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What are the influence strategies?

Influence is the ability to alter or sway someone’s thoughts, opinions, or actions. There are many different strategies and techniques that can be used to influence others. Understanding these strategies is important for leaders, marketers, politicians, and anyone who seeks to persuade or motivate others.


The reciprocity principle states that when someone does something nice for us, we feel obligated to return the favor in some way. Salespeople often use free samples or gifts to trigger feelings of reciprocity and make us more likely to purchase their products. Reciprocity builds trust and a sense of community as people do favors for each other and expect favors in return.

Commitment and Consistency

When someone makes a commitment, they are more likely to follow through because they want to remain consistent with their words and actions. Getting someone to publicly commit to something makes them more likely to follow through. This is why salespeople might get you to sign a letter of intent before finalizing the deal. Consistency is also a powerful tool of influence. People aim to align their attitudes, beliefs and actions to avoid cognitive dissonance.

Social Proof

People often look to what others are doing or saying to guide their own behavior, especially in ambiguous situations. This is why infomercials always claim their products are “fastest growing” or “number one rated”. Advertisements featuring crowds flocking to buy a product take advantage of social proof. The bandwagon effect is a form of social proof that persuades people to do something because “everyone else is doing it”. Social media likes, shares and reactions employ social proof.


We are more likely to be influenced by people we know and like. Physical attractiveness, similarity, compliments, contact and cooperation increase liking. This is why advertisers and salespeople aim to be friendly and use celebrity endorsers. Liking lowers sales resistance so always treat potential customers with care and respect.


People are more likely to comply with authority figures. Symbols of authority like uniforms, job titles and expensive items create the illusion of authority. On social media, the verified badge indicates authority. Authority figures can influence people through expertise and position, but illegitimate appeals to authority should be questioned.


When things are difficult to obtain or availability is limited, they are seen as more valuable. Time limited offers and messages like “only 5 left in stock” trigger scarcity to motivate purchasing. Many sales and marketing tactics create artificial scarcity to increase demand. While scarcity works as an influence strategy, buyers should beware of false scarcity claims.

Influence Strategy Description Example
Reciprocity Feeling obligated to return favors Free samples
Commitment & Consistency Desire to remain consistent with words/actions Public commitments
Social Proof Looking to others for guidance Crowds, shares, likes
Liking More influenced by people we like Friendly salespeople
Authority Complying with authority figures Uniforms, titles
Scarcity Perceived value increases with limited availability Limited time offers

How to resist unwanted influence

While influence strategies can be used legitimately, they are also open to misuse. Here are some tips for resisting unwanted influence:

  • Watch for reciprocity demands and feel free to say no to unwanted requests or gifts.
  • Don’t let consistency keep you tied to undesirable commitments. Be willing to change your mind.
  • Question social proof appeals, think independently and don’t follow the crowd.
  • Be wary of fake liking tactics from insincere salespeople.
  • Verify authority claims rather than assuming validity.
  • Recognize scarcity manipulation and don’t rush decisions.

Ethical use of influence strategies

Influence strategies are neither good nor bad in themselves. They can be used ethically to motivate employees, promote worthy causes and encourage positive behaviors. However, manipulative overuse of these techniques is unethical. Ethical influence starts with caring about people. Build trust by being truthful, transparent and serving others’ best interests.


Understanding influence strategies like reciprocity, consistency, social proof, liking, authority and scarcity provides insights into human psychology. These principles explain how people are persuaded to alter their attitudes, beliefs or actions. Influence strategies can be used ethically, but also have potential for unethical manipulation. By recognizing these influence techniques, we can use them judiciously and also resist unwanted attempts at influence.