How to get others to do what you want or the magic of a "gentle " manipulation - Part 7 of the blog series: Influencing yourself and others

What is life if not a constant manipulation of others to achieve what is desired? The state manipulates through taxes or laws; the boss via orders, praise or criticism; the children via loud howls or proffering great grades; the partner via smiles or frowns. Despite this omnipresence of manipulation, the word itself has primarily negative connotations, that focus on the missing freedom of choice by the manipulated person.

So the question is whether there is a softer, gentler version of manipulation. One that gives freedom to the person being manipulated and still can bring the desired results.

What do YOU think about manipulation?

Let us think through a short quiz on this. Which statement do you think is correct?

  1. If you imagine a situation in advance, you are more likely to master it later.
  2. A picture of eyes on the wall increases honesty.
  3. The size of a plate affects the amount of food you eat.
  4. A written goal increases the probability of success.

Research clearly states that all four statements are correct. And the details delight the heart.


A nudge in the right direction

Re 1: If students are asked to imagine briefly where exactly they will write an essay for their university by the end of Boxing Day, 71% deliver on time, compared to 32% who were not asked to do advance thinking. What a difference! And what power simply lies in asking someone to reflect right here and now on the upcoming implementation.

Re 2: Pictures of eyes on the wall make people feel they are being watched. The result: More coins in the box to pay for coffee. People tend not to want to be perceived as unethical - so "clean behaviour" is easily achieved via little tricks.

Re 3: The bigger the plate, the more people eat without being aware of it. Small plates shrink both the amount of food and the size of the eaters’ bellies. How healthy to know this, especially in home office times.

Re 4: If the employment office asks their clients to write down what measures they plan to take to find a job, a full 20 percent less need state support after only 13 weeks. Noting down potential actions is half a battle won.

This whole topic is also often referred to as nudging, which is defined as "any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people’s behaviour in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives. To count as a mere nudge, the intervention must be 'easy and cheap' to avoid".

Furthermore, all nudges should be transparent and never misleading, and there should be good reason to believe that the behaviour being promoted will improve the well-being of those being nudged.

How can you now successfully nudge yourself and others?

A few additional examples

- People sign up for the Christmas party and in the end don't show up. A small registration fee of 5 € increases the participation rate enormously.

- Meetings take too long - nudge with the help of a whiteboard for everyone to stand in front of - feet tire faster than mouths.

- Around 4 pm you always devour biscuits - schedule yourself virtual appointments – with video - for that time. It`s hard and impolite to eat during them and after 17.00 the urge is usually gone.

- You want more honest answers: Have the person filling in the form sign already at the beginning of the form "I assure you that I am answering truthfully". This increases honesty by 10% at zero cost in comparison with signing at the end of the form.

What else can you do? Read the book "Nudge" or watch the film " It's a Wonderful Life" with James Stewart - the angel may nudge a bit more aggressively but, hey, it's about a whole life.

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