Mind & Body

5 Persuasion Tricks to Get People to Do What You Want

We all want something, and a lot of times, it involves getting someone's help. Considering how much time we spend trying to persuade or convince others, it's surprising we don't stop more often to think about whether we're using the right methods. So why waste time trying new tactics when we can go straight to science? We've put together some tricks to help you get your way.

1. Explain the reason for your request.

Think about a time you were in a huge hurry and you had to wait in line for something important. You might not have gotten too far if you simply asked, "Can I cut in line?" The likelihood of persuading someone to agree with your request would have increased by more than 50 percent if you had added one thing: a reason. "Can I cut in line because I need to catch my flight?" or even, "Can I cut in line because I'm in a rush?" The greater the request, the greater the reason you should provide to truly increase your chances of getting what you want, but a little rationalizing can go a long way.

2. Listen first, then ask for the favor.

Lynne Franklin is a consultant to executives and teams on persuasive communication, and she discussed the psychology of persuasion on the Curiosity Podcast. "It's called the rule of reciprocity," she told us. "Say something interesting and get them to speak. You learn more about who they are or what they do, they're more interested in reciprocating. I've listened first, now they want to ask me about me. So I've built good will without having said anything."

This works well with people we've never met, but it's worth remembering that you can talk to someone you already know in order to achieve the same effect. "We as human beings have a tendency to decide what we want people to do and then tell them. And they don't care. They have their own agenda," Franklin explained.

"So how can you present your idea in a way that increases the chances that they'll actually want to do it? And in order to do that, you need to know who they are and what motivates them." You need to understand what they want and find a way to give them that by achieving what you want.

Related Video: You're Probably Texting Wrong

3. Give an actual gift in return for a person's help.

Similar to exchanging information, the norm of reciprocity is a social convention that compels people to return a favor when someone has helped them. Charities use this principle when providing unconditional gifts like return address labels or even a pen or pencil, and it can increase donations by up to 75 percent. Just be careful when using this approach: Providing external incentives can actually decrease giving in certain situations, particularly when it comes to charity.

4. Switch up the words you're using.

There are a lot of quick and dirty language tricks that, though subtle, can make a big difference when you're trying to persuade someone to do what you want. For instance, try saying "I" instead of "you" to remove the accusatory element of your statements, e.g., "You need to go to the grocery store," versus, "I feel stressed because I have to go to the grocery store."

If you're worried your request will be met with a hard "no," you can also try the magic words "but you are free [to refuse]" to double (!) your chances of getting what you want. And if you're the one saying "no" and you want people to accept your refusal, then say you "don't" do something instead of saying you "can't." This way, the person refusing won't be able to fight you with logic or find a way to turn "can't" into "can." Pay attention to your word choices and you never know what other neat tricks you'll find!

5. Ask in person.

We all rely on email and other text-based communication these days, but it's never as effective as looking someone in the eye and asking for a favor. And the difference is massive: A pair of experiments conducted by researchers in 2016 concluded that complete strangers receiving a request in person were 34 times more likely to fill out a survey than strangers who were asked over email. If that's not a reason to ditch the keyboard for an IRL conversation, then we don't know what is.

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Lynne Franklin's book on persuasion is called "Getting Others To Do What You Want." We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

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To learn more ways to get people to do what you want, listen to our full conversation with Lynne Franklin on the Curiosity Podcast. Stream or download the episode using the player below, or find it everywhere podcasts are found, including iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud, and Gretta.

Written by Cody Gough November 28, 2017

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