While this question seems counterintuitive, it forces the respondent to rationalize their answer. In the course of doing this, they begin to consider their own reasons for making the change—and “that’s more effective” at persuading them the long run, Pink said.

(In the rare case when someone answers “one,” Pink said your response should be, “What would it take to get you to a three?”)

5. Give people an ‘off ramp’ to act.

Effective persuasion isn’t about changing people’s minds, Pink said; it’s about making it easy for them to act.

He cited another study in which college students were asked to take part in a campus recycling program. Before requesting their participation, researchers divided the students into two groups: those who were judged “most likely” to take part (according to their peers), and those considered “least likely.”

The researchers then divided these groups into subgroups: those who would receive a very general letter, and those who were given a specific letter that included explicit instructions making it easy for them to participate.

Not surprisingly, none of the students considered least likely to act did so after getting the general letter, and 44 percent of those judged most likely did so after getting the specific letter. But only 8 percent of the “most likely” students participated when receiving the general letter—while 25 percent of the “least likely” students took part after getting the specific letter.

The lesson? “Context drives behavior more than we tend to believe,” Pink said. So, changing people’s minds is less important than giving them an “off ramp” to act.

6. Explain why.

Too often, we tend to focus on how people should act when trying to change their behavior, Pink said—and we don’t pay enough attention to the reasons behind the change.

“Explaining why is the cheapest performance enhancer you have,” he noted.

Follow Editorial Director Dennis Pierce on Twitter: @eSN_Dennis.

Dennis Pierce

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