If You Understand These 5 Things About Human Nature, You Can Persuade People More Easily

By AAwosika07 | Philosophy

Oct 26


You have a major problem. This problem keeps you stuck, keeps you from getting what you want.

It’s not that you don’t have talent, you do. It’s not that you don’t have intelligence, you do. In fact, smart people tend to suffer from this problem the most.

You have many problems in your life because you don’t have a strong grasp of human nature. You don’t have a strong grasp of your own nature and you don’t have a strong grasp of the nature of other people.

Who am I to say this? Aren’t I just another fallible human being? Yes. But I know it. Do you?

Every day, I see examples of people overestimating their capacity to use reason and understand the motives of other people. People will make the most logical explanations for emotional decisions and then they’ll wonder why reality doesn’t agree with their reasoning.

Most don’t understand how the world works because they focus on the way they think the world should work instead of the way it actually does work. At least, the way it actually seems to work.

You want to try to get closer to objective reality, even though that’s impossible. You want to learn to fight your own biases, even though that’s improbable.

When you start to understand the way other people work, you can get them to do you what you want, bring them to your cause, persuade them.

You can move about the world more freely and with less anxiety because you understand that some people are the way they are for reasons outside of their own conscious awareness. They can’t help themselves. You’ll also understand that you are this person, I am this person, we are all this person.

In general, you can start to see patterns in society. You can use your insights to set yourself up for success and avoid the downfalls of dealing with the wrong people. You’ll start to feel like you can ‘see the chessboard.’

As I said, I’m not perfect. I’ve stolen these insights from people much smarter than me. Use as much discernment as possible. When reading these thoughts, ask yourself if you agree or disagree with me on a surface level or a deep level. Often, you’ll want to disagree on the surface, but deep down you’ll agree.

Listen to that voice.

How to Understand What Really Motivates People

There is a mismatch, often a large mismatch, between what people say and what people do. Often, the people themselves are unaware of this mismatch.

Never underestimate people’s, including your own, ability to rationalize their behavior. And understand the most important rule. Your behavior determines who you are. Not your thoughts, not your beliefs, not the signals you send to the outside world, but your actions.

How can you use this mismatch to your advantage? Relate to people based on the way they behave instead of what they say, and you can put yourself in a position to benefit from and/or even help them.

A marketing example – people say they hate clickbait, advertisements, and salespeople, yet they read clickbait articles and buy stuff every day. Even if your product is truly just helpful, you sometimes have to ‘put cheese on the broccoli’ to get people to buy-in.

Copywriters and advertisers are adept and knowing what you want better than you do. If you were immune to advertising, you’d wear a potato sack every day, but you don’t. If you want to sell stuff, don’t just take surveys and create focus groups, see what people are already buying.

Don’t listen to what people say they want in a partner, get to know them and understand the types of people they actually date, and highlight those traits if you naturally have them. Same goes for networking.

I could go on here, but you get the point. There are so many obvious answers. People are showing you how to persuade them every single day. Just watch them.

Understand This Crucial Worldview of Every Human

All human beings are self-centered and mostly act on self-interest Even the ones who claim they’re not selfish, who pride themselves on good deeds, perform good deeds because it makes them feel good about themselves.

We look at everything in our life through the lens of how it affects us personally. We tend to focus only on what’s immediately available to us and ignore everything outside of that sphere.

All of us care about our status in society. We all care what others think of us. In fact, we base most of our actions on how we think it’ll make other people think of us. Where do you think all this signaling comes from?

Look at your own life. Be honest. You’re mostly preoccupied with yourself. Of course, you care about other things. You care about society as a whole, the world, and the issues of our day.

You care about your family and friends, even to the point you’d give your life up for theirs. But in terms of your day to day thought patterns, you’re totally self-obsessed.

You might as well use this to your advantage. I always say, ‘If you’re narrating your own life, you might as well be the hero.’ Put that self-obsession to good use. When dealing with others, understand their self-obsession, and use it to your advantage.

One of my biggest challenges with new writers is teaching them that no one cares about their writing, per se, they only care about how the writing makes them feel. The writer themself has issues writing good work because they care too much about their own opinion instead of their audience.

To get people to do what you want, you always have to ask yourself what’s in it for them? If you’re selling a product, that means solving a problem, increasing status, entertainment, etc.

The same principles can work for relationships and networking. Instead of thinking about attracting the right people into your life, ask yourself why they should want you in your life in the first place.

To change someone’s mind to get them to do what you want, don’t appeal to their logic, appeal to their reputation. Anytime you start thinking to yourself, “They should just do what I want!” you’re on the wrong track.

Understand the Subjective Nature of Reality

Scott Adams calls this the ‘Two movies analogy.’ In short, two sets of people with different belief systems watch the same exact movie. After the movie, you ask people from each side what they saw and they won’t describe slightly different versions of the same movie, they’ll describe what seem to be two entirely different films.

