Welcome to Influence, Psychology and Persuasion

This is session number 007 of Influence Psychology and Persuasion. In this episode, I’ll be explaining why we like what’s familiar, and how it affects our interactions and decisions. First and foremost, and more obviously, we, as a species like what’s familiar. From an evolutionary angle, if what you did yesterday was good enough to keep you here, alive and well today, then repeating that makes so much sense. But….. how can this psychological principle be used to your advantage, and what do you need to be aware of to prevent falling into the trap of following pre-programmed responses.


Familiarity and similarity go hand-in-hand. You’ve heard the saying, “birds of a feather flock together”. And the reason why this is known so well is that in so many cases it’s absolutely true. We like people who are like us. This recognition of being similar confirms to us that we are on the right path and that our way, our beliefs, and how personality traits are exactly where they need to be, which is why we like other people just like us. This acts as a confirmation bias.

How can I use this to my advantage?

Small-talk is a great way that people search for similarities. You’ll hear people talking about sporting events, seasonal events and even the weather in the quest trying to find some common ground. In the business world, you’ll often find those well-trained salespeople looking for personal connections that tie business and family together. e.g. “I noticed you have an office in Hong Kong, my wife’s family is from Hong Kong, what a great place”. Having the ability to tie together a similarity allows for a rapid bond to form which from a business perspective makes the interaction far slicker and more likely to end in a successful business transaction. On a one-to-one basis, people are constantly looking for similarities when they are dating and so they should remember we like people who are like us. So many people can get this wrong while they are looking for “the one” as it’s possible to simply blurt about everything about you, without giving too much notice or interest to where the conversation is going and trying to match up those commonalities.

What if commonalities are difficult to come by?

If you’re struggling to find common ground, and perhaps where a strong relationship is paramount, you can simply resort to showing interest. Just because you don’t have a direct sameness in an area, you showing an interest in a particular area, at least demonstrates that there is a familiarity to some degree. This has another effect too, people love to talk, and more importantly, those people love others that listen and show interest, again this confirms their attitude, beliefs and interests. Another confirmation bias.

What to look out for

Now I am no cynic, but it’s best to be aware of people actively searching for similarities and familiarity during a first interaction. Salespeople, conmen, and others looking to bypass your better judgement will all use the similarity principle to allow them to rapidly and effectively build a level of trust. We can’t help it either, we like what’s familiar and will be persuaded. However, now you have listened to this or read this post, you should be completely aware that this principle exists, that some people use it to their advantage, and the others who know very little about it, blunder their way through life during interactions, wishing for common ground.

Adjusting your body language

It is said, that the largest proportion of our communication is funnily enough, non-verbal. This means your overall body language and demeanour conveys your message far more than the actual words, pitch, pace, and tonality that you use. Therefore, being aware of your body and its positioning is probably the most effective way to create early similarities with another person. It is actually called matching and mirroring. However, there is an extremely important caveat here. It is not copying and mimicking. Very subtle matching mirroring of a person’s body language will allow you to connect with them very rapidly. If a person is very slightly slouched and looking pleasant but a little shy, your best possible approach is to match that in your own way. To give you an example of what not to do is to boldly stroll over, chest out, head up, throwing out a very strong arm for a handshake. I’ll cover this more in the NLP podcast NLP in Action which you can listen to purely on matching and mirroring.

Create better relationships and rapport by being interested and finding common ground.

For more on why we like what’s familiar check out a post about commitment and consistency and cognitive dissonance.