365 Ways To Persuade And Motivate: #15-24

For this post I’ve put 10 ways to persuade and motivate altogether in one post!

15. Talk first – Research shows that people like to follow a leader and that the person who talks first when a group gets together becomes the leader.

16. Give a gift – When someone gives you a gift you feel indebted and will likely want to give something in return. If you want to increase the likelihood that someone will do something, give them a gift first, and then ask for what you want/need. Whether a website give away, free trial subscription or free eBook include an informative video – give away something of value before asking for people to sign up or make a purchase.

17. Ask for more than what you need/want – Research shows that people are more likely to say yes to your request if you ask for something larger than what you really want first. When your initial request is denied, come back with a smaller one (the one you really wanted). Not only will they be more likely to say yes, they will be more committed to following through if it is a second request.

18. Use nouns – When you use a noun it evokes group identity. People are more likely to take an action when they feel part of a group. For example, instead of having a button on your website that says “Donate Now,” phrase it as “Be A Donor.” Instead of “Join Now” use “Be A Member.”

19. Say how many other people are doing it – Research shows that we look to what other people are doing to decide what we should do. If we think a lot of people are doing something we are more likely to do it too. Especially if the situation is ambiguous or uncertain. Make reference to how many people have already taken the desired action. “Over 2,500 people have already downloaded the e-book.”

20. Model the behavior – Mirror neurons in our brain make us likely to imitate what others are doing. Show someone else taking the same action. For example, have a video that shows someone filling out the form on the website and pressing the “Sign Me Up” button.

21. Imitate others’ body gestures – In a face-to-face interaction imitate what other people are doing. If they sit back, you should sit back. If they put their hands on the table, put your hands on the table. Research shows that people that imitated the other person’s body language were rated as being more likable and were more persuasive.

22. Be passionate and excited about your idea – Emotions are contagious. If you are passionate and excited about your idea it will be conveyed through your voice and body language and others will become passionate and excited too.

23. Use strong emotions (positive or negative) – If you want something to go viral then use strong emotions. Messages or ideas that include strong emotions go viral more than messages without emotions. It doesn’t even matter if the emotion is positive or negative. Just showing strong emotions inspires people to act.

24. Synchronous behavior – If you want to bond a group have them do something together and preferably something rhythmic. When we engage in rhythmic behavior as a group (singing, drumming, dancing), the neurochemical oxytocin is released. Oxytocin makes us feel a sense of bonding with those around us.

What do you think? Have you used any of these 10?

For more information check out my books, or better yet, sign up for one of our in-person or online video courses.

365 Ways To Persuade And Motivate: #12 – Give them a warm beverage

drawing of a coffee cup with steam

You have an important meeting with a client first thing tomorrow morning. The main contact, Jeremy, is unhappy with some of the deliverables on the last project. He has been a little cold and distant with you on the phone and through email recently. This is the first time he is coming in to the office in a while, and you want to try and break the ice.

According to Joshua Ackerman you should take a somewhat literal interpretation of the idea of breaking the ice. You should try to warm him up by offering him a warm coffee or tea. Use a cup or mug where he can feel the heat through his hands, and, ideally, see if you can get him to hold the beverage while you talk to him.

According to Ackerman’s research this will not only thaw out his hands, but will also make him warm up towards you. When people hold a warm cup then they feel that the person or people they are interacting with have a warmer personality. It’s called “haptic sensations” or “embodied cognition”.

Conversely, DON’T offer Jeremy a cold can of soda or ice water. That will make him judge you as having a cold personality.

Here’s the research:

Ackerman, Joshua M., Christopher Nocera, and John Bargh. 2010. “Incidental haptic sensations influence social judgments and decisions.” Science 328(5986): 1712–15. doi: 10.1126/science.1189993.

To learn more check out our 1 day seminar on The Science of Persuasion.

