How to Get What You Want
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could get your own way? If you never had to argue with your partner about the remote control, eat with your friend at a restaurant you don’t like or haggle for a pay rise. Sadly, many of us lack the confidence – and the energy – to put our foot down on a regular basis, but a new book claims that you don’t have to bulldoze to bag what you want. “Just by using a few clever techniques you can tune into your powers of persuasion,” says Dr Rob Yeung, psychologist and author of I is for Influence: The New Science Of Persuasion (Dhs71, amazon.com). “The last few decades have uncovered some remarkable science showing that we can use shortcuts to get into people’s brains and influence them without them realising.” Here, Yeung reveals his top secrets…
1. Touchy stuff
Okay, we’re not advising bear-hugging anyone, but physical touch can be a hugely powerful player when it comes to influencing others and, says Yeung, “Touching someone subtly on their upper arm can make them warm to you.” Studies found that, when a group of market researchers went out and about asking people to fill in forms, when a potential participant was touched on the upper arm for just one second, he or she was more likely to comply. And when asked, eight out of 10 of the participants didn’t even realise they’d been touched! “Physical touch works because it builds rapport – a fragment of touch can feel rewarding and pleasurable, and that makes people think they should respond.”
2. Get a fan club
Want to be more popular than George Clooney in a sauna? Stop showing off. “People who talk about themselves in glowing terms are usually seen in a negative light by others,” says Yeung. “However, research has shown that having someone else talk about you in an equally complimentary fashion will work wonders for how you’re perceived.” The next time you need to give a work presentation to an audience of strangers, rather than introducing yourself, get someone else to present your biography first. Studies have found that the audience will take to you more. And when it comes to bagging that man, Yeung recommends getting a third party to put in a good word for you. “Having a friend say that you’re ‘kind, funny, sexy and intelligent’ might clinch the deal.”
3. Use your imagination
A substantial body of research proves that, if you want to change someone’s behaviour, rather than simply listing the benefits of the change to them, ask the person to ‘imagine’ the change having taken place. So, instead of telling your friend that if they quit smoking they’ll be fitter, healthier and more energetic, ask them to imagine how it will feel to be fitter, healthier and full of beans. “When they start imagining the outcome they’ll be more inclined to give you the behaviour you require,” says Yeung.
4. Shake out
There’s more to a simple hand shake than meets the eye and it could be the deciding factor of whether you land that job or not. Says Yeung, “First, you must press the ‘webbed’ part of your hand against the reciprocator’s to give the impression of confidence; people who tend to do three ‘pumps’ of the hand are rated more highly than those who scrimp on shaking, and maintaining eye contact while shaking is essential – if you don’t, the reciprocator will see you as less trustworthy. Lastly, studies have found that the stronger your squeeze (within reason; no bone-crushing here!), the more interesting you are perceived to be.”
5. Match point
A flick of your hair here, a subtle glance there – body language is powerful stuff. And, says Yeung, it can get you anything from a date, to your mother-in-law on side. “Body language is one of the biggest factors that can influence other people, but it’s a skill that many of us neglect. Time and again, people forget that these things matter and don’t pay attention to the signals they’re sending. “If you want to build a rapport with someone, mimic their actions. If they lean back, you lean back; if they cross their arms, you cross your arms – but you must do it in a way that they don’t notice and that doesn’t detract from your conversation,” says Yeung, who adds that psychologists believe this works because it subconsciously sends signals to the other person that you’re similar and ‘in the same tribe’.
6. Choose your words
Whether you want your messy kids to tidy up after themselves or your man to lose his moobs, the words you choose to convey your feelings are key. “Telling people what they should do is a guaranteed way to get them to refuse to do it!” says Yeung. “For example, if you tell your partner that he’s lazy, it’s almost as if you’re encouraging him to stay that way. Rather than giving someone a ‘label’ and stating what they are, use the right language to encourage the behaviour that you want. Science suggests that you can help to enhance other’s motivation by focusing on other benefits, so rather than saying ‘You’re so messy’, say ‘I’ve seen you be so tidy, why don’t you clear up?’ or instead of ‘You’re just lazy’ swap it for ‘You could be so fit, why don’t you work out with me?’ It will subtly trick people into coming around to your way of thinking.
7. Find a bond
Want to get that client to agree with you or your potential landlord to give you a discount? Emphasise what you have in common with them. “When you have a conversation, a very quick way to find rapport is to find a common bond, and it will get you a lot further than simply just ploughing on with your request,” reveals Yeung. “Studies have found that when people have the same birthday or name as you, you’re more likely to do as they say.” Marvelling over your matching hair colour might be clutching at straws, but you get what we mean.
8. Think big-small
Got a big ask? “Start by requesting a much smaller favour first,” recommends Yeung. So, you want to go on a girls’ spa day and you’d like your partner to look after the kids? “First ask him if he’ll mind them for a few hours. Once he’s agreed, move in with, ‘Since you’re minding them for two hours, how about you do it for the whole day?’Or try the opposite tactic: start with a huge request and work backwards – usually the person is so gobsmacked by the gargantuan ask that they’ll agree to anything that is less!” As for which to try first, use common sense.
9. Have a reason
It sounds obvious but, from a marriage proposal to a promotion, explaining the reason why you want things to be done will get you a long way. Says Yeung, “An experiment was carried out with a woman who wanted to jump a queue to use the photocopier. When she asked, ‘May I use the photocopier?’ hardly anyone agreed, but when she asked, ‘May I use the photocopier because I want to make some copies’, the people who agreed doubled.” Yeung continues, “If there’s one word that will get you what you want it’s ‘because’. Saying it reinforces the impact of your request and studies have shown that it’s much more effective than not saying it at all.”