Persuasive Techniques – The Four R’s of Ethical Influence
Persuasion is a powerful tool.
I can’t think of any other gift that I would rather have than a silver tongue— the ability to convince someone to do whatever I want them to do.
I know it sounds bad, but you can’t deny its appeal. Life would be much easier if we could get people to bend to our will. We could get the raise that we deserve, the attention that we crave, and the financial freedom we need.
With the power of persuasion, we could gain the upper hand in an incredibly interpersonal world, and reserve our seat upon the Iron Throne of the 21st century.
Unfortunately, there is always a catch.
Influence is like the dark arts of the social sphere. You might assume that the gift of influence only comes with a trade off. You might believe that you can’t use the following persuasive techniques without screwing people over along the way.
As I write this, I can even imagine the Internet trolls typing irately from behind their computer screens:
“How dare you read this article? If you try to master these persuasive techniques, be prepared to sacrifice your human decency! Naughty. Naughty. Naughty.”
In fact, for a while, I was affected by this exact cultural stigma. Despite years of experience in the field of influence, I used to hesitate to discuss my background in persuasion during interviews, fearing it would make me seem dishonest and manipulative.
However, persuasive techniques get a bad wrap. The gift of influence is much more versatile than that.
The fact is: if you want a happy, successful, and loving life, influence is a major part of the equation. Whether you chose to acknowledge it or not, the world runs on influence. The people around you, the leaders you follow, even your family members all have different degrees of influence over each other.
Whether they are conscious of their abilities or not, more influential people have more say in the world, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Tactical influence is a valuable tool, and it shouldn’t be reserved for the immoral and corrupt. That is a disastrous mindset to have because it prevents people with good intentions from having sway over the world and the people in it.
And, make no mistake we need sway over others.
As good people turn a blind eye to all the tools at our disposal, people with less noble intentions are gaining the upper hand. At this very moment, marketers, political leaders, and everyday people with much less virtuous ambitions are using the persuasive techniques that I am going to reveal in this article.
Believe it or not, if you consider yourself a decent person with an unadulterated moral compass, you must absorb what I am about to share with you.
Because these persuasive techniques will allow you to level the playing field.
Now all the drama aside, here is the good news.
The neat thing about persuasion techniques is: they really only work when everybody wins.
If you take a look at the world’s most powerful leaders and influencers, they all had the gift of persuasion. They had the ability to impregnate the masses with their ideas and inspire the public to act a certain way. However, a leader’s power stems from his or her ability to give other people what they want. As soon as he or she stops doing that, you have… Mutiny. Rebellion. Revolution. This exact theme leads us into our first lesson in influence.
People NEVER do what they don’t want to do.
If you want to get someone to behave a certain way, you have to get him to want to behave that way first.
Using the persuasive techniques discussed in this article, you could help your loved ones solve problems that they could never solve on their own. You could encourage family members to adopt healthier lifestyles. You could even help friends overcome the most persistent and destructive habits.
It all depends on your ability to use The FOUR R’s of Influence.
1) Reinforcement (positive): One of the most mainstream theories on motivation suggests people are either motivated to move towards pleasure or away from pain. In my experience, the world’s elite are almost always motivated by the former. Interview any athlete, political leader, or celebrity and they will tell you they are driven to have an impact, to inspire change, or to leave a legacy. All lofty goals. Their testimonies reveal that aspiration leads to massive action, which leads to achievement. To put it this way, they weren’t motivated to excel in their career or craft simply because they feared being unemployed.
Evidently, more energy goes into the desire to achieve than the desire to avert pain. So give people something to aspire to. If you can do that, and reward them for continuing that pursuit, you will not only be a catalyst for positive change, but you will help perpetuate it.
To inspire change, offer people a ladder to climb. If they fail to climb it, don’t condemn them, just ignore it. Numerous studies have demonstrated that negative reinforcement always does more harm than good. However, with positive reinforcement, you can encourage people to make the most profound transformations.
2) Reciprocity: Positive reinforcement demonstrates that if you reward someone for an action, they will be more likely to repeat that action. However, you can actually beat yourself to the punch with this next tactic. Incorporate reciprocity. The next time you want someone to do something, do something for them first. When you give to others, they will almost always return the favor. If you want to be a reliable leader or influencer, you have a responsibility to influence with empathy. Merely dishing out orders without consideration will never get you far.
