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How to Defend Against the Hard Sell

Saying no can be much harder than you expect. It's just a little two-letter word, but in the face of a high pressure salespeople or a pushy colleague it can be hard to defend yourself against those out to separate you from your precious time and money. Boing Boing founder Mark Frauenfelder has pointers to help you resist the advances of pushy people that can help.

Reviewing the book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini on CreditBloggers, Frauenfelder breaks down the six ways pushy persuaders can convince you to do things you really don't want to do. Knowing them helps you fight back against hucksters of all types.

  • Reciprocity -- People tend to return favors out of a sense of obligation. Influencers exploit this by extending a small favor (buying them a Coke from a vending machine) in order to get a bigger favor back (having you buy a car from them).
  • Scarcity -- When people are made to believe something is rare ("a limited time offer!"), they will desire it more.
  • Liking -- People like other people who are members of their "tribe." Influencers seek to find common interests with their victims, tell jokes, and pay compliments. Flattery, Cialdini found, will get you everywhere.
  • Authority -- Influencers who convince their clients, customers, or marks that they are authorities or experts can gain control over them. That's why they hang diplomas (not always genuine) and pictures of themselves posing with famous people on their walls.
  • Social proof -- People are herd animals. They copy each other. When a magazine salesman came to my door a few years ago, he showed me a stack of subscriptions cards that "people in the neighborhood" had filled out. Fortunately I had recently read Cialdini's book and I knew he was using the "social proof" technique. I didn't buy anything.
  • Commitment/consistency -- People like to behave in a consistent manner. Cialdini recounts a personal experience he once had with a young woman with a clipboard who approached him and asked him if he was a patron of the arts. He said yes. She then said she was selling membership to a club that offered discounts to different kinds of artistic events. Cialdini wrote, "I bought the entertainment package, even though I knew I had been set up. The need to be consistent with what I had already said snared me."
Knowing, as any GI Joe fan can tell you, is half the battle. You're now well armed against high-pressure persuaders.

(Image of aggressive sales guy by jchatoff, CC 2.0)