Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

A book i’ll highly recommend is Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

6 key principles of persuasion:

  • Reciprocity – People tend to return a favor, thus the pervasiveness of free samples in marketing. In his conferences, he often uses the example of Ethiopia providing thousands of dollars in humanitarian aid to Mexico just after the 1985 earthquake, despite Ethiopia suffering from a crippling famine and civil war at the time. Ethiopia had been reciprocating for the diplomatic support Mexico provided when Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935. The good cop/bad cop strategy is also based on this principle.
  • Commitment and Consistency – If people commit, orally or in writing, to an idea or goal, they are more likely to honor that commitment because of establishing that idea or goal as being congruent with their self image. Even if the original incentive or motivation is removed after they have already agreed, they will continue to honor the agreement. For example, in car sales, suddenly raising the price at the last moment works because the buyer has already decided to buy. Cialdini notes Chinese brainwashing on American prisoners of war to rewrite their self image and gain automatic unenforced compliance. See cognitive dissonance.
  • Social Proof – People will do things that they see other people are doing. For example, in one experiment, one or more confederates would look up into the sky; bystanders would then look up into the sky to see what they were seeing. At one point this experiment aborted, as so many people were looking up that they stopped traffic. See conformity, and the Asch conformity experiments.
  • Authority – People will tend to obey authority figures, even if they are asked to perform objectionable acts. Cialdini cites incidents such as the Milgram experiments in the early 1960s and the My Lai massacre.
  • Liking – People are easily persuaded by other people that they like. Cialdini cites the marketing of Tupperware in what might now be called viral marketing. People were more likely to buy if they liked the person selling it to them. Some of the many biases favoring more attractive people are discussed. See physical attractiveness stereotype.
  • Scarcity – Perceived scarcity will generate demand. For example, saying offers are available for a “limited time only” encourages sales.

It’s all about me in the Internet age

Posted on Oct 23, 2012 9:42 AM Updated: Oct 23, 2012 9:42 AM

When that NUS undergraduate’s sex blog made the rounds earlier this week, it confirmed to me one of the most distasteful qualities of my generation.

Not the tendency to apply Instagram filters to make any picture – including extreme close-up shots of genitalia – look “artsy”, although that’s also appalling.

It is that we have no idea what is actually worthy of notice, remark and attention, because we have the ability to publish every inane thought.

Every non-event and trivial action is to us deserving of mention to a mass audience on social media, whose receptiveness – measured in “likes” – in turn deepens our self-regard.

An older colleague once diagnosed my generation in one damning sentence: “Everything you do is for the story.”

In his time, he recalled, when anything happened, you actually had to pick up the phone and call someone to tell them.

The sheer effort of transmitting information made people more discerning of what they chose to communicate. Only really big news and out-of-the-ordinary encounters were worth it.

As modern communications technology has improved, our standards of newsworthiness have deteriorated in tandem. We do everything for the story because all we do is tell stories – but so few of them are any good.

In the days of letter-writing and telegrams, when people posed for pictures twice in their lifetimes, I can’t imagine anyone wasting a frame on a picture of their lunch or sending off an inarticulate description of their mood, punctuated with an emoticon.

But, of course, it’s not the topic but the way it’s executed. Like Warholian soup cans and Proustian madeleines, there’s always been art in mundanity.

But Gen-Y and younger – and in fact I fear worse for the kids who’ve never known a world without Facebook – don’t need to rise to the top to be validated with an audience. They no longer need talent or drive to receive attention.

Plain-looking girls can look beautiful with careful angling and detailed colour treatment of their pictures. From a thousand self-portraits will emerge one that gives you the bone structure that Nature withheld.

Mediocre thinkers can post their amateur philosophising on Facebook notes and bask in the delusion of their originality – helped along by praise from their even-dumber social circle.

Two young, moronic exhibitionists can get into the national newspapers just for misplacing their sense of shame.

It’s enough to make one despair, especially if one sometimes feels, as I do, at high risk of catching this Spanish flu of undiscerning self-importance.

My Facebook page is, in places, as filled with frivolity and narcissism as any average 20something. I was in university when the site really took off with undergraduates everywhere. My sister and her husband, who at three years older are later-comers to social media, once marvelled at the fact that I had more than a thousand pictures tagged.

But my count was already substantially under that of my schoolmates.

The whole vicious circle works in reverse too. Since what is published and garners an audience must be remarkable; ergo, nothing that is remarkable can go unpublished.

One of my friends had a friend who caught her boyfriend having cybersex – which she announced through the world by posting screenshots of his lurid chat transcripts. Another had a friend who proposed, only to have his girlfriend squeal, whip out her phone, take a picture of him on his knees, a picture of the ring, and then upload it all on Facebook – before she finally said Yes.

