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Influencing Others: 6 Reasons Why People Say Yes

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Six psychological ways to sell, or refuse salesmen.

selling, sales, motivation, yes, convince, reciprocity, scarcity, cialdini, consistency, social proof, authority, liking

It is nice to get people to do stuff you like. And luckily, just by hanging out with the people around you, you probably already found a lot of ways to accomplish this.

What you may not know, however, is that most of these different motivations stem from just 6 universal principles of influence. Psychology and Marketing expert Robert Cialdini wrote a popular book,  Influence: Science and Practice,  about this in 1984 and marketeers have been living by it ever since. Knowing this may help you to actually walk passed the salesman next time instead of signing up for another newspaper or good cause again.



Here are his 6 reasons you and others say “yes”:


Be aware if someone is unexpectedly nice to you: receiving a favour automatically triggers you to want to return it. You wouldn’t say it with the American creditcard culture flourishing, but we just don’t like to be in debt. Very friendly indeed, but not so practical.

Limited Edition! Only Available Now! You Just Won something because you’re the Unique number 100.000 to visit of our website! If something is rare, it’s attractive. Because if you don’t buy it then, it will almost feel like you actually lost something. Great trick of the mind. Also works with love: playing hard to get.

Commitment and Consistency

If you already complied to do something little for a cause, you’re more likely to do something big as well. We start asking ourselves: Why did we do that little thing in the first place? It is all about our need to feel consistent. That is also why it is always wise to let people talk about what they are going to do, it increases the chances of them actually doing it.

Consensus or Social Proof

We like to do what other people do. Cialdini showed this is a stronger motivator for hotel guests to reuse their towels than just helping the environment, the next generation, or the hotel itself, as the signs usually say. A sign that noted that most of the other hotel guests re use their towel increased compliance with 28 percent.


This sounds obvious, but there is more to it. Potential buyers or volunteers do not always have to like the work or product that is offered to them. It also helps if they like the seller. This ‘liking’ can be increased rather easily by flattering them or making them familiar with the organization with repeated contact: advertisement.


You probably heard about the Milgram experiments, where subjects gave fatal electric shocks to others just because someone in an impressive outfit told them to. It is freaky, but it is true.

Which one of these principles works best differs across individuals and cultures, however, as Cialdini himself showed with an experiment on American versus Polish participants. He asked them to volunteer in a marketing survey, convincing them in two different ways. He either pointed out their earlier compliance to these requests (consistency) or he told them about the compliance of others (social proof). As expected, this last trick seemed to work best on the, generally more collectivistically raised, Polish subjects, whereas the usually somewhat more individualistic Americans were particularly influenced by their own history of compliance.

Photo: Flickr,


Reference: Robert B. Cialdini, Wilhelmina Wosinska, Daniel W. Barrett, Jonathan Butner, Malgorzata Gornik-Durose (1999). Compliance with a request in two cultures: The differential influence of social proof and commitment/consistency on collectivists and individualists. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin DOI: 10.1177/0146167299258006

selling, sales, motivation, yes, convince, reciprocity, scarcity, cialdini, consistency, social proof, authority, liking

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  • Anonymous

    Oh my. I thought this article was fairly interesting and revealed something about marketeers that I was unaware of, not only that but it also was fairly short and to the point. The sixth reason I personally liked how it referred to Stanley Milgram who I read about just recently. Just how many people followed that man’s orders is astounding, and just because the Experimenter told them to is a perfect example of Authority and Obedience. I also liked how these 6 reasons also got me to reflect times where I found these to be true but never actually thought about them until today… One instance, I played a carnival game once that I noticed no one was playing, but suddenly after I played just once a crowd had gathered around and the man challenged them to say “yes” and try futilely to beat the game. Overall I liked this short article, and I may continue to read more like this.

