How The Power Of Persuasion Actually Works

Mastering the power of persuasion can have many advantages at work and at home. Successfully convincing an employee to work overtime can help bring an important project in before deadline, and persuading your kids to clean their room and take out the trash can help you keep your sanity.
For decades psychologists have studied a variety of persuasive techniques, and have found several seemingly successful methods.

One of the most common methods of persuasion, the door-in-the-face technique begins with one person asking another for something completely outrageous. Once that person is turned down, they ask for something considered reasonable by comparison. Say your eight year-old child asks you to extend his bedtime from nine to midnight, for example, and then after you turn him down, your child asks if he can stay up until ten instead. When compared to his original request of midnight, extending his bedtime an extra hour seems more reasonable and harder to turn down.
Another technique, known as fear-then-relief, takes advantage of someone feeling as if they just dodged a bullet, and turns their relief around to your advantage. This was a popular technique among scam artists who fake an accident, and then tell their mark they wouldn’t report the accident to the police or insurance agency if they were paid money on the spot.
Finally, one of the best understood techniques is called foot in the door. You start by asking for something simple, and once you have established a rapport with the person, you ask for your real request. Panhandlers often use this technique by asking passerby’s for the time and then following up with a request for money.
Recently, when researchers at the Warsaw School of Social Sciences and Humanities in Poland attempted to find out what the most persuasive means is for convincing someone to do what you ask, they found a surprising new result.
Through a series of experiments, researchers discovered a technique that could be described as bizarre-then-normal. In the experiment, a researcher would explain to passerby that they had suffered a back injury and asked they passerby would mind bending down and tying their shoe. A few minutes later, the same person would be stopped by another researcher who asked if the participant would mind looking after their shopping cart for a minute while they looked for their significant other.
The study found that participants were much more likely to look after the shopping cart if they had previously been asked to fulfill the unusual request of tying someone else’s shoe.
Clearly the best forms of persuasion are those that initially set a request high, and then come in underneath at the end. Now, just remember to only use this power for good.
Timothy Lemke blogs about health for Dr. Bruno da Costa, a dentist in Beaverton OR at Harmony Dental.