How to manipulate others and have influence: the 6 principles

Based on the book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert Cialdini, Olivier Roland highlights 6 important principles to gain influence and manipulate other people, be it good or bad.

1. Reciprocity.

The principle is: If someone does you a favor, you should return the favor.

Those who do not respect this reciprocity are regarded as freeloaders. So you should do everything possible to not be labelled with this tag.

As an example, he highlights the case of a university professor who sent greeting cards to strangers. Many of them then sent him replies, even though they had no intention to find out who he actually was.

2. Commitment and consistency.

Everyone wishes to strive for consistency in their behaviour. Once you have committed yourself to something, you have to see it through, as that is taken as consistent with your goal.

A simple “Yes” from someone can be leveraged to persuade them to act in the way you want them to. For example, the number of volunteers increased 8-fold when they said “Yes” to this question: “Would you like to spend 3 hours collecting money for the campaign against cancer?”

This Yes means: not to be seen as selfish, but to be seen as a model citizen. This shows that with little effort, it is possible to manipulate an individual based on their sense of themselves.


3. Social evidence.

If people behave in a certain way in a socially environment, then the general conclusion that most people come up with is that it is the right thing to do, even if they don’t agree with it on the inside.

You can try this experiment: stop with a few friends in front of a building and all look up into the sky in the same direction. Other passers-by will automatically look up in the same direction to see what has grabbed your attention.

4. Sympathy.

Again, based on Robert Cialdini’s book, he demonstrates that physical appearance has an influence and manipulation on sympathy.

People tend to attribute honesty, talent, kindness and intelligence to a person with attractive looks. Physical beauty is an asset in almost every field.

Secondly, Olivier Roland focuses on the principle of similarity: people appreciate things that are similar to what they like or feel an attachment to, and this creates sympathy.

In addition, a compliment will instantly make you more likeable to other people.

5. Influence and authority.

On one side, there are the people in authority and on the other side ordinary people.

From childhood we are told to obey authority as a way to behave in an appropriate manner. In a set system, once a legitimate authority has spoken, what it says will no longer be questioned.

6. Scarcity.

He illustrates this last principle with an example. Most people will interrupt their conversation to answer the phone. They will consider the call more valuable than the actual information that they get while they are on the phone.

People are more driven by the fear that they will lose something rather than gain something else. A forbidden object only serves to increase your need to have it, as people attach more value to something that is scarce and difficult to obtain.


  • The book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert Cialdini on Amazon
  • Video: The 4-hour week in 12 principles.

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