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The 10 laws of influence

Justin Timberlake seemed silly. In high school, my group wore wallet chains and listened to nirvana, so imagine our disdain for boy bands.

Then I saw JT's brilliance on The Social Network and was converted. In this film, he delivers an almost perfect performance as the founder of Napster and a textbook example of an influencer who pulls Mark Zuckerberg under his spell without violence.

I started to wonder: can you learn this kind of influence?

The opposite of violence

Have you ever worked for a boss who ruled with an iron fist and maybe even threatened your job? If you didn't pull your feet out of subtle protest, you're a better person than me.
Intimidation and coercion are only temporary. Influence continues.

Unfortunately, our powers of influence are usually as strong as that of gas station coffee (i.e., watery). It is not a skill taught to us in school or by sleep-deprived parents who prefer the abbreviation "because I said it" versus "here is why this is in your best interests".
If you're having trouble getting others to like your Facebook Page, now you know why. But influence is a skill that can be learned. Apply these 10 laws and you will plow a direct path to your best life.

Law # 1: Understand Your Results.

"You can't hit a target that you can't see, and you can't see a target that you don't have." - Zig Ziglar

The first law of influence is that you know exactly what you want the other person to do. This seems obvious, but many go straight through this step. Have you ever complained to your partner about their working hours? What you're probably saying is, "love me more damn it."

Have you argued about how much your partner spends on clothes or coffee? Bet you really want to feel the sense of security that comes with keeping rental money for a few months.
We try to influence hundreds of situations every day. When we accidentally get what we want we wonder why we are still unhappy. Have you ever received a promotion or raise only to find out you really wanted a few more vacation days per year, or just a little more appreciation from the boss?

Without exception, everything we do or not do in life is ultimately to get a feeling: security, excitement, love and so on. Start with how you want to feel, then turn on the influence.

Law # 2: Listen First.

"Change happens by listening and then starting a dialogue with people who are doing something that you don't believe is right." - Jane Goodall

After you know what you want, it's time to chase after him like a speeding freight train full of angry cops. No, wait, this is not right. Slowly. Low. You can get anything you want but not the bulldozer approach.

Toddlers hit and scream for shiny objects; Skilled influencers exercise patience and first ask questions about their influencing goals.

Sometimes this requires direct questions like, "What can I do to sell you this new car?" In most cases, subtle, open-ended queries work best: “What are you working on?” For example.

When you listen to your partner or colleague, he or she feels heard. And when that person is glowing with those feel good vibes, they usually bend back to hear you.

Listening creates more than receptivity. It will help you figure out what a person wants. You can use this to negotiate some kind of trade (see Law No. 8). Take an interest in people. Ask questions with enthusiasm and a real desire to serve, and you will be a powerful influence.

Law # 3: Tell Stories.

"The human species thinks in metaphors and learns through stories." - Mary Catherine Bateson

When I worked in politics, I heard a lot: "You should vote for me because we doubled funding for schools, got 10% more cops on the streets, and funded your local museums, blah, blah, blah."

Even I was bored with our party message. That's because logic, statistics, and facts don't move most people. We think we are rational animals, but it is emotion that sets our bones on fire.
Stories - not white papers - generate emotions, and emotions lead to action. Stories have been a universal constant throughout history and cultures. We seem hardwired to tell and hear them.

Compare these two approaches:

"620,000 people worldwide have died from COVID-19, so you should wear a mask."
“A 3 month old girl died of the virus yesterday. The grieving parents ask you to wear a mask. "
Stories speak directly to the best in each of us - our compassion, our nobility, our enthusiasm, our inspiration - in ways that hard facts cannot. As you learn to tell stories, you will apply what the ancient Greeks called pathos: the ability to use emotions to move your audience.

Law # 4: Be an Authority.

"Leadership is influence, nothing more and nothing less." - John C. Maxwell

Are you more cooperative when a doctor tells you, "Here, take this medicine" or when a stranger does this?

Would you be more willing to leave the fast lane on the freeway if a police car - or a smart car - comes down on you from behind and the lights flash?

We are more likely to hold onto someone we perceive to be an authority. and you don't have to wear a uniform to influence others (although it helps).

One study found that real estate agents can increase their business by 15% simply by letting a receptionist inform callers of the agent's qualifications before transferring the client to the agent.

You can do the same by showing off testimonials on your website or in your marketing materials, hanging your diplomas in your office, or looking for celebrities. Even if you lack a real authority, you can project it by speaking confidently or by dressing well.

Better yet, have someone else sing your praises in front of the person you want to influence. That's more believable than blowing our own horn.

Law # 5: Be Nice.

"This is the law of sympathy: the real you is the best that you are." - Michelle Tillis Lederman

Dr. Robert Cialdini has spent his life looking for influence and found that sympathy is key to cultivating influence. We like people who are like us. We want to be with people who have a magnetic effect and make us feel good.

Have you ever said to a stranger, "She is brilliant!" That's probably because you see in her the qualities that you admire in yourself.
But what if you're a Rolling Stones fan trying to influence a Beatles lover? You're in luck: there are tactics that can help you become more personable in the eyes of the object of your influence.

According to Cialdini, one of the easiest ways is to compliment this person. Just make sure yours are real and sincere or they will become false praise of flattery that people can smell from a mile away.

Small talk works too. Effective salespeople start by asking a lot of questions about you: your children, your job, your interests, etc., to find common ground - it's not just a joke.

