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How to Influence Others and Get Them to do What you Want

How to Influence Others and Get Them to do What you Want
Psychology, Diplomacy

Article Rating:::: 3 Ratings :::: Wednesday, May 16, 2007

There always comes a time when you want to influence others. You may need to use a variety of psychological tactics depending on the situation and the person you are dealing with. In this article, a number of scenarios are presented and for each a course of action is suggested along with Risk strategy example. Remember, what matters is always the end game. If you want someone to do something for you, you need to keep focusing on the outcome. You need to make it easier for the other person to make the right choice, the choice that you desire. Here are a number of scenarios and solutions to help you get what you want.

Scenario: You want to make a task look easier than what it is. For example, suppose in Risk, you want to convince a player that it is not really a big deal to invade somebody else's continent. He thinks this is a huge and risky task. How would you persuade him?

Solution: Divide the task into a few blocks of activity. Then describe each block as a simple task and show that by following a number of simple steps you can progress to the goal. How does this work? Consider when you are enthusiastic about something. You think of it in general blocks. You don't necessarily think of all the little tedious steps you have to take to get the job done. Because you are enthusiastic, you focus on the goal. You can artificially create the same feeling in someone else, by dividing the task into bigger blocks and show him how easy it is to carry them out.

Scenario: You want to make a task look more difficult than it is. For example, your Risk opponent wants to conquer a continent. What would you say to stop him?

Solution:  As explained above, you can divide the task into lots of little steps. The sheer number of steps may prohibit him from taking the action. Imagine when a task looks boring to you. Every little step in that task becomes a huge issue, simply because you can't be bothered to do it. Create the same feeling in someone else and they wont do it either. As an example, here is the Risk strategy. You may say, "If you want to conquer Europe, first you need to prepare lots of armies for the invasion. At least twice the size of armies you want to destroy. Then, you have to think how you can distribute them on the borders, so you can protect the whole continent from counter-attacks. Meanwhile, you also have to reinforce your original borders, so that no one takes advantage of your new vulnerability. Even when you have got Europe in control, there is no guarantee that all other players wont start attacking you as you have become more powerful. This means you should carry on making defensive moves for quite a while." As you can see, getting Europe suddenly sounds a lot harder than it was before.

Scenario: How would you get someone to quickly decide on their actions?

Solution: Take their options away from them. Humans like to make perfect choices. The more choices there are, the more time they have to spend on the problem and the more undecided they will get. This is a common issue when designing Artificial Intelligence (AI) as well. Computers are good at number crunching and can quickly end up with vast number of options that they need to select a solution from. To help them, AI designers usually use a simple trick. They reduce the search space artificially. Even though the reduction is artificial and may remove some of the good solutions, it is still better than having all the possible options. The AI can perform much more efficiently in a smaller search space than in a larger one. Similarly, take away some of the options humans may have, and they will end up deciding much faster.

Of course another popular technique is to give someone a deadline. Combine deadlines with limited options and you will get very quick reactions, "You can either say yes or no, and you have only 2 minutes to decide!"

Scenario: You have carried out all the hard work to convince a player to make a deal with you. However, he is hesitating. It's as if he is undecided. Perhaps he needs a bit of help to get out of his dilemma. If you want him to make a deal with you, what would you do to push him to the finish line and make the handshake?

Solution: Give him an incentive. Giving a freebie at the right time can be an incredibly effective tool in tilting the negotiation towards you. Always put yourself in your opponents' position and see how can you help them to make a decision that is most appealing to you.

Scenario: You want to get someone to listen to you. Would you tell him how much better off he will be if he listens to you? What if he doesn't care about it? What if he doesn't trust you, or thinks that you must be up to something. 

Solution:  There are generally two ways to go about this:
  • You can tell him about the gains he may get by listening to you. For example, you might tell him that I promise I will not attack you, or that if you cooperate with me I will be on your side.
  • Alternatively, you can focus your argument on what he may not get as a result of listening to you. For example, in Risk, you can tell him that by spreading too quickly he may end up weak and vulnerable. Or that if he doesn't cooperate, he only makes the situation more difficult for himself as you will not help him.
Research shows that the second method is much more effective. By focusing on the negative aspects of the decisions and losses, you may stand to gain more than if you tell someone what you can do for them instead.  

Scenario: Suppose you want to persuade someone to do something for you. Would you just ask them, or even force them to do it?

Solution: It is well-known that if you limit someone's options to a point that they are forced to follow your advice, they may completely give up on you. Just to show you that they are not bullied, they may choose to do the opposite for the hell of it. This is known as reactance. Basically hard selling is bad. Anyone who has ever tried to sell something knows that if you go too far in selling something by adopting forceful tactics, the customer gets extremely annoyed and will not deal with you any more even on other products) just as a matter of principle.

As a result you have to let them know up front that the decision is theirs. You are here only to assist them in reaching that decision by providing facts and pros and cons on both sides of the argument. They can then make the decision themselves. Of course if you want to influence their decision, you would need to bias the pros and cons so that heir decision leads to your preferred choice.

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Diplomat   By Diplomat @ Wednesday, May 16, 2007 2:58 PM
These senarios are good. I am sure that all of us have been in at least one of the above positions while playing Risk, the intresting point is that we tend not to look at problems and negotiations involved in risk in such ways. As shown in the article, simple psychological tricks can often be used to solve the problems.

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