You Are More Persuasive Than You Think
Congratulations! You finished the Persuasion Science Masterclass. There has been a lot to think about, but you should be proud to have made it this far.
As we draw this to a close, there are a couple points that I wanted to make to bring everything together. The first is simply that persuasion can be treated as a science. I was careful to show you how carefully controlled experiments provide evidence for these principles. Many people think that it’s enough to just guess at what persuades people or to simply use their intuition. By applying careful tests and thinking critically about the evidence, we can maximize our influence.
The other point I want to emphasize is that these influence principles apply to many situations. “Persuasion” is everywhere. Sure, we often think about it as consumer marketing or political rhetoric, but persuasion is also asking a friend to help you move, convincing your team that you have a good idea, or subtly nudging a family member to make better choices. The evidence in this email series covered a broad range of scenarios, so you should keep thinking about all the ways this information applies to the world.
Finally, knowing these principles is helpful for more than just being influential yourself. In addition, you now know how you might get swindled and talked into doing something you’d rather not do. Keep an eye out for these principles and techniques. And if you notice them, stop for a second and ask, “Do I actually want to say yes or am I being pressured into doing so?” At the end of the day, you have the freedom to make your own choices.
I want to leave you with one last finding from persuasion science to inspire you. According to a lot of new research over the last few years, it has become clear that people tend to underestimate their influence. Let’s say you needed to borrow someone’s cell phone. How many people do you think you’d have to ask before someone let you borrow his or her phone to make a call?
In one study (Flynn & Lake, 2008), researchers asked people a similar question. Instead, though, participants estimated how many people they’d have to approach before three people would agree to lend them their phones. On average, the participants guessed that they’d have to ask about 10 people.
Then the participants actually went out and tried to get three people to lend them their phones! This way we can see whether they were accurate in their guesses. As it turns out, it only took approaching an average of six people to get three people to lend their cell phones. In other words, people underestimated how willing other people would be to help them out.
And it’s not just cell phones! Studies have shown that people underestimate others’ willingness to complete questionnaires, donate to a charity, provide directions, and lie on a signed document (see Bohns, 2016).
So know that you have the power to persuade—and that power increases with knowledge! Thanks again for coming along, and I hope you enjoyed this Highbrow course. Be sure to get in touch with me if you have any questions. Happy influencing!
All the best,
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