12 Practical Business Lessons From Social Psychology

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Foot in Door

The Foot in the Door Phenomenon
It’s been said many times that business is all about people.

That being the case, perhaps we should stop reading management books for advice and start looking at social psychology.

Very simply, social psychologists study how people interact with others – their families, friends, and yes, business partners.

Smart marketers and executives have been using the findings of this growing field for decades to close sales, hold effective meetings and get their way in negotiations. But rather than putting you through an academic psychology lesson, we condensed the most useful concepts into one article.

Foot In Door

The Concept: If you’re wondering how to convince superiors, employees or customers to do what you ask, try using the foot in the door phenomenon. This refers to the tendency of people to do something huge if they have already agreed to something much smaller. Your friend should be much more open to helping you decorate your entire house for a dinner party if, for example, he already helped you pick out decorations.

How to Cut the Legal Bill for a Small Business (Without Cutting Any Corners)

How You Can Use It: This handy principle has countless applications in the business world. Hand lotion and beauty supply kiosks at the mall use it all the time. If you can get a person to talk to you for a couple of minutes and rub some lotion on their hands, you’ve got your foot in the door, and they are much more likely to buy from you than if you had just screamed a sales pitch at them.

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  • I was going to read through all this but all that caught me was the beginning and the end and I knew someone else would read the whole thing anyway. ;-)

  • TW

    Some great points here. Can’t wait to try some out, especially the first two in negotiating!

  • Absolutely delightful read.

  • Merijn

    Yeah, let’s use our knowledge of the human mind to manipulate people for the sake of business, awesome!

  • I am so happy I saw this because of this was covered in my psychology text.

  • Charles

    Seems like the basic handbook for manipulating through advertising. haha.

  • Ferdinand Flesticle

    I studied these in the Chongmongolum Monastery. For 23 years. Chanting “Ommmmmmmmmmm” endlessly for many hours each day. Wearing my saffron robes and my totally silly hat. Then, while chewing some Juicy Fruit gum, I gave up my monastic quest and made my way to the fleshpots of Hollywood where I surrendered myself to total debauchery, listening to recordings of Sarah Palin farting discretely while denying all knowledge ever obtained by reading.

    Now all has been revealed.

  • what would be the perfect smell stimuli for a gym?

  • Ben Pugh

    “Social loafing” explains why people vote for the Democratic Party.

  • Thanks for the sucscinct!
    Another fabulous technique is “The take away”.

    The art of putting an object/pitch in front of your prospect, making it irristible and then making it difficult to obtain with a “it might not be for you” or “It maybe too expensive for you, let’s look at something cheaper.”

    Take good care and get as much joy as you can everyday.

  • Egon

    You should also try these techniqes on your friends and loved ones.

  • Les

    The best part is that now I can be more aware when someone is trying to manipulate me using these methods.

  • Ben Pugh

    “Social loafing” explains why people vote for the Republican Party

  • A very informative read. I found myself taking notes.

  • roshan pokhrel

    “social loafing” is a term of fantacy.

  • Lee Golos

    I can’t wait ’till post-scarcity comes and makes all of you marketing assholes obsolete

  • I will be studying this again more deeply later. there are several strategies I can use in marketing my taxi company.

  • Outstanding post! I’ve learned a lot from the first few tips, I’ll try to understand this better because this is very helpful.

  • shukov

    12 Practical Business Lessons From Social Psychology or How To Become Just Another Manipulative, Selfish Person.

  • greg

    Why the angst? This is only putting into words the observed “natural self-centredness” of human interaction as carried out by everyone from the moment they are born to the moment they die. All of those who think otherwise should go look in the mirror.

  • Great list, however you missed some essentials. Here are some others worth investigating:

    * Conformity (Asch)
    * Bystander Effect / Diffusion of Responsibility (case study: Kitty Genovese)
    * False Consensus Effect
    * Obedience to Authority (Stanley Milgram, related to one of the most important lessons in business: “learning to say no to your boss”)
    * Social Roles (Stanford Prison Study, Phil Zimbardo, related to understanding abusive work relations involving bosses and subordinates)
    * Norm Formation (Sherif, related to establishing company cultures and changing them)
    * Fundamental Attribution Error (Lee Ross, important for understanding and reversing negative work relationships)
    * Diffusion of Innovation (Rogers)
    * Pluralistic Ignorance (Lee Ross, related to people supporting bureaucracy and work politics)

    Although not related to social psychology, I would also recommend that business people learn more about “different types of minds”. Temple Grandin’s “Thinking in Pictures” I think is a must read for any manager. Her recent TED talk “The World Needs all Kinds of Minds” is relevant as well. This topic is related to the “False Consensus Effect”. “Diversity in how people think” is important for building a business.

  • Great Read, and nice additional tipps @Andrew.

    Another good one:
    * Decoy Marketing: You offer customers a similar but inferior product to the one you actually want to sell, at about the same price

    Nice study about an Economist subscription usiong decoy marketing can be found here:

  • Adam

    This is a great article because the concepts are based on experimental research studies that have been peer reviewed.

  • nice article, shared with my friends

  • TradeZero

    Interesting suggestions. Very useful psychological concepts. https://goo.gl/bdmGER

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