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"Is persuasion manipulative?" Yes. And that's okay. Here's why
Last Updated April 3rd, 2014

So I went skiing. As I was getting my rental skis, the guy asked me, “Do you want a helmet?”

I said “No.”

But he pressed on. And eventually he persuaded me to wear the helmet.

How? He used some proven persuasion principles and I share them all in my new video today.

How to Persuade People To Do Something They Don’t Want To Do… But Should Do

Boy, was I lucky, too! As you’ll see in the video, after a big ski jump, I smashed my head into the ground.


Watch the video to learn the three proven persuasion tactics you can use to convince people to do anything.

And then, here’s what else I’d like to share:

A lot of people feel sleazy when it comes to persuasion, selling, marketing, and the like.

I get it. And I’ll tell you why:

We’re bombarded by people who do it the wrong ways. Used carsalesman. Scammy online marketers. And etc. We all have bad experiences, and we can recall them in our mind. And that’s why we hate it.

However, we’re also bombarded by people and companies who do it the right ways. The thing is, we never realize it. And that’s because great persuasion is invisible. And great persuasion has our best interest in mind… like the case I shared with the ski helmet.

Is Persuasion Manipulative?

A reader wrote in and asked me:

“Is persuasion manipulative?”

And you know what? It sure is! And I like it that way because I know that persuading people can save their life.

Sure, it can also help with turning prospects into customers, fans into super fans, and the like, but persuasion, and, specifically, sales skills, when used for the right reasons, literally saves lives.

I’m Derek Halpern, the founder of Social Triggers. And in this video, I’m going to share some insights on what you can do to persuade people to do anything.

So, I went skiing. As I was getting my rental skis from the lodge, the guy asked me, “Do you want a helmet?”

I said, “No.”

And he went on, “I’ll put a fresh coat of wax on the bottom of your skis, no charge. You’ll be flying down the mountain your first few runs. Just take the helmet.”

I said, “No.”

Not really the BEST idea, but I like to wear my hat because I rather my head be warm than protected. Again, not the best logic, but that’s what I was thinking.

But he followed up: “We aren’t questioning your ability on skis. It’s the people behind you that don’t know what they’re doing. You won’t see them coming and they could smash into you.”

WOW. I commended him and said that had nothing to do with it.

He then asked, “Well, what’s the problem?”

“I see what you did there, but I’m not declining the helmet because I think I’m too good for it. I’m declining it because I want to be warm.”

And he countered: “Oh, well these helmets are warmer than any ski hat.”

So, I took the helmet.

This guy was a persuasion master and he saves lives on the ski mountain by getting people to wear helmets.

Now, let’s break down what he did…

First, as you can see, a good salesman never stops at a soft no. Instead, he keeps probing until he makes the sale, or gets a hard no.

What’s the difference between a soft no and a hard no?

It’s hard to put that into words, but if someone is threatening to punch you in the face, you can be sure that’s a hard no.

If not, then you should keep pressing to see if you can get the yes. And a master persuader will always turn a soft no into a yes.

How do you do it?

This ski rental guy did three things:

First, he tried to offer a “free bonus.”

He knew he was talking to a dude in his 20s and assumed this dude wanted to go fast. He was right. That’s why he offered me a fresh coat of ski wax on my skis to go fast. But I still chose to decline. That’s when he realized he had to figure out WHY I was declining.

Second, he tried to answer an “objection” as to why I wouldn’t wear the helmet.

He likely thought, “oh, maybe this guy is trying to be a tough guy in front of his friends.”

Me? I’m a teddy bear. And I LOVED this line that he used! Even though that wasn’t my reasoning, it shows he had a firm grasp (or good training) on persuading people to protect themselves.

You see, when you’re looking to persuade people, you can never let your customer “lose face” in front of their friends or loved ones. And that’s why it was smart that he said “I’m not questioning your ability…” He was letting me walk away the expert skier, thus making me feel better about the decision.

That’s a shareable:

“A great salesman never lets their customer lose face. A great salesman puts their customers on a pedestal.”

But as you know, that wasn’t enough, and he was stumped. And finally he decided to just ask. That’s when I gave him a reason, he parried it, and I took the helmet.

Hook. Line. Sinker. Ski rental dude 1. Derek 0. Derek’s head 1.

Now what’s the big lesson here?

When you’re looking to persuade people to do anything – whether it’s to buy an information product or service, or to just do something – you have to realize it’s never about you. It’s always about who you’re talking to. And it’s up to you to incorporate things like strategic bonuses (like free wax) that compliment your product as an added incentive.

As an example, when I sell my training courses, I always add bonuses into the mix that I know people will want. As a way to help sweeten the deal and flip a soft no into a hard yes.