As Simon Sinek shares in his interview with Marie Forleo, “take care of others and they will take care of you and your vision.” First and foremost, a real leader makes it his or her priority to accommodate his or her followers. Simon goes on to share a little more about the science of giving and its effect on the reward center in the brain. Offering an act of kindness, receiving an act of kindness, and even witnessing an act of kindness releases the feel-good-chemical, oxytocin, in the brain, which, in turn, inspires more kindness. If you want to get the wheel of interactive influence turning, start it with reciprocity. By paying it forward, you can establish the foundation for a mutually beneficial and sustainable relationship.
3) Reason. Give people a reason. Believe it or not, we have much less conscious control over our decisions than you’d think. As much as there is to say about the good-natured will of man, there is an equal amount to say about our unconscious tendencies to prioritize our own wellbeing. One of the most common reasons humans hesitate to help one another has little to do with our intentions and more do with our unconscious minds and ego preservation.
As hierarchal creatures, human beings are susceptible to the lure of societal placement and status. Simple requests are often met with resistance because, on an unconscious level, they help to define a hierarchal order, in which the person who complies to that request has now assumed a position of lower status. We all have had the experience where someone asked us do something, didn’t give us a reason, and it unexplainably irked us. If science even demonstrates that it will feel great to offer our services to others, why do we still hesitate to do so?
It is simple, because we don’t want to feel taken advantage of. Complying with a request can make us feel inferior. This is an archetypical example of our human capacity for kindness and our hierarchal nature in competition. I am a firm believer that we can learn to transcend this lower nature through consciousness, however, it will always play a small role in our daily interactions. After all, it is engrained into our biology.
By giving someone a reason, you can circumvent the line of unconscious reasoning that forces him question your motives. In turn, you can help that person feel more comfortable with your request. Don’t just do this for the sake of influence. Do it for the sake of mutual respect and consideration. Make every effort to help others bypass their instinctual tendency to analyze your motives. Over analysis, never solves anything. Clearly communicate why you are asking someone to do something, and they will be more likely to do it. In turn, everyone will feel more comfortable and appreciated.
4) Response (emotional). Of all the persuasive techniques discussed in this article, this is by far the most powerful. As we expressed earlier, if you want to inspire someone to act a certain way, you have to make them want to act that way first. You can do that through positive reinforcement, reciprocity, or reasoning. However, the most effective way is by changing his or her mood. Tony Robbins says, “Motion creates emotion.” Well, it also works the other way around. Most action stems from a state of mind.
Unless you’re very disciplined, you never go to the gym when you’re feeling uninspired or lethargic. Similarly, you’ll never pick up a book when you want to put your brain to rest. You hit the gym when you’re motivated and energized. Just like you pick up a book when you want to learn or be entertained.
You wouldn’t have made it this far into this article if you weren’t in the mood to learn about influence. Even if you weren’t initially, it was my job to get you there (hence the dramatic set up, promising to reveal the persuasive techniques that enable evil marketers and politicians to get people to bend to their will).
In reality, influence isn’t about manipulation. It’s about triggering specific emotional responses and using those responses to inspire action. That’s why advertisements always feature beautiful women, funny jokes, or transformational themes. They are designed to get you to feel something. You can then associate that feeling with a particular person, product, or idea.
Your ability to influence is largely dependent on your ability to inspire emotions that align with the specific behavior that you are trying to produce. For example, if you want to get someone to hit the gym, you have to put that person in a motivated state of mind first. Once they actually want to work out, they will naturally do it.
Remember, people only do what they want to do.
I encourage you to keep this philosophy in mind as you use these persuasive techniques to inspire others to change their lives for the better (and maybe cash in on a couple favors). With or without you, the persuasive will continue to have a pervasive impact on society. You can choose to play their game or stand on the sidelines.
The world is a beautiful place. However, make no mistake, it is a world that can be rigged. Don’t leave that power in the hands of the people that don’t deserve it.
Thanks for reading!