Tactical Influence: Coaching with the Power of the Mind

The power of tactical influence

As coaches, every day we set out to impact and influence our players. But what exact tactics stand behind this influence? And how does it affect the brain? Let’s dive deep into the intricate tactics of influencing, and how mastering them can create powerful changes in perception and action.

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Leveraging Natural Principles for Mastery

Drawing parallels from the Japanese martial art of jiujitsu, the essence lies in using as little force as possible against an adversary. Instead, natural principles like gravity, momentum, or leverage come into play. Individuals who successfully leverage these principles can effortlessly overpower physically stronger opponents. Similarly, experts in the art of influence – be it salespeople, marketers, or magicians – can persuade without seemingly manipulating. Robert B. Cialdini, in his groundbreaking work, unveils the secrets behind why humans are so easily influenced.

The Brain’s ‘Programmed’ Responses

According to Cialdini, our susceptibility to manipulation stems from the brain’s ‘pre-programmed’ set patterns. These automatic behavioral patterns often arise from a single piece of significant information present in a situation. This “trigger” allows one to make decisions without extensively analyzing the entire scenario. Such shortcuts, while efficient, can also lead to errors, especially when reacting without conscious thought. To illustrate, a midfielder spotting a gap for a pass might overlook a defender who has anticipated this move, resulting in a lost opportunity.

Harnessing Key Stimuli for Influence

Playing into these triggers is where the true power of influence or manipulation lies. Cialdini suggests that most people have developed certain triggers for compliance. These are specific cues that usually inform us when agreeing to a request is both right and beneficial. Each of these triggers can be weaponized to secure consent.

The Art of Influence in Action

Last year, I stumbled upon an intriguing video that brilliantly illustrates the power of influence: Watch the Video.

In this video, Bas Smit and his wife Nicolette van Dam are masterfully tricked by Magician Victor from Mindfuck. Throughout their interaction, he subtly influences them through language, activating cognitive shortcuts and leading them to make identical choices. The ease with which this was achieved was both impressive and slightly unsettling, making one wonder about the true extent of our vulnerability to external influences.

In sharing this, my intent is to shed light on the immense impact individuals can have when they select the right words or images. Harnessing this power of influence is what we, as coaches, engage with every day. More on these tactics to come in future discussions.


Cialdini, Robert B. Invloed : de zeven geheimen van het overtuigen. Amsterdam: HarperCollins, 2021. Print.

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