Principle #3: Resistance

16.03.2017 |

Episode #9 of the course Persuasion science masterclass: part I by Andy Luttrell


… or really, overcoming resistance.

There’s a lot that can get in the way of your success as an influencer if you’re trying to influence people’s thoughts, behaviors, opinions, and beliefs. You’re going to encounter some resistance, and it’s generally the case that people just don’t like to be told what to do.

We feel that we should have the freedom to make our own choices and decide for ourselves what we should think about, do, and act like in society. When someone comes along and tries to tell us what to do, we don’t like it very much.

The “Social Rule”: We should have the freedom to think for ourselves and other people shouldn’t tell us what to do.

The Principle of Influence: You can gain compliance by assuring people they have freedom of choice.

There’s a concept in persuasion science called “Dogmatic Language,” and it’s related to this kind of resistance. It’s definitely something you want to avoid, because when you use dogmatic language, you create the sense that you’re trying to control another person, and it can accidentally persuade people to do the opposite of what you’d hope.

For example, in one study (Silvia, 2006), a communicator was trying to convince students to adopt a new policy at their school. When he uses dogmatic language, he says: “Here are my reasons… They’re good reasons, so I know you completely agree with all of them. Because when you think about it you are really forced to agree with me because this is a universal student issue.”

This kind of language is bad for influence because people end up believing even more strongly that the policy is a bad idea. In other words, the opposite of the communicator’s intention. We close ourselves off to actually listening to a person who’s this forceful about their opinions and react against it.

Interestingly, some other research has shown that direct eye contact can have the same effects as dogmatic language (Chen, Minson, Schöne, & Heinrichs, 2013). When you make really strong eye contact with someone as you’re making your point or making your request, it feels controlling. People don’t like it and react against it in the same way as a dogmatic message.

Tomorrow, I’m going to show you one technique that you can use to get rid of this resistance. Even though your goal is to influence people, you have to grapple with the fact that people don’t want to be influenced. People want to choose for themselves. So how do you work against this resistance? You use this technique called the “But You Are Free” technique, and you’ll see more about what that means in tomorrow’s lesson.


Recommended book

“Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive” by Noah J. Goldstein Ph.D. Steve J. Martin, Robert Cialdini Ph.D


Share with friends