How to Persuade Others Using Psychology? (Ft. Jason Hew)
Welcome to MY Psychology’s Free and Standalone Online Course where you can listen and learn psychology anytime, anywhere.
Hello everyone, my name is Jason Hew, and I am a Bachelor’s Degree holder in Psychology, and welcome to MY Psychology’s crash course on the Psychology of Persuasion. In this first half of the chapter, you will learn two main routes to persuasion and in the second half, you will learn some practical tips to make yourself more convincing while persuading others. So let’s begin.
What is persuasion?
It is a process and an end goal in itself.
“It is to change another person’s attitude or behavior to what we wanted of them, either through verbal or non verbal communication.”
Persuasion is one of the key components of communication. Most of what we want to achieve when we communicate with others is to persuade them.
Maybe you wanted to tell your friends about a movie you just watched last night, so that you can successfully convey your enthusiasm and love for the movie and persuade them to watch it.
Or take for example that time you really wanted that pack of pokemon cards you saw at a stationery shop nearby your primary school, and you try, despite not knowing how, to try and convince your parents to give you five dollars to buy them.
Or maybe you saw a poster of a beer advert, which features a woman in a sexual pose, and you don’t know why, but suddenly, you wanted a beer.
Some might even say that education, in and of itself, is a giant form of persuasion, where a whole body of teachers are trying to persuade students of a particular, “correct” worldview. All of these are situations of persuasion, to influence others with your words, ideas, or images and subtle cues.
The question then is: what makes a particular persuasion work?
To use my own experience as an example, in two of my previous jobs, I worked as a salesperson. Right after I graduated high school, and before college, I sold massage chairs as a full time job, and when I completed my undergrad studies, I worked as a salesman for a distributing company. Throughout the years, I have highly experienced salespeople as colleagues, and I have observed that there are mainly two branches of salespeople, differentiated by their different opinions as to what makes a good salesperson.
The first branch is the more technical bunch, and they believed that for people to buy into our sales pitch, we have to be precise and convincing in our message, or in our presentation. We have to present ourselves as professionals, experts, and every sentence in our pitch should be to reinforce and strengthen our argument, as it is important to build a compelling message. We can be warm and friendly at the same time, but professionalism is key.
The second branch, however, doesn’t care about the strength of the argument. They tend to focus on being as entertaining and as fun as possible towards their customers. Which is to say that they see the key to being a good salesperson as being attractive and likable towards customers and clients. The message of their sales pitch is not that important, it is more important to build a compelling personality, and the sales will follow.
This is not a perfect analogy, but these two types of salespeople I encountered are quite similar to what we called the
“Two Main Routes to Persuasion.”
These two routes contain are the basis of a message designed to persuade an audience. It dictates the audience’s thoughts and responses to your message.
They are: (1) The central route; and (2) the peripheral route.
Like the first type of salesperson I mentioned just now, the central route is centered around the argument itself, emphasizing the strength of the argument. This route functions on the assumption that if the argument itself is compelling enough, persuasion will then be more likely to happen.
Let’s say if I was to persuade a customer to buy a cellphone using the central route, my pitch would consist of comparing the cellphone I am selling to its competitor, its technical advantages, its unique features and how it can solve the customer’s problems. If my argument is strong enough, then naturally, the customer would buy the phone from me.
The peripheral route, however, assumes that sometimes the strength of the argument itself doesn’t matter that much, that there are other factors that affect one’s abilities to think and behave rationally. Like the second type of salesperson, the peripheral route focuses on cues that bypass rational thinking, cues that can create an automatic response from the audience. Using the same example of me selling a cellphone, I might make the same sales pitch to the clients, but I would put more effort into my appearance: my looks, the way I dress and speak, the friendly behavior I put on while I chat casually with my customers, throwing in a few jokes here and there so they would think that I am an entertaining person. In short, this is to create an environment where my customer will be put at ease as if I was a friend or relative casually sharing my opinions to them.
