How to Influence People

How to Influence People | By Don Townsend, Orlando Mentalist

Most of us don't want to admit we can be influenced by others. Advertisers bet big sums on their ability to influence us. During Super Bowl 2015, a 30-second ad spot cost a cool $4.5 million, or $150,000 per second. Clearly, companies think they can influence people in a matter of seconds.

My name is Don Townsend and I am a mentalist. What I do is a combination of psychology (knowing how people think and react), observation (reading nonverbal communication and body language), and influence. The types of influence I use are strictly for entertainment purposes. The way I phrase questions, the numbers and colors I use, and the nonverbal cues I intentionally display cause people to react in certain ways, and often this gives the appearance that I knew or predicted things before they happened. In reality, I just guide people down a pre-selected path.

Now don't get too excited! These principles are not Jedi mind tricks and are not 100 percent fool proof. But, when practiced and used in combinations with other techniques, the results can be surprisingly effective. While I use some of these principles to blow peoples' minds and bring laugh-out-loud fun for entertainment in my shows, many of these principles can be helpful in your everyday home or work life.

Here's a brief overview of some of the basic principles:

Lean your head back

Lean your head back when you want to be in charge. If you're listing options and have one you would like to be accepted., lean your head back right before you get to that option and during the time it's explained. Experts agree that a bowed head is more submissive and when your head is slightly leaned back it projects more dominance.

Ask questions

Ask questions when you want to build trust with someone. Give them the opportunity to talk and lead them with questions, making sure to be attentive and listen to the answers.

Nod your head

Nod your head when you want someone to answer "yes." Nods are contagious and others begin nodding with you. At times, I have been directing a volunteer on stage to affirmatively answer a question and noticed whole sections of the audience nodding along with me.

Use confident speech

Eliminate "umm", "well," and "like" words, which undermine your intentions and make you sound less confident. If you're presenting four options, the one you are trying to promote should be in the third position.

Look them in the eyes

Look them in the eyes to build trust and focus attention. If you want to win someone to your side or direct their attention, eye contact is essential. This doesn't mean you stare them down, though; make friendly, sincere eye contact.

Glance away

To tell how easily the person you're talking to can be influenced, quickly look away. If he also glances away to see what you're looking at, influencing him will be easy.

Watch the eyes

As you talk, pay particular attention to the person's pupils. This is one reaction that can't be faked. If the pupils of the person you are talking to are dilated, they are interested in you or what you are talking about, or perhaps both.

Scarcity Principle

Marketers often use scarcity to push products. Salespeople use lines like "You won't get a chance like this again," or "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity." People have a natural tendency to go in the opposite direction of where the feel they are being pushed. So, sometimes an effective technique is to describe the option you want to promote as one that only a select group would choose.

Move forward

Move forward slightly at the right moment when presenting the option you want chosen. This is an effective way of taking the lead in the conversation and swaying selection. This is not an in-your-face move and should be almost unnoticeable unless you've been told to watch for it.


Smiling makes those around you smile too. You feel happier, they feel happier, and it tends to build a trust that helps things go in the desired direction.

"Yes" Questions

Ask questions where you know the answer is "yes." When a pattern begins with a series of yes answers, eventually you'll be more likely to get the "yes" you really want.

Subliminal use of words.

Sometimes I hand an audience member a pile of picture cards. I ask, "Would you be willing to try something." If they answer affirmatively I say, "Please cycle through the cards and stop on any one you like." One of the pictures is a child's tricycle. If the proper emphasis is placed on the words "try" and "cycle" in the previous two sentences, you'd be amazed how often they stop on the tricycle.

Influential people are typically respected and well liked because they use influence with subtlety. Often, it's not what you say so much as how you say it. Speaking steadily with few hesitations and avoiding slang and improper grammar makes you appear more competent and influential. In addition, the frequent proper use of large words in your everyday speech also helps elevate the appearance of competence and raises your influential prowess. With practice, many of these techniques become almost second nature and can be helpful in any walk of life.

By Don Townsend

Don Townsend is an Orlando entertainer that provides jaw dropping laugh out loud corporate entertainment with his astounding mentalist act.

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