Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive

From the blog of Nancy Hudgins

Professor Cialdini’s done it again! In this eminently readable book, he and his co-authors (Noah Goldstein at the University of Chicago and Steve Martin of Influence at Work in London) have put together 50 persuasion techniques which have been proven by social science research to be effective. The book has only been out for about a month.

Summer’s only half over. If you buy Yes!, now, you will come back to work in the Fall with persuasion techniques which will give you a decided advantage over your opponents and your colleagues.

There are many nuggets for influencing others in this book. My favorites include:

The power of the post-it note (#10)

The downside to voicemail (#50)

The danger of being the brightest person in the room (#23)

For negotiators, one of the most interesting techniques is #35, the use of the word “because.” In this study, researchers wanted to know what influenced people to make a concession. They used the line for the copy machine in a college library. The researcher would ask to cut in line. If she gave no reason, she had a 60% chance of being allowed to cut in line. If she gave a reason, the chance of being allowed to cut in line was increased to 94%. (E.g., May I use the Xerox machine because I am late for my class?) However, even if a meaningless reason was given after the word “because,” her chances of being allowed to cut in line were 93%! (E.g., May I use the Xerox machine because I want to make copies?) Even though the reason made no sense (after all, everyone in line wanted to make copies) it generated practically the same positive response as the one having a good reason. A greater request did not have quite the same response; however, coupled with “because” and a good reason, the response rate doubled.

Using this technique in an unscientific study, my friend asked to cut in the T-shirt line at the Stranded Naked Party at Fiddle Cay on July 3rd, by asking, May I cut in line because I want to buy a T-shirt? (which is what everyone standing in this line wanted). He was allowed to cut in. Whether this was because he said “because” or because the people standing in the T-shirt line had just come from standing in the free margaritas line is yet to be determined.

In any event, the scientific study dovetails with the advice of negotiation professors such as Charles Craver. He advocates giving principled reasons for each concession. The principled reason (because) begets a concession in return. Which brings us back to Cialdini and the Rule of Reciprocity. See, Cialdini, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.


Nancy Hudgins

Nancy Hudgins, a San Francisco mediator and lawyer, began specializing in civil litigation in the 1970's. She has represented both plaintiffs and defendants, chiefly in personal injury, medical malpractice, elder abuse and product liability lawsuits, but also in a wide variety of complex litigation, including civil rights, fraud and class… MORE >

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