Some people think persuasion is manipulation; others believe it is a motivational tool. Which perception do you agree with? Is it a tool for manipulation or motivation?
The answer is it can be either one. It depends on who is using it and the end goal that the persuader has in mind.
In his book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Dr. Robert Cialdini gives us persuasive skills that can be used manipulatively or help marketers succeed by applying the human psyche ethically. His seven persuasive tools are reciprocation, liking, social proof, authority, scarcity, commitment and consistency, and, the newest addition, unity.
Since this is a post about how we could use persuasive techniques in a loving relationship to positively influence our partners and strengthen our relationships, I will touch on a few of the seven skills Dr. Cilaldini discusses. Your knowledge and understanding of your partner (remember Love Maps?) will help you decide which influence lever or persuasive skills will be most effective.
Suppose you want your partner to see a new movie with you. You could remind them that a friend whose opinion they trust recommended the movie (liking), that it has dozens of positive reviews from other people who saw the movie (social proof), or that they chose the movie you saw last time (reciprocation).
Let’s suppose that maybe your partner doesn’t care what other moviegoers think, but they hate missing out on something unusual. You might try a scarcity tactic in that case: “The movie tickets are limited, and it is only going to be in the theater till the end of the next week.”
Remember to project confidence with your tone of voice when making your persuasive dialog; even if you don’t feel confident in your statement, sounding as if you do helps you achieve your partner’s agreement.
What Persuasive Skills To Avoid
Dr. Cialdini has this advice regarding loving relationships and persuasive skills. Refrain from Coercive and Rational approaches.
According to him, the Coercive approach threatens their partners with regrettable consequences if they don’t yield. This hardball strategy was a disaster. Not only did it fail to spur the desired result, but it also produced the opposite effect, driving the partner farther away from the communicator’s position.
The Rational approach is an attempt to argue that theirs was the more reasonable view and that it only made sense for their partner to adopt it. Although not as misguided as the coercive approach, this persuasive style didn’t fare well either, leaving its targets wholly unchanged.
What should be used?
The Relationship-raising approach is recommended. Before making a request for change from their partner, they merely made mention of their existing relationship. They might say, “You know, we’ve been together for a while now,” or “We’re a couple; we share the same goals.” Then, they’d deliver their appeal: “So, I’d appreciate it if you could find a way to change your stand on this one.” Or, in the most streamlined version of the relationship-raising approach, these individuals simply incorporated the pronouns “we,” “our,” and “us” into their request.
The outcome? The relationship partners exposed to this technique shifted significantly in the requested direction. It offers an entirely different reason for change—the relationship itself, with all its attendant trust, strength, and security. In the realm of social influence, the relationship is the message.
The second remarkable quality of the relationship-raising route to persuasion is that it provides nothing that isn’t already known. Typically, both parties understand well that they’re in a relationship. But that implication-laden piece of information can quickly drop from the top of consciousness when other considerations vie for the same space.
Influencing your partner isn’t about tricking them into doing what you wanted them to do. It’s simply caring enough about them to figure out how to elevate one’s awareness of the personal connection at the moment before a request so that it will have a due impact on the response.