I feel like this is a phenomenon that older generations must truly puzzle over. It used to be that the more significant and intimate the moment between two people, the more private. Now, it’s the other way around. If a tree falls in the forest and somebody saw it and posted about it on Facebook but nobody “liked” the news or commented – did it happen?

So to me, it was not Alvin and Vivian’s lack of propriety that was the most objectionable about their whole blog undertaking nor their “immoral” behaviour.

What dismayed me was the way the couple not just felt their exploits worth documenting, but also distributing and publicising.

This despite the fact that the only thing special about it all was that they thought they were.

Howdy partner!

What’s the first thing you notice about the video?

Yes!! The model.

This is the first time i’m actually noticing a male model and I must say, he is pretty darn hot.

Btw, his name is Holden Nowell.

Cheers! Tomorrow is Friday!

Common English Language Errors

1. Subject Verb Agreement

The indefinite pronouns anyone, everyone, someone, no one, nobody are always singular and, therefore, require singular verbs.

  • Everyone has done his or her homework.
  • Somebody has left her purse.
  • Everyone has finished his or her homework.

You would always say, “Everybody is here.” This means that the word is singular and nothing will change that.

Some indefinite pronouns — such as all, some — are singular or plural depending on what they’re referring to. (Is the thing referred to countable or not?) Be careful choosing a verb to accompany such pronouns.

  • Some of the beads are missing.
  • Some of the water is gone.

Each is often followed by a prepositional phrase ending in a plural word (Each of the cars), thus confusing the verb choice. Each, too, is always singular and requires a singular verb.

Each of the students is responsible for doing his or her work in the library.

Don’t let the word “students” confuse you; the subject is each and each is always singular — Each is responsible.

Phrases such as together with, as well as, and along with are not the same as and. The phrase introduced by as well as or along with will modify the earlier word (mayor in this case), but it does not compound the subjects (as the word and would do).

  • The mayor as well as his brothers is going to prison.
  • The mayor and his brothers are going to jail.

The pronouns neither and either are singular and require singular verbs even though they seem to be referring, in a sense, to two things.

  • Neither of the two traffic lights is working.
  • Which shirt do you want for Christmas? Either is fine with me.

The conjunction or does not conjoin (as and does): when nor or or is used the subject closer to the verb determines the number of the verb. Whether the subject comes before or after the verb doesn’t matter; the proximity determines the number.

  • Either my father or my brothers are going to sell the house.
  • Neither my brothers nor my father is going to sell the house.
  • Are either my brothers or my father responsible?
  • Is either my father or my brothers responsible?

Because a sentence like “Neither my brothers nor my father is going to sell the house” sounds peculiar, it is probably a good idea to put the plural subject closer to the verb whenever that is possible.

If your sentence compounds a positive and a negative subject and one is plural, the other singular, the verb should agree with the positive subject.

  • The department members but not the chair have decided not to teach on Valentine’s Day.
  • It is not the faculty members but the president who decidesthis issue.
  • It was the speaker, not his ideas, that has provoked the students to riot.

2. Extend and extent

Extend means to stretch out (or increase) Eg: Extend the meeting. (Stretch out the meeting)

Extent implies a particular length or how much Eg: To what extent, do you know about him? (How much do you know about him?)

3. Would or will

We use will:

  • to talk about the future – to say what we believe will happen
  • to talk about what people want to do or are willing to do
  • to make promises and offers

would is the past tense form of will. Because it is a past tense it is used:

  • to talk about the past.
  • to talk about hypotheses – things that are imagined rather than true.
  • for politeness.


We use will

  • to say what we believe will happen in the future:

We‘ll be late. We will have to take the train.

We use would as the past tense of will:

  • to say what we believed would happen:

I thought I would be late …… so I would have to take the train.

Offers and promises

We use I will or We will to make offers and promises:

I’ll give you a lift home after the party. We will come and see you next week.


  • to talk about what people want to do or are willing to do:

We’ll see you tomorrow. Perhaps dad will lend me the car.

We use would as the past tense of will:

  • to talk about what people wanted to do or were willing to do:

We had a terrible night. The baby wouldn’t go to sleep. He kept waking up and crying. Dad wouldn’t lend me the car, so we had to take the train.

  • to talk about something that we did often in the past because we wanted to do it:

When they were children they used to spend their holidays at their grandmother’s at the seaside. They would get up early every morning and they’d have a quick breakfast then they would run across the road to the beach.


We use will in conditionals with if and unless to say what we think will happen in the future or present:

I’ll give her a call if I can find her number. You won’t get in unless you have a ticket.