Of course, there are many other ways advertisers use the peripheral route, you can see it on Youtube ads of McDonald’s, where a simple jingle can automatically create vivid and colorful images in your head. Or a long time ago, when cigarettes can still be advertised on TV, cigarette ads typically feature cool looking teens smoking, so that you associate the product with an image of coolness or rebellion, making you more likely to buy them.
The important thing to know is that no route is better than the other, they simply work at different aspects of our mind, and typically we use the two of them together to create a greater argument.
“The central route, if presented carefully, and is well absorbed by the audience, can create more long-lasting change in our behaviors and thoughts. But not many audience have time to analyze all the information and we often use the peripheral route because it can be easier to trust someone who looked like and present themselves as a professional.
You might ask, how does knowing this help me become better at persuading others? HOW IS IT PRACTICAL?
Well….. Imagine if you are shopping in a mall, and you are looking to buy some shoes as you walk into a shoe store, you are approached by two salesmen, both saying the same thing, working in the same shop, selling the same item. BUUUUUUT one of them looked like he hasn’t slept in two days, with greasy hair, and he didn’t shave properly. And is he wearing SLIPPERS? TO WORK?
While the other salesman combed his hair, his teeth white, and he looks super energetic while he is talking with you. And he is always smiling.
I wouldn’t need to ask who you are more likely to be persuaded by, because almost all of us will be more likely to prefer the one with the tidier and presentable appearance.
“So, appearances matter.”
This is why we often buy products that are endorsed by or represented by attractive idols and athletes. We may like to think of ourselves as rational people, who listen and agree to an argument because it is solid on its own, but that is only sometimes true, as persuasion tactics using the peripheral route bypass rational thought to appeal directly to our more automatic responses.
This is because we often equate attractiveness with goodness or trustworthiness. Again, not all of us, and not all the time, but we do this because it is automatic and easy, and we are primed by biology and culture to do so. To give you a common example, in fairy tales, the princesses are beautiful and kind, while the witches are ugly and cruel. It is an easy association to make, and because our minds like simplicity, we continue to use it.
Of course, attractiveness doesn’t just end with physical attractiveness. Because that would be sad for people like me, who doesn’t look like Christiano Ronaldo or Jennifer Lawrence. Physical attractiveness works in situations when the audience is less analytical or critical, and it also works as a sort of a “distraction”, because when an audience is distracted by flashy or stimulating cues, they became less likely to form counterarguments, and will instead go with the flow.
Another important factor when it comes to attractiveness is: Similarity or relatability.
What do I mean by this?
Well, in social psychology it is well-documented that we tend to like those who resemble us, and such relationships are more likely to be stronger than a relationship between two individuals who shared nothing in common. The more similar someone else is behaving as you are, the more we perceive them to be relatable, down-to-earth, and at the same time, ATTRACTIVE. Health organizations do this all the time, for example, in anti-smoking campaigns targeted at the youth. They often cast teenagers who look and behave similarly to their target audience, so that the actions and message delivered can seem more relatable and therefore, truer.
If you pay close attention to salespeople while they are making a pitch to you, you can see that they are mimicking your small gestures or postures, speaking in a similar fashion, or repeating things you said in their pitch. This is called “mirroring” in psychology. Of course, we must do this subtly, too obvious and others will notice it and it won’t work. But if used carefully, it creates empathy and rapport. We trust the person mirroring us, because they act as we do, because they are similar to us.
Okay, that’s all for attractiveness.
How about other factors that cannot be discovered on our physical features, something else in the communicator that makes us go: “I trust that person!”
“That factor is called “credibility”.”
Remember at the start this chapter I mentioned my alma mater. Even though it is still a relatively low position in the academic world, it can add to my appearance of credibility, making me seem more like an expert in the field and therefore, more trustworthy towards those who are OUTSIDE the field.
That is why conmen usually pretend to be highly distinguished individuals, decorating their names with titles and honors, so that when others see their name, and hear their talk filled with empty technical terms, people believe them, because there is an air of professionalism surrounding that person. We are more likely to believe someone on TV with a PhD in their name than those without such a title.
