2. HOW TO USE THIS DECK
• Use the following slides to present and discuss the ideas
in the article.
• Each slide includes talking points in the notes field.
• Customize the slides as needed. You may want to insert
them into your own presentation, add your organization’s
branding, revise the slide text or the talking points, or
insert new slides.
• The complete deck takes approximately 15 minutes to
19. Learn More
Harvard Business Review Articles
The Necessary Art of Persuasion
The Uses (and Abuses) of Influence
An Interview with Robert Cialdini by Sarah Cliffe
Change the Way You Persuade
Gary A. Williams and Robert B. Miller
How to Give a Killer Presentation
Harvard Business Review Press Books
HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Communication
Harvard Business Review Video
Connect with Any Audience
Take Control of Your Nonverbal Communication
Harvard Business Review Blogs
How to Tell a Great Story
How to Get Your Idea Approved
Because leadership consists of getting things done through others, persuasion is one of the leader’s essential tools.
Many people assume that persuasion is available only to the charismatic and the eloquent, like politicians.
But there are tactics anyone can use to reliably lead others to concede, comply, or change.
Over the past several decades, experimental psychologists have learned through research that persuasion is governed by several principles that can be taught and applied:
Let’s look at each one in detail.
The first principle is liking.
People are more willing to cooperate when they like each other.
If you need to persuade people, it’s worth the time to do two things:
Uncover real similarities.
Offer genuine praise.
The Tupperware party is a classic illustration of this principle in action.
Friends, neighbors, and relatives are more likely to buy from the host because they know and like her.
In fact, a 1990 study showed that the guests’ fondness for their host weighed twice as heavily in their purchase decisions as their regard for the products.
You can use this principle to help repair a damaged or an unproductive relationship.
As an example, imagine you work with someone named Dan. Because he doesn’t seem to trust you and questions your actions, you don’t spend much time with him. As a result, the performance of both of your teams is suffering.
To turn this uncomfortable relationship around, you can find something about Dan that you sincerely admire, whether it’s his concern for the people in his department, his devotion to his family, or his work ethic.
By making an appreciative comment about that trait, you show Dan that you value what he values, and you begin to establish trust.
The second principle is reciprocity.
Research confirms that people tend to treat you the way you treat them.
If you’ve ever smiled at a coworker just because he or she smiled first, then you know how this principle works.
You can put reciprocity into action by doing a favor before seeking one or by giving people what you know they want to receive.
A good example of how reciprocity works comes from charities asking for donations.
When the Disabled American Veterans organization started adding a small gift—modest personalized address labels—to its fund-raising letters, the response rate from would-be donors increased from 18% to 35%.
Gift-giving may be a crude example. Often in an office, the “gift” is information or resources, not actual presents.
You can use reciprocity by displaying the behavior you want to see in others, with the expectation that others will follow suit.
The third principle is social proof.
People are more likely to follow someone who is similar to them than someone who is not.
We rely heavily on the people around us for cues on how to think, feel, and act.
Wise managers, then, take advantage of positive peer pressure, making their cases by enlisting their team members’ peers as allies.
Let’s look at an example.
When researchers went door-to-door in South Carolina to solicit donations for a charity campaign, they presented a list of neighbors who had already donated to the cause.
The longer the list, the more likely the person at the door would be to donate as well.
To someone being solicited, the neighbors’ names were a form of social evidence of how he or she should respond.
The same thing can work in the office. If you’re trying to gain support for an initiative, you’re more likely to get others’ backing if you show them that their peers have already bought in.
Consistency is the fourth principle.
When people say they’ll do something, they’re more likely to actually do it, because they want to appear consistent to others.
Individuals tend to keep promises if they make them voluntarily and explicitly.
Get commitments in writing; people try to live up to what they have written down.
Written statements become even more powerful if they’re made public.
Many studies prove the power of getting people to write down a commitment.
For example, researchers in Israel asked half the residents of a large apartment building to sign a petition supporting the establishment of a recreation center for people with disabilities.
Two weeks later, on a national holiday for people with disabilities, the researchers went back to ask for donations. Almost all of those who had signed the petition gave money—92%—compared with only about half of those who hadn’t signed.
Now let’s talk about authority, the fifth principle.
Studies show that people really do defer to experts.
Don’t assume your expertise is self-evident, though.
You must make an effort to establish it.
It’s easy to assume people know you’re the expert, but you can’t be sure unless you tell them, either directly or indirectly.
Take, for example, physical therapists in a hospital. In one study, they assumed that stroke patients would take their advice about the importance of regular home exercise. But as it turned out, many patients were abandoning the routines when they left the hospital.
Interviews revealed that the patients didn’t know much about the physical therapists’ training and credentials.
A simple change—displaying the therapists’ awards, diplomas, and certifications in the therapy rooms—increased compliance by 34%.
Because the patients then saw the physical therapists as experts, the patients were more likely to follow the therapists’ directions.
The last principle is scarcity.
People want more of a commodity when it’s less available.
Study after study shows that items and opportunities are deemed more valuable if they become scarce.
This means that exclusive information is more persuasive than widely available data. In the same way, unique benefits are more appealing than those that are available to everyone.
Managers can learn from retailers when it comes to using scarcity to persuade.
A study of wholesale beef buyers showed that they doubled their orders when they were told there was likely to be a scarcity of foreign beef in the near future because of weather conditions overseas.
And their orders increased 600% when they were told that no one else had that information yet.
Managers can similarly use the power of exclusivity by sharing information with key players before sharing it more broadly.
Use these six principles of persuasion judiciously and ethically.
Manipulating colleagues into compliance—for example, by overstating your expertise or implying buy-in that doesn’t really exist—will work only in the short run, if at all.
When deception is detected, you will destroy your ability to persuade and will very likely turn people against you.
While these principles are each important in their own right, they are most powerful when combined.
For example, while you’re showing your dinner companion that you have the skills and experience your business problem demands, you can also learn about his or her background, likes, and dislikes—information that will help you identify genuine similarities and give sincere compliments. And if you succeed in bringing that person on board, you may encourage other people to sign on as well, thanks to the power of social proof.
Used in concert, these six principles will help you capture an audience, sway the undecided, and convert the opposition.