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  • Writer's pictureKenneth Flakes, PE

The Seven Principles of Persuasion: How to Get What You Want and Avoid Getting Taken Advantage Of


Two Black women having a conversation at work
Illustrations Courtesy of Black Illustrations

In today's competitive work environment, influence and persuasion are essential for working professionals. Whether you are trying to sell a product, get a promotion, or build a team, influencing and persuading others is critical to success.


There are many different ways to influence and persuade others. In his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert B. Cialdini identifies seven universal principles that influence human behavior: reciprocity, commitment and consistency, social proof, liking, authority, scarcity, and unity. Cialdini argues that these principles can persuade others in various settings, including business, politics, and everyday life.


Below are Cialdini's seven principles of persuasion, examples of how professionals can apply them in their work, and tips on avoiding being influenced by a colleague who is skilled in the psychology of persuasion.


The Seven Principles of Persuasion

  1. Reciprocity: People are more likely to do something for you if you first do something for them. For example, if you compliment someone, they are more likely to compliment you in return.

  2. Commitment and consistency: Once people commit, they are more likely to follow through, even if it is no longer in their best interest. For example, if you sign up for a gym membership, you are more likely to go to the gym, even if you do not want to.

  3. Social proof: People are more likely to do something if they see others doing it. For example, if you see many people wearing a particular clothing brand, you are more likely to buy it, even if you do not like it.

  4. Liking: People are more likely to be persuaded by someone they like. For example, if you find a salesperson attractive, you are more likely to buy something from them.

  5. Authority: People are more likely to be persuaded by someone they perceive to be an authority figure. For example, if a doctor tells you to take a particular medication, you are more likely to do it, even if you do not understand why.

  6. Scarcity: People are more likely to want something if it is scarce or in limited supply. For example, if you see a sale sign that says, "Only ten items left!" you are more likely to buy the product, even if you do not need it.

  7. Unity: People are more likely to be persuaded by someone who makes them feel like they are part of a group. For example, if you are trying to sell a product to a group of people, you might try to emphasize the benefits of belonging to a group that uses the product.


How Professionals Can Apply the Seven Principles of Persuasion


Professionals can use the seven principles of persuasion to improve their work in various ways. Here are a few examples for each principle:


Reciprocity:
  1. Do small favors for your colleagues. This could include helping them with a project, complimenting them, or simply being friendly and helpful.

  2. Give them something of value, such as your time or expertise. This will make them feel obligated to reciprocate in some way.

  3. Ask them for a small favor in return for a larger one. This is a great way to get them to agree to something they might not otherwise do.

Commitment and consistency:
  1. Get them to make a small commitment, such as agreeing to attend a meeting or to try a new software tool. Once they have made this commitment, they are more likely to follow through.

  2. Get them to make a public commitment, such as signing a petition or speaking out in favor of a cause. This will make them more likely to follow their promise, as they will not want to look bad in front of others.

  3. Get them to say yes to a small request before asking for a larger one. This will make them more likely to say yes to the more significant request.

Social proof:
  1. Show them that other team members are using a particular technique or tool. This will make them more likely to want to use it as well.

  2. Get them to read reviews or testimonials from other team members who have used a particular product or service. This will help to build trust and credibility.

  3. Use social media to show how popular a particular product or service is. This will create a fear of missing out (FOMO) and make them more likely to want to use it.

Liking:
  1. Get to know your colleagues on a personal level. This will make them more likely to trust and be influenced by you.

  2. Find common ground with them, such as shared interests or hobbies. This will help to build rapport and make them more receptive to your ideas.

  3. Be friendly and approachable. This will make them more likely to want to interact with you and listen to your words.

Authority:
  1. Highlight your expertise or experience. This will make your colleagues more likely to listen to you and take your advice.

  2. Get a certification or degree in your field. This will show your colleagues that you are qualified to speak on the topic.

  3. Get involved in professional organizations or associations. This will allow you to network with other professionals and build your reputation.

Scarcity:
  1. Highlight the limited availability of resources. This could include time, money, or materials.

  2. Create a sense of urgency. This could mean highlighting that a particular problem needs to be solved immediately or that a unique opportunity is only available for a limited time.

  3. Make the product or service seem exclusive. This could mean highlighting that the product or service is only available to a select group of people or that it is only available for a limited time.

Unity:
  1. Emphasize the shared goals and values that you have with your colleagues. This will make them more likely to want to work together to achieve those goals.

  2. Create a sense of community. This could mean organizing social events or simply being friendly and supportive.

  3. Highlight the benefits of working together. This could include the fact that it can save time and money or lead to better results.


How to Prevent Yourself from Being Used


It is essential to be aware of the seven principles of persuasion so that you can protect yourself from being used. Here are some tips for preventing yourself from being used:


Reciprocity: People feel obligated to return favors. Do not feel compelled to do something because someone has done you a favor. You can always say no.

Scarcity: People are more likely to want something if it is scarce. Do not let this pressure you into buying something you do not wish to. Wait a few days and see if you still want it.

Authority: People are more likely to obey authority figures. Do not just blindly follow orders. Do your research and ensure you understand why you are being asked to do something before agreeing.

Social proof: People are more likely to do something if they see others doing it. Do not just do something because you see other people doing it. Think for yourself and decide what you want.

Liking: People are more likely to be persuaded by someone they like. Do not let someone's compliments sway you into doing something you do not want. Think for yourself and decide what you want to do.

Commitment and consistency: People are more likely to stick to their obligations, even if they are unsuitable. Do not let yourself get locked into a promise you are unsure you want. If you are unsure, it is always better to err on the side of caution and not make a commitment.

Unity: People are more likely to be persuaded by someone who makes them feel like they are part of a group. Do not let yourself be manipulated by someone trying to make you feel like you are part of a group. Think for yourself and decide what you believe.


In conclusion, influence and persuasion are essential skills for working professionals. By understanding the seven principles of persuasion, professionals can improve their ability to influence others in various settings. However, it is essential to use these principles ethically and always respect the rights of others.


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Illustrations courtesy of Black Illustrations.



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