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Friday, December 2, 2011

How to Get People to Do What You Want

The following discussion post is the result of one of my recent PhD assignments.  As many of you know, I am pursuing my PhD in psychology through Capella University.  I thought it was general enough to be of interest to you guys.  Enjoy. 

DISCUSSION QUESTION: How would you instruct an individual to be more or less conforming, compliant, or obedient? Support your approach with citations from the text and resources you have used.

BY: Monroe Mann
DATE: December 2, 2011

Both the Milgram (1963) experiment and Kassin, Fein, & Markus (2008) explain that in order to get someone to do what you want to do, the easiest (and most assured) way of doing so is to slowly chip away at their defenses. In other words, it is very difficult to make someone do a full 180 in one fell swoop; it is far easier to get someone to make small 1 degree changes in succession. This is one of the key reasons why the Milgram experiment worked--the experimenter asked the subjects to give the shocks in small incrementally-larger amounts. Had the experimenter simply said, "Give the learner an XXX level shock," the subjects would in all likelihood not have complied.

Before discussing ways to avoid falling victim to unwanted compliance, it is important to first understand some of the key compliance and persuasive strategies that psychologists have proven to work effectively. Kassin, Fein, & Markus (2008) provide a number of these strategies that can be used to help secure compliance with your wishes:

a) WORDS: simply by putting the word 'because' in your request, you will increase the likelihood of the other person's compliance. Further, by making your request as odd as possible, you also increase the odds that the target person will stop his thought processes and actually consider what you are requesting.

b) RECIPROCITY: No one likes to be in someone else's debt. In other words, if someone gives you a gift, you are in all likelihood going to reciprocate in some way, in an effort to even things out. Therefore, if you want someone to do something, you might want to give that person a gift first.

c) FOOT IN THE DOOR: Get someone to COMPLY with a small request first, and then they will be more likely to later agree to the more important real request.

d) LOW-BALLING: Get someone to AGREE with a small request first, and then turn around and increase the size of the original request, and the person is likely to feel an obligation to go through with the transaction anyway. Notice that low balling and foot in the door are virtually the same, except in the latter, you only need 'agreement' whereas in the former, you also need 'compliance'.

e) DOOR IN THE FACE: This is the opposite of the foot in the door. Instead of securing compliance with a small request and following up with a larger request, this technique starts with a HUGE outlandish request, and upon rejection, follows up with a smaller (real) request. An example might work with a girl: if you first invite her to marry you, she will likely laugh and say no, but then, when you ask her to dinner, it doesn't seem so bad. :) The same technique is the punchline to a joke I once heard. A college student writes home to her parents: "I'm sorry, and I don't know what to tell you, but I'm pregnant, I crashed the car you let me borrow, I was arrested for attempted murder, and I need you to bail me out of jail. Actually, none of that is true. I just wanted you to know I scored an F in biology. -Jenny" This technique is also sometimes called the 'high ball' technique.

f) THAT'S NOT ALL FOLKS: In this reverse of the "door in the face", you would first make an inflated request, and then, soften it up and reduce the perceived size of the request by offering a discount or a bonus. In this case, the price remains the same, but you increase the value by adding additional items or nicknacks. This is like the 'high ball/door in the face' technique, but a) the starting amount here is at least somewhat reasonable, and b) the amount does NOT change (as it does in the high-ball). g) AUTHORITY: If you can come across as a person of authority, people will tend to obey you. If you can act like you are a true authority figure, that will help. If you can wear a uniform that conveys authority, that will help. If your name or title bring with them a nature of authority, that too will help.

h) SOCIAL IMPACT THEORY: Latane (1981) believes that social influence is a result of three factors: 1) the source's strength, 2) the source's immediacy, and 3) the source's number. The strength of a source "is determined by his or her status, ability, or relationship to a target. The stronger the source, the greater the influence." (Kassin, Fein, & Markus, 2008). Immediacy simply refers to how close the source is in time and space to the target. Finally, number means that the influence of a single source will increase with the addition of more sources up to a total of FOUR. Beyond four, the effect was negligible.

Therefore, if someone wanted to be more or less compliant, here are the factors he must consider:

a) be aware of the words someone says--to be less compliant, don't let words like 'because' influence you;

b) be aware of the effects of receiving something from someone else--to be less compliant, be suspicious whenever someone gives you a gift or does you a favor, and do not feel obligated to satisfy the social norms of society, i.e. reciprocity;

c) be aware of the various sequential request strategies (foot in door, low-balling, door in face, and that's not all)--the more aware you are of these techniques, the less likely you are to succumb to their effects.

d) be aware of the authority of the person making the request--to avoid blind compliance, truly consider the source's authority, and whether he really has the authority to make the particular request he is making.

e) be aware of the source's strength--consider who the person is who is talking to you if you want to be sure you are not being influenced solely because of the person's relationship to you;

f) be aware of the source's immediacy--to avoid becoming blindly compliant, consider where the source is in relation to you when making his request; also consider the surrounding events in terms of the time period in which the request is being made.

g) be aware of the source's number--if there are 2, 3, 4, or more people 'pressuring' you to do something, do not succumb to what is often known as 'peer pressure' or sometimes the 'tyranny of the majority'. Stay independent and trust your judgment. (Kassin, Fein, & Markus, 2008).

Kassin, S., Fein, S., & Markus, H. R. (2008). Social psychology. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.

Milgram, S. (1963). Behavioral study of obedience. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 67(4), 371-378.
No Rules, No Excuses, No Regrets (r)
-Monroe Mann, Esq, MBA, ME

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