365 Ways To Persuade And Motivate: #10 Pitch When People Feel Regret

Picture of woman with head in handsOf all the situations and feelings that motivate people to take action, regret is one of the most powerful. People don’t like to feel regret and will do a lot to avoid it. That’s not surprising, but you might be surprised to find out that the more opportunity people feel they have, the more regret they tend to feel about a situation. If people feel that they could have done something differently, the more regret they feel with their action or decision. If they feel that they had no choice in their decision or action, then they feel less regret.

Related to this is the idea of whether there is a clear corrective action that could have been taken. If people feel they had a choice, and if they feel they had a clear, corrective action, and yet they don’t take that action, that is when they feel the most regret.

For example, let’s say you’re choosing a restaurant for an upcoming special event. You have three great restaurants that are available on the date you want. You choose one of the three and negotiate the menu with the restaurant staff. At the last minute the restaurant calls and changes the menu you had planned. You resist initially, but eventually give up. You’re not at all happy with the food they provide during the event. You could have taken corrective action (insisted they stick with the menu), or picked a different restaurant to start with, or switched to one of the other restaurants. But you didn’t do any of those things. So you had opportunity and you had clear corrective actions. In this situation you’ll feel a lot of regret, dissatisfaction, and disappointment.

If there’s only one restaurant available on the date you want to hold the event, and it only offers one set of menu choices, then you have little choice. Even though you might rate the food as good or as bad as in the first example, you’ll feel less regret, less disappointment, and less dissatisfaction.

Regret Inspires Action — Because people don’t like feeling regret, and because they feel the most regret about things they can fix, regret is actually a motivator for action. If people feel regret, then that’s when they are highly likely to take action. And people will often take an action to avoid regret before it happens.

What do you think? Are you willing point out to people the likelihood that if they don’t take the action you want them to take, or buy the product NOW that you want them to buy that they will regret the action later? If you “play the regret” card you are more likely to get them to take an action. Are you willing to do that or does that seem too manipulative?

To learn more check out our 1 day seminar on The Science of Persuasion.

365 Ways To Persuade & Motivate: #2 Use The Word “Because”

picture of people waiting in lineIn the first blog post of this new “365” series I cited new research on eye contact. But sometimes I think it’s important to go back to “foundational” (i.e. old!) research. So #2 in the series comes from research conducted in 1978.  Ellen Langer (Professor of Psychology at Harvard) published a research study about the power of the word “because”.

Langer had people request to break in on a line of people waiting to use a busy copy machine  on a college campus. (Remember that this is in the 1970′s — there weren’t computers and printers. People did a lot more copying back then, so there were often lines waiting to use a copy machine). The researchers had the people use three different, carefully worded requests to break in line:

  1. “Excuse me, I have 5  pages.  May I use the xerox machine?”
  2. “Excuse me, I have 5  pages.  May I use the xerox machine, because I have to make copies?”
  3. “Excuse me, I have 5  pages.  May I use the xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?”

Did the wording effect whether people let them break in line? Here are the results:

  1. “Excuse me, I have 5  pages.  May I use the xerox machine?” [60% compliance]
  2. “Excuse me, I have 5  pages.  May I use the xerox machine, because I have to make copies?”[93% compliance]
  3. “Excuse me, I have 5  pages.  May I use the xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?” [94% compliance]

Using the word “because” and giving a reason resulted in significantly more compliance. This was true even when the reason was not very compelling (“because I have to make copies”). The researchers hypothesize that people go on “automatic” behavior or “mindlessness” as a form of a heuristic, or short-cut. And hearing the word “because” followed by a reason (no matter how lame the reason is), causes us to comply.

They also repeated the experiment for a request to copy 20 pages rather than five. In that case, only the  “because I’m in a rush” reason resulted in compliance.

So what does this all mean?:

When the stakes are low people will engage in automatic behavior.  If your request is small then follow the request with the word “because” and give any reason.

If the stakes are high, then there is a little more resistance, but still not too much. Use the word “because” and try to come up with at least a slightly more compelling reason.

What do you think? Has this worked for you?

Here’s the research citation:

Langer, E., Blank, A., & Chanowitz, B. (1978). The mindlessness of Ostensibly Thoughtful Action: The Role of “Placebic” Information in Interpersonal Interaction.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36(6), 635-642.

