At some point today, tomorrow, this week, you will need to influence someone to do something – your employee, your partner, your client, your child.

Have you ever thought about what makes people say ‘yes’ to your requests?

I’m going to share few tips with you on how to  become a skilled persuader. Whether it’s your business or your teenage child, these universal principles will boost your power of persuasion.

I first became interested in the power of persuasion when I was 19 years old and I was studying for my degree in Sociology.  As a student back then I used to use public transport quite a lot to get to my lectures. In Poland, where I come from, we would never really queue at bus stops, and it was a bit of a jungle rule of ‘survival of the fittest’ when it came to boarding the bus.

At some point during my daily struggles to actually get on the bus, I discovered a little ‘power’. I would stand among the crowd but made sure I could make eye contact with the bus driver. I started experimenting on a daily basis, and to my surprise it worked each time. I would look straight into bus driver’s eyes and smile, as others at the bus stop were hustling and were too busy squeezing their way through the crowd. Each time, the bus stopped with its door quite close to me, so I could board the bus as one of the first passengers.

Since then I have been hooked on how much we can influence others’ decisions, especially in business- body language and smile are just one of them.

The general rules are:

  • Reciprocity- just imagine you need to make a last minute change to your booking in a very busy and well-known restaurant, you call them and you encounter a not-so- helpful member of staff who is telling you it’s impossible to change anything at that stage. To increase your chances of success in this apparently unachievable mission, you might want to mention to them that you have been very satisfied with the service so far and you would  like to send an email to their supervisor to tell them about it. After you get the details of the supervisor, tell them your request. Make sure you follow up with what you have promised.
  • Scarcity- if something is described as being available only for a  limited time or there are only limited number, we instantly want it, because we think it’s valuable and  we don’t want to lose out on such a lucrative offer. So create the feeling of urgency with phrases such as:  “limited spaces available”; “hurry, this offer ends today”- they will often help to boost your sales.
  • Commitment and consistency- I’m sure you have experienced it already in your life; when you commit to doing something – verbally or in writing-  whether for yourself or somebody else, you are more likely to do it on time, as you would feel unprofessional if you did not deliver to your promise. Delivering when you promised to will increase people’s confidence in you, and make them more likely to return to you when they need your service again.
  • Liking- being liked by your clients helps you sell, and you also buy more from people YOU like (even though you might not like the fact); there’s a whole science behind how to make people like you, and it’s a topic for another post; however these few tips might help: smile, be yourself and be authentic, be genuinely interested in the other person, be a good listener and most importantly- encourage others to talk about themselves.
  • Authority- we trust more in products recommended by people with authority; we also believe more in what people in authority are saying (even if these people are just actors dressed up as ‘doctors’ or ‘lawyers’ in TV adverts)
  • Social proof- yes, we are social animals and we tend to follow what others do, especially our friends ,and  people with the same values, but-  we also simply follow the crowd. If you see a phrase “most sold item” or “people who bought this, also bought …” you are more likely to buy the product.
  • Turning a weakness into a strength- you might think it is counterintuitive, however it might be worth mentioning a small drawback of your product as it will create the perception of honesty and it will make you and your company more trustworthy. As L’oreal say “we’re expensive, but you’re worth it.”


These changes are small and subtle, and sometimes we don’t even realise we are reacting to them. That bus driver probably had no idea about the pattern he was following, or that I had affected where he was stopping the bus. But a few small changes can have a big impact on the success you have in your everyday dealings with colleagues, customers and even friends and family.