How to Persuade, in 59 Seconds

This is taken from 59 Seconds by Richard Wiseman, a book that wants to make your life better – in 59 seconds or less. It is all based on scientific research. If you like that sort of thing.

Rewards Don’t Work!

  • Rewards don’t work. They sometimes show a short-term boost, but generally elicit the response:

‘I get paid for doing things I don’t like; therefore I must hate this.’

  • Occasional surprise rewards work for things that someone enjoys already. So does praise for their effort.
  • For something disliked, modest payment and feel-good comments about their behaviour works.

Quick Tips for Persuasion

  • Sit in the middle of a group. Important people sit in the middle.
  • If you are trying to sell something, keep the name of the product simple, in other words: easy to remember and straightforward to pronounce.
  • Use simple language, not fancy words to make yourself appear intelligent.
  • Make appeals personal, story based, not based on general statistics.
  • To get more donations, use the slogan: ‘Every penny helps’ and paint your collection box red.
  • Do a favour for someone and they’ll reciprocate. Don’t put the pressure on by doing too much to begin with. Ask for the return favour soon after – otherwise the other person will forget they needed you.
  • Put a photo of a cute baby in your wallet. WTF.

Getting Agreement

  • Getting someone to answer ‘yes’ to a series of minor questions will encourage them to say ‘yes’ when you ask the big one.
  • People like things that are introduced to them whilst they are eating a meal.
  • People are more likely to be swayed by controversial arguments if they have caffeine.
  • Save your time, persuade by rhyme.
  • Similarity works to persuade. People like people like themselves, even just sharing a first name is enough. Funny, eh? I can’t think of a Dave I didn’t get on with. And there are a lot of us around.
  • Use humour, lighten up the persuasion, get them in a good mood.

How to Nail Your Job Interview

Job interviews are all about persuasion and, unjustly, likeability is more important than qualifications or experience, so:

  • Find something you like about the organisation and let your opinion be known.
  • Give a genuine compliment to the interviewer.
  • Chat about a non-work-related topic that you and the interviewer find interesting.
  • Be interested – ask what type of person they’re looking for and how they’ll fit into the organisation.
  • Be enthusiastic about the position and the organisation.
  • Smile and maintain eye contact with the interviewers.
  • When you do have a weakness, announce it early to show your honesty
  • Leave something positive to the end to show your modesty.
  • If you make what feels like a major mistake, don’t panic. The chances are it is much more noticeable to you than them. An excessive response or apology will only draw attention to it.

How to Be Likeable

  • People like you more when they do a small favour for you.
  • The occasional slip up can enhance your likeability. Warning: this only works if you risk looking too perfect, like JFK.
  • Gossip positively – the traits you gossip about will come to be associated with you!

How to Persuade a Crowd

  • The more people who are around a person in distress, the less likely anyone is to do anything about it.
  • Break the crowd mentality by targeting one person and appeal directly with a specific request.
  • If you have a request of a group, ask each person individually, not all together.

How to Beat Stress, in 59 Seconds

This is taken from 59 Seconds by Richard Wiseman, a book that wants to make your life better – in 59 seconds or less. It is all based on scientific research. If you like that sort of thing.

Focus on the Positive

Think about the positive aspects of the stressful event. Did you:

  • Grow stronger or become aware of personal strengths that you didn’t realise you had?
  • Appreciate aspects of your life more than before?
  • Become a wiser person or strengthen important relationships?
  • Become more skilled at communicating your feelings, more confident or encourage you to end a bad relationship?
  • Develop into a more compassionate or forgiving person?
  • Strengthen your relationship with a person who hurt you?

Write down how you have benefited from the experience and how your life is better as a result of what happened. Do not withhold anything and be honest.

Quick Tips to Beat Stress

  • Pray for other people.
  • Listen to Pachelbel or Vivaldi.
  • Spend 30 minutes outside in the sunshine (but don’t stay trapped indoors on a sunny day).
  • Laugh for 15 minutes a day.
  • Don’t shout and scream to vent anger – it will only make you more angry.
  • Get a dog. Owning a dog relieves stress. In part, this is because it promotes social contact, but even watching a video of a dog works!
  • The placebo effect works to help you lose weight and this weight loss reduces stress. All you have to do is convince yourself that you are doing more exercise in your daily routine than you thought!

