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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Persuasiveness is one of the most important skills anyone can learn because it is useful in countless situations.At work, at home, and in your social life, the ability to be persuasive and influence others can be instrumental for achieving goals and being happy.

Learning about the tricks of persuasion can also give you insight into when they're being used on you. The biggest benefit of this is that money will stay in your pocket as you realize just how sales people and advertisers sell you products that you don't necessarily need. Here are several techniques that work on a subconscious level.

Framing. When someone tells you "Don't think about an elephant" you find it difficult to comply; by just mentioning "elephant", the image pops into your mind, regardless of the context. This is a classic example of framing. Framing is frequently used by skillful politicians. For instance, politicians on both sides of the abortion debate cite their positions as "pro-choice" or "pro-life," because "pro" has better connotations than "anti." Framing is a subtle way of deploying emotionally charged words to shift people towards your point of view.

Whenever you wish to launch a persuasive argument, plan the words that you would use, and correlate them to images they would conjure in the minds of the target audience. Classify the images as either positive, negative or neutral. Regardless of other words are within its vicinity, a single word would still be effective in framing an argument. Another example is illustrated by the difference between saying "Having a cell phone will keep me out of trouble" and "Having a cell phone will keep me safe". Ponder which word is more effective for your message: "trouble" or "safe".

Mirroring. Mirroring someone is when you mimic their movements. The movement can be virtually anything, but some obvious ones are hand gestures, leaning forward or away, or various head and arm movements. We all do this subconsciously, and if you pay attention you'll probably notice yourself doing it. How to mirror someone is self explanatory, but a few key things to remember are to be subtle about it and leave a delay between the other person's movement and your mirroring (2-4 seconds works best). This is also known as "the chameleon effect".
3 Scarcity. This is one that advertisers use a lot. Opportunities, whatever they are, seem a lot more appealing when there is a limited availability. This can be useful to the average person in the right situation, but even more importantly, this is a method of persuasion to be aware of. Stop and consider how much you're being influenced by the fact that a product is scarce. If the product is scarce, there must be a ton of demand for it right?
Reciprocation. It's the old saying, "Do unto others...". When someone does something for us, we feel compelled to return the favor. So, if you want someone to do something nice for you, why not do something nice for them first? In a business setting, maybe you pass them a lead. If at home, maybe it's you letting the neighbor borrow the lawn mower. It doesn't matter where or when you do it, the key is to complement the relationship.
Timing. People are more likely to be agreeable and submissive when they're mentally fatigued. Before you ask someone for something they might not be quick to agree to, try waiting until a more opportune time when they've just done something mentally taxing. This could be at the end of the work day when you catch a co-worker on their way out the door. Whatever you ask, a likely response is, "I'll take care of it tomorrow."
Congruence. We all try, subconsciously, to be consistent with previous actions. One great example is a technique used by salespeople. A salesperson will shake your hand as he is negotiating with you. In most people's minds, a handshake equates to a closed deal, and so by doing this before the deal is reached, the salesperson is much more likely to negotiate you in to a closed deal. A good way to use this yourself is to get people acting before they make up their minds. If, for example, you were out and about with a friend and you wanted to go see a movie but the friend was undecided, you could start walking in the direction of the theater while they make up their mind.
Fluid speech. When we talk, we often use little interjections and hesitant phrases such as "ummm" or "I mean" and of course there is the ubiquitous "like". These little conversation quirks have the unintended effect of making us seem less confident and sure of ourselves, and thus less persuasive. If you're confident in your speech, others will be more easily persuaded by what you have to say.
Herd behavior. We constantly look to those around us to determine our actions; we have the need for acceptance. We are far more likely to follow or be persuaded by someone we like or by someone who is in an authority position. A simple, effective way to use this to your advantage is to be a leader, and let the herd follow you. You don't need any official title to be seen as a leader. Be charming and confident and people will place greater weight on your opinion. If you're dealing with someone who isn't likely to see you as an authority (such as a superior in the workplace, or your significant other's parent) you can still take advantage of herd behavior: Casually praise a leader who that person admires. By triggering positive thoughts in that person's mind about a person they look up to, they'll be more likely to associate those qualities with you.

Man's best friend. To give people the impression that you're loyal, and to inspire them to be loyal to you, put up a picture of you with a dog (it doesn't even have to be your own dog). This can make you seem like a team player, but don't go overboard; putting up too many pictures can make you seem unprofessional.
Offer a drink. Give the person who you're persuading a warm drink (tea, coffee, hot cocoa) to hold while you're talking to them. The warm sensation of the drink in their hands (and their body) can subconsciously make them feel like you're an emotionally warm, likable and welcoming person. Giving them a cold drink can have the opposite effect! In general, people tend to feel cold and crave warm food or drinks when they're feeling socially isolated, so fill that need in order to make them more receptive.

Break the touch barrier. Whether you're closing a deal or asking someone on a date, touching them (in a subtle and appropriate way) can improve your chances by subconsciously activating the human desire to bond. In a professional environment, a pat on the back or hand on the shoulder as you're passing by or offering reassurance can go a long way. In romantic situations, any soft touch from a woman will usually be taken well; men will require further reading in order to avoid making a woman feel uncomfortable.

There are several things you can do to make yourself seem more dominant, like wearing an all-black outfit or maintaining a neutral face, but there are times when being dominant isn't necessarily more persuasive. If you're a salesperson, you might prefer to relate to the client, rather than intimidate--but if you're a supervisor, giving people a more dominant impression might mean getting your way more often.
Use the same techniques you fear from a sales person on the sales person. For example - you are out to buy a car, be the lead in the conversation. Ask questions that you know the answer to, like "So car sales are down, huh?" and "Man, I bet you guys need to move these 08's with the 09's already on the floor." This will encourage the sales person to work harder to close the sale. Remind them that their income is not what it once was, without coming out and saying so.
If you want someone to clean up after themselves, spray a little bit of all purpose cleaner in the area that's a mess. The faint smell can sometimes trigger the desire to tidy up.

Don't persuade anyone to do something that isn't conducive to their well-being.
Be careful using persuasive techniques in friendships. Sometimes a decision needs to be made, and it is OK to convince others to 'buy in'. However, if you do this too often, people may interpret this as you being controlling, or manipulative, both of which can lead to undesirable outcomes.

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