Foremost to the art and science of persuasion is comprehending three goals that all people aim for.

Foremost to the art and science of persuasion is comprehending three goals that all people aim for.

Oct 04
Foremost to the art and science of persuasion is comprehending three goals that all people aim for.

The art and science of persuasion is frequently talked about as though making a person change his/her mind is all about using the correct arguments, the correct tone of voice or the right negotiation tactics. However effective influence and persuasion is not only about patter, body language or other techniques, it is also about understanding what motivates them.

Sometimes when scrabbling in explaining technique, it is easily forgotten that there are universal goals of which, we are sometimes unaware. In attempting to Influence and persuade people we must tap into these to really gain traction.

Techniques of persuasion

To illustrate these universal goals, let us look at six common techniques of influence that you will have encountered either explicitly or implicitly

1.Liking: If somebody likes you then it is much easier to influence them. Successful influencers attempt to flatter and uncover similarities thereby building attraction.

2.Consistency. The majority of people like to keep their word. When people commit to something, especially if it is done verbally or in writing, they are more likely to honor that. Influencers should try to obtain verbal or written commitments.

3.Social consistency. People enjoy following each other, so influencers suggest that the herd is moving the same way.

4.Authority. People are strongly persuaded by experts. Successful influencers use their knowledge to provide evidence that they are experts.

5.Scarce resources. Even if a company has a lot of product in stock, they will advertise using time-limited offers that emphasize scarcity. People want what they cannot have, or at least what might be running short.

6.Reciprocity. Give something to receive something also known as quid pro quo. If people believe they are indebted to you they are more likely to agree to what you want. This may be just something as simple as a compliment.

The above hit upon three basic human goals, and it is these goals that are the key to understanding how to influence and persuade people

1. Goal of affiliation

For the most part humans are social so they need to be liked. They will do everything they can to avoid rejection.

Not only do we need approval from specific people, we also need it from society at large. We need the things we do, think and believe to be broadly in line with what others do, think and believe. It is not impossible to be different, however it is difficult to be so.

Liking and reciprocity illustrated above both play on our desire to be a part of something, as do multiple other techniques of persuasion and influence. The majority of people are joiners and followers so influencers like to give us something to join and somebody to follow.

2. Goal of accuracy

People who do not care about doing things the right way never achieve anything in life. To realize our goals in an ever more complex world, we need to be constantly trying to work out the best course of action.

This may be accuracy in social encounters, for example dealing with the boss or how to make friends. It may also be accuracy in financial matters like how to get a good deal, or it could be accuracy in existential matters. Whatever the area, people are always trying to get to the correct answer.

By understanding our need to be correct successful influencers attempt to offer things that appeal to our need for accuracy. For example, we are influenced by authority figures since we believe they give us a ‘correct’ way of doing things, especially one that we do not have to think too carefully about.

Both social consistency and scarce resources tap into our desire to be correct since we make the assumption that other people must be correct and we do not want to miss out on anything.

3. Goal of maintaining positive self-belief.

It takes people a long time to establish a coherent view of themselves and their place in the world and consequently people want to protect this view.

We strive hard to establish and maintain our view of the world. We need to keep intact our self-belief, to continue to believe in the things that we believe in and to honor whatever commitments we have espoused in the past. In an ever changing world we strive to be consistent.

Persuaders and influencers may leverage this goal by invoking our sense of self-consistency. An example would be the foot-in-the-door technique. That is when an influencer makes a small request which you agree to before making a much larger request. Since people feel that it is not consistent to agree to one request and then refuse the next one, they want to say yes again.

To keep their positive view of themselves people will go to extraordinary lengths.

Unconscious motivators

Everyone needs to be accurate, to associate with others and to maintain the positive concept of themselves, however unaware we may be of these goals. Effective persuasion and influence attempts may target one or more of these goals.

Mindful of these goals we can adjust our persuasion attempts to the characteristics of an audience, instead of relying on transparent generic techniques. Regardless of whether it is at work, dealing with your boss, or dealing with a neighbor, we may all benefit from thinking about other people’s unconscious motivators. Then we may work out how to align our message with their goals.


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