Kevin Hogan

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The first Nine Laws of Persuasion


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“Opinion is ultimately determined by the feelings, not the intellect.” –HERBERT SPENCER

“If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend.” –ABRAHAM LINCOLN

In order to fully comprehend the process of persuasion, we need to understand some basic concepts, or principles, of persuasion. These concepts will provide the foundation for the paradigm of persuasion.

People in each culture develop certain responses to common situations in the persuasion process. It is because of these responses to certain stimuli that make it possible to predict behavior and therefore persuade others. Unfortunately it is the same responses that make it possible to manipulate or be manipulated by unscrupulous individuals. Included below are the nine principles that come into play in daily life as well as in persuasion settings, whether you’re a salesperson, public speaker, consumer, husband, wife, father or friend. These are the Laws of Persuasion.

After each law is discussed, examples of behaviors within certain situations will be detailed. These examples are meant to demonstrate the effect the laws of persuasion have on most all of us.

Carefully consider each law, recalling a recent conversation or situation where the law came into effect in your life. By doing so you will be able to personalize this powerful information. You will see where you have been manipulated unfairly. You will learn how you have been ethically persuaded. Most important you will learn how your past behavior has impacted those around you. These laws are the foundational concepts for everything else we will learn about the process of persuasion.



(Notice the law does NOT say that someone will automatically reciprocate when given something. It says they will DESIRE TO GIVE SOMETHING BACK.)

To some degree, reciprocity has control over all of us.

  • Each Christmas, millions of people buy gifts and cards for people they probably would never buy for, except that the other person will be giving them something and they DON’T WANT TO LOOK BAD OR FEEL BAD! From early childhood we were all taught to give something back when something is given to us. Generally it was taught to us to be something of equal value.How often have you been given a gift at Christmas that was more expansive than what you spent on the other person and felt OBLIGATED to buy something else to MAKE UP THE DIFFERENCE to the other person. This is a powerful example of the law of reciprocity. 
  • We feel obligated to tip in a restaurant because someone brought us our food. Our culture trains us to “tip” individuals in some professions. (Hair stylists, taxi cab drivers, waitresses etc.) Why? There is no LOGICAL reason to do this. It is simply that our culture has taught us to do so and that to do otherwise would be considered as rude or unkind.
  • We feel obligated to donate to the General Campaign Fund by checking the box on our IRS 1040 tax return in return for the ill found hope that that’s what they want us to do, and we won’t then get audited. The fact is of course, is the IRS is not interested in your political affiliation. They are only interested in the revenue they can bring in for the Treasury Department! The IRS computers do not select returns for auditing on the basis of campaign fund donations. (However, because of the imprinted fear of the IRS most people tend to have, the campaign fund will continue to do well!)
  • The bride and groom in a wedding feel obligated to give the bridesmaids and groomsmen gifts because of the expense put up for dresses and tuxedos. In some instances the gift purchased for each person the wedding party will equal the cost of the tuxedo or dress. Would it not simply be easier to have the newlywed’s purchase the dresses and rent the tuxedos?How do you feel when you’re in this position? How do you feel when someone has given you a gift? How do you feel when someone has given you a gift at a time of mutual exchange, like Christmas, and you have nothing in return for them? 



Salespeople frequently use the contrast principle because it is so effective.

  • “Before we look at the $120,000 home we should look at the $90,000 home.” If the two homes are in similar neighborhoods, the more expensive home will have more features the salesperson can use as “hot buttons” and it is the LAST home they will see. People tend to remember the last thing they saw or were told much better than something they were shown or told earlier. If the last home, in this case, is a great deal nicer than the first, then the colorful memory of the nicer home will make the less expensive home seem drab and dull.
  • Fund raisers, on the other hand, will use “reciprocal concessions” to meet their goals. For example, if someone wants you to donate $50 to a cause, he will mention that “some people in the community are donating $200, others $100 and those on a tighter budget $50. Which would be best for you?” In other words, if you are told the neighbors are all giving $100, you will feel lucky to get off cheap at $50, won’t you?
  • Another technique in the category of “reciprocal concessions” is the “money for time” concession. Someone may not have six hours per week to donate to your cause, but coming up with a check for $25 won’t be too tough to deal with. If you are asked to donate three hours per week to a worthy cause and you clearly don’t have the time (and possibly not the desire), then if you can write a small check, YOU will feel as if YOU got away with a bargain!You can think of many more cases where, “for just a little extra, you can have all these great additional benefits.” You can also think of cases where two products remarkably similar in appeal are priced radically different to get you to buy the less expensive one.Recall the last time several times that you purchased a product or service and what items you were asked to buy in addition to your original purchase. Consider the last time that you bought something where you new there were extras that could have been purchased but were not offered. Why didn’t the salesperson offer them to you?

    The Law of Contrast is also used to get you to buy the more expensive product. After all, “The house you really want is only $10,000 more than this one, which is OK, but isn’t it worth $3 per day to have what you really want?” (By the way, with interest, that $3 per day will end up costing you about $30,000!)

To see the next installment in this series of adaptations Nine Laws of Persuasion, Part 2


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