if you do something nice to someone, they will (feel obligated to) do something nice to you. True or false? What example was given?

4. What would happen if a shipload of bananas to your city sank?

5. Should ticket collectors and border guards wear uniforms? Why do they wear uniforms, according to the video?

6. Is displaying certificates and degrees, and writing and talking about past experiences important?

7. Who is more likely to travel to Kyrgyzstan, someone who has never traveled before or someone has been to Turkey?

8. Would Peter rather buy eggs, honey and apples from his friend’s cousin farm or from the supermarket?

9. Explain consensus (or groupthink or peer-pressure).


A. Does your company or institution employ these principles: reciprocity, scarcity, authority, consistency, liking, consensus?

B. How does your organization treat clients and prospects? Give examples.

C. Do you know anyone (a teacher, professor, doctor, consultant, engineer, computer expert, mechanic, CEO) who indicates his or her authority or competence? What can you say about business cards and resumes (CVs)?

D. Do supermarkets or open markets give free samples of fruit, cheese, honey, yogurt? Why do they do, this?

E. Would you buy your favorite product from a rude salesperson, or an inferior or more expensive product from a friend?

F. Do you or your friend feel pressured by others to buy, have or do something, e.g. a smartphone, house, car, use electronic payments?


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