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How to influence anyone to do anything

Influence and Persuasion, Kid wants an ice cream
“Daddy, I want Ice-Cream!”

I have always been intrigued by how easily some people can get others to do what they ask for – be it a tiny favor or an entirely out-of-the-way request. There must be some secret, some basic principles that come into play and being the curious being that I am, I had to know what they are.

So I began on a journey of discovery. I read books on sales, marketing, copywriting and persuasion to understand the secret. Of all the books I read, one author stood out. His name is Robert Cialdini.

Cialdini is arguably one of the most well known and respected social psychologists in the world for his work in the field of influence and persuasion. And it is no wonder. His book Influence: Science and Practice offered me the answer to the puzzle I was trying to solve – the six “weapons of influence”.

These are simple yet powerful psychological principles that can be evoked to get people to do your bidding:

1) The Law of Reciprocity
This states that we are obliged to give something back to the person who has given us something first. Marketers make use of this law all the time when they give out “free” samples of their products. They know that there are a good number of people who would buy, just to return the favor.

The law of reciprocity came about mainly as a form of survival mechanism. Human beings had to rely on social exchange to build trust and a community – “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. We’ll both look out for each other”.

However, throughout the years, manipulators have learnt to abuse this law. There was a religious group that went about handing strangers flowers and then asking them for a “small donation”. More often than not, the victims are forced to part away with some cash so that they do not break the powerful law of reciprocity.

2) Commitment and Consistency
Generally, when people commit to an opinion or action, they will usually be consistent and honor the commitment. During the Korean War, the Chinese made use of this principle to condition American Prisoners of War (POWs) to view communism as an acceptable form of politics by seemingly harmlessly getting them to write pro-communist opinions and share them verbally with other POWs.

The commitment and consistency principle has been widely used in politics as when voters are asked about their opinions of the candidates before an election. It’s not unusual to find the votes highly consistent with the pre-election commitments. It’s also not difficult to see how pre-framing with a bias towards a particular candidate can work in his favor.

3) Social Proof
Have you heard of Monkey See, Monkey Do? What about the herd mentality?

Well, essentially they are all the same thing. In social situations, people may be unable to figure out the right mode of behavior. They will thus tend to “follow the crowd”.

Savvy marketers make use of positive experiences of satisfied customers (aka testimonials) to induce prospects to buy their products.

You will also see social proof in action in a bar where a man is surrounded by attractive women. Other women will automatically think that he is a high status man and involuntarily feel attracted to him.

4) Liking
Have you ever noticed that you tend to be easily influenced by people you like? And likability is affected by such characteristics as physical attractiveness, familiarity and similarity. That’s good news isn’t it?

You can always attend grooming and social etiquette classes to look better and become more attractive to others. The techniques of mirroring, pacing and building rapport in NLP help create a sense of familiarity and similarity which accounts for their remarkable effectiveness in getting strangers to open up to you.

5) Authority
I’m sure you have seen advertisements where an actor dressed in a white coat tells you that a certain product is recommended by doctors or dentists from around the world.

Even though you know that he may just be an actor, you are very likely to believe him just because he’s dressed like a doctor/dentist. That is because we tend to respect and listen to authority figures.

There are many experiments done to prove the deference to authority. One of the most outstanding one is known as the Milgram Experiment. Rather than go into a 5 page discussion on what the experiment is all about, I’ll just let the follow video do the explanation:

6) Scarcity
The principle of scarcity targets people’s innate fear of loss.

Great marketers make full use of scarcity to drive sales all the time. There are at least 2 types of scarcity – Time scarcity and Quantity scarcity.

“Limited Time Offer”, “One Time Offer”, “Sale Ends Today!” and “Offer valid until midnight” are all examples of time scarcity. They are very effective for getting procrastinators to take action immediately or risk missing the offer.

Quantity scarcity works pretty much in the same way. If you like a shirt or a dress but you are not really sure, you tend to think to yourself, “I can always come back next time”. However, if you find out that it’s the only one left in the store, I can safely bet that you would buy it on the spot!

Now that you understand the 6 lethal weapons of influence, tell me… how can the kid get his dad to buy him the ice-cream?

P.S. Cialdini’s book elaborates on these principles and includes many interesting examples. If you have not already done so, buy the international bestseller from or your nearest bookstore! A million people can’t be wrong. *winks*


Other Highly Recommended Persuasion/Influence Resources
The Power Of Conversational Hypnosis – Discover A Rebel Psychiatrist's Amazing Secret That Lets You Put People Under Your Spell Quickly and Easily … and Get Them to Do Anything You Want
Underground Hypnosis Course – Learn Secrets that Most People will Never Know about Hypnosis


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Alfred says:

great website. many thanks for this wonderful write-up. i regards lots.

Great post! I love reading about stuff like this. “Soft power” and the ability to influence people is an incredibly useful skill too have. The masters are the ones who can convince someone to do something and have them think it was their idea.


cagri aras says:

hey.. after seeing derren’s video, can anyone expect us to buy the “hipnosis dvd”s? ????? there’s some psychology involved in there and i m gonna find out!

Spencer Fern says:

“During World War 2, the Chinese made use of this principle to condition American Prisoners of War”

During WWII even Mao’s forces were allied with the US. They even helped POWs escape from Japanese camps in China.

Note from Shun-Jian: It was the Korean War… I’ve edited the post =)

Nice one. Thanks for the great article.

Good stuff, I love Cialdini’s work, and you’ve summarised it nicely. He’s often too long and rambling to read, so this is great. thanks.

Albert | UrbanMonk.Net
Modern personal development, entwined with ancient spirituality.