Influence – Master The Psychology Of Persuasion

Influence is an essential tool in every walk of life. Fortunately, it is a science and one that can be learnt. By mastering the universal principles, we can harness the power of influence to increase our ability to move people in a way that leads to success whilst also achieving our own goals and objectives.

What Is Influence?

Influence is the ability to guide someone’s thoughts, decisions, feelings and actions. We can use this force to move people in a way that compels them to take action, achieve extraordinary results, create happiness and fulfilment and ultimately increase the quality of their lives.

Influence is one of the most important skills you can master. It can give you the power to shape your own destiny and transform the quality of life for yourself and others.

The Power Of Influence 

However, influence is power, and with great power comes great responsibility. Therefore, it’s important to recognise the difference between influence and manipulation – intent. Influence involves moving people in a way that all parties obtain the results they want. Manipulation involves moving people for someone’s own selfish gains.

If you are going to be a leader in your family, your community, your business, and even in yourself, you need to master the art of influence.

The 6 Principles Of Persuasion

In his New York Times bestseller aptly titled Influence, Dr. Robert B. Cialdini explains how in our increasingly busy lives, there are six universal shortcuts that guide our decision making. They are; Reciprocity, Scarcity, Authority, Consistency, Liking and Consensus. These principles are validated by science and apply in both our personal and professional lives.

Understanding these principles and employing them in an ethical manner can significantly increase our chances of persuading someone to say “yes”. Below we’ll unpack each of these principles in more detail.

1) Reciprocity

Human beings are wired to return favours and pay back debts.

One of the best ways to demonstrate this principle comes from a series of studies conducted in restaurants. Waiters who gave their diners a single mint at the end of their meal increased tips by around 3%. If they gave two mints their tips quadrupled — an increase of 14%.

It doesn’t stop there however. Incredibly, waiters who provided one mint, began to walk away and then paused, turned back and said, “For you nice people, here’s an extra mint”, increase their tips by an extraordinary 23%.

2) Scarcity

Human beings are hardwired to want more of the things there are less of.

For our ancient ancestors who lived in an exponentially uncertain and scarce world, this programming served to enhance their survival by ensuring they capitalised on recourses whenever they had the opportunity.

Scarcity triggers the fear of missing out (FOMO). When British Airways announced in 2003 that they would no longer be operating the twice daily London to New York Concorde flight because it had become uneconomical to run, sales exploded the very next day.

3) Authority

Human beings are hardwired to obey authority.

One of the best ways to demonstrate this principle comes from what is now a classic experiment by psychologist Stanley Milgram. His goal was to test the extent of humans’ willingness to obey orders from an authority figure.

Participants were told by an experimenter to administer increasingly powerful electric shocks to another individual. Unbeknownst to the participants, the shocks were fake and the individual being shocked was an actor.

The results? The majority of participants obeyed, even when the individual being shocked screamed in pain.

4) Consistency

Human beings are hardwired to behave in a way that is consistent with their beliefs and values.

Our beliefs serve as survival mechanisms by creating maps for what leads to pain and what leads to pleasure.

In a series of now famous studies, researchers found, rather unsurprisingly, that very few people were willing to erect an unsightly wooden board on their front lawn to support a “Drive Safely” campaign in their neighbourhood.

However, in a similar neighbourhood close by, four times as many homeowners who, ten days earlier, had agreed to place a small postcard in the front window of their homes that signalled their support for a Drive Safely campaign, indicated that they would be willing to erect this unsightly billboard.

5) Liking

Human beings are hardwired to like people who are like them or who are like how they want to be.

Robert B. Cialdini reveals that there are three important factors that influence us to like someone. We like people who are similar to us, we like people who pay us compliments and we like people who cooperate with us towards mutual goals.

In a series of negotiation studies carried out between MBA students at two well-known business schools, one group was told, “Time is money. Get straight down to business.” In this group, 55% were able to come to an agreement.

Another group however, was told, “Before you begin negotiating, exchange some personal information with each other. Identify a similarity you share in common then begin negotiating.” In this group, 90% were able to come to successful and agreeable outcomes that were typically worth 18% more to both parties.

6) Consensus

Human beings are hardwired to look to the behaviours of others to determine their own.

In a series of experiments, researchers investigated whether social proof increased customers’ compliance to a towel re-use program by experimenting with changes to the wording of messages placed on cards left in the room.

Guests who were told that most other guests reused their towels were 26% more likely to reuse their towels than those who saw the standard message. Guests who were told that most other guests who stayed in their particular room were 33% more likely to reuse their towels than those who saw the standard message.

13 More Keys To Influence

Below are 13 more keys you should consider when trying to influence someone.

  • 6 Human Needs ― Identify which needs they are trying to meet.
  • Active listening.
  • Empathy.
  • Eye contact.
  • Focus on what you want and not what you don’t want. E.g. “I need your full attention.” instead of “Stop looking at your phone.”
  • Get agreement. E.g. Yes. Yes. Yes.
  • Give reasons why you want someone to do something.
  • Label their emotions.
  • Make them feel interesting, important and understood.
  • Mirroring.
  • Nonverbal language should match what you want to get across. For example, when listening, look like you’re listening.
  • Reflect back what they say.
  • Triune Brain ― Move them from the reptilian and mammalian brain to the human brain.

6 Principles Of Influence For Business

Below are 6 psychological principles for how to influence consumers:

  1. Scarcity: Humans are hardwired to value scarce resources. Thus, limit availability of the promotion or your product or service.
  2. Majority: Humans are hardwired to follow the masses. Thus, use the power of lists to show how your product or service is #1 and watch the crowds follow.
  3. Authority: Human are hardwired to mimic the behaviour of people of authority. Thus, show how your product or service is the preferred choice of category authorities.
  4. Beauty: Human are hardwired to believe that attractive people make good choices. Thus, associate your product or service with the choices of beautiful people.
  5. Reciprocity: Human are hardwired to reciprocate. Thus, do something for the buyer and increase your chances of them buying your product or service.
  6. Consistency: Humans are hardwired to behave consistently with past choices. Thus, show how your product is consistent with the choices they’ve already made.


Influence is the ability to guide someone’s thoughts, decisions, feelings and actions. Unlike manipulation that is used for someone’s own selfish gains, influence is deployed with the intent that all parties achieve their desired goals.

There are endless strategies that can be used to for influence. However, they all fall within 6 basic categories: Reciprocity, Scarcity, Authority, Consistency, Liking and Consensus. Each of these categories is governed by a unique fundamental psychological principle that directs human behaviour and thus ultimately gives the strategies their power.

We can employ these six scientifically validated principles of persuasion in order to increase our ability in influencing others in a moral and ethical manner.


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