So, how do we appear credible to others?
There are two ways to approach this: (1) creating a sense of expertise and (2) creating trustworthiness.
We create a sense of expertise if we are seen to be KNOWLEDGEABLE in the subject matter. As mentioned before, if I was someone with a PhD in their title, or even better, someone who belonged in an academic society, people would be more likely to buy tickets and line-up for a lecture I was about to give, than if I was just a random Passerby A on the streets.
We can also seem an expert if we are confident in what we say. Think of the times when we have barely read the book for an assignment, and yet, if we speak confidently, seem to be energetic and charismatic, we are able to convince others into believing we have read it. In short, to appear confident, speak in a straightforward and swift manner.
For example, if two salesmen are selling laptops, and their customer is asking about the battery life of that model, salesman A who answered without hesitation:
“It would be around 8 to 9 hours”
would be more convincing than salesman B who answered:
“I think, let’s see, it would be about 9 hours, if I’m not mistaken.
I think that should be about it, 8 to 9 hours”.
Another way that helps is to start with a statement that the audience agrees with. As mentioned before, we like those that we are similar with, the same goes for arguments, we agree with those who agree with us.
As for trustworthiness, it is much more tricky. Because when it comes to persuading others, it helps if the audience believe that the communicators are not trying to persuade them, because the instant they know that the speakers are in this for the profit or for other benefits, they are turned off and become distant.
To use myself as a personal example, my mother was an insurance agent, and whenever she started talking about insurance to me, I would find the nearest exit and just run away as fast as possible. It wasn’t until one day when she frame her talk as “a sharing” that I just accepted my fate and sat down to listen. And I hear this all the time at various seminars or direct sales conferences,
“I am not trying to sell you something, I am just sharing something that I believe is good, and if in the end, you think that it is also good,
then I can help you in the process.”
This is still slightly obvious, but it does the trick.
This might seem counterintuitive, but when we see someone else who can stand to profit from our being persuaded, this makes them seem insincere, and that’s why we believe products or companies when celebrities who appeared to be naive endorse them because their motivations seemed purer. To take it to another extreme, that’s why we believe those who are willing to suffer for their beliefs, people like Mandela or Gandhi, who else can suffer more than them? We are convinced because they present a picture of sincerity and trustworthiness.
So, a short summary.
There are two main routes of persuasion:
- the central route that emphasizes the strength of the message
- the peripheral route that emphasizes on cues that can bypass rational conscious thinking and instead aim at more automatic responses.
To become more convincing, first thing to note: the attractiveness of the persuader. You can make yourself more presentable and create a sense of similarity with your audience such as mirroring their gestures subtly, or choosing persuaders that look and behave similarly to the audience.
Second: increase your credibility.
- You can begin a conversation by saying information or statements that your audience agrees with
- Then, you can increase your image of expertise by speaking confidently, delivering your message in a swift and concise manner
- Next, to appear as trustworthy to others. Frame your message as a sharing session instead of explicitly selling them something, so that they believe that you are not trying to persuade them. By doing this, you will not look like you are trying to PROFIT off of them, which makes you seem more sincere and trustworthy.
Thank you for having this course. Now that we have reached the end of this short course, it’s time to say goodbye, and good luck, I hope you can persuade everyone in your life after this. I hope you enjoyed this short time we shared together. Until next time, I am Hew, with you MY Psychology.
Transcript Written and Read by Jason Hew
Jason Hew [ B.Psych (Hons) ]: Highly acclaimed script writer, avid reader of complementary and classic works; Jason Hew has proven himself as an amazing writer and chief editor in My Psychology. Having his chapter published and written insightful articles for psychology platform, he now strives to create amazing podcast that not only once again proves his ability, but also his ambition to be the very best in his field around the world.
Press the button below or filled in the google form below to give us feedback. Help us grow this podcast for everyone.