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The science of persuasian

We all have opinions – and we like to think that we’re right about those opinions. So what does it take to convince someone else? Science has a few things to say about it. Consider the following before your next dinner table conversation with relatives.

Empathy and Passion

When it comes to political arguments specifically, you might think that being more passionate about your cause will help your case. However, with the language you use, it’s more about empathy than passion when it comes to winning over your opponents. A study from Matthew Feinberg and Robb Willer at the University of Toronto found that political persuasion was far more effective when the person stating their claim used the standard “moral language” of the party opposite of their own. So, for example, a Conservative might be able to convince a Liberal of their point by framing it as an issue of “fairness,” while a Liberal would be more successful framing a viewpoint to a Conservative as “patriotic.” The point: If you can empathize with the morality of the person you’re trying to convince, you’ll be more likely to win them over.

6 Principles of Persuasion

Dr. Robert Cialdini, author of Influence, has spent years of scientific research studying the psychology of influence. His findings suggest that, while we’d like to believe that a person will take in all of the information available on any given topic, the brain is designed to look for shortcuts to make decisions. Cialdini has narrowed these shortcuts into six universal principles that, when ethically applied, can help persuade someone of your request or argument:

  1. Reciprocity:  A person is more likely to give in to someone who has given to them, especially if what they’ve been given is personalized and unexpected.
  2. Scarcity: If there is less of something, a person is more likely to want it.
  3. Authority: A person will seek a credible, trustworthy individual for validity.
  4. Consistency: People like to see consistent commitments.
  5. Liking: People prefer to say “yes” to people who are similar to them, pay them compliments or cooperate with them toward mutual goals.
  6. Consensus: A person will look to the actions or behaviors to validate their own.

Read more: Influence by Dr. Robert Cialdini is currently available at Anythink.

Sources: Dr. Robert Cialdini, "The Science of Persuasion"; University of Toronto.

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