You can see this most obviously in politics. Republicans and Democrats can’t fathom why the other side feels the way they feel at all because they experience different realities altogether. Everyone agrees that the media and politicians lie, but they always blame the other team, never theirs.

If you tried to explain your beliefs to me, you’d have a long explanation with ‘facts’ ‘data’ and ‘proof.’ But you’d be explaining an emotional decision you already made. It’s not just politics, you have a ton of deep-seated beliefs that are subjective, but might as well be scientific law to you.

For yourself, do you best to fight the uphill battle of trying to change your own mind. It’s hard because confirmation bias does everything it can to get in your way. I’ve tried reading articles from sources I disagreed with and I’ve caught myself literally skipping over sentences and paragraphs with counter-evidence.

In dealing with others, if you want to stand any chance of persuading them or leading them to your cause, you have to be able to meet them where they are at. You have to be able to make a case for their beliefs, a case they’d strongly agree with, before you’d be able to move them even an inch.

Learning to understand both sides of arguments, debates, issues, etc, helps you reach a wider audience because you’ll understand the truth is somewhere in the middle. I have fans from all backgrounds because I focus on the parts of reality that we all tend to share.

Pretty hard to do in 2020, but if you can lower your self-righteousness just a tad, you can navigate the world more freely, with less anxiety, and even convince some people to join you in the process.

Understand These ‘Secret Tricks’

You can pull people’s psychological levers without their permission.

You’re much more suggestive than you think you are. You underestimate other people’s ability to influence your actions. Often, intellect makes this harder for you to perceive. Smart people are easier to convince because they’ll come up with better ‘reasons’ for their emotions.

In general, you want to learn the many different persuasive hacks and cognitive biases. You want to understand how they affect you and you want to understand how to use them on others. This doesn’t make you transactional, it makes you smart and realistic.

Let’s take a look at some of the common biases and tricks:

  • Anchoring – You have a hard time thinking in absolute terms. You anchor your experiences, results, beliefs, etc in comparison to what’s available to you. For example, Americans are anchored to think of wealth in terms of American wealth, not global wealth. If you’re working class, you feel ‘poor,’ even though you’re ‘rich.’
  • Association bias – Let’s just say there’s a reason why companies use celebrities in their ads and why I quote authors much more famous and smart than I am.
  • Availability – You focus on what’s immediately available to you and ignore everything else. There’s a ton going on in the world, but you only know what you read about, watch, hear, etc.
  • Commitment-consistency – The more you commit to or invest in something, the more you feel a need to live up to your investment. This is why salespeople try to get you to make all these concessions — answering yes to sales questions, signing documents, shaking hands, etc.
  • Lying with statistics – Numbers lie all the time. Read the book How to Lie with Statistics for a deeper explanation. Often, I’ll see someone share an article with ‘data’ that’s nothing more than an interpretation of data.
  • Like/dislike bias – If you don’t like someone, they could tell you the sky is blue and you’d damn near disagree with them. The converse is also true with the ‘halo effect.’ If you like someone or are attracted to them, you’ll ignore their flaws.
  • Tribalism – People look at themselves as tribe members above all else (see: politics). To bring people to your cause, make them feel like they’re a part of something bigger, a movement.

I could go on here. The point? If you become a master of these hidden ‘levers’, you can get more people to do what you want. Use this power for good.

Understand the Duality of Human Beings

In general, you can look at people as wanting to move toward pleasure and away from pain. They want to gain love and avoid fear. You can use this push-pull on people to persuade them in many ways.

People usually want to avoid pain more than they want pleasure, which is why products that sell well tend to solve problems. People will gravitate to you more if you solve problems.

When persuading based on love, pleasure, and aspiration, think about how what you provide or do will make people feel. People buy products that increase their status because they want people to like them, love them, admire them, respect them. We all crave validation. Look at social media.

We have tribalism because people want love and acceptance. We will go a long way to get this acceptance. Look at gangs.

When observing society, see it as a battle of fear and love. Be the person that alleviates fear and helps people feel loved. Understand how deeply these two factors motivate people to behave the way they behave. All of the things I’ve mentioned in this post come from these two sources.

Once you understand the tension between these two forces, you understand much of how the world works. Then, you can go on your mission and help people deal with this tension themselves.

You can, at a minimum, try not to add more of this tension in the world. You’ll be more compassionate because you understand why people are doing what they’re doing. And after spending a good amount of time working on these issues yourself, maybe you’ll be in a position to them, too.


About the Author

Ayodeji is the Author of Real Help: An Honest Guide to Self-Improvement and two other Amazon best-selling titles. When he's not writing, he enjoys reading, exercising, eating chicken wings, and occasionally drinking old-fashioned's.