Six scientific secrets to persuade anyone – Part 2

Some people just know how to get us going.

Some people just know how to get us going.

In our last blog, we covered the first three principles from Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion: Reciprocity, commitment and consistency, and social proof. Now, without further adieu, here are the remaining three…


You’ve heard the expression that people do business with people they like. Very true, according to Cialdini. In fact, liking can take many forms…

  • We tend to like people like ourselves—those of the same age or station in life, those who dress like we do, think like we do.
  • Physical attraction plays a role here, too. We’ve all heard how more attractive people tend to move up and get promoted more often than their fuglier colleagues.
  • Compliments and flattery can get you everywhere, too, if it’s sincere.

Cialdini also points out what he calls the team phenomenon, where a fan actually projects himself on his favorite team. They use terms like, “We lost the playoffs,” or “I don’t know why we’re recruiting that guy.”

Liking someone is a huge shortcut in our decision-making process. Often, when you like someone, you’ll agree to things you normally wouldn’t with, say, a less likable sort. It’s a tribal thing, wired deep in our DNA. The moral: If you want to be persuasive, being likeable helps a lot.

PRINCIPLE 5: Authority

A friend of mine, who was once seriously ill, would always shut down at the sight of a doctor’s white coat. Just something about it intimidated her—she’d go blank on all the critical questions she wanted to ask, and totally forget what the good doctor told her. Cialdini would say that this is an example of the blinding influence authority figures have on us.

There have been experiments—sometimes cruel ones—where a person is ordered to do something by some sort of authority, even something unpleasant or objectionable. Yet, they do it anyway, because the authority said so.

Teachers, doctors, policemen, parents, government officials, clergy, even so-called “experts” in an industry can all fall under this principle. They have a much deeper influence on us than we think. Cialdini says that this ties to a fear of punishment, a sense of duty and other deep-seated worldviews.

PRINCIPLE 6: Scarcity

I remember, when my kids were little, the near mob scenes at McDonald’s when they were giving away the now forgotten Beanie Baby toys. The hysteria was further whipped up by the news, which showed people buying and throwing away Happy Meals just to get their hands on the felt-covered gems. And every few holiday seasons, some nearly sold-out toy causes parents to turn into a panicky herd, charging Walmart counters on Black Friday.

Scarcity—the thought that something is in short supply—makes people go batty. It’s why marketers put expiration dates on coupons. Or infomercials tell us that the offer is only good for the next 10 minutes. It sets our collective adrenaline pumps into overdrive—and fills stores, gets the phone ringing and the online orders placed.

Cialdini advises that you make your offer unique, interesting and in danger of being lost if they don’t act. It can drive sales considerably… and often has.

When you read Cialdini’s work, it holds a strange dichotomy in your brain. We’ve all fallen for or used at least some of these principles. They are strangely familiar and obvious, yet they seem to keep humanity under a persuasive wrap for time immemorial.

It just goes to show that no matter how advanced we fancy ourselves, human nature is simply human nature.

– Andy Badalamenti is the creative director for CI-Group

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