• David de Souza

The 80/20 Guide to Influence

Updated: Oct 6



Learning the skill of influence is like learning a martial art, it can be used for both good or evil. The dark side of influence may be unappealing, but enlightened ourselves can protect us from manipulative people and provide the knowledge to counterattack against an opponent's moves.


Your ability to influence creates ripples that stretch both near and far. If you can influence your children to developed good habits, the benefits will compound as it will impact their friends. If you want to change the world, you need to have the skills to be able to influence the people that you share your ideas and vision with.

I have taken insights from 12 books and created a latticework of mental models on the topic of influence. This latticework provides a framework allowing for easier recollection and it helps to show how knowing a small number of big ideas can have a huge impact on your life.


The Books:


  1. Pre-suasion

  2. Influence

  3. How to Win Friends and Influence People

  4. Influencing Human Behavior

  5. Gravitas

  6. Power - Why Some People Have it and Others Don't

  7. The 48 Laws of Power

  8. You are the Message

  9. Age of Propaganda

  10. Messengers

  11. Exactly What to Say

  12. Triggers

53 Mental models for Influence:



1. Association


Guide attention before a person receives a message to move them into an agreement. The key is to focus the person on concepts that are aligned and associated with the information they are about to receive. You don't need to change anything except what the person is thinking about at the moment they make the decision. For example: Asking them if they are an adventurous person or Playing French music (to buy French wine).


• Often people will use loaded words in a question. Don't legitimize these words by using them yourself. Instead, reposition the negatives into positives. "For example, if a reporter characterizes your actions as "corrupt, irresponsible, malicious and injurious to the public welfare," you should not say, "We are not corrupt, irresponsible, malicious and injurious to the public welfare". Instead say:" We've answered our critics by...." and then describe all the positive, concrete actions you've taken" You can also smile and point out how loaded the question is, saying: "It sounds like you have a strong opinion on this, let me try and give you the facts".


2. Agenda Setting Theory


• There are 3 spheres to power:

  1. Winning in arguments.

  2. Setting the agenda: This is more subtle. It determines what will be discussed.

  3. Determining the rules of interpersonal interactions through which agendas and outcomes are determined.

• Often people who advocate for equality are using a power play, allocating rewards in a way which they choose.


The media does not change opinion by providing compelling evidence that changes peoples' minds. They persuade by giving selected issues more coverage than others. The audience believes (due to the greater attention being paid) that the selected issues are the most important. "The mass media may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think but it is stunningly successful in telling its readers what to think about..."


• Build a bridge from a reporter's (or someone else's) agenda to your own. Be responsive and use points that are interesting and newsworthy, supported with facts. Use the formula: Q = A + 1. When asked a question, reply with a direct answer and then add a point from your own agenda (+1). When you notice an increase in the tone, volume, and rhythm of interrogation, be friendlier, quieter, and slower. This gives the impression to the audience that you are reasonable and that the other person is trying to provoke you. Frame your answer in terms of the public interest or the greater good.


3. Algorithms


We have created a world so complex and with so much information that we must deal with it using shortcuts like animals that we once transcended. Fixed action patterns are blindly mechanical behaviors in species. For example: A robin will attack a clump of red feathers but leave a stuffed replica without the red feathers. Humans also have these triggers: in the same way that a recorded "cheep-cheep" sound can cause a bird to be mothering, even when there is no chick present, television executives exploit the same shortcut by using canned laughter to stimulate us to laugh.


We often accept a conclusion without any good reason. for example: "May I use the photocopier because I have copies to make".


• When you make conditional (if/then) statements they are often believed because of the speech patterns and habits that we have grown up with. For example:

  1. "If you give me a chance in this role, then I am confident you won't be disappointed."

  2. "If you decide to give this a try, then I'm sure you won't be disappointed"

• Another example of a conditional statement is: "If I can....will you?" For Example: "If I match the price for you, then would you be happy to place the order with me today?"


