top of page
Join my email list for updates.

Thanks for subscribing!

How to get what you want - the psychology of persuasion

In this series of blogs exploring the power of storytelling and statistics, we talked last week about what people want. This week, we’ll be exploring the psychology of persuasion, also known as how to get what you want more often.

This is a summary of the research I’ve found regarding what actually persuades people. I’ve made it straightforward and short, but this is complex topic so take this list as a road map rather than a bible. Read on to learn about the psychology of persuasion, the features of persuasion and the six methods of influence.

The Psychology of Persuasion

Persuasion is led first by emotion and then by rationality. We are more likely to be persuaded by that which makes us feel good. We are also more likely to be persuaded when we feel out of balance in our own life. We are not often persuaded for the sake of gaining knowledge, and people often turn to persuasion when there is an uncomfortable ambiguity in their lives.

People tend to be “loss averse” over “reward yielding” which is why there are few things more persuasive than fear, especially fear of exclusion. If you want to motivate people, however, you must add incentives, feedback and rewards, and must make sure that what you are encouraging is as easy and as fun as possible. If you want to discourage, take away incentives and make the task harder to do.

One final point. As I said last week, people love control and will die for their autonomy. However it is you are persuading someone, you need to make sure they feel like it is their choice.

Features of persuasion (content and audience)

Features of the content

  • Subtle messages are more persuasive (messages that are important but not obvious)

  • Presenting another point of view in an argument was found to be more persuasive

  • Timing is important - messages are more influential given back to back, and the last message presented will tend to be more persuasive

Features of the audience

  • Audience members have to be engaged and paying attention to be persuaded

  • People with lower intelligence are more easily persuaded

  • People with moderate self-esteem are more easily persuaded than people with higher or lower self-esteem

  • Young adults 18-25 are more easily persuaded than older adults

Six methods of influence you can try

In his world famous book, Robert Cialdini explains six methods of influence that he found to be effective across industries. Try these methods when approaching people to sell them your ideas.