The Association of College and Research Libraries has prepared a useful toolkit entitled The Power of Personal Persuasion. Although it is targeted toward academic librarians, the content can be applied to anyone.
According to the toolkit, the six major principles of persuasion are (paraphrased):
- Principle of Reciprocation (If you gave me a favor, I owe you a favor.)
In the context of obligation people say YES to those they owe. When people say thank you for what you’ve
given them, don’t say “don’t think anything of it” or “no problem” Instead, you should just say “you’re welcome.” And rather than saying “YOU owe me one now!” say, “I know that if the situation were reversed, you’d do the same for me.”
This was me a few years ago. I always used to say “no problem” when someone thanked me until someone pointed out that I was devaluing my own work. Now I always just say “you’re welcome.”
- Principle of Scarcity (People want what they can’t have)
Data show that it is not enough to say what people will gain — people are more motivated by what they will lose.
I could see think in a library budget context – specifically state what resources patrons will no longer have access to the if its budget is cut. It might also be useful in convincing people to attend training sessions – if you don’t attend, you won’t learn a valuable skill to improve your efficiency & save your client’s time.
- Principle of Authority (If an expert says it, it must be true)
Before you present your strongest arguments, raise your weakness first. Then present your strongest
points that are designed to outweigh/overwhelm the weaknesses.
- Principle of Consistency & Commitment
We want to persuade people to say yes to our message AND to identify if they have said yes to us in the past AND
we want them to continue to support us by telling us verbally and to put their commitment to us in writing.
Rather than say “we hope you will,” you should say:
– “Would you please?” or
– “When can you?” or
– “Can we count on your to…?
- Principle of Consensus (“A lot of other people are doing this or saying yes; therefore, it must be the right thing to do.”)
Bringing in general names and general categories, such as “all faculty” or “deans agree,” doesn’t work as well as saying similar or specific people (like them) who are “signing on” to your idea/request/saying yes.
- Principle of Liking
People like to say yes when:
– They are aware that others who are involved are those whom they like and who are like them.
– They are complimented and thanked for their support
– They feel they are part of the whole that is working together for success.