To learn more check out our 1 day seminar on The Science of Persuasion.

365 Ways To Persuade & Motivate: #1 Direct Eye Contact Is Not Always Best

Photo of Presidents Clinton and Ford looking at each other

We’ve all been told how important it is to make eye contact when interacting with other people. Direct eye contact makes you seem trustworthy, confident, and interested in the topic you are discussing, right? All those things are true BUT new research shows that direct eye contact can lessen the effectiveness of your message in one critical situation:

Frances Chen researched people listening and watching videos of other people talking about controversial social and/or political topics. Participants watched videos with speakers discussing topics with a strong viewpoint that was opposite to what the participants believed. Some participants were asked to watch the speaker’s eyes, and others were asked to watch the speaker’s mouth. Participants who watched the speaker’s eyes were LESS likely to change their opinion on the topic than the participants who watched the speaker’s mouth.

Why would this be true? Chen’s hypothesis is that direct eye contact can be seen as threatening.


  • If you are talking to people who agree with you, and trying to get them fired up to take action, then use direct eye contact.
  • But If you are talking to people who don’t agree with you, then you may want to minimize the amount of direct eye contact you have.
  • If you are making a video and you believe that people will agree with you, then look right into the camera lense.
  • If you are making a video and you think people don’t agree with you, then look off to the side instead of into the camera.

What do you think? Have you experienced this difference between eye contact and whether you agree with the person speaking?

Here’s the research citation:

Chen, F.S., Minson, J.A., Schöne, M., & Heinrichs, M. (in press). In the eye of the beholder: Eye contact increases resistance to persuasion. Psychological Science.

To learn more check out our 1 day seminar on The Science of Persuasion.

How To Get People To Do Stuff #6: Hot drinks, soft pillows & heavy objects

Do you think you’d make different decisions if you were holding something heavy in your hand than holding nothing? Or if you were holding a cup of hot coffee instead of a cold drink? Sounds unlikely, but it’s true: Here’s a video about “haptic sensations.” Or, if you prefer, you can read the summary text after the video.

Joshua Ackerman and John Bargh (2010) conducted research where they had candidates for job interviews hand in their resume one of three ways. One candidate handed in her resume on regular printer paper. Another candidate handed in her resume on regular printer paper, but had it clipped to a light clipboard. A third candidate handed in her resume on regular printer paper, but had it clipped to a heavy clipboard. Then they had interviewers rate which candidates were the best for the job. The interviewers gave higher ratings to candidates whose resume they were reading while the interviewer was holding a heavy clipboard.

Holding a heavy object while looking at a resume makes a job candidate appear more important. In fact, any idea you’re considering while holding something heavy (for instance, a book) you will deem to be more important. The metaphor of an idea being “weighty” has a physical corollary.

There are two terms that are used for this. Sometimes it’s called “haptic sensation” and sometimes you will find it referred to as “embodied cognition.”  We are very influenced by the meaning that our sense of touch perceives.

You may be surprised to find out all the ways that these haptic sensations affect our perceptions and judgments. Besides the effect for a heavy object, people also react to these other haptic sensations:

•      When people touch a rough object during a social interaction, for instance, if they’re sitting on a chair with coarse wool upholstery, they rate the interaction more difficult than if they touch a soft object.

•      When people touch a hard object, they rate a negotiation as more rigid than if they touch a soft object.

•      When people hold a warm cup (for example, a warm cup of coffee), they judge the person they’re interacting with to have a warmer personality than if they’re holding a cup of cold liquid.

You can use these haptic sensations to get people to do stuff. If you want people to have easier interactions with others, then you might want to have soft furniture, not hard chairs, in your conference room, and use a soft fabric covering for them rather than a scratchy tweed. If you have an important client coming to your office, and you want her to feel warmly about you, get her a cup of hot coffee or tea in a mug that will transmit the heat before you start.

