“Nothing is so unbelievable that oratory
cannot make it acceptable.
-Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 BC – 43 BC, Roman Philosopher

Have you ever wondered why some people seem to say the right thing at the right time and get what they want while others fail at persuasion? The subject has always fascinated me.

Having been a peak performance coach for over three decades, I’ve learned every trick in the book to persuade people to step out of their comfort zone and change. The truth is that, in the past, it would have been extremely difficult to teach the skill of persuasion to others, even though I’ve studied a science called Neuro-Linguistic Programming and have years of experience in the field of hypnosis. These techniques are useful tools for persuasion, but with the advancement of neuroscience, the game has changed. What was once considered the “art” of persuasion is now looked at as the “science” of persuasion. In fact, our brain is wired to be persuaded IF certain laws are followed.

Here are what I consider the top 3 laws to becoming a successful persuader:
The Law of Reciprocity: The American Heritage Dictionary defines reciprocity as “A mutual or cooperative interchange of favors or privileges…” You may have heard the Law of Reciprocity expressed as: “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine.” This concept applies to every culture and can be traced back as for as 1070 B.C., according to a translation from The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant: “Do for one who may do for you, that you may cause him thus to do”.

The bottom line is that our brain is wired for reciprocity. It’s not only a deep instinct; it is also the basic currency of social life. As a black-belt persuader, the key is to present things in a way that what you want is not in your own self-interest. In the simplest of terms – give something first. Top sales people instinctively do this.

You have experienced it dozens of times in your life, perhaps without being aware that your reciprocity reflex was being tapped. Think about the time you have apparently gotten something for nothing. Consider the free address stickers and postcards you have received from organizations like the disabled veterans. What did you do with the donation-request envelope? What do you often do when you receive what appears to be ‘discount coupons’ for a car wash, books, restaurants or an inexpensive carpet cleaning? How much do you spend after you receive free samples of food in the supermarkets? How do you respond when a friend or new acquaintance gives you a gift or does you a unexpected kindness?

If you get something for nothing, part of you may be pleased, but part of you, your wired, automatic process, moves your hand to your wallet to give something back. As Jonathan Haidt writes in his book, The Happiness Hypothesis, “Reciprocity is like a magic wand that can clear you through the jungle of social life.”

The Law of Humor: The use of humor as a tool for persuasion is very powerful, effective and stems from neurophysiology.

Our primitive brain is wired for survival and, for the human species to have survived all these millions of years, we had to see things in a logical way. Let’s call it a “vertical” way of thinking. Vertical thinking is analytical. It must be logical and correct every step of the way. But there is another kind of thinking that the great guru of creativity, Edward de Bono, named “lateral” thinking. Humor is not only a great tool to help us think laterally and generate creative ideas but it is also a very useful tool to disrupt normal patterns of thinking and open others up to – being persuaded.

Kevin Dutton writes in The Power to Persuade, “If someone can make you laugh while trying to change your mind, chances are they’re on to a winner.”

A man jumped off the top of a skyscraper. As he passed the third floor window he was heard to mutter: “So far, so good.”

A cop was seen walking along the main street pulling a piece of string. Do you know why he was pulling the piece of string? Have you ever tried pushing a piece of string?

Did you find humor is these two jokes? If you did, you just discovered one of the key ingredients in humor – incongruity. We get an outcome different from what we expect and, when we do, our brain does a “double-take.” Part of the brain called the “amygdale” is very sensitive to emotion and reacts instantly to the unexpected, to incongruity. When the double-take happens, our mental homeland security system is turned off – for just a moment. It is at this moment that we are both open to suggestion and what we are thinking can be “re-framed.” The top sales people are brilliant at this. I’ve used it successfully for years in both my programs and my personal coaching. When you suddenly change expectation with humor, you have the opportunity to raise someone’s spirits, calm someone down, reduce someone’s fear or close a deal.

The Law of Liking: People are easily persuaded by other people that they like and this is accomplished through empathy, discovering common interests or giving genuine praise.

The establishment of rapport is the key to successful communication and is an absolute necessity for persuasion. You accomplish building rapport by being empathetic. Empathy is the capacity to share the sadness or happiness of another being through consciousness rather than physically. Exhibiting a warm empathetic style helps to convince others that you have their best interests at heart. Again, empathy is hardwired in the brain and has been used by healers and physicians since the beginning of recorded history. When you become an expert empathizer, you are able to identify with, understand and respond to another’s experiences.

How do you create empathy? You become an active listener; you go on a mission to discover what you like about another person – to find the good. This means that you don’t try to impose your views and ideas before rapport is established and trust cemented.

Always remember – people like people who are like them. So, that means that to establish rapport, you need to find common ground. It could be movies, books, the news, the environment, politics or having children. Research has shown that people are more likely to buy a product from someone they like and have something in common with. You may not make your living at sales but you are always selling something and that includes yourself. Ask questions. Listen.

The final point in the Law of Liking is to give out genuine praise when it’s appropriate. Most people are so self-centered that they simple do not notice what others are doing right, or they are too self-conscious to acknowledge the good. If you want to be a master of persuasion, pay attention at home and in the workplace, and bestow praise when it’s deserved.

Apply these 3 laws of persuasion and you will add 3 valuable mental tools for living an exceptional life.