How to Achieve Your Goals, in 59 Seconds

This is taken from 59 Seconds by Richard Wiseman, a book that wants to make your life better – in 59 seconds or less. It is all based on scientific research. If you like that sort of thing.

4 Key Techniques for Motivation

  1. Have the right kind of plan.
  2. Tell friends and family about your plan.
  3. Focus on the benefits of your achievement.
  4. Reward yourself each step of the way.

The Right Kind of Plan

Wiseman’s got the plan, don’t worry.

1. Define your goal:

My overall goal is to…

2. Create a step-by-step plan:

Break overall goal into five steps, each with a goal that is concrete, measurable, realistic and time-based, e.g.:

Step 1:
  • My first sub-goal is to… write a blog post.
  • I believe that I can achieve this goal because… I’ve done the research and I’ve done this sort of thing before.
  • To achieve this sub-goal, I will… sit at the computer and write 500 words on how to achieve your goals.
  • This will be achieved by… today!
  • My reward for achieving this will be, er…a pack of Marylands?

3. What are the benefits of achieving your overall goal?

  • List three important benefits, focusing on how much better life will be for you and those around you.
  • Focus on the benefits of your desired future, rather than escaping the negatives of your present situation.

4. Go public.

Who are you going to tell about your goals and sub-goals? Maybe you could publish them on a blog or display them in your office or home?

1 Simple Way to Beat Procrastination

Start work on something for just a few minutes and your brain will want to complete it. Anyone can do anything for a few minutes. Just start.

Use Doublethink to Achieve Your Goals

Thinking about benefits and setbacks together will motivate you to achieve and help you persevere in the face of difficulties. Answer these questions about your goals to get the best motivation.

1. What is your goal?

2. Potential benefits and setbacks

  1. Write down one word that reflects an important way your life would be better if you achieve your goal.
  2. Write down one word that reflects a significant barrier standing in the way of you achieving your goal.
  3. Write down a second benefit.
  4. Write down another significant barrier.

3. Elaboration

  • Elaborate on how the two benefits identified above will affect your life positively.
  • Elaborate how the two obstacles identified above will hinder your achievement – and outline the steps you would take to deal with them.

How to Achieve Your Life Goals

  • Write your own eulogy (or obituary) in the third person (David Charles will be remembered as full of fast phrase, pace of prosody and poise of poesy…) to reveal your real life goals (that was a dumb example, by the way). What would you like people to say about you when you die? What would you like to have achieved?
  • Those who visualise themselves as others see them are 20% more successful than those adopting a first person view. Apparently. How do they find these things out? that’s what I want to know.

How to Decide, In 59 Seconds

This is taken from 59 Seconds by Richard Wiseman, a book that wants to make your life better – in 59 seconds or less. It is all based on scientific research. If you like that sort of thing.

Beware of Deciding in Groups!

Groups tend to:

  • Polarise an individual’s opinion and make them take more extreme decisions.
  • Be more dogmatic than individuals.
  • Be better at justifying irrational actions than individuals.
  • Be more likely to see their actions as highly moral than individuals.
  • Stereotype outsiders.

Furthermore, when strong-willed people lead group discussions they can:

  • Pressurise others into conforming.
  • Encourage self-censorship.
  • Create an illusion of unanimity.

How to Beat the Salesman

You can use these mind tricks for good or evil. Use them to persuade, or use knowledge of them to avoid the dodgy sales tactics of others.

  • Salesmen will often use ‘That’s not all…’ techniques, i.e. give something away for free, offer discounts or bargains. There’s nothing wrong with that – if you already want to make the purchase.
  • Another technique (often used, I’ve found, by people outside train stations incongruously desperate to call home…) is ‘Disrupt, then re-frame’ – in other words surprise a person and then make a request. Don’t ask for a quid, ask for 97 pennies. The unusual request will break through the other person’s automatic negative response.
  • Another good one is to ask for a small favour and then build up to the big favour/sale – get your foot in the door.
  • Or to start with a ridiculously big ask and so that your ‘reasonable’ offer looks like good value.

Use the Unconscious to Unlock Complex Decisions

When making straight-forward decisions, stick with the concious mind. Just think about the pros and cons and assess the situation in a rational, level-headed way.