Ackerman, Joshua M., Christopher Nocera, and John Bargh. 2010. “Incidental haptic sensations influence social judgments and decisions.” Science. 328 (5986): 1712-1715. DOI: 10.1126/science.1189993

How To Get People To Do Stuff

bookcoverAre you good with people? Do you know how to get them to do stuff? Are you using tips and techniques you picked up from others or experimented with? If so, I bet that sometimes your strategies work and other times they don’t.

There are 7 basic drivers of human motivation. And if you understand what motivates people you’ll be better able to figure out how to get people to do stuff. That’s the premise of my new book that just hit the shelves. Some of my previous video posts are topics from the new book, and I’ll be posting more video blogs as time goes on. In the meantime, here’s a summary of the 7 drivers of motivation:

The Need to Belong

Have you ever felt left out? Not part of a group you wanted to be part of? It probably made you feel sad, depressed or angry, or all of the above. We are ultimately social animals, and our desire to connect with others is a strong, innate drive. We’re not meant to live alone, and we’ll work hard to be socially accepted. We need to feel that we have a place in the world where we belong.

You can use the need to belong, and the longing for connectedness, to get people to do stuff.

For example:

  • If you use nouns when making a request, rather than verbs – for example: “Be a donor” versus “Donate now” –  it results in more people taking action. That’s because nouns invoke group identity.
  • People are more likely to comply with a request if they trust you.
  • The best way to get others to trust you is to first show that you trust them.


It might surprise you to learn how much of everything we do in a typical day we do out of habit without even thinking about it. We don’t even remember how those habits got formed.

We hear so much about how it takes months to create a new habit. How could that be, when we seem to have created hundreds of them easily without even realizing it? It turns out that it’s actually very easy to create a new habit or even change an existing one, if you understand the science behind habit formation. You can use the science of habits to help other people create or change habits, so you can get them to do stuff. Here’s a little bit of information about the science of habits:

  • The easiest way to create a new habit is to anchor it to an existing habit.
  • If you use anchoring you can get people to create a new habit in less than a week.
  • An important part of getting someone to create a new habit is to break things into really small steps.

The Power of Stories

What kind of person are you? Are you someone who helps those in need? Do you keep up on the latest trends and fashions? Are you a family person who spends time and energy to nurture family relationships?

We all have self-personas. We tell ourselves, and other people, stories about who we are and why we do what we do. Some of our self-personas and our stories are conscious, but others are largely unconscious.

If you understand these self-personas, then you can communicate in a way that matches those self-stories and thereby get people to do stuff. For example:

  • If you can get people to take one small action that is in conflict with one of their self-personas, that one small step can eventually lead to big behavior change.
  • You can prompt someone to change their own story by having other people share their stories. If someone hears the right story you can get people to change their own self-stories in as little as 30 minutes and that one change can alter their behavior for a lifetime.
  • Writing something down (in longhand, not typing) activates certain parts of the brain and makes it more likely that people will commit to what they wrote.

Carrots and Sticks

Have you ever been to a casino? Think about this: You spend a lot of time and energy trying to get people to do stuff; you may even offer rewards or pay people to do stuff. And yet a casino gets people to pay them!

Casinos understand the science of reward and reinforcement. Here are just a few things the science of reward and reinforcement tells us about how to get people to do stuff:

  • If you want consistent behavior don’t reward people every time they do something, just some of the time.
  • People are more motivated to reach a goal the closer they get to it.
  • Let’s say you own a coffee shop and give people a stamp for each cup of coffee they buy. After 10 stamps they get a free coffee. Did you know that as soon as they get that free coffee their coffee buying and drinking behavior will slow down for a while?
  • When you punish someone it only works for a little while. Giving rewards is more effective than punishment.


Imagine you’re driving down the road and there’s an accident ahead. You tell yourself not to slow down and look, and yet you feel the irresistible urge to do exactly that.

Being fascinated by danger is one of our basic instincts. Instincts are strong and largely unconscious. They affect our behavior. Sometimes you can get people to do stuff just by tapping into these instincts. For example:

  • People are more motivated by fear of losing than the possibility of gaining something.
  • We are basically all “control freaks”. The desire to control starts as young as 4 months old.
  • When people are sad or scared they will want is familiar. If they’re happy and comfortable they’ll crave something new.

