Persuasion is the ability that we humans have to convince other people to do something that they did not plan to do.

I recommend you read this article to get into the subject: “Persuasion: definition and elements of the art of convincing”

How do you convince someone? The best techniques of persuasion

The techniques used to persuade are also very important .

These techniques of persuasion can be grouped in many different ways, but those identified according to the six principles of Cialdini’s influence stand out especially:

  • Principle of consistency . We need to be consistent in our motives and in the discourses that accompany our actions.
  • Reciprocity principle . It refers to the need to return to others the favors they do for us.
  • Scarcity principle . Something is more attractive if it has limited availability.
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  • Principle of social approval . We are looking for the support of the majority, so having something that the majority agrees with will be a better option for us.
  • Principle of authority . As we have seen, someone who is an expert in a subject can make us believe something about it more easily.
  • Principle of sympathy . Someone we like is more likely to persuade us.

You can read more about Robert Cialdini’s 6 laws of social influence in this article

The main techniques of persuasion

Next we will see some persuasion techniques, the most studied and effective ones.

We will start with persuasion techniques based on reciprocity, techniques based on commitment or coherence and end with techniques based on scarcity. Then we will review elements and techniques used that have to do with the principles of authority, sympathy and social approval, although these are usually integrated into the other types of techniques.

1. Techniques based on reciprocity

Techniques based on reciprocity are those in which the interaction between source and receptor provokes in the latter the idea that a concession is being made to it , which makes it more likely to return the favour.

These techniques are, of course, used by commercials, but sometimes also by political organizations in negotiations or even in the advertising strategies of municipalities and governments that urge the population to take care of public resources and equipment, although if misused they can also play a more sinister role in maintaining client networks and corruption schemes.

Among these techniques, the following stand out:

  • Door/door-slamming technique

This technique is based on the source making a very exaggerated and costly initial offer to the receiver who knows he will reject. Once the receiver rejects it, the source will progressively lower the cost level, to finally reach the point that was the objective from the beginning. Thus, the receiver considers that it has been given a great discount, which makes it easier for it to end up accessing the offer .

A clear and easy to understand example that uses this technique is the haggling of traders in different markets around the world.

  • “This is not all” technique

It is based on offering, in addition to the initial offer, a small extra gift . The gift is seen as a concession, so that again it is easier for the recipient to feel favoured and to want to accept the offer. An example is found in the television promotions of some products, in which a small gift is often given away (the case of the knife we have bought, a second pair of glasses, etc.).

  • Shoulder-slapping technique

This technique is based on establishing an informal and partly emotional link between source and receiver , making the receiver feel the need to correspond to the relationship he has with the source. This technique can be exemplified by the procedure carried out by banks with their clients.

2. Techniques based on commitment

Techniques based on commitment and coherence are based on the recipient’s desire to be consistent with their previous attitudes and actions.

They are also the ones that pose the most moral dilemmas in their most extreme versions, since some break with the idea that the sender and the receiver should start from a position of equality since the former knows all the necessary information and plays with advantage. This is also why knowing how to recognise these techniques will help us not to get caught up in them.

The main and most widely used are as follows:

  • Low-ball technique

In this technique the receiver accepts an offer from the source, but once the source is accepted it emphasizes information that makes the deal somewhat less attractive . Of course, this information cannot go against the data provided at the beginning by the issuer, but it is usually part of the “small print” of what has been negotiated. The recipient may always reject it, but the desire to be consistent may cause it to decide to accept the offer anyway.

  • Door foot technique

This technique is based on making a small initial offer, easily acceptable to the recipient . Once accepted, larger and larger offers can be made. A valid simile could be in the game, where you start by making small bets and then increase the amount of money bet.

  • Bait and switch technique

This is based on the fact that when the recipient accesses the offer, the product in question that attracted him is sold out , although other similar options are offered.

3. Scarcity-based techniques

With regard to scarcity-based techniques, they are intended to increase the value of what is offered in the eyes of the recipient as long as the recipient accepts it. Two techniques stand out:

  • “Play hard to get” technique

In this technique it is suggested that the product is scarce and difficult to obtain in order to motivate the receiver to acquire it. It is very visible in electronic or food products (smartphones, caviar…).

  • Deadline technique

This technique indicates that the offer is only temporary , thus inviting a quick purchase before it runs out. A variant uses the number of units instead of time. The clearest example is television promotions for some products, which together with the “this is not all” strategy often indicate the temporary availability of the offer.

4.Techniques based on social approval

Techniques based on social approval aim to use the recipients’ need to feel part of the group and society, using as an argument that a large proportion of the population accepts or would accept the offer that is made.

In this case, the use of statistics or techniques for inclusion in the group stands out.

This resource is often used in order to show the popularity of the offer, showing that if accepted it will enter the group. It is often used in conjunction with authority-based elements and techniques.

It can be seen in many advertisements, showing statistics of satisfied customers or with comments such as “9 out of 10 recommend it”, “we are many partners of…”, “Join us”.

5.Techniques based on authority

The techniques based on authority act under the consideration that an expert in a subject is going to have a better criterion about it than others , including the receiver. With regard to this fact, the use of expert testimony stands out. In this technique, the expertise of one or more individuals is used in order to make the recipient see that the offer applied to him is more valuable, efficient or usable than others.

A clear example is the use of professionals in a sector to sell a particular product, such as the use of dentists to promote toothpaste or sports professionals to promote sportswear.

6.Techniques based on sympathy

As regards techniques based on sympathy, they are based on creating a feeling of similarity and closeness between the source of persuasion and the receiver . These stand out:

  • Use of familiarity elements

Although it is not a technique per se, it is common to use the environment, dress and even behavior and form of expression in such a way that the recipient feels comfortable enough to accept the offer. An example is found in many brands and stores, which make their employees wear clothes and behave informally.

  • Physical attraction

The use of the source’s own physical and personal attractiveness makes it easier for the recipient to be attracted by what is coming from him/her, and thus often accepts the offer. It is frequently seen in fashion and accessories advertisements, although it is usually applied to a great majority of advertising elements.

  • Celebrity use

Public recognition of a famous and influential character is used to change the perception of the recipient(s) of a particular offer. They are very common in the world of marketing and are continuously used in advertising.

Some conclusions and reflections

All these characteristics and techniques are important and frequent elements in the attempts at persuasion that we encounter in our daily lives, not only in the strategies used by organizations and large companies. We must take into account that most people try to persuade others to change attitudes, values or acts .

However, we have to appreciate that persuasion does not necessarily imply manipulation, since on a large percentage of occasions we are aware that attempts are being made to change our point of view with a clear purpose.

Bibliographic references:

  • Cialdini, R. B., Cacioppo, J. T., Bassett, R., & Miller, J. A. (1978). Low-ball procedure for producing compliance: commitment then cost. Journal of personality and Social Psychology, 36(5), 463.
  • Cialdini, R. B., Vincent, J. E., Lewis, S. K., Catalan, J., Wheeler, D., & Darby, B. L. (1975). Reciprocal concessions procedure for inducing compliance: La técnica de la puerta en la cara. Journal of personality and Social Psychology, 31(2), 206.
  • McGuire, W.J. (1969). Un modelo de procesamiento de la información para la eficacia de la publicidad. En H.L. Davis & A.J. Silk (Eds.), Behavioral and Management Sciences in Marketing. Nueva York: Ronald.
  • Rogers, R.W. (1985). Cambio de actitud e integración de la información en los llamamientos al miedo. Informes psicológicos, 56, 179-182.