6 Principles To Sharpen Your Persuasion Skills

Have you ever pondered on why you buy the useless odds and ends sitting in your junk drawer?

Why did you purchase the treadmill that collects dust in the corner of your living room?

Why did you get the Instyler when you’re straightening or curling iron works just as well?

Why do you acquire the name brand cereal instead of the cheaper alternative?

Dr. Robert Cialdini (Professor of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University) provides some answers, through the principles of persuasion, which can be very useful in the workplace and outside of it as well.

To sharpen your persuasion skills, Professor Cialdini lists six important influences to keep in mind, using the acronym C.L.A.S.S.-R.

C-Commitment and Consistency

The first letter refers to commitment and consistency in actions and behavior. The desire to remain stable is rooted in our evolutionary psychology.

Dr. Cialdini performed a study, which found that when asked to place a large billboard advertising road safety in their backyard, people were reluctant. However, when people were first asked to place a small sign on their window, many of them agreed. When these people were later asked about placing the larger billboard, 76% of them agreed.

It goes to show that when asking someone to make a large commitment, ask them first to make a small one.

You can probably think about several ways in which this principle can be advantageous in your business endeavors.

For example. instead of asking customers to make large decisions right at the start, ask them to make smaller and insignificant choices first, until it would appear inconsistent for them not to proceed with the larger decision. Most of the time, people prefer to be consistent with previous behavior.


Likability and attractiveness are important aspects of persuasion.

It is no coincidence that actors and actresses are often attractive people; it makes you want to see their work. The same applies to Sales Reps, who are often attractive and friendly people.

This phenomena is known as the “Halo Effect,” which refers to the idea that attractiveness and likability enhances our perception of a person’s expertise/talent.

We have less control over our looks, so Cialdini suggests a few techniques to become more likable:

  • Listening – When dealing with people, call them by their name, be interested in what they have to say, and ask questions. People love hearing their own name and voice.
  • Praise – Complimenting people is a good way to increase your likability and make that person’s day at the same time. Try to be as sincere as you can and compliment something you actually like about that person.
  • Positive Association – Positive association can be a powerful ally. Provide signals to associate yourself, or your product/service/idea, with something positive. For example, car showrooms often have well dressed and sophisticated looking people standing next to the vehicles, to associate the car with luxury and lifestyle.
  • Contrast – Compare what you have on offer, with something that is relatively less desirable.


Following and believing in an authority figure is a natural response.

The Principle of Authority is the driving force behind some of the greatest crimes in history. Cults exist when a charming and charismatic figure enacts laws and patterns for people to follow.

If you are knowledgeable, well trained, and have the degrees to show it, don’t be afraid to flaunt it. Such things can make you more seem more trustworthy and believable.

S-Social Proof

When people do not have enough information, they often look to others to help them make a decision.

They believe that other people are rational.

One of the best examples of this phenomena is the laugh track in sitcoms. They tell you when it is time to laugh, by providing the social proof of other people laughing.

You can use various forms of social proof to be more persuasive, such as numbers/benchmarks, testimonials and name-dropping.


Exclusivity and scarcity are very useful influences.

If diamonds or other rare gems lay on the ground for anyone to find, they would not be such a hot commodity.

Scarcity is a helpful motivator in the decision-making process: it forces a choice without leaving adequate time to deliberate further.


People do not like being in someone’s debt.  If they receive a present or favor, they have a need to pay that action back.

Researchers have hypothesized that this evolutionary value comes from tribal societies that thrive on cooperation and reciprocity. If one member fails to do so, then they are kicked out of the tribe and less likely to survive.

An excellent example of such an idea is that of the Hare Krishnas and how they first give their congregates a small gift (like a flower) before asking for donations.

If you want people to give you something, give them something first: free samples, coupons, promotions, tips, excellent service, etc.

Here’s Cialdini, with some more information on persuasion:

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