How to make others do what you want - 7 easy steps to influence people

Disclaimer: This post relies on the principles taught by this book: influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (Collins Business Essentials). We strongly suggest you to read the book itself as well, mainly because it is an amazing piece of literature and also because this post only summarizes the key principles taught by this book.

Short introduction

If you've ever found yourself in a situation, where you were questioning yourself how and why someone managed to make you buy something that you didn't actually want in the first place, or if somebody talked you into something and you just now realized that he or she manipulated you the whole time, this article is perfectly suited for you.Β 

Maybe someone approached you on the street, convincing you to donate some money for charity. Or maybe someone somehow managed to sell you a gym contract, even though you weren't fully convinced yet.

If you've ever wondered, how these people can manipulate you into buying their products and making you think the way they want, this article is perfect for you.

7. Use shortcuts to trick the other person's mind 🧠

To go through life easy, our mind creates so-called shortcuts, that prevent us from overthinking every simple thing or task we come across. You most likely have experienced these shortcuts first hand on your own mind as well:

  • You might feel terrified when going on board an airplane, even though statistically seen airplanes are much safer than any other means of transportation.
  • You might have met a person that resembles a friend of yours so you might automatically think this person is similar to your friend.
  • You might weigh risks differently depending on your mood. For example: if you feel great, you'll see the risks as less threatening as if you were feeling bad at the moment.

Our brain uses these shortcuts every day and all the time without you even realizing it.

This can be used for our benefit. For instance, you could try the following:

Next time you wait in line for the printer and you're in a rush, dont just ask "can I use the printer?". Ask "can I use the printer, because..." and add any reason behind it.

Our brains are pre-programmed to automatically accept requests that have a reasoning associated with them. Even more interesting: Apparently you don't even have to provide a valid reason at all. You could literally ask "can I use the printer because I want to print something" and you'll be allowed to skip the line by most of the people.

6. Do someone a favor - people have an overpowering need to return them. ☯

You might have encountered this one before as well. I am talking about the rule of reciprocation. In summary, the rule of reciprocation means thatΒ humans tend to return good deeds. Do someone a favor and this person will automatically feel obliged to return a favor some other time as well.

This rule was used by our ancestors as well, as it's the foundation of modern society. Without the rule of reciprocation, people couldn't rely on others to return favors if they, for instance, shared food with them.

You might have also experienced this rule first hand on yourself when someone did you a favor and you didn't return it. It feels bad, it feels like you owe them something - even if the person states that they don't expect something from you in return. This feeling comes up because you subconsciously fear to be labeled as greedy or ingrateful.

People are so keen to return favors, that they will often perform much larger favors in return for small ones!

Keep that in mind! If you need a favor next time, give the other person a favor first and they'll most likely be happy to help you out.

5. Scarcity - People desire scarce opportunities. πŸ›’

"Limited edition", "Sale ends tomorrow", "90% off for a limited time". Nowadays these sentences can be found all over stores and online shops throughout the world.

Why? Because they work like magic! According to the scarcity principle, people get more inclined to buy a product if it's harder to obtain. We see opportunities, products, and services as more valuable if their availability is limited.

According to the book, this seems to be because we just hate to be missing out on something. This can result in us buying things that we didn't even desire in the first place.

This is why salespersons ofter mention other buyers (even if there aren't any), as this subconsciously makes you fear to miss out to someone else. A competitive situation, such as an auction, can even lead to people bidding much higher sums, than the sums they'd have bid in a normal environment.

If you try to sell something or sell yourself - use scarcity. In a job interview, tell about other interviews that you had before and went well (even if there aren't any).

4. Banning things makes them even more desirable πŸ”

If you've ever had a dog you know exactly what I'm talking about: Usually there are a lot of dog-toys laying around on the floor. The dog doesn't show any interest in playing with any of them until you pick one up - all of a sudden the toy gets interesting again. Why? Because by picking it up you're taking the toy away from him. This makes the toy way more desirable than before.

Even funnier - if you pick up another toy the dog gets caught in a dilemma, not knowing which toy to prefer.

Just mentioning to people that something has banned makes them more interested in it - even if the thing itself wasn't interesting to them in the first place. The book features an interesting example of this principle:

Court room research indicates that juries are influenced by censored information. For instance, it's a known fact that juries will award higher damages if they know that insurance covers the cost. Interstingly though, they award even higher damages if the judge explicitly tells them to ignore the fact that the defendant has insurance.

3. The harder we work for something, the more we value it. πŸ’Ž

This is a phenomenon often observed in initiation rituals for groups. Often people have to complete some sort of challenge, pass a test or pay large amounts of money.Β 

If people invest a lot of time and effort into getting something, they tend to value it much more.

For instance: If someone just gave you 1'000'000$ you'd be pretty happy about it but you wouldn't even remotely value it as much as if you'd have earned it yourself.

This feeling occurs, because by making the choice to go the hard way you have to convince yourself that it's worth it, and this means usually elevating the group you're joining (or the goal you're trying to achieve).

2. Whenever we're uncertain we look for social proof. πŸ”Ž

Nowadays, often when we buy something online, we check out the reviews first to get an impression of the product. This one sentence just explained the phenomenon of social proof.

Whenever we're uncertain about a product, service or even just a statement we read online, we use social proof to find out what our friends and colleagues think about said thing.

This is why companies often advertise products with statements such as "best selling" and why reality tv series put fake laughter in their shows to make us laugh more often and generally associating their show with a good feeling.

1. We obey authorities blindly (even if they are fake) πŸ‘¨β€πŸ¦―

This is the most powerful way to influence others in my opinion. From birth, humans are pre-programmed to obey and listen to authorities without even questioning them or what they're saying.

There are numerous examples of actors disguising as doctors or professors with some sort of a Ph.D. at a presentation talking complete nonsense and still receiving amazing feedback. Symbols of authority, such as titles, are very powerful devices that influence our perception of someone.

To not get fooled by such fake authorities anymore do these two things:

  • Be aware that most of us obey authorities blindly
  • Try to find out if the person you're speaking to is actually an authority or merely disguised as one
  • Ask yourself "how honest can I expect this authority to be in this situation" (a waiter might be an expert of wine, but also tries to sell you a pricier one as he benefits from this as well).

By the way: clothes are also a very powerful device to portray authority to others. Wearing a lab coat usually makes you seem much more professional if you're talking about science.Β 

And a small lifehack to finish off:Β 

Wearing a yellow or orange safety west, disguised as a mechanic, can get you mostly anywhere (cinema, zoo, museums) - but it's illegal so don't do that.