Be honest. You'd like to be able to get your own way a little more often, wouldn't you? Convince your boss you're worth that raise; persuade that tetchy co-worker to be more of a team player; encourage your partner to put out the trash; get your kids to put down the iPad for ten minutes and study for that test.
Of all the skills needed to successfully navigate your way through today's information overloaded world the ability to influence and persuade others is surely one of the most important to master; and the good news is that you can. Best of all, becoming a more persuasive person won't require you to abandon your morals, adopt the slippery tactics of the snake oil salesman or resort to dangling costly carrots or threatening sticks. Anyone can win over more people and persuade them to say 'Yes' by making small shifts in their approach that link to deeply felt human motivations.
Here are a few examples of small changes that can make a big difference to your influence that feature in the new book The Small Big (Hachette, $28.00).
Researchers have conducted numerous studies looking at many different requests; from the soliciting of charitable donations to the borrowing of a stranger's phone. In each case people are first asked to predict how likely it is that people will agree to their request. In most cases they underestimate their success rate -- by around half.
Why do requesters typically underestimate the likelihood that people will say 'yes' to them? It's because they tend to focus their attention on the costs that those they are asking will incur, such as their time. In contrast, helpers are much more likely to focus attention on the social costs of saying 'no.'
A simple truth emerges. People are far more likely to say 'yes' than you'd expect. So avoid those missed opportunities and get asking.
About to go into a negotiation with a co-worker? In the market for a new car? You can increase your chances of a better outcome if the opening offer you make ends in a precise rather than a round-ended number. Why? According to behavioral scientists people in receipt of precise offers are more likely to think the person making the offer has very good reasons to support offer they are making. So even though it may be easier and simpler to ask your boss for a 10 percent raise, asking for 9.7 percent percent or 10.3 percent could result in less resistance. And when negotiating with parents, your daughter is more likely to get $15 an hour for babysitting duties if her opening offer is $15.85 rather than $16.
Arrange regular catch-ups.
Understanding the needs and preferences of the people you need to persuade is important and a major advantage of knowing people for longer is that it should be easier for you to predict what they like and dislike. But, this might not always be the case. There is evidence that as the time you have known someone increases your ability to predict their preferences doesn't necessarily get any better. In fact it can get worse.
In one series of studies people were asked to predict the preferences of people with whom they shared a relationship for either two years or 10 years. Remarkably, their predictions were much more accurate for those they had known for a shorter time. The reason is because a significant amount of the knowledge you learn about others occurs in the early stages of the relationship when your motivation to get to know them is higher. As a result it's likely you'll have a much more up-to-date assessment of the people you have known for a short time. As time passes your motivation can wane and, as a result, new information exchanges may occur less often.
What's the implication for your persuasion attempts? Whether it is with a friend, neighbor, or co-worker, the importance of arranging for small, informal and regular catch-ups should not be underestimated.
The evidence is clear -- people give back to those who have first given to them. Waiters in restaurants can increase their tips by an average of 3 percent if they put a mint for each diner on the tray with the bill. If they put two mints per diner on the tray tips increase by 14 percent. It seems that the more you give first, the more get back in return. Research indicates that, besides the amount you give, another factor that elevates reciprocity is the unexpectedness of the gift. Customers presented with 'unexpected' vouchers in store rather than being sent them in advance spent on average 11 percent more in the store. There is direct implication for your influence attempts: to enhance the appreciation (and your subsequent influence) of those you give gifts to and do favors for it isn't necessary to maximize monetary value; instead, you should maximize the surprise value.
Yes you can!
Sometimes the person you really need to persuade is yourself and one small change you can make is to think differently about how you set goals. Research shows that two factors -- challenge and attainability -- have an important influence on goal pursuit. This can make the usual strategy of setting a single and specific goal (think lose three pounds a week... walk 5000 steps day... ) problematic.
One study conducted in a weight loss club found dieters were 60 percent more likely to remain enrolled on the program if instead of setting themselves the usual single, specific goal (e.g., lose 3 pounds a week) they set what psychologists call a 'high-low' goal whose range averaged the same (e.g., lose 2-4 pounds a week). Unlike single number goals, where you have to pick a number that is either relatively attainable, relatively challenging, or compromise somewhere in-between, high-low goals have the advantage of engaging both these factors. Therefore, if you want to promote a sustained effort towards your goals you might obtain substantially greater success by changing your single number goals to high-low ones.
The Small Big: Small Changes That Spark Big Influence by Steve Martin, Noah Goldstein and Robert Cialdini is published on 9th September. For more visit www.thesmallbig.com.