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6 Secrets to the Science of Persuasion

This animated video showcases the six universal Principles of Persuasion, narrated by Dr. Robert Cialdini and Steve Martin, CMCT (co-author of YES & The Small Big).

Dr. Robert Cialdini is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today Best-Selling author.

His book, “Influence” has sold over 3 million copies in over 30 languages.

During his career he has earned a worldwide reputation as an expert in the fields of compliance, negotiation, and persuasion.

Science Of Persuasion


Six Secrets To The  Science Of Persuasion

Do you have a strategy for when you need others to say “yes”?  Whether you are trying to persuade a friend, boss, or coworker of your point, it helps to know the principles of persuasion.  People don’t always consider all information available when making quick decisions.  Sometimes having a set of statistics to back you up will work, but many decisions are based on more than facts, they are based on emotions.  

Researchers have been studying what makes us say “yes” to others for over sixty years.  Based on this research, there are six established secrets to the science of persuasion. These secrets are actually shortcuts that are often the basis of our decision-making process.  We may think that our decisions are based on fact, but when making quick decisions we use these universal shortcuts to guide our behavior.


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Reciprocity is the first universal principle of influence.  This refers to an obligation to return the favors performed for us.  People are more likely to say yes to those they owe.  In order to create the need for reciprocity, you must perform the favor first and it must have significance, be unexpected, and be personalized.  Give something away to create a feeling of indebtedness. Then ask for what you want.



The second universal principle of persuasion is scarcity.  Simply put, people want more of what they can’t have. The less available something is, the greater the desire to have it becomes.  When applying this principle, stating the benefits is not enough.  You need to point out what is unique and what the person would lose if they fail to see your point. People fear loss, so generate a feeling of potential loss.


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The third principle of influence is the principle of authority. In order to be influential, you need to establish your credibility.  People follow the lead of knowledgeable experts.  You need to signal to others what makes you an authority before making your request.  This can be done in many ways, for example, hang your diploma in a visible place, wear a uniform (if appropriate), or have someone else introduce you with an explanation of your experience and credentials.   When making decisions, we look for experts to show us the way because we trust them.  In order for you to be believable, you need to take stock in how you appear to the other person, what you sound like, and what you say before you make your influence attempt. Say what you truly believe and say it with conviction.  



The next principle is consistency. People are driven to be consistent.  Once they form an opinion or take an action, they try to make future behaviors match their past behavior.  You can use this principle by asking for small initial commitments that support your purpose. These actions can then be activated into larger, more serious commitments. These commitments should be voluntary, active, public, and in writing to foster the desire for consistency.



The fifth principle is the principle of liking.  People are much more likely to agree with people they know and like.  The more we like someone the more we want to say yes. Part of what creates this familiarity is the similarities we have between us.  Once you have established similarities, be complimentary and cooperative.  It may help to share personal information before a negotiation to establish rapport and commonality.  Mirroring is another way to create feelings of likeness that can strengthen the bonds between people.  



The final principle is consensus.  Most people are imitators. If you want someone to do something, show others doing it.  People look to the actions and behaviors of others to determine how they themselves should behave.  You don’t always have to rely on your own ability to persuade others, instead rely on what similar others are already doing.  State the positive behaviors that others are performing so that your subject will want to be part of this group.   When we look at what others do to guide our behavior, we feel compelled to repeat the positive behavior.  To do this, get as close as possible to the audience you are trying to reach, never focus on the negative behavior unless that is what you want to be repeated.



These six scientifically validated principles of persuasion can lead to big differences in your ability to influence and persuade others.  Even though a fact-based argument can change minds, emotion is what drives action.  We believe we make our decisions rationally, but we are often unaware of the emotional forces that motivate us.  Understanding these principles increases the chance that someone will be persuaded more by our actions than the facts we present.  The secrets to the science of persuasion are ethical and costless tools you can use to create small, practical changes as you become a master of persuasion.


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