In a number of studies of negotiations, one group was told to get straight to the point and about half reached an agreement. The other group was asked to share some personal information first and their success rate rose to 90%.

Make people like you and your influence will increase.

Law No. 6: Create Scarcity.

"Like gold and diamonds, praise owes its value to its scarcity." - Samuel Johnson

Daniel Kahneman received a Nobel Prize for proving that people are not that rational. It showed that when we take calculated risks, we are obsessed with avoiding losses.

Therefore, instead of risking a career change, we stay in a job or relationship that is “not bad”. "It could be worse, right?" So instead of doing the sensible thing: buy more of it, we're selling a stock that is depreciating.

And that's why we are easily motivated by scarcity: We want more of what is less. We fear missing an opportunity and act now. Limited time or amount offers work. "5 tickets left!" and "Price goes up at midnight!" are tactics that will be just as effective in 2099.

Show a person what they will miss out on if they don't work with you to increase your influence.

Law No. 7: Appeal to Reason.

"The only way on earth to influence other people is to talk about what they want and show them how to get it." - Dale Carnegie

People rarely climb to Dr. Spock levels of logic, but we undoubtedly have the faculty of reason. Even Captain Kirk from time to time would solve problems without phasers or fists.

Both the Starfleet philosophers and the Greeks knew the power of logos, or reason, to win the mind. The origin of the term means "argument". But don't conjure up a picture of this couple quarreling on the street - to argue literally means "to give reasons".

Good arguments are to give someone solid reasons for what to do, even if they or others have potentially strong motives for the opposite. Reason can work even when the person you are trying to influence is not in the mood to do what you suggest. It is for this reason that people vote for a particular party "so that the other one does not come in".

Arguing is a skill that you can certainly develop through practice in your everyday life or through public speaking groups like Toastmasters. Reason is never as powerful or long-lasting as emotions when it comes to driving change. However, if you're only looking for short-term action, this can be a powerful lever in your influence toolkit.

Law No. 8: Trade.

"You can have anything in life if you can just help other people get what they want." - Zig Ziglar

If emotional appeals, reason, or sympathy cannot get you what you want, there is always bribery! I'm kind of joking, but the saying, "You scratch my back and I scratch yours" persists for a reason. Everyone wants to know, "What's in it for me?" An appeal to the basic self-interests of others can therefore be very motivating.

The law of reciprocity forces us to repay someone for a kindness they do for us - even to increase our generosity! Because of this, free samples and payment for dinner bring rewards. Cialdini found this game in his research, which showed that a diner's tips increase by up to 23% when a server dips a few mints with the bill.

Collect favors to increase your influence. Help people achieve their goals without asking for anything first and claim your chips later. You can quickly understand what people want by using Law 2: Listen first.

Just be aware: once you create incentives for people, they always expect a reward. Use this influence sparingly.


Law # 9: Encourage Consistency.


"We all fool ourselves from time to time in order to keep our thoughts and beliefs consistent with what we have already done or decided." —Dr. Robert Cialdini

The "flip-flopper" holds a special place of disdain in our minds. The person who says one thing on Monday and does another on Tuesday puts a bitter taste in our mouth.

When it comes to our own behavior, we'll do backflips to appear consistent. Effective influencers, especially salespeople, know this. That's why they get you saying "yes" at the start of a conversation with innocent questions, and avoid all questions that could elicit a "no."

“When you have said‘ no, ’all your pride of personality demands that you remain consistent with yourself,” writes Dale Carnegie in How to Win Friends & Influence People. Start out seeking small yesses, or small commitments, and you'll find more success asking for bigger ones.

You can also encourage consistency by having your target write down their commitment or make it public (try this tactic with your own goals — accountability works!) One doctor's office found that they could reduce missed appointments by 18% if they had patients write out their own appointment cards at the previous check-up, because writing it down makes a commitment more concrete in our brains.

Give people a chance to prove their consistency and your influence will grow.

Law # 10: Build Consensus.

“Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing. " -Albert Schweitzer

We seek to be consistent, not only with ourselves, but with others. Peer pressure is part of every high school experience, but a study of British drinkers showed that it operates on adults, too. Those who drank little to no alcohol gave into binge drinking when other pub-goers egged them on.

Human evolution favored social groups over lone wolves, and that genetic wiring plays out today in Black Friday hysteria, dressing like your peers, even your strongest political beliefs.
If you can leverage this primordial need for harmony, you can exert a lot of influence, and in some cases even convince people to act against their wishes (but let's use this power for good, OK?)
Let's say that you're trying to convince your tech-challenged boss to support your proposal for a paperless office. He’s more likely to go digital if you build a coalition of your colleagues first, then bring him that unanimity.

This effect is also called “herd” or “flock mentality,” and was illustrated recently by a study at University of Leeds. Researchers had groups of people walk randomly around a large room. The kicker? Five percent of participants were told to take a certain route. After a short time, the other 95% were following the same path without knowing why.

Success in life means getting what you want at least a majority of the time. And nobody, not even the most talented individual, can do this alone. We rely on others, whether it's to buy our product or give us a job.

Many people rely on weak arguments, coercion, begging, nagging or even tantrums to sway others, which is why so many people don’t have what they want yet. Influence says: You can have it all, if only you convince others to see that your interests are theirs.
Follow these 10 laws and you'll find out that you've always had the power of influence inside of you.

The 10 laws of influence