The Power of Persuasion

People are everywhere. That’s why being persuasive determines how effective we are. Where we live, what we do, and even who we love involves influence on one level or another. And by learning the art of “dealing with and convincing people to do what you want them to do”, we can instantly improve our lives.

Emotion vs. Logic

With so much information around us and so many decisions to make every single day, there isn’t enough time to evaluate everything rationally. And so we rely on subconscious shortcuts to make things easier. This is why, as irrational beings, we’re susceptible to mental triggers. “People are definitely more likely to believe what you say, based on logic,” Mascetta admits, “but ultimately it is their emotion that will move them to take action.”

10 Proven Tactics to Gain Compliance from Others

So, how can we take advantage of this in order to be more persuasive? Triggers of Mind Control lists each of the tactics in turn:

1. Obligation/Reciprocity

“People generally feel obligated to return favours or good deeds that have been done to them by others.” Just look at how we smile at strangers who smile at us first! Make sure you know what to offer and ensure it will be on the same level of what you expect in return.

2. Contrast

“The perception of something changes when it is compared to something else.” This is why a pair of $100 jeans looks like a bargain if it was marked down from $500 or why a realtor might show you a really ugly house before showing you a better one. Another approach here is to break something down to the minimum (“$2.50 per day” sounds better than “$75 per month”) or make concessions by starting at a much higher price and then working down to what you actually want.

3. Internal Conflict

“We must act in a way that is conducive to our morals and beliefs.” Behaving against what we feel is right is something we struggle with. It makes us feel unbalanced, which is why we’ll do whatever we can to restore our moral equilibrium. We do this in many ways including rationalisation (justifying our behaviour to make ourselves feel better), denial (pretending the problem doesn’t exist or the source isn’t reliable), correction (finding evidence to support why the information we received is inaccurate), reframing (interpreting the meaning behind the message in a different way), and separation (distancing themselves from events or matters that are causing the internal conflict).

4. Connection

“The link that exists between others can be enough to create the emotional need to act.” When creating a connection, the four factors involved are:

Rapport – This is created primarily through body language techniques like subtly mirroring and matching what the other person does
Attraction – While physical aspects (including wardrobe and grooming) are noticed first and matter initially, nonphysical aspects like intelligence and warmth are more important in the long run.
People Skills – Humour (when used correctly) and respect
Similarity – We can think and act like people who share similarities (background, interests, values, etc) without worrying about internal conflicts

5. Proof

“We believed that if it worked before, it will probably work again.” Instead of investing time and effort to determine if a decision is right, we simply turn to other people. This is why statistics (e.g. “over 1 million copies sold”) can be so powerful, especially when the group referred to is one with which we can identify. Just remember to stick to third party evidence (from someone with knowledge or expertise) and information that is up to date.

6. Scarcity

“The less available something becomes, the more people want it.” This is one of the most obvious and also one of the most powerful. Restricting freedom or placing limitations on availability (e.g. playing hard to get when dating) creates a sense of urgency. And as long as there’s a deadline (e.g. the Groupon countdown clock!), the more incentive there is to act right away.

7. Verbiage

“Sometimes it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” Reframe your words to use the best possible ones in a given situation. For example, “more activity” sounds better than “crowded” and “membership agreement” sounds better than “contract”. Other suggestions are to speak slowly, simply, and clearly with sentences that are short and to the point. Storytelling and analogies also help with understanding.

8. Expectations

“People generally act in a way that other people expect them to.” These expectations are usually based on our assumptions.

9. Association/References

“People make mental associations with everything they see.” Again, this is about saving time and effort by using mental shortcuts.

10. Commitment

“People usually follow through on commitments, especially when they are public.” Nobody wants to go against their values or be seen as flaky. This is why having people to commit to something publically (e.g. having friends hold them accountable to their goals or immediately making a purchase so they are mentally vested and reluctant to change) is powerful. The idea is to start with smaller requests (more likely to be accepted) and then gradually build up to larger ones. Just make sure the commitments are voluntary because forcing people to do what you want will only introduce more conflict and make them revert to old behaviour. As Confucius said: “Do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire.”


This book is badly written. The formatting is sloppy, the grammar is poor (detrimental and instrumental mean very different things!), and the upfront disclaimer is a major case of legal overkill. The structure could also use a bit of work given that the author tends to get carried away in a lot of unnecessary text as well as points that begin but don’t conclude. I’m also not sure why the triggers are referred to us “universal laws” when the book later admits that cultural differences mean they won’t always apply.

Fortunately, the underlying message is powerful enough to make all that forgivable. This is an incredibly important topic and it’s one we should all strive to master. At the very least, it’s good to be aware of the tactics that are being used out there so we can vigilantly avoid falling into these traps. If you’ve got the time and want a better book on the subject, I’d recommend a masterpiece like Influence instead.

Author's Bio: 

I have been an active writer for well over a decade and published my first book in August 2007. This marked the start of Varsity Blah, a personal development blog that has now received over 250 000 hits from almost 130 countries worldwide. The best entries have been compiled into my latest book, which was reviewed on “This is some very insightful stuff… The way the book is structured, paired with your capabilities of drawing great narrative, leads this on the right path. This cleanses the mind.”

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