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.

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David Charles is co-writer of BBC radio sitcom Foiled. He also writes for The Bike Project, Thighs of Steel, and the Elevate Festival. He blogs at

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