When making decisions we often rely on shortcuts when we are:

  1. Indifferent

  2. Tired

  3. Uncertain

  4. Rushed

  5. Distracted

  6. Stressed

"Civilization advances by extending the number of operations we can perform without thinking about them" - Alfred North Whitehead


5. Asymmetric Warfare


• Rules tend to favor the incumbents, the people who already have power. Playing by the rules and following conventional wisdom, will only favor the people who are already powerful. You need to think differently and use unconventional strategies as an underdog to increase your chances of success. "In every war in the last 200 years conducted between unequally matched opponents, the stronger party won 72% of the time. However, when the underdogs understood their weakness and used a different strategy to minimize its effects, they won some 64% of the time, cutting the dominant party's likelihood of victory in half."


6. Attentional bias


Your message must get the person's attention. A message that is ignored can not be persuasive.


• "What we attend to controls our behavior. What we can get others to attend to controls their behavior".


• Respect attention limits: Any artist, whether pictorial, musical or dramatic knows that their work can not simply have a number of beautiful things. Their art must capture the audience's attention and lead it to one spot.


7. Authority


A society built on authority provides many advantages, including the development of resource production, trade, defense, expansion and social control. Guidance from a recognized authority provides a useful shortcut, helping us to decide how to act.


• People want to feel important, by arguing with people who have authority, it allows them to show their importance. By showing the person they are important and not arguing with them, you allow their ego to expand, and they usually become sympathetic. When you condemn yourself, people will often show mercy, as a way to show their importance.


• Boldness creates fear; fear creates authority. A big, bold move gives the appearance that you are more powerful than you are. If you make a move suddenly it inspires more fear than doing the same move slowly. Once you have set a precedent, people will fear you going forward


• When you talk, people aren't just listening to what you say. They are judging your tone of voice and asking themselves, does this person have authority. Avoid smiling, only do so if it happens naturally. Become comfortable with pauses. Drop the tone of your voice at the end of a sentence (do not increase it like you would a question). Don't nod too much, you'll lose credibility. Nerves cause you to speed up, so intentionally slow down. 'When you have a great present to give someone you don't thrust it at them. You check in with them. You pause, you wait. You smile. Do the same in a presentation.


• The use of technical terms adds the perception of expertise. Using specific facts and figures makes you look like an expert and that you've investigated the issue. A well-tailored suit can result in deference from strangers: 3.5 x more people followed a person wearing a suit who walked into traffic at a crossing.


• Excuses and apologies are often avoided by the powerful as they create doubts about your competency and other mistakes that you might have made.


People have a 'latitude of acceptance' however this can be broken if the source is highly credible.


8. Availability Heuristic


Anything that is given attention will lead people to overestimate its importance. A communicator who is able to focus a person's attention on a key element pre-loads it with importance. Persuaders often draw our attention to the most favorable feature before they talk about the product. For example: a furniture website that features fluffy clouds as the background causes visitors to place more importance on comfort.

8. Consistency and Commitment Bias


• Humans are creatures of habit and control. They like to see consistency and predictability. This is why we are so scared of natural disasters. By being unpredictable you will exhaust people and make them flustered and unbalanced.


• The most important thing to turn a prospect into a customer is to get them to commit, it doesn't matter how small that initial purchase is. Make the commitment: (1) Simple (2) Small (3) In line with their needs.


The greater the effort and pain involved in a commitment, the greater the influence on the person, this is why Initiation ceremonies are so effective.


• If you corner someone they will fight harder as there is no way out. Sometimes it is better to leave an escape route that tires and demoralizes them, resulting in less work and causalities for you.


• Everyone thinks they are open-minded because the opposite is being closed-minded. People's perception of their open-mindedness makes them feel obligated to explore possibilities. Ask: "How open-minded are you about at least trying it?". "It seems like you are giving them a choice, when you are really you are heavily weighting the only option you are giving them.


Charities use consistency when calling and asking "How are you?" Our natural reaction is to say "Fine/Good" and they then reply with "I'm glad to hear that because I am calling to see if you can help the unfortunate victims of...."