  • McKenzie C

    Most recently in my college Psychology class, we’ve been discussing the Rule of Reciprocity. By definition, in reference to “Discovering Psychology (Hockenbury & Hockenbury)” The Rule of Reciprocity is this: If someone gives you something or does you a favor, you feel obligated to return the favor. It’s funny that I came across this article. A few weeks ago I was walking around the mall and I was stopped by one of those people who are at the stands that kind of just sit in the center of the walkway around the mall. He was selling hair straighteners and they were outrageous in price. He then asked for me to sit down so he could demonstrate how the straightener works. He began to compliment my hair for it’s length and beauty but then told me how damaged it was probably because the straightener I had been using up to that point wasn’t up to par technology wise like his was. He then proceeded to tell me that normally the straighteners sold for an XXX amount of dollars and he could see the skepticism on my face. He then told me because he “liked” me that he would cut the price of the straightener nearly in half, and on top of that threw another straightener into the deal for what he considered “free of charge”. I decided to see if I could then in fact scam the scammer by telling him I only had an amount that was $30 less than his now reduced price. I had enough but did this simply to test my own approach to The Rule of Reciprocity. He told me once again because he “liked” me he would accept what I had. I walked out with the straightener I purchased, the free one he claimed to have thrown in, and some hair products he had given me as well. I went back a week later and he asked if I was able to pay him the other $30 but I proceeded to tell him not today. It couldn’t be more true, however, in terms of salesmen trying to use the rule of reciprocity. He at first was trying to scam me out of money then “cut a deal” with me so that I in turn would buy his product. He also used the power of persuasion to interest me in buying the product, by telling me how much better it would be for my hair and how it was incredibly beneficial for me to purchase. So by me doing the salesman a favor of purchasing his product, he in turn gave me the idea that he had done a favor for me as well.

  • Austin

    I found this article very intriguing because it really relates to a major topic in psychology, conformity. Conformity happens when people adjust their own opinions, behavior, or judgement to match that of others. This article’s 6 reasons can relate to the factors that influence conformity. Those factors are that humans want to be liked and accepted in a group and have the desire to be right. This topic of conforming can be related to psychologist Solomon Asch’s study. Asch conducted an experiment to show if someone would still conform to a group even if the group was clearly wrong. What he found was that 12 out of 18 times the person conformed simply because they did not want to answer differently from the rest of the group.

  • Shawn W

    This article covers six main ways people say yes. I very much agree with all of them, but i would like to go into further depth of some of the reasons. One of the reasons I would like to go more into depth with is the Reciprocity. Rule of Reciprocity is when someone gives you something or does you a favor, you feel obligated to return the favor. The “favor” can be almost anything freely given, such a free soft drink or a free food sample in a grocery store. One strategy that uses the tule of reciprocity is called the door-in-the-face technique. First a persuader makes a large request that you’re certain to refuse, you “slam the door in his/her face” by quickly turning him down. Then the persuader backs off and makes a much smaller request. This then looks like the persuader is trying to be reasonable and you give in and give the persuader the smaller request.

    The next reason I would like to address is Authority. As stated in the text “Milgram experiments, where subjects gave fatal electric shocks to others just because someone in an impressive outfit told them to. It is freaky, but it is true.” The “teachers” in the experiment would hear the fake screams of the “learner” as they were being shocked, this resulted in the “teachers” wishing to stop the experiment because they were worried about the “learners” safety, the experimenter would say, “The experiment requires that you continue.” The teachers would only precede the experiment if the experimenter would say they have full responsibility of the learner. Thus having diffusion of responsibility.

    Another experiment that would closely relate to this article is Solomon Asch’s Conformity experiment. Conformity occurs when you adjust your opinions, judgment, or behavior do that is matches other people, or the norms of a social group or situation. The more critical issue is how far we’ll go to adjust our perceptions and opinions so that they’re in sync with the majority opinion. Solomon Asch posed a straight forward question: Would people still conform to the group if the group opinion was clearly wrong. The answer is yes. In Asch experiment whatever answer the first person said was the answer that everyone else of the group conformed. For example, you’re in line getting food, there is a charity box of to the side, everyone else seems to be putting money in, so then you soon conform to the people ahead of you and drop some money in as well.

    This article has good insight on why people say yes, those are just the few i’ve decided to go further into.

  • Lucas Scalzo

    In my Psychology class we discussed authority and Milgram’s experiment and the concept of obedience and conformity as well. Two third of the subjects in Milgram’s experiment shocked the learners in increments up to 450 volts. The shocks themselves were faked and the individual being shocked was part of the experiment, leaving only the “teacher” who administered the shocks as the independent variable in the experiment. The subjects in the experiment obeyed the researchers because of various reasons one of them would be their professional appearance. Interesting too is the experiment on American versus Polish participants where the Polish participants were more compliant than Americans, that shows that cross culture is also a factor in obedience and conformity.