10 Keys to Persuasion – Instantly Become More Influential Through Little Acts that Make a Big Difference

People attending a CongressThere is often a misconception that the keys to persuasion are about boldness. That a great persuader is some larger than life character with boundless confidence, endless energy and radical rapport building skills.

Sure, these things help, but real success is usually created covertly .

Influence and persuasion is more about nuance and finesse. To use a golf analogy (first time for everything), it’s more about the way you putt rather than how well you drive. Just ask  ‘Happy Gilmore.’

To assist you on your persuasive path, I’ve listed 10 simple and small persuasive techniques that will if used frequently, transform you success rate.

*Note: All of the principles offered have been proven through psychological studies. I will cite the two main books that have reviewed the related studies at the end of this piece.

1.Make at Least One Element of Your Persuasive Effort Very Specific

Unusual specificity grabs attention and creates intrigue. In the game of influence, unless you can get a person’s attention you’re dead in the water.

For example, if someone came up to you in the street and said have you got a spare two dollars versus have you got a spare two dollars and 17 cents, which one is more likely to make you stop!

The main thing to be aware of here is habit. People on the street tend to ask for a round figure like two dollars all the time and so after a while the repetition makes it easier to ignore, we don’t even fully process the request.

But $2.17? You are compelled to at least stop and ask why. Which brings us to the next point.


2. Give a Reason 

If you want to get someone to give you something or do something for you, it is much better to give them a reason.

And the funny part is, the reason doesn’t have to be special or even good.

One classic study had people wanting to cut the line for the photocopy machine. One group said “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine” with a 60% success rate.

The other group said “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I’m in a rush”. That was it! The success rate shot up to 94%. Give a reason by adding the magic word ‘because’ and you’ll be surprised at what people agree to.


3. Freedom of Choice

Always emphasise that the person you are dealing with has a choice. This will reduce resistance to your messages. People are often being told what to do and I’ve never found anyone to like it.

The way around this is before you say what you want to say, tell the person they are free to choose. In fact when I work with people, before I offer a solution or piece of advise I like to build up the fact that it is their choice.

I will say “Now you know I’m about to tell you something, and you’re free to accept or reject what I’m about to say. You understand that right, that it’s your choice? Because I’m not here to push an agenda on you. So if you’re happy with that, that it’s completely up to you, than I’ll tell you what I the latest psychological research indicates the answer to be. But only if you’re willing to be responsible for what YOU decide. ”


4. Using Credible and/or Popular Sources

Leading on from the previous example, quoting or referring to credible and popular resources always works well. That’s why techies love to quote Steve Jobs. The perception is if a famous or successful person has said it than…

a) it is more likely to be right

b) your follow up argument will be perceived as more credible because you have linked it to a previously successful person.


5. Get Small Agreements Up Front

The more you can get someone to agree with you, the greater your influence will be. However the key is to start small and build towards bigger requests.

For example. one study had experimenters ask people if they good put a safe driving sign on their lawn, of which 17% agreed. A second group of people were also asked with one exception. The week before people were asked to put up a small safe driving newsletter up on their window for a week of which 84% agreed. Then when those people were asked if they would agree to have a sign on their lawn, 78% agreed.

This happens all the time. A classic example is lobby groups will ask you to sign a petition and then ask for a donation. Since you have already agreed with the cause, agreeing to donate is a much more likely step.

Once we commit to an act or set of beliefs, it is hard not to remain consistent and agree to bigger demands once a commitment is made.


6. Contrast High to Low

Value is subjective and the order of information presented definitely makes a difference. Starting high and dropping is much more likely to work than starting low and increasing for the initial sale/agreement. However, once the initial agreement/sale is made, greater requests or upsells can be offered as the above example illustrated.

Let’s say you want to do a workshop that your boss would pay for that costs $200 which is part of a course that costs $2000, but really all you want to do (at least in the beginning) is that one particular workshop. What do you do?

You know your boss would never allow you to do the full course, but you do your best to sell him on it anyway. When he says no, you bring up how their is one workshop in particular that would be very beneficial and is only $200.


7. We All Hate Losing and Love Winning

We are not rational. Their is an inherent bias in us towards fairness even if it will cost us. For example, let’s say your boss gives your colleague $20 and says that he can only have it if he offers you some. However, your colleague can decide how much. How would you feel if he offered you $2?

You’d probably be pretty angry even though that doesn’t make rational sense. You get $2 for nothing! But because he decided to keep $18, there is a good chance you’ll reject the completely free no-strings attached offer.

So even if we win, if it feels like a loss, we may reject it. Therefore it’s important to put yourself in a perceived losing position or others in a perceived winning position in order to be more influential. A situation seen as win-win also works. Offering an additional unadvertised bonus or discount often works wonders.


8. Tell Stories, Especially Origin Stories 

There is a reason why those ancestry shows are so popular. There is an innate desire for us to know where we come from. This also relates to objects too, as long as the story is told well. It is best if the story shows some sort of achievement.

We love sharing how we got a great price, or how we secured the last one, or why our quick thinking made it happen.

Furthermore, the deeper the story, the closer you can get to an origin, the better. Adding a sense of history always gives a story greater depth and credibility. A store that opened 150 years ago feels much more interesting on the surface than a store that opened last week.

However, having a well told story about why the store did open last week (perhaps now is the perfect time for this kind of store) can also lead to an interesting origin arising.


9. Attractiveness is Crucial

Attractiveness matters. Attractive people are more influential! Many, many, many studies have proven this. So anything you can do to make yourself more attractive will work in your favour.

However, also consider the presentation of your product or service. Everybody, even the ones that say it doesn’t matter, prefer the attractive over the less attractive.

A good example of this is a book. Even though what you are really interested in may be the text, if one has a prettier cover, or pictures inside or it, you will prefer that one. Therefore, always consider how you can make whatever you’re offering look, feel and sound better. Could it be in color or bigger? Could the texture be improved or sound and so on.


10. Limit the Time or Supply

We want what we can’t have! Limiting the time period of an offer or restricting the supply automatically increases the perceived value. This does not have to be with a product either.

It can be in relation to your service-based assistance. State up front that your time is limited (you could be quite specific if you like, “I have 17 minutes and 35 seconds…”)  and therefore it is best to make the most of it. This will increase the attention and respect offered by others.



There you have it. 10 simple keys to persuasion that anyone can use to instantly become more influential. As you may have noticed, they all tend to compliment each other and they can also be stacked with each other. The more familiar you become with these techniques, the more seamlessly you will be able to weave through them all.

Enjoy and let me know how you go!


Book references where all related studies can be found:

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

I is for Influence


Comments are closed.