Every day we live and work with other people, interacting with them to achieve our goals. You might be at work, and need a colleague to help you with a project. Maybe you want to ask your boss for a raise. Or maybe you are at home and want someone in your family to do something for you.
How can you maximise your chances of success in life? An understanding of what motivates people to agree with our requests can help you achieve your goals.
For example, you can use the principle of reciprocity to encourage people to agree with your request by first doing something for them. This works even if your favour is smaller than the favour you are requesting.
“Foot in the door” technique
Did you know that if you start out with a small request that most people will agree with, and then ask your real (but more onerous) request, you are more likely to get compliance? This is called the “foot in the door” technique. For example, ask your colleague at work to help you with a little task, such as moving some files, before asking them to help you with your project.
“Door in the face” technique
Perhaps you can use the “door in the face” technique to make your request look more reasonable – a common tactic used in negotiation. Start out with a request larger than what you actually would settle for, and then retreat to a smaller request. If you’ve ever bought or sold a house or car, you’ve probably used this technique.
You can often increase other people’s desire for something through the principle of scarcity. Maybe you only make available a limited number of a product for sale at first. People sometimes infer the quality of a product from the price attached to it. A higher price can make a product seem more desirable. This is sometimes why the price of products are reduced through rebates or “cash back” promotions, so that the original higher price is still attached to the product, signalling that it is high quality (also, only a proportion of people make full use of the rebate and “cash back” offers because it can be inconvenient to use them!).
The many techniques involved in persuasion are really important for how society functions, and knowing them can help you achieve your goals. They can also help you avoid being taken advantage of in certain contexts.
Do you remember the last time a telemarketer called you? The marketer would have used a variety of techniques to try and get you to agree to make a purchase or donation. It can be really hard to say no to these requests. But knowledge of how these techniques work, and the realisation that sometimes persuasion techniques get used for non-genuine reasons can help you avoid being influenced in ways that undermine your own goals.
Psychology can help you succeed by helping you understand how other people see the world, and how that might be different than how you see the world. Psychology also shows us how our impressions of other people are affected by our own preconceptions. Being able to understand other people’s perspectives can be important for working and living productively with them.
Learn more about how to persuade other people and how we perceive the social world in Introduction to Social Psychology.
This course is part of the Introduction to Developmental, Social & Clinical Psychology XSeries program, where you learn psychology to better understand why we think and behave the way we do and how to treat and identify psychological disorders.
This is a guest post from Blake McKimmie, associate professor at the University of Queensland.
23 Sep 2020