Instant Influence: a Method To Influence in 7 Minutes

More thoughts on a surprising way to influence someone

Wang Yip
4 min readFeb 21, 2024
Photo by Tachina Lee on Unsplash

In my last article, I wrote about how irrational questions were better than rational questions at influencing people. Daniel Pink in To Sell is Human, talked about how he learned the power of irrational questions from Michael Pantalon who is the author of Instant Influence.

I decided to dig into Instant Influence for more on this surprising way of influencing people.

Instant Influence is a six-step process for influencing someone. It consists of the following six questions, based on a Motivational Interviewing technique.

  1. Why might you want to change?
  2. On a scale of 1–10 where 1 is not ready at all and 10 is totally ready, what number would you say you are?
  3. Why didn’t you pick a lower number?
  4. What outcomes or benefits do you think you might get if you were to change?
  5. Why might those outcomes be important to you?
  6. What are the next steps, if any?

Why might you want to change?

The first question has specific wording I want to highlight for you. Notice the question doesn’t ask why should the other person change or why must the other person change. If you think back to some of the times when you tried to introduce change to another person, you may have highlighted benefits or consequences or even given an ultimatum (they must change OR ELSE).

There is a Law of Psychological Reactance which states that the more you want someone to do (or not do) something, the more they are not going to want to not do (or do) it. It’s like a forbidden fruit.

When you use words like ‘must’ or ‘should’, you are activating people’s resistance to doing it. The negative of doing this is that people never do things for your reasons, they do things for their reasons.

When you ask “Why might you want to change?”, not only are you getting at their reasons why they might change, but you are also focusing on their motivation and desire to change (this is assuming the change you want the other person to undergo is good for them).

On a scale of 1–10 where 1 is not ready at all and 10 is totally ready, what number would you say you are?

The point of this question is not to determine where they are on the scale. Michael looked at numerous research papers and studies and found no correlation between how high someone is on the scale and taking action. They could be a 10 or 1 and they could be equally unlikely (or likely) to take action. He did find that when people were in the middle of the scale, they were more likely to take action.


When you're in the middle of the scale (say a 3 or a 5), and when paired with the next question, the questions uncover why you might want to change.

Why didn’t you pick a lower number?

If you read my last article about irrational questions vs. rational questions, this is the question that was most surprising to me. Rather than ask “Why didn’t you pick a higher number?”, asking why they didn’t pick a lower number focuses them on their reasons for changing.

If they chose a 1, you can either ask “What would it take to go from a 1 to a 2?” or you can ask the same question, but for a smaller change step.

One of the laws Michael talks about in Instant Influence is focusing on someone’s motivation (even if it’s very small or non-existent) is better than focusing on the barriers or resistance someone throws up (which is what we might do when we’re trying to convince someone to do something for their benefit — think for example trying to convince your spouse to exercise with you and when they say they have no time or energy, you try to think of different strategies to give them more time or say that exercising will give them more energy).

What outcomes or benefits do you think you might get if you were to change?

This question is slightly different than the first question. You are trying to focus on the benefits this person sees for themself in the change.

Remember that people do not change because of your reasons, they change because of their reasons, so asking this question helps to identify what their reasons for changing might be.

There is certainly no guarantee this will get them to change, but Michael says three scenarios might happen:

  1. They are instantly influenced (yay!)
  2. They are not going to change right away, but you’ve planted a change seed in their mind (you may have to use the instant influence method a couple of times)
  3. They are not going to change (and now you know and can focus on other things)

Why might those outcomes be important to you?

Simon Sinek’s TED talk is one of the most-watched TED talks on TED.

His key message: it all starts with the why.

When you ask this question, you’re getting at the why. At this point in the conversation, it’s not about trying to convince them with your reasons but instead, repeating their answers back to them.

“It’s important because I would like to be healthy enough to see my son graduate”

“So you want to exercise so you can be healthy and live a long time to see your son graduate”

What are the next steps, if any?

At this point, you will have to gauge how the other person feels about the change. Your questions might get them to change, in which case, the next steps are to build on that momentum. Or your questions might have only planted a seed for the change, in which case you may have to have subsequent instant influence conversations. Or your questions might not have done anything and then that is where you can determine what you want to do.



Wang Yip

Author of Essential Habits. I write about personal development, work and managing your career. Connect with me at