Researchers asked people to predict if they would vote on election day. As most people want to seem virtuous they said 'yes' and this acted as a commitment device and more people went to vote. You can increase the likelihood that someone will come to an event by saying: "We'll mark you down as coming then, Okay?" [Pause]


People who write down a statement are more committed to it even after new evidence is provided, especially those who do so publicly. People who do not write down a statement are more willing to change their minds.

Foot-in-the-Door Technique: Start by asking for a small request in order to gain compliance for a larger request.

Throwing a Low-Ball Technique: The seller does not intend to sell at the low price, their only goal is to get the buyer to decide to buy. Once this is done a number of steps cement the commitment, for example, paperwork, financing, etc.


• Once we make up our mind, we are at pains to remain consistent. Even if you can convince someone they are wrong, the person's ego will make it difficult for them to back down. They want to save face. Use the principle of consistency when persuading by saying, for example:


  1. "I have always respected your willingness to listen and are big enough to change your mind when the facts warrant it"

  2. "You are a natural leader. I'm going to need your help in making this team the best in the department".

9. Competition


• Attractive men are less likely to be victimized by other men. Attractive women are more likely to be bullied by other women. "The earnings disadvantage experienced by African American men is similar to the disadvantage experienced by white, unattractive men".


10. Confirmation Bias


When deciding if a possibility is correct, people tend to look for confirmation instead of instances that it's not correct.


• If someone is in power we believe that they must have done something good to deserve being in that position.


11. Confidence


• Know that you deserve more and ask for it. Make bold demands, for example, charge more than other people. Go after the highest-status person. Give a gift to people above you, this also puts you on an equal footing.


• Lions Circle The Hesitant Prey: If during your first encounter you seem too eager to placate, compromise or back down you may bring out the lion in people. Power depends on appearance and if you project that you can be pushed around, you will.


12. Curiosity Instinct


• Ask yourself: Is there anything in what I've written that arouses a reader's curiosity? Even technical writing can be made to be interesting. Take the following examples: "Until recently an expert operator could turn out 300 items in a day. This was the maximum production". When you read that you ask yourself: What happened after that? You need to find out and as a result, you keep reading.


• An involvement device gets people's attention and involves them. For example: Allowing someone to test drive a car. If it's not possible to test-drive something, you could bring part of a machine to your prospect's office. Giving him something tangible to touch and get involved in.


• "I'm not sure if it's for you but...." - This phrase creates curiosity and intrigue. It causes the listener to feel less pressure, putting them at ease.


• Asking a direct question can be seen as rude, adding: "Just out of curiosity..." before a direct question, helps to soften it.


• Use 'signposts' when you talk, for example, say: 'Two points. 1st....'. This stops someone from interrupting and it builds curiosity as people wonder what your second point is.


13. Denial


• People never think they have done anything wrong. Even criminals rationalize their criminal acts. "Remember that other people may be totally wrong. But they don't think so. Don't condemn them. Any fool can do that. Try to understand them. Only wise, tolerant, exceptional people can even try to do that."


• Provide a reason (near the end of your copy) so that your prospect can justify the purchase.


14. Disliking


• If you need to make a choice between being likable or competent (but abrasive), choose competence. Self-deprecation and humor can be used to mitigate any abrasiveness (but only if you have established your competency.


• Dominant messengers are admired and receive status but they are not liked. They influence through fear rather than love, power, and prestige. "We are hardwired to detect dominance and use it as a cue to navigate our social environment and reward it with increased attention and status."


• If you want to make people dislike you:

  1. Never listen for long

  2. Talk about yourself

  3. Interrupt.

  4. Complain

  5. Talk constantly about meaningless things.

  6. Be monotone.

  7. Be too serious

  8. Rarely smile or joke

  9. Be egotistical

  10. Put down others

  11. Be shy

  12. Be depressive

15. Ego


• Our deepest urge is the desire to be important. Often when people complain they think they are a crusader and defending the public. In reality, they want a feeling of importance. As soon as you give them that importance by listening to them and acknowledging their concerns, their grievances disappear.


• Instead of criticizing, be curious and try to find out why the person did what they did. Criticism is pointless because:

  1. People become defensive