Deeper than surface techniques, understanding people’s key motivations can help you to grow your influence.
Influencing others is more than using the right arguments, a certain tone of voice, or a negotiation tactic. Understanding other’s motivation is key to changing their minds.
Underneath every technique to influence are deeper universal goals every person possesses. When these can be tapped into, real transformation happens.
Six Classic Techniques of Persuasion
Cialdini points to six common techniques of influence that most of us have experienced at some point in our life.
- Liking: Influence someone who likes you is much easier than a influencing stranger or someone who dislikes you. Successful influencers try to compliment, flatter and present “we are alike” similarities in order to build attraction.
- Social proof. Few people want to live or act alone on a proverbial island. People like to follow one another, so another technique is implying the herd is moving the same way. In this way it is easier to convince people they don’t want to be left behind.
- Consistency. Most people consider themselves to be honest and loyal. If a verbal or written commitment is made, people are much more likely to to fulfill it. Effective influencers try to gain verbal or written commitments.
- Scarcity. People want what they can’t have, and will act to gain it before an item runs into short supply. Even when companies the ability to deliver a large volume of product to market, they still advertise using time-limited offers to emphasize act-now-because-this-will-soon-be-scarce.
- Authority. People intuitively trust experts. Successful influencers flaunt their credentials, results and knowledge to establish their expertise.
- Reciprocity. The human mind works on a strong inclination to repay good for good. When people feel indebted to you for something beneficial you have done to or for them, they are more likely to agree to what you want.
While there are more than six influence techniques, these six are most often quoted. Every effective influence technique works because they tap into three foundational human motivations. When we understand these goals, techniques become secondary to helping people accomplish their goals.
Unless there are abnormal tendencies, humans are social. We all want to be liked. We all want a group to call our own. People will even do strange things to fit into a given social group (street gangs come to mind, where members are often violently initiated into the group).
We try to fit in and be liked by acting in ways we feel will be attractive to the group, from simple things like changing our dress or language to match the groups, to more profoundly changing our morals and values for inclusion.
Not only do we want approval from specific people, we also want it from society. While we want to be noticed within the crowd, few people truly like to stand apart from the crowd and march to the beat of an entirely different drummer. Most of us want the things we do, think and believe to be broadly in line with what others do, think and believe.
The influence techniques of “liking” and “reciprocity” mentioned above both clearly play on our desire for affiliation. One study showed that deep down 80 percent of the population desire to be joiners and followers rather than pioneers and innovators. So we can influence others by providing them a group to join for increased connection.
Most people desire to be seen as those who are continually trying to work out the best course of action based on true facts and information. We strive for right answers, be it in social relationships, financial transactions and even existential matters.
Influencers understand this deep-seated need for us to be right. Effective influencers offer services and products that appeal to our need for accuracy. An expert is a person we think is credentialed and experienced enough to provide us a ‘correct’ view or way of doing things.
The techniques of social proof and scarcity both tap into our desire to be accurate because we assume other people are likely to be right and we don’t want to miss out on a limited time best offer (informal or formal, product or service) that will improve our lives.
3. Positive Self-Concept
We all possess a filter behind which we view the world. Sociologists call this filter our worldview. A large part of this worldview is how we perceive ourselves in the larger world. Once we establish this picture of our self, we try to preserve this view of ourselves even when the surrounding data reflects otherwise.
As a simple example, if you were a fit athlete in college, when you hit middle age and completely stop exercising with the result of gaining weight, you still tend to think of yourself as an athlete. You protect this view of yourself even though outward signs might show otherwise.
We work hard to keep our worldview intact. We want to maintain our self-perception to esteem ourselves, so we continue believing in past perceptions and honor previous commitments in the name of consistency. There is a drive within us all to be self-consistent.
Influencers leverage this goal by invoking our sense of self-consistency. The classic sales technique is to get you to answer yes to a simple request such as, “If I could save you substantial money, would you take 5 minutes and listen to what I have to say?” When you answer yes, you have entered their sales funnel. People feel somehow that it would be inconsistent to agree to one request and then refuse the next one, they will tend to say yes again.
People will go to surprising lengths to maintain their positive view of themselves.
Genuinely Connect to these Motivations to Gain Influence
Built within each us is a desire to belong, to be clearly accurate, and to preserve the picture we believe about ourselves. Effective persuasion and influence attempts can sincerely target one or more of these motivations. Sincerely appealing to these motivations with a great solution is the difference between an influencer and a schmoozer. We have all experienced the salesperson throwing out false flattery, and it usually repels us.
Three questions to answer before you seek to influence others:
1. How does their participation in the desired outcome increase their sense of belonging?
2. How does my proposed change of mind make them feel more accurate?
3. What self-perception do my recipients have? How can I clearly show them my solution reinforces who they think themselves to be?
When we are sincerely engaged with a solution that allows us to feel connected, truthful and self-empowered, we buy in deeply.
When we keep these foundational motivations in consideration, and answer the three related questions, it is possible to genuinely tailor influence attempts to the particular characteristics of an audience, rather than relying on generic surface-level techniques. Whether influencing in friendships, at work, or attempting to close a deal, greater influence can be had thinking by contextualizing the message of your desired outcome to these three motivators.