In Step with Projects

In Pace with Progress

Build Influencing Power – the Art of Persuasion


Author: Reinhard Wagner     Source: IPMA BLOG
The American psychologist, Dr. Robert Cialdini ( has focused much of his work on the question: how to make people say yes to something? He identified six universal principles that explain how you can persuade someone (let´s say stakeholders with a negative attitude towards your project) to accept your suggestion (and buy in to the project).

Reciprocity – This principle is building on the old biblical principle “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” If you want to get something, give something. Simply put, people are obliged to give back to others in form of a behavior, gift, or service that they have received first. In the context of a social obligation people are more likely to say yes to those who they owe.

Scarcity – Typically, we all want things which are rare and we are all afraid to lose what we have. Persuasion means according to Cialdini: people want more of those things they can have less of. In essence, it means that it´s not enough to talk about the benefits of your offer; you also need to point at what people will lose if they fail to act (“opportunity cost”). Especially in a change situation, people are scared of  losing something. Thus, it might help them to move if you tell them what they risk to lose in case they do not move.

Authority – People tend to follow the advice of credible, knowledgeable experts. We have more trust in a doctor or a scientist than in a politician or junior consultant. What science is telling us is that it’s important to signal others what makes you a credible, knowledgeable authority before you make your influence attempt. It sometimes just may be the “white coat” of an expert that makes someone trust, so find out what the “white coat” in your case might be.

Consistency – We follow people who are consistent in their words and behaviors (“walk the talk”). Consistency may be activated by looking for, or asking for, small initial commitments. So when seeking to influence people based on this consistency principle, you might look for voluntary, active, and public commitments and ideally gets those commitments in writing. Your own consistency certainly matters too. Don´t follow all trends, be a good example what concerns consistency.

Consensus –  People tend to follow others. We are kind of herd people. Especially when they are uncertain, people will look to the actions and behaviors of others to determine their own. If you want someone to do something, show others doing it (including yourself). Imagine you are looking for a restaurant in town, walking down the street, it´s more likely that you enter a restaurant full of people than one where only a few people can be seen.

Liking –  This is another universal principle. People prefer to say yes to people they like. But what causes one person to like another? Science tells us that there are three important factors. According Cialdini these factors are: we like people who are similar to us, we like those who pay us compliments, and we like people who cooperate with us towards mutual goals.

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