How to Become a Master of Persuasion

Persuasion Techniques that Really Work

Persuasion Techniques
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We are confronted by persuasion in a wide variety of forms every single day. According to Media Matters, a typical adult is exposed to approximately 600 to 625 ads in any form each and every day. Food makers want us to buy their newest products while movie studios want us to go see the latest blockbusters. Because persuasion is such a pervasive component of our lives, it is often all-to-easy to overlook how we are influenced by outside sources.

Persuasion is not just something that is useful to marketers and salesmen, however. Learning how to utilize these techniques in daily life can help you become a better negotiator and make it more likely that you will get what you want, whether you are trying to convince your toddler to eat her vegetables or persuade your boss to give you that raise.

Because influence is so useful in so many aspects of daily life, persuasion techniques have been studied and observed since ancient times. It wasn’t until the early 20th-century, however, that social psychologists began formally study these powerful techniques.

Persuasion Techniques

The ultimate goal of persuasion is to convince the target to internalize the persuasive argument and adopt this new attitude as a part of their core belief system.

The following are just a few of highly effective persuasion techniques. Other methods include the use of rewards, punishments, positive or negative expertise, and many others.

1. Create a Need

One method of persuasion involves creating a need or an appealing a previously exiting need. This type of persuasion appeals to a person's fundamental needs for shelter, love, self-esteem and self-actualization. Marketers often use this strategy to sell their products. Consider, for example, how many advertisements suggest that people need to purchase a particular product in order to be happy, safe, loved, or admired.

2. Appeal to Social Needs

Another very effective persuasive method appeals to the need to be popular, prestigious or similar to others. Television commercials provide many example of this type of persuasion, where viewers are encouraged to purchase items so they can be like everyone else or be like a well-known or well-respected person. Television advertisements are a huge source of exposure to persuasion considering that some estimates claim that the average American watches between 1,500 to 2,000 hours of television every year.

3. Use Loaded Words and Images

Persuasion also often makes use of loaded words and images. Advertisers are well aware of the power of positive words, which is why so many advertisers utilize phrases such as "New and Improved" or "All Natural."

4. Get Your Foot in the Door

Another approach that is often effective in getting people to comply with a request is known as the "foot-in-the-door" technique. This persuasion strategy involves getting a person to agree to a small request, like asking them to purchase a small item, followed by making a much larger request.

By getting the person to agree to the small initial favor, the requester already has their "foot in the door," making the individual more likely to comply with the larger request.

For example, a neighbor asks you to babysit her two children for an hour or two. Once you agree to the smaller request, she then asks if you can just babysit the kids for the rest of the day.

Since you have already agreed to the smaller request, you might feel a sense of obligation to also agree to the larger request. This is a great example of what psychologists refer to as the rule of commitment, and marketers often use this strategy to encourage consumers to buy products and services.

5. Go Big and Then Small

This approach is the opposite of the foot-in-the-door approach. A salesperson will begin by making a large, often unrealistic request. The individual responds by refusing, figuratively slamming the door on the sale. The salesperson responds by making a much smaller request, with often comes off as conciliatory. People often feel obligated to respond to these offers. Since they refused that initial request, people often feel compelled to help the salesperson by accepting the smaller request.

6. Utilize the Power of Reciprocity

When people do you a favor, you probably feel an almost overwhelming obligation to return the favor in kind. This is known as the norm of reciprocity, a social obligation to do something for someone else because they first did something for you. Marketers might utilize this tendency by making it seem like they are doing you a kindness, such as including "extras" or discounts, which then compels people to accept the offer and make a purchase.

7. Create an Anchor Point for Your Negotiations

The anchoring bias is a subtle cognitive bias that can have a powerful influence on negotiations and decisions. When trying to arrive at a decision, the first offer has the tendency to become an anchoring point for all future negotiations. So if you are trying to negotiate a pay increase, being the first person to suggest a number, especially if that number is a bit high, can help influence the future negotiations in your favor. That first number will become the starting point. While you might not get that amount, starting high might lead to a higher offer from your employer.

8. Limit Your Availability

Psychologist Robert Cialdini is famous for the six principles of influence that he first outlined in his best-selling 1984 book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. One of the key principles he identified is known as scarcity, or limiting the availability of something. Cialdini suggests that things become more attractive when they are scarce or limited. People are more likely to buy something if they learn that it is the last one or that the sale will be ending soon. An artist, for example, might only make a limited run of a particular print. Since there are only a few prints available for sale, people might be more likely to make a purchase before they are gone.

9. Spend Time Noticing Persuasive Messages

The examples above are just a few of the many persuasion techniques described by social psychologists. Look for examples of persuasion in your daily experience. An interesting experiment is to view a half-hour of a random television program and note every instance of persuasive advertising. You might be surprised by the sheer amount of persuasive techniques used in such a brief period of time.


Media Dynamics. (2007). Our rising ad dosage: It's not as oppressive as some think. Media Matters. Retrieved from

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