We use would to talk about hypotheses, about something which is possible but not real:

  • to talk about the result or effect of a possible situation:

It would be very expensive to stay in a hotel.

  • in conditionals with words like if and what if. In these sentences the main verb is usually in the past tense:

I would give her a call if I could find her number. If I had the money I‘d buy a new car. You would lose weight if you took more exercise. If he got a new job he would probably make more money. What if he lost his job. What would happen then?

We use conditionals to give advice:

Dan will help you if you ask him.

Past tenses are more polite:

Dan would help you if you asked him.

Phrases with would:

  • would you…, would you mind (not) -ing, for requests:

Would you carry this for me please? Would you mind carrying this? Would you mind not telling him that?

  • would you like …; would you like to …,  for offers and invitations:

Would you like to come round to morrow? Would you like another drink?

  • I would like …; I’d like … (you)(to) …, to say what we want or what we want to do:

I’d like that one please. I’d like to go home now.

  • I’d rather… (I would rather) to say what we prefer:

I’d rather have that one. I’d rather go home now.

  • I would think, I would imagine, I’d guess, to give an opinion when we are not sure or when we want to be polite:

It’s very difficult I would imagine. I would think that’s the right answer.

4. Worse and worst

Use worse to compare two things. These can be physical objects, concepts, places, people, and so forth. Ex: “I think eggplant is worse than boiled cabbage, but that’s just my opinion”; “Which is worse for your health, smoking or drinking?”

Use worst to state that one thing is inferior to multiple other things. Since it’s used to single out one thing, it always comes after the word the. Ex. “I disagree. Eggplant and boiled cabbage are both vile, but squash is the worst!”

5. Plural noun forms

The word following the phrase one of the (as an object of the preposition of) will always be plural.

  • One of the reasons we do this is that it rains a lot in spring.
  • One of the students in this room is responsible.

Cakkavattisihananda Sutta: The Lion’s Roar on the Turning of the Wheel

This is the sutta that was taught in class yesterday.

It is very interesting as Buddha defined and explained how one can increase lifespan, beauty, happiness and power.


27. ‘Monks, be an islands unto yourselves, be a refuge unto yourselves with no other refuge. Let the Dhamma be your island, let the Dhamma be your refuge, with no other refuge.

And how does a monk dwell as an island unto himself, as a refuge unto himself with no other refuge, with the Dhamma as his island, with the Dhamma as his refuge, with no other refuge?

Here, a monk abides contemplating body as body, ardent, clearly aware and mindful, having put aside hankering and fretting for the world.

Here, a monk abides contemplating feelings as feelings, ardent, clearly aware and mindful, having put aside hankering and fretting for the world.

Here, a monk abides contemplating mind as mind, ardent, clearly aware and mindful, having put aside hankering and fretting for the world.

Here, a monk abides contemplating mind-objects as mind-objects, ardent, clearly aware and mindful, having put aside hankering and fretting for the world.

28. ‘Keep to your own preserves, monks, to your ancestral haunts. If you do so, your life-span will increase, your beauty will increase, your happiness will increase, your wealth will increase, your power will increase. ‘And what is the length of life for a monk?

Here, a monk develops the road to power which is concentration of intention accompanied by effort of will, the road to power which is concentration of energy accompanied by effort of will, the road to power which is concentration of consciousness accompanied by effort of will, the road to power which is concentration of investigations accompanied by effort of will.

By frequently practising these four roads to power he can, if he wishes,
live for a full century, or the remaining part of a century.

This is what I call the length of life for a monk.

‘And what is the beauty for a monk?

Here a monk practises right conduct, is restrained according to the discipline, is perfect in behaviour and habits, sees danger in the slightest fault, and trains in the rules of training he has undertaken.

That is the beauty for a monk.

‘And what is happiness for a monk?

Here a monk, detached from sense desire detached from unwholesome mental states, enters and remains in the First Jhana, which is with thinking and pondering (initial application and sustained application), born of detachment, filled with delight and joy.

And with the subsiding of thinking and pondering, by gaining inner tranquillity and oneness of mind, enters and remains in the Second Jhana, which without thinking and pondering (initial application and sustained application), born of concentration, filled with delight and joy.

And with the fading away of delight, remaining imperturbable, mindful and clearly aware, he experiences in himself the joy of which the Noble Ones say: “Happy is he who dwells with equanimity and mindfulness“, he enters the Third Jhana.

And, having given up pleasure and pain, and with the disappearance of former gladness and sadness, he enters and remains in the Fourth Jhana, which is beyond pleasure and pain, and purified by equanimity and mindfulness.

