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How to Change Anyone’s Mind Without Persuading Them

Effective persuaders don't tell people what to do. They encourage people to persuade themselves


At some point, maybe even today, you’ve wanted to change someone’s mindPersuasion is a key skill for everyone, and it can help you in business.

In his new book, The Catalyst, Wharton business school marketing professor Jonah Berger offers techniques and strategies for changing minds. One strategy seems counterintuitive, but it’s brilliant: Effective persuaders don’t tell people what to do; they encourage people to persuade themselves.

According to Berger, if you tell someone what to do, they become defensive. However, if they arrive at the same conclusion themselves, they’re much more likely to buy what you’re selling, whether it’s your idea or product.

Here are four strategies to become an effective persuader and get anyone to follow your lead.

1. Provide a menu.

Give people a choice and they’re more likely to go along with your idea.

If you’re a parent, you employ this strategy all the time. You know it’s not effective to make a demand like, “Eat your peas!” Instead we ask, “Which would you like to eat first, broccoli or chicken?” That’s a menu.

The same strategy applies to your customers or prospects. According to Berger, effective persuaders provide a limited set of options from which people can choose. For example, most successful advertising agency executives don’t show up at pitch meetings with only one proposal. They don’t present 12 ideas, either. They offer a choice between two or three ideas.

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