Techniques to better manage politics & persuasion on a project
by Robert Cialdini
April 16, 2018

No matter your job title, chances are you engage in workplace negotiations every day. Whether you are vying for your team to receive more company resources, driving your ideas through to completion on a project or simply managing your day-to-day workload, being able to successfully negotiate with others is essential for success.

At its core, negotiation is really about persuasion—how you present your ideas to others in a way that moves them to agree with you, reach a meaningful compromise or take action. Researchers have identified six fundamental principles of persuasion, or influence, that do not involve the merits of the proposal, but rather the way in which you communicate them.

When you understand and use the following principles ethically, you too can become a more effective negotiator and pave your own path to success.

1. The Principle of Reciprocity

People tend to give back to others what has been given to them. While some people think of reciprocity in terms of exchanging money, goods or services, the truth is, it involves much more.

For example, when participating in a conversation or discussion, by providing others with attention, information, concessions and respect, you will likely receive the same from them in return. In order to maximize the principle of reciprocity in a negotiation, you should be the first to offer these signs of respect, and be sure what you give is personalized and unexpected.

2. The Principle of Scarcity

People want what they cannot have. That is why advertisements that promise “limited time only” or “limited quantities available” are so effective. In a workplace negotiation situation, it is important to describe the unique, or otherwise unattainable, advantages of any recommendation or offer you propose to the other party.

However, research shows that in situations marked with uncertainty, people are more apt to take action when they know what they stand to lose, rather than what they could possibly gain. Therefore, when negotiating, it is important not only to tell people the benefits, but also what they could lose if they do not move in your recommended direction.

3. The Principle of Authority

Research shows that people typically follow the lead of those they perceive as credible and knowledgeable experts. This makes sense, especially because legitimate authorities have attained their positions by virtue of greater knowledge, skill or expertise in their field. Unfortunately, many experts mistakenly assume that others will naturally recognize their expertise, running the risk of sabotaging their own success. For maximum impact, arrange to have a third party communicate your credentials. Another option is to provide the person you want to influence with your background and expertise before you ever start negotiating. For example, connecting on LinkedIn can provide credentials that might otherwise go unmentioned.

4. The Principle of Consistency

People feel compelled to be consistent with their prior behaviors, opinions, actions or statements. When someone makes a commitment actively, it is even more likely that they will follow through with that commitment. When negotiating, you can activate the principle of consistency by recognizing a prior commitment and linking it to your current request. If possible, take it a step further by getting the commitment in writing because people tend to feel obligation to live up to what they write. The more public the commitment, the stronger the pull to fulfill it.

5. The Principle of Liking

People are more easily influenced by those they like. What makes someone like you? Science tells us there are three important factors that contribute to likeability:

  1. We like people who like us and tell us so.
  2. We like people who are similar to us.
  3. We like people who cooperate with us toward mutual goals.

Therefore, when negotiating, take the time necessary to locate genuine shared interests and points of agreement before delving into your idea, proposal or recommendation. Get to know people more meaningfully before talking business.

6. The Principle of Social Proof

People often rely heavily on others for cues on how to think, feel and act. Hence, the idea of what is correct is often not grounded in facts and statistics, but in observed social interactions. This tendency to look to and follow the lead of those similar to us is strongest in situations with uncertainty. To use the principle of social proof effectively in a negotiation situation, rather than trying to demonstrate it yourself, it is important to first present testimonials from others similar to your fellow negotiator. The more similar the testimonial providers are, the stronger your case.

Negotiation is an essential component in business, and your ability to influence others is a vital skill, but remember that the key is to influence ethically. Only then will you achieve your objectives as you guide the other party to the optimal decision for their needs. With this in mind, your negotiation skills can benefit all involved.