That is happiness for a monk. ‘And what is wealth for a monk?

Here, a monk, with his heart filled with loving-kindness, dwells suffusing one quarter, the second, the third, the fourth. Thus he dwells suffusing the whole world, upwards, downwards, across – everywhere, always with the mind filled with loving-kindness, abundant, unbounded, without hate or ill-will.

Then, with his heart filled with compassion, dwells suffusing one quarter, the second, the third, the fourth. Thus he dwells suffusing the whole world, upwards, downwards, across – everywhere, always with the mind filled with compassion, abundant, unbounded, without hate or ill-will.

Then, with his heart filled with sympathetic joy, dwells suffusing one quarter, the second, the third, the fourth. Thus he dwells suffusing the whole world, upwards, downwards, across – everywhere, always with the mind filled with sympathetic joy, abundant, unbounded, without hate or ill-will.

Then, with his heart filled with equanimity, dwells suffusing one quarter, the second, the third, the fourth. Thus he dwells suffusing the whole world, upwards, downwards, across – everywhere, always with the mind filled with equanimity, abundant, unbounded, without hate or ill-will.

That is the wealth for a monk.

‘And what is the power for a monk?

Here, a monk, by destruction of the corruptions, enters into and abides in that corruptionless liberation of heart and liberation by wisdom which he has attained, in this very life, by his own super-knowledge and realisation.

That is the power for a monk.

‘Monks, I do not consider any power so hard to conquer as the power of Mara.
It is used by this building-up of wholesome states that this merit increases.’

Thus the Lord spoke, and the monks were delighted and rejoiced at his words.

Cakkavatti-Sihanada Sutta – The Lion’s Roar Discourse on the Turning of the Wheel Sutta Pitaka – Nigha Nikaya


Belief is Part of the Problem

When you have decided there is a reason for something not working for you, you have formed a belief.

This belief is now part of the problem.. it is of your own making.

A problem can only exist in your mind. Outside your mind there are only circumstances.

When you apply yourself to circumstances and believe that you can succeed, you are giving yourself the foundations to succeed at anything.

– How to be Confident using the Power of NLP by David Molden and Pat Hutchinson

Body Language

I’ve recently taken an interest in body language. It’s a very interesting topic as most of the conversation is done non-verbally.

Here are some key takeaways:

1. “When the mind closes, the body follows.”; “When you can see a ‘no’ before it’s said, you can try a different approach

In essence, when a person crosses their hands or legs, it shows that they are not open to your opinion at that point in time. It will be futile to keep pushing your point across at that moment. Hand them a brochure, a pen, a paper, or a drink so that they will “open” up and start listening.

2. In “The Secret Language of Influence in Business” by Kevin Hogan, the found that “if your counterpart is right-handed, you will be received better and have a far greater likelihood of making the sale if you are seated off to that person’s right”

3. “Fake it until you make it”

One should deliberately choose the necessary behaviors to show confidence in yourself and if you do that often enough and long enough, that confidence will eventually develop for real.

“Remember that confidence is an illusion, a bit like pulling a rabbit out of a hat: the rabbit does come out of the hat, but there is a magic trick that you did not see that put it in there. By matching someone else’s confidence, you can appear confident, but no one will notice the techniques you are using to create the perception.”

4. To build rapport, there are 3 key points to remember:

4.1 Mirroring– your body language, your movements, your posture, your tone of voice, your style of dress

4.2 Listening– ask open-ended questions and listen for key wants and needs, check for understanding, find areas of common ground, hear what is really being said

4.3 Reciprocating– similiar pressure when shaking hands, sharing similar levels of information, responding to a gesture of trust with another gesture of trust, anticipating needs and offering support.

5. Skilful elbow-touching can give you up to 3 times the chance of getting what you want.

When you next meet someone new and you shake hands, extend your left arm, give a light touch on their elbow or hand as you shake, rpeat their name to confirm you heard it correctly and watch their reaction. Not only does it make that person feel important, it lets you remember their name through repetition.

6. Use the “Steeple” action to protray confidence.

7.  The power of “Eyebrow Flash“. The golden rule is always Eyebrow Flash people you like or those who you want to like you.

8. The “Power Lift”

To keep control of where a person is looking, use a pen to point to the presentation and, at the same time, verbalise what he sees. Next, lift the pen from the presentaton and hold it between his eyes and your eyes. This has the magnetic effect of lifting his head so that now he is looking at you and he sees and hears what you are saying, achieving maximum absorption of your message. Keep the palm ofyour other hand open when you are speaking.

9. Remember to take note of seating arrangements for the best outcome.