But for more complex choices, try giving your concious mind a rest by following this simple technique.

  1. Outline exactly what decisions you have to make.
  2. Work through anagrams for five minutes. This occupies your conscious mind.
  3. Now without thinking too much, write down your decision. Hopefully your unconscious mind has come up with something!

When You Make the Wrong Decision…

Regret is surely one of the most painful emotions known to humankind. ‘No regrets’ is a great thing to strive for, but there’s nothing more human than making bad decisions. Don’t let it get to you by using these tips.

  • People tend to regret things that they don’t do, rather than things that they do do.
  • Prevent regret in the first place by adopting a ‘will do’ attitude. Say YES.
  • If you do regret something, see if you can correct it. Write a letter, mend that broken relationships, go back to college, etc.. Use regret as a wake up call for motivation.
  • If it isn’t possible to make things better, don’t dwell on ‘What might have been…’ Instead, spend time thinking about three benefits of your current situation and three negative consequences that could have occurred had you taken the decision that’s causing the regret.


Good judgement is at the heart of good decision-making. So what happens when you are faced with a judgement call?

How to Beat Liars

  • Forget the clichés about liars staring to the left or whatever. It’s not true.
  • Liars tend to become static, they gesture less. 
  • They speak in less detail and increase their pauses.
  • They avoid the words ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘mine’ and increase their use of ‘him’ and ‘her,’ rather than using specific names. 
  • If someone becomes suddenly evasive, ask for a straight answer.
  • Try to establish an honest baseline for the person by asking simple questions that will get an honest reply.
  • Get them to email you their story. People lie in 14% of emails, 21% texts, 27% face-to-face, 37% phonecalls. Take note of that one yourself: emails can come back to haunt you!

How to Judge Time Accurately

We are very bad at estimating how long things will take. Improve your estimates by:

  • Comparing how long a similar project took before.
  • Unpacking the activity into its constituent parts and estimate how long each one will take individually.

Review: Infernos Nightclub, Clapham

The club was called Infernos. Because it wasn’t just hot, it was hotter. The name brings up some interesting theological ideas: not just one hell, but hells, each lovingly designed to its individual occupant’s worst nightmare. One man’s torture is another man’s pleasure, after all.

But I wasn’t there to be tortured and there were only two hells to choose from: House Party downstairs and Discotheque upstairs. I choose upstairs. Stairway fake curtains are plastered to the wall in chipped red paint, draped over a stair-length looking glass, screwed to the wall like in your cheap bathroom.

Hellish Thought #1: am I destined, forever more, to dance to the music from Grease?

Revellers don’t so much dance as simply coexist in the space. A girl, heavily made up, walks past me on the dancefloor, yawning. Two lads, one short, one tall, try to talk. Some laugh, some cry, some sing, some shout. But vacant looks dominate.

I find an open space on the busy dancefloor in which to jerk my arms and flail my feet as best I can. Then I realise: vomit is swilling around my ankles. The dance swells out from the caustic pool.

A girl sits alone, arms crossed, on a leather-effect sofa that shows signs of wear. She’s dressed up fine and her legs are bare. But she doesn’t look like she wants to be there. A security man perches on a low wall above the dancefloor, blankly watching the action below. One leg dangles. Menboys swing their shirts around their heads as the DJ hollers though the smoke puffing from his smoke machine, ‘Gonna switch the style after this one!’

Hellish Thought #2: are they having fun or are they comatose?

Impossibly, two aquariums shatter disco light in their water. Bemused fish, deaf, hoover up gravel with their bulbous lips, ignoring a girl and her boy who play hide and seek through the glass. In a mirror-image of excess and delight, a disco light revolves drunkenly above the convulsing crowd, its bulb gone.

The place to get your drink (of water) is called The Cocktail Bar and the girls’ toilet is called the Ladies Powder Room. No sign of a possessive apostrophe though. Singers sing in sound-proofed silence in the Popstars Karaoke Lounge. There’s a pool table in one corner, but no one is interested in playing games.

Empty beer bottles hit the dancefloor, where they are kicked and kicked again until ejected to the periphery, where a man carrying a red fire bucket picks them up. Boys hit the dancefloor, where they are kicked and kicked again until ejected the periphery, where a girl carrying a handbag picks them up.

Hellish Thought #3: I enjoy this.