Like with Blog that Converts, when I sell that, I offer a bonus on SEO because I know people want to learn SEO. I also know that Blog that Converts doesn’t focus on the nitty gritty SEO stuff, so offering a side bonus on SEO helps fill that hole for my customer.

And then, the last lesson is this:

When your customer is saying no, there’s a reason for it. You have to find that reason at all costs because when you do, it’s the difference between the no and the yes.

How do you find it?

You can make assumptions, and that’s great. But if you’re still in a hard spot, the best way to find out why someone didn’t say yes to you is to ask them. Even when I launch new information products, and I’m in the understanding phase of why people don’t buy, I’ll send out a survey asking my readers “Why didn’t you buy?”

It’s a little more detailed than that, but I’m trying to uncover the reason so I can see if it’s a real reason or if it’s something that can be overcome. And it works great. Just as a side note, make sure you don’t take everything they say at face value.

Thank you for watching this video. If you could pass this video on to at least one friend, that would be GREAT. As you know, I create these videos to help as many people as possible, and I can’t do it without your help. So, share this video now.

Also, if you’re new here, hop on the Social Triggers newsletter and subscribe to my YouTube channel.

You won’t regret it because you’ll get more great videos just like this.

Now, here’s what I want you to do:

Think back and try and recall a situation where someone persuaded to do something you previously didn’t intend (or plan) on doing. What happened? What did they persuade you to do? Leave a comment.

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33 comments Leave a comment

There is a phallacy, sleazy persuasion works for some people. Good persuasion which might work for “us” so subtly we don’t realize, doesn’t necessarily have our best interests in mind. That’s what’s bad about it, that it works on a weakness, and of course it can be used for good, but seems like it starts by putting the persuaded below the persuasor (I’m Italian, I don’t know if it’s the right term) and assume we are right not because we are but because we are more convincing. It’s like a secret weapon, you assume other people don’t have it, and don’t want to share it with other people and instead of widening their knowledge and give information, stimulating indipendent thought it risks just formatting thought.

Neil Roach

I love this topic!

I did a NLP course some years ago and it obviously comes up in the material quite a lot.

I agree that persuasion is manipulative, but its something every one of us does each day, especially when it’s a one-to-one exchange. It come naturally to may people and if you don’t have the skills is they can be learned.

There are many great leaders who naturally have persuasion skills and consequently the people that follow them do a great job and are happy to be led. These natural leaders simply have the ability to persuade others, without coming off as a bully. And that’s the thing, there are those that persuade the wrong way by bullying, or at least trying to, others.

I’ve not been through the entire blog, but I’d like to see perhaps something on persuasive language, especially in sales copy, you know the sort of things – embedded commands, presuppositions, linguistic binds, etc (something to consider). I don’t know if you’ve covered that elsewhere – I’ll go and take a look now!


Hit the nail on the head Derek, most people think they’re doing something wrong with persuasion/manipulation but in a lot of cases you’re actually helping people. So why feel bad about manipulating people to buy your great product?


The best case of persuasion that happened to me was when I got a speeding ticket and actually felt good about it.

The police officer pointed out the speed that I was traveling and the posted limit (I was about 30kms above!) and then knocked it down to 15kms over. He then told me that if I didn’t pay the ticket and it went to court that the judge would see the actual speed I was traveling at.

The whole time he was quite pleasant, and in the end I was happy to leave with paying for a ‘discount’ speeding ticket. It took me a few minutes driving away to realize that this guy sold me on the whole thing…my guess is that this greatly reduces the amount of court dates with speeders contesting the tickets…and it certainly worked in my book!

Kettle Folks

Great video Derek as usual,

I love your line “great persuasion is invisible”. It’s mainly because it always focuses on the “inevitable” stuff that the customer needs. When we persuade people on the necessary things, we don’t need to actually “persuade” them, we just need to tell them. And the customers understand the importance.

“over persuading” is actually negative marketing.

My 2 scents 🙂


Thanks a lot!


Derek, this is a winner. Next time I’ll will look fornthe yes, and ifn the hard “no” appears may be I send you a picture.

janet bonarski

Wish you had a search field. I wanted to share your remarks about why you should be cautious using the color red, about people being more inpatient with a slow read when you use red. Can’t find it.



What is an example of a response I shouldn’t take at face value?

connie curtis

This just represented me to the simplest thing if you dont know why someone said no just ask. I have often wondered when you ask a business person this will they be nice or tell you the truth? This was great. I know I will have to come back to watch this again.


