How to Persuade People: 3 Ways to Put People Under Your Spell

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Daily Laws" by Robert Greene. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

Like this article? Sign up for a free trial here.

Would you like to be more charming? How can you get what you want without using force or intimidation?

In The Daily Laws, Robert Greene explores truths about human nature and how you can take control of your life. He shares three ways to seduce and persuade others: make them lower their guard, play into their fantasies, and appeal to their emotions.

Continue reading to learn how to persuade people with Greene’s strategies.

How to Persuade People

According to Greene, the ability to seduce and persuade others is a crucial form of power that allows you to control people and get what you want out of your interactions. Rather than use intimidation or force, you can learn how to persuade people—taking advantage of their natural desires and charming them into falling under your influence.

(Shortform note: Other experts agree with Greene on the power of persuasion, elaborating that effective persuasion uses emotions rather than logic. Persuasion that targets emotions is so powerful because we tend to more readily agree with people who make us feel good or who present proposals that align with our values and opinions. For example, someone might be staunchly opposed to trying a popular drink just because a celebrity they dislike endorses it.)

Strategy #1: Lower Their Guard 

According to Greene, to influence others, you must lower their guard by making yourself seem similar to them. Try to mirror their values, tastes, and beliefs in your words and behaviors. This makes them feel validated and increases their sense of security, which helps them feel more comfortable and open to your ideas and suggestions.

To figure out what others like and value, encourage them to talk for most of your interaction. Greene explains that people are driven most by self-interest, so you won’t be persuasive if you focus on what you personally value or need. Rather, frame the conversation around their needs and interests. 

(Shortform note: In How to Talk to Anyone, Leil Lowndes agrees with Greene on the importance of validating people, adding that people only want to engage with you if they think that you like them. To build trust and convey interest, Lowndes suggests using the pronouns “we,” “us,” and “our” to encourage a feeling of friendship.)

Strategy #2: Cultivate Fantasy and Desire

To persuade others, play to their fantasies, Greene says. This makes you so likable and charming that people fall under your influence. He explains that everyone has an idea of how they’d like the world to be. When you present that fantasy to them, people are more likely to agree with what you say or do what you want.

(Shortform note: While, according to Greene, you must be a source of desire and fantasy in order to influence people, some experts argue that desire alone isn’t enough. In Pitch Anything, Oren Klaff says that to capture someone’s attention, you must add an element of tension by creating stakes and consequences. He explains that desire causes a person’s brain to release a chemical that piques their interest, but tension generates another chemical that maintains their interest. To generate tension, alternate between rejecting them and accepting them. However, Klaff cautions you not to overdo it as you’ll risk turning desire and tension into fear and anxiety.)

When appealing to other people’s fantasies, present yourself as the only person who can satisfy those fantasies. Identify something they’re lacking in their life and show them how only you can fill that void. For example, if they want to feel capable, make it seem as though you’re the only person in their life who views them that way. 

(Shortform note: In addition to appealing to someone’s fantasies, you can consider, more broadly, their worldview and create a narrative that matches that worldview. In All Marketers Are Liars, Seth Godin defines a worldview as the beliefs, biases, and values that affect how someone sees themselves and the world and determines what will satisfy their needs. Similar to Greene’s strategy, Godin advises that you tell a story that fits their worldview. For example, if you know the other person is passionate about exercise, and you’re promoting a book you’ve written, you could emphasize how your appreciation of exercise inspired you to write it, which might subconsciously make you and your book seem more appealing to them.)

Another way to generate desire is to associate yourself with something forbidden or unfamiliar. Greene says that people want what they can’t have and secretly long to transgress barriers. Tempt your target with alluring words, but wait to deliver on them. Don’t make it seem like you’re trying to get something out of them—focus on cultivating desire through suspense.

(Shortform note: Psychologists refer to the tendency to desire things that are forbidden as the forbidden fruit effect. They offer several explanations for this effect: People are naturally motivated to reduce uncertainty, and they tend to assume that things are forbidden because they have a hidden value. Another reason, researchers argue, is that forbidden things linger in our memories longer—the more we try not to think about them, the harder it is not to.)

Strategy #3: Use Visuals and Appeal to Emotions

According to Greene, you can persuade others more effectively by using images to create lasting emotional impressions. Surround yourself with symbols and imagery that evoke positive feelings, whether you wear a bright piece of clothing or post exciting pictures on social media. When you associate yourself with positive visuals, people will view you more positively, allowing you to control what sort of impression they have of you. Greene explains that visuals are more powerful than words because people’s brains retain them longer. Similarly, people pay more attention to the emotions they feel when you talk than to the words you say. 

(Shortform note: There’s scientific reasoning behind why emotions and visual images have a lasting impact on people. In Brain Rules, John Medina explains that sight is our most dominant sense, with over half of our brain dedicated to understanding what we see. Not only do we pay more attention to visual information, but it also alters information perceived by our other senses. For example, you might think different-colored candies have different flavors when, in reality, they all have the same taste. According to Medina, we also pay attention to emotions more than to words for evolutionary reasons: Being alert to feelings like fear or attraction is crucial to survival because it helps us avoid danger and reproduce.)

You can further leave a positive impression by displaying positive emotions yourself. According to Greene, we’re highly sensitive to other people’s body language and are easily influenced by other people’s moods. If you treat the conversation as enjoyable and engage with your target deeply, they may naturally feel and do the same.

(Shortform note: You can influence other people’s emotions with your own because of the mirror neurons in our brains. In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor explains that these neurons detect the emotions and behaviors of others and activate as though you were feeling or behaving the same way. Additionally, some people’s emotions are more infectious than those of others. According to Achor, if you’re more expressive or have stronger social connections with others, you can have an even stronger influence on the emotions of those you’re interacting with.)

How to Persuade People: 3 Ways to Put People Under Your Spell

———End of Preview———

Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Robert Greene's "The Daily Laws" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full The Daily Laws summary:

  • Why our beliefs tend to leave us feeling unhappy and unfulfilled
  • How to attune yourself to the reality of how the world really works
  • How to manage your emotions and develop rationality

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, and philosophy. A switch to audiobooks has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.