What are some easy ways you can persuade others, whether at work or at home?
To many people, the word persuasion carries a negative connotation. It typically evokes images like that of a disingenuous used car salesman who slaps you on the back and pretends to be your best friend. Or perhaps worse, some cult leader trying to build his flock.
But author Patrick King argues in his new book, Persuasion Tactics: Covert Psychology Strategies to Influence, Persuade & Get Your Way (Without Manipulation), that persuasion is a facet of everyday life. There will rarely be consensus on anything you want in life, whether that’s a pay raise at work, a lower price on a new home, or even where to go to dinner on Friday night.
Persuasion is the key to anything that isn’t a 100% agreement in your life – which is of course most of the things around you. Essentially, persuasion is the ability to get what you want in life, and occasionally, get others to do what you want as a nice side benefit.
So how can you be persuasive in a subtle way, that takes advantage of natural human psychology, and that doesn’t make us feel sleazy or manipulative? King offers five subtle yet effective persuasion tactics.
Give A Shortcut By Alluding To Others
This technique is a form of invoking “social proof” which reduces one’s decision fatigue.
King suggests it’s as easy as talking about how other people and made the same decision when they were in the other person’s shoes. If you don’t have someone specific, you can feel free to use loose terms such as “many people,” or even make an assumptive statement such as “I’m sure they would…”
An example would be, “Most people with small children always buy a minivan with third row seating, because even if they only have one or two kids, they know they’ll be carpooling a lot with others in the neighborhood.”
Just last week, his technique was used on me. When I told a senior editor at a major publishing house that I was going to get an agent for my next book, he said, “Kevin, in my experience most authors who have direct access to editors skip the agent so they can save the 15% agent fee.” (It didn’t work this time, but I had previously sold him a manuscript directly without going through a competitive bid.)
Kings says that we all suffer from “decision fatigue” so when we are given a shortcut– Many other people have looked at this same issue, weighed the pros and cons, and have gone my way. You should too.—we are more likely to agree.
Keep It Simple
Whatever you want to persuade people to do, make sure it’s easy to digest, understand, and as simple as possible. The reason?
We’re lazy and confuse easily.
King references studies that found people felt far more confident when they had to make two arguments versus six arguments. Conversely, things that appear complex and complicated feel untrustworthy because we can’t understand them immediately, and it’s possible they are hiding something in the complexities. This is the science behind memorable slogans and catch phrases – there aren’t many that are longer than three or four words.
Anyone who has ever worked for me for any period of time knows that one of my mantras is: Only give three reasons to buy!
Even though I’ve been in the business of selling complex, million dollar projects to Fortune 500 companies, no matter how long the proposal itself was, I always insisted that page one include the top three reasons our solution was the best. I was always battling sales people who wanted to stack the features and benefits higher and higher. I knew that if you had the right reasons, three were enough.
Control The Frame
In 2014, in Central Park in New York City, an old merchant set up a small table and offered black and white “spray art” canvases. Many people stopped and looked, but only three people bought anything. After all, they were very expensive at $60 a piece. The next day it was revealed that all of the work was actually by legendary artist, Banksy. Each piece was actually worth—and indeed sold for at auction—over $120,000.
When people viewed Banksy’s art in an open air stand, they didn’t think it was worth $60. But when it was viewed in a museum (i.e., surrounded by a “museum frame”) and it was known that it was created by “Banksy”, suddenly the perceived value of the object soared. The frame (i.e., the perceived context) matters more than the art itself.
King suggests that one way we can all do this is to create a frame of superior knowledge. We need to come from a place of expertise and when our idea or position is challenged, we should act with disbelief and shock that the other side isn’t accepting our position at face value. This display of massive confidence can lead others to think, “Wow, he’s really sure about that. Wait… Am I wrong?”
This is the “humble brag” of the persuasion world. Praeteritio is a Latin term for calling attention to something, but seeming to disregard it. King says this is the low road masquerading as the high road.
Praeteritio sounds like, “I’m not going to do you the indignity of bringing up when you were arrested. You’ve suffered enough from that.”
By virtue of saying that you won’t bring something up, you’ve brought it up. It’s a little sneaky and underhanded, but it also gives you plausible deniability, which means that people won’t be able to call out exactly what you’re doing because you’re phrasing it in a “high road” manner.
Donald Trump used this masterfully during the debates with Hillary Clinton. Immediately after one debate, he brought up Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky by saying on TV, “I was going to hit her with her husband’s women and I decided I shouldn’t do it because her daughter was in the room.” He brought it up, by saying he didn’t say it.
Embrace The Status Quo
How can you plant an idea in someone else’s head without being obvious about it?
If you were to suggest that someone do something, the other person may not do it even if it’s the best course of action for them. The reason for this is called reactance – we like to have the illusion of free will and autonomy, which means it can be hard for many people to take suggestions.
If you wanted to plant the idea of vacationing at the beach, you might say to your partner, “I’m glad we’re going to do a staycation this summer. I mean, it would have been nice to unplug and relax at the beach for a week, but I’m looking forward to getting the garage cleaned up finally.”
In a nutshell, you are talking around the idea, staying positive, and mentioning the benefits – most importantly, you are embracing the downsides, which ensure that there is zero pressure or expectation on the other person. You’re saying that you’re happy with the status quo, but just thinking out loud.
To learn more about how to persuade others, or how to make sure others aren’t persuading you, check out Persuasion Tactics by Patrick King.
Kevin Kruse is the author of 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management.