More importantly than how much I loved this video- where did you ski? 🙂

W. Lee Warren, MD

Derek, great job as always. But, since you opened the door to talk about head injury prevention, I thought I’d share this with you. I’m a newbie to online business, but I’m a pro at neurosurgery. In fact, I’ve been called the ‘Derek Halpern of brain surgery.’ (In very small circles).

Here’s a link to a post on my site about helmet use in preventing head injuries: http://www.wleewarrenmd.com/?p=309

To quote my favorite online psychology marketing guru: If you don’t read this, you’re an idiot. Read it and leave a comment.

Thanks for what you do. You’re helping all of us.

Gordon Smith

I received an email from a well known marketer about his high end coaching course. I was sent to a video of him speaking about the benefits of the course and showing proof from case studies about previous students who had went on to make a full time living online.

I knew the guy quite well I had been a customer of his for years and he had provided some amazing value in some of his previous products, but the cost of the coaching course was Mucho $$$$$ and I thought “NO Way!” but the seed was planted in my mind.

Over the next few days I got some more emails sending me to some more videos, and I could clearly see what was happening, the process behind the pitch, but I continues to be intrigued as the social proof of the effectiveness of his course was piled on.

I started to think hmm “Maybe it would be a good ‘investment'(groan)” The deadline for the end of the offer was fast approaching and the scarcity factor was coming into play (I knew it, I recognized it) but I thought no way I am falling victim to this (cynical me) Anyway I didn’t buy it and the offer closed.
I sighed with relief, whew I didn’t need to think about it anymore the offer was closed move on, but a strange thing happened I started to regret not buying, I started to wonder if this course would have been effective for me. The proof had been overwhelming.

The next day I received an email the closing date for the offer had been extended 3 days, Final last chance. I wanted it!

I thought to myself, Brilliant I have been sold in a brilliant way and I did think sneaky so and so lol but I didn’t feel resentment, I did feel manipulated but I admired it.

My upcoming product launch should cover the entire cost of my course and then some.

This to me is the art and science of marketing, and the more eloquent the marketing the less you see it.

Jayne G

We agree on the fact that you do not need to manipulate in order to persuade. Persuasion done the right way is a good thing. But your example with the helmet, is not the best in my opinion. It is borderline influence vs persuasion.

I bet the store owner did not need to work hard to persuade you to buy the helmet, because subsconciously you knew you needed it, but were not sure if you want to spend the money on it. You just needed that support that you are thinking the right direction. On the other hand, immediately after you walked out of the store with the helmet, your doubt returned. Now, you are angry with the store owner for convincing you to buy it, and this store owner will never see you again, unless you fall dawn.

Now the reason, this leaning toward persuasion because the entire event was completed fairly fast. If you want to influence someone it takes much longer.

On the other hand, if you have the patience, influencing someone worth much more if you want to apply it to successful selling. If you manage to influence someone that buying the helmet is the best thing he/she can do in order to be safe while skiing, you actually managed to change the person’s mind and you won him over for a life time without ever falling down.

My booklet about persuasive writing will be free for those purchasing my book about successful negotiations.


Cool video, Derek. It fits nicely with what I am currently preparing, namely a project/ training on Influence, Persuasion and Manipulation.

I think the difference really is the intention of the person who wants to be influential or persuasive.

If they only have themselves in mind and their gain, it becomes manipulative – they create a win-lose scenario.

If they have the interest of the other person – for example me – in mind, I don’t care if I get persuaded and sold. It’s a win-win. That means, as you pointed out, they explore my reasons for my objection and not use sleazy tricks to get me to buy their stuff.

Do I make sense?

BTW – since I am coming from NLP, and many people believe that NLP is manipulative, I asked my own teacher to write an article: Is NLP Manipulative. Allow me to add the link: http://advancedmindmanagement.com/guest-article-adriana-james-can-nlp-used-manipulation/

AJ & Serenity Services

Hey Derek thanks for another awesome video! I will definitely keep these tips in mind in my online business.

A while back I worked the graveyard shift as a security guard (from 12 midnight to 8am with Wed. and Thurs. night off). One of the guards was let go and I was asked to switch from the graveyard shift to the daytime shift (8am to 4pm with weekends off). At first I was hesitant because I enjoyed the slower pace of the graveyard shift and being able to get on the Internet during my down time. But then my manager assured me how he would rather have me works days (I was his 1st choice in mind for the day time shift) and have someone else work the graveyard shift.

In the spirit of being a team player and going above and beyond, I went ahead and agreed to switching over to the daytime schedule. Looking back, I’m glad my manager coaxed me into this because I was able to establish a more regular, natural schedule of working during the day and sleeping at night. I’ve also been able to have more of a social life. Overall I can honestly say that the benefits of working the daytime schedule outweighed remaining in the graveyard schedule.

