It’s nice to tell someone, “you are very talented at your job,” but does that make you persuasive? It certainly can.
Whether it’s the spoken word or in writing, a key to persuasion is the ability to tap an audience’s emotions and flattery makes people feel good about themselves. With a compliment, a person is in a more cheerful mood, and it is more likely you can persuade her to do something for you in return.
Here are two examples where people deliberately used flattery as a tactic to persuade others:
- Psychologists who used descriptive adjectives that appealed to a person’s generosity (“you’re so thoughtful”) were successful in persuading people to fill out a questionnaire. The reason is that if you insert terms about yourself, such as “I sincerely appreciate your help,” you become more likeable and, therefore, more persuasive since people usually are persuaded to do things for those they like.
- Psychologist Anthony Pratkanis sent out a team to ask passersby to participate in a “stop junk mail” crusade by writing postcards to direct-mail companies. More people complied with the psychologists’ request after they had complimented the passersby on an article of clothing or jewelry they were wearing. The success, Pratkanis said, was because the compliments brightened the person’s mood.
So don’t hesitate to compliment someone; just be sincere. When you “lay it on thick,” it will seem phony.
You can learn other tactics of influence at a workshop I’m leading on persuasive writing on Thursday, March 20. Sponsored by PRSA Boston’s Independent Practitioners Network, the writing workshop will be held from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. at the Needham Free Public Library, 1139 Highland Ave., Needham. To find out more about the workshop or to register, click here.