How to Make People Say Yes


I spent a summer slinging phones for the Caltech Alumni Fund. I hated it, but it paid $10 an hour, which was way more than the $6.50 I got as a waitress.

My job was to disturb people in the middle of dinner to ask for money. The answers were usually polite but negatory. Sometimes a widow would answer the phone and say that the alumnus in question was deceased. According to my script, I was then supposed to ask, Would you like to make a donation in his honor?


Sometimes I would skip that line. I didn’t actually care if the alumnus agreed to make a donation or not. The money didn’t go to me. In fact, I hoped that every number I dialed would go straight to an answering machine so that I could leave a quick message and cross another line off my list.

Whenever we secured a donation, we got to reach into the prize basket. The basket contained treasures like unsharpened pencils and plastic eggs containing silly putty. Needless to say, I sucked at my job.

These days, rejection carries a little more weight. Here’s how to avoid it, presented as a distillation of Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.

Influence by Robert Cialdini

Reciprocity. Give them something first. They’ll feel like they owe you.

Consistency. People will continue doing what they were doing. If an alumnus had donated the previous year, we were supposed to mention it. I thought it might make the target think, But I already donated last year, you greedy bastards! Nope, they were likely to donate again.

Social Proof. They will do what their peers are doing.

Likeability. Obviously they only say yes if they like you. That’s why the Caltech Alumni Fund employed lovable undergrads to make phone calls.

Authority. People are convinced by authority figures. The Caltech Alumni Fund should have had David Baltimore make the stupid phone calls.

Scarcity. People will say yes if they think there is a limited window of opportunity.

So now that we know how to make people say Yes, we can practice by picking up chicks at a bar. Here’s how to do it:

Put on a police officer’s uniform (authority) and head over to the Rosewood. Carry a puppy (likeability – everyone loves puppies). Find a target female seated at the bar and buy her a drink (reciprocity). But don’t ask her if you can buy her a drink, cuz she’ll say No. Go to the bartender, and tell him you want to buy that girl a drink. Tip the bartender $20 to hand it to her and tell her that glass of Charles Shaw you bought is a 1956 Château Latour. Trust me, she won’t know the difference. When she looks to the person who bought her the drink, wave at her with the hand that’s wearing a wedding ring (scarcity and social proof).

With this technique, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get laid (consistency). If not, try Poca Bear.

For the record: I love Caltech and I will totally donate lots of money just as soon as I’m not poor.

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