Maggie Mae

You are too much Derek !

Liked your face plant, I mean the fact that you included it.

One time I had a “Yard Sale”. My hat, gloves,skis…all over the ground.

Kara Sorensen


Thank you for your video. I’m a health care provider so the decisions my potential patients and my patients make can be life and death. I had a patient email me the other day that I had saved her life. There have been others who didn’t make changes and they are no longer with us. These were good people I cared about, but there’s nothing you can do. This made me want to get to the bottom of the ‘No’ that much more, but it still has to come from the person to want to change. I’m still working on my ability to enroll the people who can benefit from my work and your encouragement helps.




So I’m glad your standards of excellence are such that I will read the entire post or watch the entire video. I nearly unsubscribed on April fool’s day!

This, as all of your posts and videos are, was spot on.

Thank you for what you do!

Patty Ann

Persuasion 4 Protection > Kudos ~ Great Way to Send the Message Derek!


You are so f&^#$g good at what you do. Just that.

Tova Gold

My husband pursue fed me to sleep with him on our fourth date. I told him I wasn’t ready and he replied sincerely “ok, that’s fine” and I was sold.
He said it was fail proof and worked with all the girls.


Awesome video. I like the part about not ridiculing or belittling your customers. If you elevate them and make them feel great (“I know you already have a great graphic design sense; this helps you take frustrating coding and making it look as good as your aesthetic”)—then you create a positive relationship. No one wants to be pressured into buying something and feel terrible about themselves. They want to be pressured into buying something that makes them feel great about themselves. 🙂

Adam Roseland

Really? No jacket this time?? I was expecting to see you rocking an Alexander Amosu suit for this episode.

Still looked ok though, even better when there isn’t snow on your chin. 🙂

Well done on the topic.

Ian Dainty

This comment is about skiing with a helmet. But first I agree that you don’t give up until you get a hard NO in sales.

I am in my 60’s and I have been skiing for years without a helmet, mostly because they weren’t readily available until about 15 years ago. One day I fell into backwards into the snow and hit my head. Thank goodness, this time I was OK. But I realized how stupid I was not to wear a helmet.

So I bought a helmet. About 2 weeks later I was skiing and going at a pretty good speed, and I got blindsided by a snow boarder (Don’t get me going about boarders vs skiers)

Any way, I hit the snow very hard. I fell sideways, and bounced off my head about 5-6 times. I fell so hard, in fact, that I broke my collar bone. I had to go to the hospital. And I was unable to ski for the rest of that season.

But if hadn’t been wearing a helmet, it could have been much worse.

So, if you ski, wear a helmet.

Kim Snyder

What happened with me was about a brand nail polish been thinking about but never bought any. I have a friend who sells it and she was telling me about how it sells, how pretty it was, and was wondering why I didn’t have it yet? Before I knew it I had ordered it online while we were still talking in chat on Facebook.
Persuasion is a lot like stating the benefits of something and then talking around to get you thinking why you think you need it and why didn’t you already have it/ Not that I am telling you, that you want it, but finding ways to find how to get you into the state of mind to buy it. For me it wasn’t hard to talk me into ordering the nail polish, I wanted it but never saw the need for it. My friend did, and wow I ordered it.

claire stone

That was almost a sweet jump there Derek!
So much useful stuff in there, but I especially love the point about asking why they didn’t buy – I’m doing that straight away – thank you!

    Derek Halpern

    BAM! Love it.


That pic is kinda nasty…

    Derek Halpern

    no, you.


Ha, my hubby does this all the time! “Hey, we should drive up to Sun Peaks this weekend!” “No no, there’s no time, I have to clean the house and…” “I’ll clean the house. Sun Peaks!” Oh, okay.

Persuasion is all about espousing the benefits of a thing and making it seem like any other option would be ludicrous. I think I do this reasonably well in my business, and I’m going to have to do it REALLY well on my first ever webinar in 2 weeks.

    Derek Halpern

    Does he really clean the house?


Love the distinction between a “Hard No” and a “Soft No.” I love sales. I’ve been in sales my entire life. But, I guess, in many ways, so has everyone. One of my favorite books on sales is Daniel Pink’s “To Sell is Human.”

Recently, I sold a marketing video (Complete with filming, editing, rendering, sound, etc.) to a client.

At first, they were hesitant. But, I took their soft “no” and showed them all of the benefits and advantages of creating this video. After just a few back-and-forth emails and one phone call, their soft no was a multi-thousand dollar video deal and they were “gung ho” about the entire process.

So, I DEFINITELY know that persuasion works. And, when you know better than your client (About the benefit and advantage of an end result they can’t quite grasp yet, persuasion is absolutely necessary to take them to the next level).

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