The Desire for Mastery

Even stronger than giving an external reward is the desire for mastery. People are very motivated to learn and master skills and knowledge.

Certain situations encourage a desire for mastery, and others dampen the desire for mastery. You can use what we know from the research on mastery to set up conditions that will encourage and stimulate the desire for mastery, and, by doing so, get people to do stuff. For example:

  • Giving people autonomy over what they are doing will stimulate them to master a skill and will motivate them to work harder.
  • If people feel that something is difficult they will be more motivated to do it.
  • Don’t mix praise with feedback if you want to stimulate the desire for mastery. Just give objective feedback.

Tricks of the Mind

You’ve probably seen visual illusions—where your eye and brain think they’re seeing something different than they really are. What you may not realize is that there are cognitive illusions, too. There are several biases in how we think. Our brains are wired to jump to quick conclusions. This is useful in reacting quickly to our environment, but sometimes these fast conclusions and decisions lead to cognitive illusions. You can use these tricks of the mind to get people to do stuff. For example:

  • If you mention money then people become more independent and less willing to help others.
  • People filter out information they don’t agree with, but you can get past those filters by first agreeing with them.
  • People are more likely to do something if you can get them to phrase it as a question to themselves (Will I exercise each week?) than if you get them to say a declarative statement (I will exercise each week.)

If you understand what motivates people, then you can change and modify what you do, what you offer, and how and what you ask of people. You can change your strategies and tactics to get people to do stuff.

I hope you’ll consider buying the book! If you are interested, my publisher, Peachpit, is offering a 35% coupon code to purchase the book in print or as a PDF. The code is DOSTUFF and you can use it at the book website.

Or, if you prefer Amazon, here’s a link to the Amazon page:

How To Get People To Do Stuff #5: What makes things go viral?

Why do some ideas, articles, videos go viral and others don’t? Check out these ideas and the research in the video:

Here’s a summmary:

Things go viral if one or more of the following is true:

The piece elicits a strong emotional response — either positive or negative
The person who is doing the communicating is passionate and committed to the idea
If there is a compelling story around the idea
If it’s cute or funny (cats in hats, babies, puppies)
If by passing it on to your network it will make you look smart

What do you think? Do you agree with these ideas? With the research? What do you think makes something go viral?


J. Berger and and K. L. Milkman. 2012. “What makes online content viral?” Journal of Marketing Research, 49(2), 192–205. DOI: 10.1509/jmr.10.0353
Jennifer Aaker, The Dragonfly Effect

How To Get People To Do Stuff: #4 — Does Money Make You Mean?

The mention of money, or seeing money changes how people behave and interact with each other. Watch the video and find out how:

Kathleen Vohs, a Professor of Marketing at the University of Minnesota has researched the effect that money has on people. She doesn’t even use actual money. It turns out that just the concept of money changes behavior.

Dr. Vohs concludes that the concept of money leads people to behave self-sufficiently. If you want people to be self-sufficient, then prime them with the idea of, or pictures of, money. If you want people to be collaborative and help others, then avoid the mention of, or pictures of, money.

For more information check out:

Kathleen D. Vohs, et al.
The Psychological Consequences of Money
Science 314, 1154 (2006)

and my new book (when it comes out in March 2013 — available for pre-order now at Amazon) How To Get People To Do Stuff

What do you think? Is money a good incentive to get people to do things or work harder?



How To Get People To Do Stuff: #2 — Break Through A Confirmation Bias

A confirmation bias is a form of “cognitive illusion”. People tend to pay attention to what they already believe and filter out information that doesn’t fit with their opinions and beliefs. You can breakthrough these biases, however. Watch the video to find out how:

For more information check out:

Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking Fast And Slow

and my new book (when it comes out in March 2013 — available for pre-order now at Amazon) How To Get People To Do Stuff

In order to get through a confirmation bias, start first with something you know the person or your audience already believes. That way they will let the information/communication in through their attention gate. Once you’ve made it past the confirmation filters you can then slip in a new idea.

What do you think? Have you tried this to break through a confirmation bias?