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The Psychology of Persuasion – Why People Act the Way They Do
So how can you utilize the subconscious factors that come into play when people are making decisions. These are some of the more common ones:
1. The Likeability Rule: It may seem obvious, but people will more often say “yes” to someone they know and like, rather than to a complete stranger. Familiarity – through repeated, ongoing contact with someone – increases this, as long as the contact was positive rather than negative. Likeability includes physical appearance, which is why advertisers use beautiful models to sell products, rather than ordinary looking ones. Within your own industry, think of the people who have reached the top of their game, who are liked and respected and known for their ability to persuade other people. What is it about them that attracts other people? Being associated with these people, can have a “halo” effect on those around them.
2. The Reciprocity Rule: one of the most powerful social “rules” is the reciprocity rule, whereby people feel compelled to repay a good turn to someone who has done a good turn for them. There was a an experiment once where sociologists sent out Christmas Cards to complete strangers to test how strongly they would feel obliged to reciprocate and over 95% of them sent cards back – even though the sender was a complete stranger to them. According to sociologists and anthropologists, this rule makes possible the development of continuing relationships and knowledge and resource sharing that is beneficial to society in general.
3. The Social Validation Rule: Given few other clues, or limited time in which to make a judgement, the majority of people will react towards others by copying the behaviour of the people around them. If other people act well towards you, then it will encourage the same behaviour from others. An older, less attractive man may compensate for his “shortcomings” by acquiring a “trophy wife” which will increase the man’s perceived value when others see him with an attractive, younger woman.
Another example is when a long term unemployed person may negatively viewed by potential employers, even if they are highly skilled and experienced, as people will automatically attribute their lack of employment to some inherent character fault or weakness rather than because of an external situation. At the same time, someone who seems to be in high demand, a CEO of a major company for instance, may effortlessly attract better job offers and bigger pay packets, even if his/her performance is actually rather lacklustre. “Success attracts success” so the saying goes, and when people appear successful, then other people subconsciously look for other positive factors to explain that person’s success, and overlook their faults.
4. The Authority Rule: People are more likely to believe, follow the recommendations or directions of someone they believe is an expert in some way, even if their expertise is in a completely different area to the one that requires a decision. Having a Dr in front of your name, or a PhD after it will also increase your perceived authority, even if is not relevant. Another way of demonstrating authority, is by the outward symbols of it, even if they are not backed up by anything; status symbols in the form of titles, clothes, cars, houses (even post codes) are part of this.
5. The “Rejection-Then-Retreat” Rule: This rule relies heavily on the social pressure which pushes people to reciprocate favours. By asking for an extreme request that you know will be rejected, you can then follow up with a lesser request – the one that you wanted all along – which will be more likely to be accepted.
6. The Public Commitment Rule: When a commitment is made by someone in a way which involves the person actively, voluntarily and publicly, it increases the likelihood that the person will follow up on that commitment. This is largely what weddings are about. Why are they so elaborate and public? Why are the vows exchanged in front of family, friends and witnesses? Why does society require a marriage certificate or contract which is signed by both parties in a public setting?
The public and ritualized way in which people get married increases the likelihood that the promises will be kept, because the internal and external pressures will require the married couple to live up to what they promised in public.
Equally, during other sorts of negotiations, it’s important to get small commitments agreed and written down, even if they are small steps along the way to the much bigger commitment that you are aiming for.
7. The Scarcity Rule: This can be summarized as “Scarcity breeds Desire”. (see also under “Social Validation Rule”). People tend to assign more value to things when they are perceived to be less available. The use of this principle for profit can be seen in the “limited offer” and “ends today” tactics. On a personal level, by having a unique or uncommon skill or expertise (a “USP”) that makes you something of a rarity, you can create a demand for your product or services, that wouldn’t otherwise exist. Never put your mobile ‘phone number on your business card – this makes it just that little bit harder to contact you and it also suggests that you have so many contacts, you need to restrict your availability to them all.
8. The Reverse Psychology Rule: People use reverse psychology to “trick” people into choosing the opposite of what they really want, by playing on the instinctive human reaction against being told what to do. A real life example of this was used in promoting the classic Queen song “Bohemian Rhapsody” which lasts 5 minutes and 55 seconds when played in its entirety. At the time of its release in 1975, most record companies felt that it was far too long to play on the radio, but Freddie Mercury gave a personal copy to his good friend, DJ Kenny Everett with specific instructions NOT to play it, knowing full well that Everett wouldn’t be able to resist, which proved to be the case. If you’ve ever suffered from insomnia, you’ll know that deliberately focusing on trying to fall asleep, will have the opposite effect and make the problem far worse.
9. The Simple Theme Rule: a theme is a verbal picture which communicates ideas far beyond the basic meaning of the words. If you are invited to a party with a theme – say, a murder mystery them or an Italian them, you will already broadly know, without being told, what to wear, what you will do at the party, the type of music, the type of food and so on. The theme has already given you a “word picture” which conveys a lot of information. Having a “microbrand” which moves around with you will instantly convey “Brand You”.
10. The “How You Say It “Rule
It’s easy to assume that a sentence like “I can’t promise you that result.” has only one meaning, but in reality, emphasis and tone provide much of the actual meaning. To test this, look at the each of the sentences below, each with a different word emphasized, and followed by the implied meaning.
1. I can’t promise you that result. (But maybe somebody else can.)
2. I can’t promise you that result. (There’s no way that is possible.)
3. I can’t promise you that result. (But you may get it anyway.)
4. I can’t promise you that result. (But I can promise it to somebody else.)
5. I can’t promise you that result. (But I can promise you another good result.)
6. I can’t promise you that result. (But I can promise you something.)
The meaning of what we say is determined by which words we emphasize, and which words to underplay and if you can’t promise someone that price, you can tell him “I can’t promise you that RESULT,” and the hearer may still feel good about the situation, especially if you immediately follow with something else that you can promise.
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