4 Foolproof Steps To Mastering the Art Of Persuasion

While interning at a wealth management firm, I was given a list of people to cold-call. Although I dreaded talking on the phone with strangers, I accepted the task as a challenge to help me refine my persuasion skills. I treated the calls as test samples for an experiment and found that people were more receptive in the afternoon, if I mentioned a mutual friend, and if I started with “How’s your day going?”  

Every day we persuade others. Whether we are getting lunch or getting a new job, we are using our persuasive skills to get what we want. As a result, we must be able to flex our persuasive muscle at any given moment. Here are four steps for effectively persuading someone of anything you'd like.

1. Become his or her friend

Humans assume conditional trust with strangers and unconditional trust with friends and family. With conditional trust, we expect that the other party is self-interested. We trust that the person sitting to next will not kill us because he would risk the chance of getting caught and going to prison. With unconditional trust, we expect that there will be balanced goodwill. As a result, we are more responsive to information when it is coming from someone that we are close to. 

2. Be an expert (or at least act like one)

People naturally trust the opinion of experts in a specific field. Why do housewives watch Dr. Oz? In a study done by Erasmus University Rotterdam, they found that having experts in commercials made the attitude toward objects more favorable by 12% and increased the probability of object recognition by 10%. The study also claims that after Bill Cosby played Dr. Huxtable on The Cosby Show, people started regarding him as an expert on food for children. 

3. Use social influence

As social creatures, we fall to peer pressure. I wear Nike running shorts even though I still think they look like adult diapers. In a study about peer pressure relating to adolescent drinking, the results showed that adolescents mainly conformed to the pro-alcohol norms of peers to make a good impression. Although peer pressure is usually considered negative, the study also showed that adolescents incorporated the anti-alcohol norms of popular peers.

4. Prove value

In a society with so many choices, people, ideas, and consumer goods must prove their worth. My lab manager always talks about how great his iPhone’s battery life and photo editing apps are compared to his friend’s Galaxy S3. But value is not always tangible. Although everyone knows that tobacco kills, cigarette companies effectively use the idea of selling a lifestyle. This clearly shows just how successful persuasion is.  

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Nancy Zu

Nancy is a junior at the University of Texas at Austin studying finance and chemistry. This summer, she conducted research at Houston Methodist. Last summer, she interned at Merrill Lynch in Houston.

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