How to Influence: Persuasive Techniques
Change is intimidating for most of us, and hence people usually hesitate whenever they are asked to follow someone or something that they are not sure of. This makes the task of persuading people a challenging one, irrespective of the fact that your process, or concept, or product may be the best bet that they can think of if adopted. If you can understand the psychological principles that rule the process of influencing others, you will be in a better position to apply the tactics of persuasion to influence others and also be able to understand when people try to influence you.
Psychology states that there are six fundamental principles using which you can influence people. Let’s take a look at those principles outlined below:
1. The Law of Reciprocity
Every principle has an exception to it, and so is the case with this one. However, it is very common amongst most of the people to return favours or pay off and treat people in the same manner as they were treated by others. This principle of reciprocity often generates a feeling of obligation to offer discounts, concessions or offer support to others, if they have offered the same to us at some point of time. Research has established the fact that we feel burdened and carry an uncomfortable feeling whenever we are indebted to someone.
For instance, if your colleague or peer has helped you with a challenging task or project, you automatically feel obliged towards him or her and hence you tend to support any of their ideas as a gesture of returning the favour. Similarly, a customer may be more inclined to purchase a particular product if there is a huge discount being offered on that product. Likewise, we also have the tendency to walk that extra mile to help someone if the person had stood by us in our times of need or offered any assistance. Social media is in fact built on this law. ‘Here’s me, looking at you, looking at me’!
Considering this principle of reciprocity, you need to clearly identify your objectives and decide what it is that you expect from the other person. If your needs are clearly defined, it will help you to identify what it is that you can give them in return. It can be as simple as reminding the other person how you had extended your help to him or her. Then you can follow up with reciprocation by displaying your willingness to help them, and it will automatically go a long way in building a certain level of trust in them and their willingness to help you in return.
2. Principle of Commitment
Psychology has proved that we as human beings have an inherent need to be consistent in our approach or attitude and once we are committed towards something, we are certainly inclined to see it through. Hence, it is quite important to try and get commitment on any particular issue from people early on either in written or verbal format. If you are looking for support with respect to carrying out a new project or certain process improvements, you need to discuss your ideas with the stakeholders at an early stage and ensure that you consider their views on board. Similarly, if you are involved in selling a particular product, offer an incentive in such a manner that it helps to influence people to change their minds and buy your product instead. The simple gesture of buying your product is an example or sign of early commitment from the people, even though they are free to return it if they wish to.
3. Principle of Social Proof
Research has suggested that in general, people are more likely to repeat actions if they have the example of others already doing the same. For instance, more people are likely to support a particular idea if other team members are already doing the same. Similarly, it is sheer human nature that we are more inclined towards buying a particular product if we are aware that others have already bought it. The same goes for our mode of preference when it comes to going to a certain restaurant, especially when our friends or colleagues have recommended the same to us.
We operate according to a social proof psychology, where we tend to believe that if a lot of individuals especially if our friends and relatives are doing something, we feel that it must be OK to do it too. Similarly, if we feel vulnerable or uncertain about something, we tend to influence the people who are familiar to us dramatically.
Social proofing definitely creates a buzz around your ideas or products. If you are looking for support for your product or project, all you need to do is to gather support from prominent people in your organisation before pitching it to the panel who will take the final decision.
When you plan to sell any product or service, you should consciously highlight the number of people who are already using it to set the law of social proofing in action. Use a lot of relevant testimonials from your known people to your customer. Similarly, you can use a lot of case studies or more recently, you can take the help of social media interaction which is quite impactful in generating a particular kind of fear in your target audience – the fear of missing out, which is a great sales armour.
4. Principle of Likability
Whenever you are sitting in a room especially a meeting room or a conference room, observe that you are hundred percent going to be with people whom you have a liking for, even though you may not necessarily agree with them on various things, but you have a certain degree of liking towards them.
Likability may develop in various forms. For instance, it may develop for people who are probably familiar or similar to us, people who shower us with compliments, people who encourage and support us, or people whom we simply trust. Hence, we are naturally inclined towards these individuals, and they are the ones we prefer when it comes to either following them or purchasing their products or buying their ideas.
In order to build good relationships, you need to develop your active listening skills as well as your emotional intelligence. You need to ensure that you invest your time and effort to build a certain level of trust and try and be consistent with it. However, you should not try too hard to be liked in a certain way as that may put you across as a needy individual and it may not earn you the outcome that you desire.
5. Principle of Respecting Authority
Since our childhood, we are usually taught to respect authority. Likewise, as we evolve and grow in our respective careers, we develop a sense of obligation or duty towards individuals who hold a position higher in authority. Authority takes various forms, and each one of us views it differently. If you wish to exercise authority, you need to first find out which aspect of authority is likely to earn respect from your target audience. If you are able to gather this information, your ability to influence them will increase significantly. If required, you can even ask for support from influential people or people with authority around you and take their help in backing you.
Whenever you plan to sell a service or a product, you should highlight well-known and respected customers, share comments from government sources or industry experts to build credibility. You should also take care to present your material in a professional manner.
6. Principle of Scarcity
It is a tried and tested technique that things tend to be more attractive when you project that their availability is limited or the opportunity to acquire them at a good rate is fleeting. People are always inclined to buy such products if they are projected a picture that the stock is getting over or this is the last available piece of the product or a certain offer is expiring.
It is this fear of missing out which is a significant and very powerful motivator which drives people towards your product or service.
Hence, the basic principle behind persuasion is to appreciate the value of understanding your target audience and to use this knowledge to influence them in the right manner. However, you must not utilise the above-stated principles to mislead or deceive people. There is a very thin line between influencing and deceiving people. It is always advisable that you choose the former and avoid the latter.