6 Secrets of Highly Persuasive People

Last Updated May 19, 2010 7:46 AM EDT

As the office newbie, you can't rely on seniority or the gravitas of gray hair to get others on board with your ideas. Instead you need to be canny and use every trick of psychology available to convince people to trust and follow you. Luckily, there are scientific secrets of persuasion and they can be learned -- being persuasive isn't just a talent you're born with.
If you want to be more persuasive, there are few better people to go to than psychology professor Robert Cialdini who rounded up all the latest research on the topic in his book Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be More Persuasive. Recently blogger and WSJ columnist Alexandra Levit trawled through his work and boiled it down to these six principles that can make you more persuasive:
  • Principle of Reciprocity. People are more likely to say yes to you if you have said yes to them first. If you first show a willingness to get on board with your colleagues' projects, then they will find it more difficult to decline support for yours.
  • Principle of Commitment and Consistency. People will agree to something if it complies with their existing worldview. Therefore, if you liken your proposal to another idea your colleague recently agreed with, you will play to her internal desire to be consistent.
  • Principle of Authority. Even if you aren't the boss, establishing yourself as an organization-wide expert on a particular topic will do wonders to increase others' perception of your authority and render them easier to persuade.
  • Principle of Social Validation. The field of television advertising was built upon this principle, which states that people are more willing to take a recommendation if they are provided evidence that "others like them" are already doing it. So if you want to convince colleagues, get some testimonials from those who are friendly to your cause and at the same level as those who you're trying to persuade.
  • Principle of Scarcity. People find opportunities more attractive to the degree that they are rare or dwindling in availability. Your colleagues will be more likely to agree to your proposal, for example, if they believe that they have to "strike now while the iron is hot."
  • Principle of Liking. There is no getting around the fact that people prefer to say yes to those they know, like and trust, so if you want to be more persuasive at work, take the time to strengthen your personal relationship with each colleague you hope to influence.
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    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.