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How to persuade people to do anything, without force, whether they like you or not

Everyone needs to persuade people to do things. If you are a parent, you need to persuade your children. If you are married, you sometimes need to persuade your spouse. If you are employed you sometimes need to persuade your boss and co-workers.

To have the best chance to persuade people to do anything, using psychological and mental triggers that they cannot resist, and often are not aware of, be aware of these 6 embedded human behaviours.

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6 strategies to persuade people to take action

These strategies I am going to share with you come from Robert Cialdini's book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. I read the book over 20 years ago and recently re-read it after being reminded of it when I interviewed Ann Convery for my Journey To Success radio show.

Influence, the classic book on persuasion, explains the psychology of why people say "yes"—and how to apply these understandings. Dr. Robert Cialdini is the seminal expert in the rapidly expanding field of influence and persuasion. His thirty-five years of rigorous, evidence-based research along with a three-year program of study on what moves people to change behavior has resulted in this highly acclaimed book.

1. Reciprocation

2. Commitment and Consistency

3. Social Proof

4. Liking

5. Authority

6. Scarcity


Almost everyone has experienced this influence principle. When someone does something for you - you feel indebted to pay them back. It is built so deeply in us that, even if we do not like the person who did something for us, we feel compelled to do something for them. You cannot resist this and feel badly until you do in many cases.

In his book, Cialdini, shares several studies that clearly demonstrate this principle. It was even shown that you do not even need to like the person to feel this pull to reciprocate.

Other studies showed that, when negotiating, selling, or asking for something - start with your highest priced, or most difficult option. When you start that way, and then make the first concession, the other person believes that they must offer a concession in return. Also, by starting with the most extreme request, your concession, seems much more reasonable than if you had started with it.

Commitment and Consistency

Once you take a stand on something, you feel the need to defend that stand. Your brain accepts the stance you take and anytime it is questioned after that it looks for ways to remain consistent.

In Cialdini's book he writes about how American soldiers were persuaded to take Communist stances when they were prisoners of war of the Chinese.

The Chinese would have prisoners make small concessions to start by admitting that America was not perfect. They they would have them write that down. They would then ask them to list a few ways that America was not perfect. They would have the prisoner read those statements to a group of fellow prisoners. 

The more small concessions and public statements the prisoners made, the more they felt obligated to defend them. In this way, the prisoners could be slowly persuaded to the views of the Chinese.

For charities - if you can get someone to verbalize that they are blessed and doing well and then ask them for money to help your group, you have a MUCH better chance of them giving you money.

Minor commitments, followed up by other larger commitments, can eventually persuade someone to do what they say they believe in.

Social Proof

Our brains need shortcuts to help us determine how to react, especially if something is new or urgent.

Dr. Cialdini explains in depth how people react in emergency situations and this clearly shows that people look to others to see what they are doing before we take action ourselves.

Social proof helps us to be comfortable with our decisions. We do not want to be seen as weird or strange and so we gauge our behaviours to those around us.

Clever marketers, and even Billy Graham himself, use this mental trigger to their benefit. An interesting story involving Billy Graham's Crusades was cited. During training before the event, about 6,000 people are chosen to move forward during the altar call at staggered times. This movement of the crowd convinces others to join them. Clever and it works.

When we are told that products are the most popular of their kind, it makes our decision making process easier. If everyone else thinks it is good then it should be good enough for us.


Although everyone knows this, we are not always aware of how deep seated and automatic our response to liking is and how it can be manipulated.

People of above average attractiveness can get us to do things that less attractive people never could, sometimes even when we know we are being manipulated.

As he does throughout the book, Cialdini cites many studies to show how this attractiveness advantage works. The funny part for me was learning how strongly people disagreed with the fact that their decision was based on the person's attractiveness. This shows how deeply embedded and unconscious this affects people.

Other things affect liking including similarities in hobbies, geography, and sports teams.

When we are being sold something, the salesperson will do their best to find common interests to get you to like them. Once that liking has been established they know it will be difficult for you to buy from someone else and you might even feel guilty about doing it.


We comply with people and symbols of authority and people selling you things know that against you.

As I write this, I am 51 years old. I remember the Sanka commercial, where Robert Young, who played Marcus Welby MD on television was used as their spokesperson. The television shows was enormously popular at the time. EVERYONE who saw the Sanka commercial thought of Robert Young as a Dr. Because we do what doctors tell us, people made Sanka a fortune by listening to a television doctor.

Of course many studies were used to show that anyone wearing a uniform or even an expensive, well tailored suit can persuade people to comply with their request versus someone else without authority asking us to do the same thing.


Our automatic reaction to scarcity makes us stop thinking and react emotionally. Of all the triggers to persuade people, this one seems to be the most automatic.

Whenever something is scarce, or we have competition to buy the same thing, we tend to to go into competition mode to get that thing rather than lose it to someone else.

If someone applies scarcity to a buying decision it is hard to escape the feelings and thoughts it creates automatically. You really have to remain logical and examine your decision.

I have seen this tactic used in real estate a lot. I have purchased rental properties and personal homes and in almost every single case the selling agent told me that someone else wanted to buy it the next day. Even though I know this is a tactic, every time it was used, my thoughts became different, although not always my decisions.

If you really want to persuade people to take action, use all 6 of these emotional triggers in some way. 

As a consumer, be aware of these techniques to persuade people to buy. Be wary of situations when these triggers are artificially created.

If you are in sales of ANY kind or need to persuade anyone, including your spouse and children, you owe it to yourself to read and put into practice the ideas from Cialdini's book.

The book will help you persuade people to do what you want more than any book on closing sales or prospecting that you will ever read.

"Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve." What if you read this each time you made a phone call, or texted, or received a call? Imagine the possibilities of auto-suggesting this into your mind hundreds of times per day.

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