Want to change someone’s mind without being pushy or manipulative? Try these science-backed persuasive techniques revealed by psychology experts.

Do we have free will or are we subject to the influence of others? Most of us would like to think that the decisions we make are down to our own thoughts and ideas, but there are persuasive techniques and other ways in which people can turn us to their way of thinking.

“What we’re finding more and more in psychology is that lots of the decisions we make are influenced by things we are not aware of,” says Jay Olson at McGill University in Quebec, Canada.

Manipulation and persuasion are two such ways in which our decisions can be influenced, but what’s the difference between being manipulative or persuasive?

Manipulation suggests some sort of ill-intent towards the other person by fooling them into doing something against their will; something that is against their morals and beliefs.

Persuasion is more of a coaxing of a person by gentler means in order to make them think in a certain way or do something. At the same time, the things they are persuaded to do are not against that person’s beliefs.

Psychology majors reveal five persuasive techniques to change a person’s mind without manipulating them:

1. Tell a person how they are right

People tend to believe much more strongly in their convictions when challenged by another person. Their beliefs become more compelling as they feel they have to defend their ideas against contradictory evidence. This is known as the ‘backfire effect’. By agreeing with some of a person’s beliefs we align ourselves with them and look less like a challenger and more like an ally.

Robert Cialdini, a psychology professor at Arizona State University, states:

“By initially describing areas of agreement with another’s position, the communicator comes to be seen as a more reasonable and likable individual, thereby increasing his or her persuasiveness.”

2. Tell a story

Studies suggest that if you show a person the cold facts about a story, they won’t be inclined to believe you. But tell them a story, and they might be persuaded. According to Professor Bradley Love, from UCL, if you offer a person a different version of the events in the form of a story, they are more likely to believe you.

Rather than trying to rubbish the original story, replacing it with a different narrative is more persuasive.

“One thing I find counter-intuitive that works is that when someone spreads misinformation it is better to replace the falsehood with an alternative explanation that to focus on refuting the claim,” said Professor Love.

3. Get someone to come to your conclusion themselves

You know if you’ve seen a really great film and you go around recommending it to all your friends, there’ll be one or two that will immediately go against your opinion. This is partly because we like to discover good stuff ourselves.

Therefore the best way to get someone to like what you like, or agree with you is to get them to think they have come up with this conclusion themselves.

“It is true that people are more convinced by their own thinking than by the persuasive assertions of others,” Professor Cialdini said.

4. Choose the right person to deliver your message

If you have an audience that are very stuck in their thinking and you want to persuade them to be more open, consider choosing a person they already respect.

Professor Love suggests that: “A messenger who shares common values with the audience and can share perspective may be effective even if the messenger is not agreeing on a specific point.”

As long as the messenger is respected and their values are appreciated by the audience, they can establish a rapport with the audience and come across as less threatening and more of an ally.

5. Admit a weakness of yours

No one really likes an arrogant person, but we all tend to gravitate towards someone who is self-deprecating. By showing a small weakness to a person you are telling them that you are honest and can be trusted. Therefore, your opinion can also be trusted.

One great example of this is during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Her troops were worried about her capability of leading a sea invasion against Spain.

Elizabeth allayed these fears by admitting that: “I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman. But, I have the heart of a king, and a king of England, too.”

If it can work for a queen, it can work for you too!

These are some of the persuasive techniques revealed by psychologists. Give them a try next time you need to change someone’s mind.


  1. https://www.psychologytoday.com
  2. https://hbr.org

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