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Persuading Others With Loving Thoughts

How reminders of love can get others to do what you want.

Source: szefei/Shutterstock

Over the years, I have shared several influence and persuasion techniques that can help individuals in romantic relationships. For example, we have discussed how touch can be persuasive and attractive, as well as how a small request can make a potential partner more agreeable to a date. Further, we have explored techniques to tap into a lover's existing motivations overall and guide them to your way of thinking.

Deep down, however, all of these techniques work because they change how other people feel. Some techniques help others to see you as more attractive, feel more committed to you, or even be more grateful for your efforts. Nevertheless, each technique ultimately helps to build some type of loving and attracted feelings within a relationship.

Given all that, I wondered whether simply getting a partner to think about love and loving feelings in general would have some kind of persuasive effect. For example, does playing a romantic song really make a potential partner more agreeable? Can reminding your spouse of a past time of intense romance get them to do a favor for you today? In short, can an appeal or reminder of love really get others to do what you want?

Research on Loving Thoughts and Compliance

When I dug into the research, I found a whole series of articles by Nicolas Guéguen and associates on the effects of thoughts of love on agreement to requests. Essentially, the researchers got people to think about love in different ways (a technique called priming) and then measured whether they complied more as a result. For example, one study by Guéguen, Jacob, and Lamy (2010) played either romantic or neutral songs in a waiting room while female study participants waited for the experiment to begin. After five minutes, each woman then interacted with a male research assistant, who eventually asked for her phone number. Responses showed that women who had heard the romantic music were significantly more likely to share their phone number than those who had heard neutral music.

Other experiments showed that when men on the street had been asked to remember a love episode from their past, they were more likely to later agree to a woman's request for money (Lamy, Fischer-Lokou, & Guéguen, 2008), or to help her pick up a stack of dropped compact discs (Lamy, Fischer-Lokou, & Guéguen, 2008). Men asked to complete a survey on love and romantic behavior were also more likely to comply with a donation request to help prevent domestic violence (Guéguen, 2014). Both men and women were also more likely to donate blood to a solicitor wearing a t-shirt reading, Loving = Helping than to a solicitor wearing a shirt reading Donating = Helping (Charles-Sire, Guéguen, & Pascual, 2012). The same t-shirt designs (Loving = Helping) also elicited more donations of money to a charitable cause (Guéguen, Jacob, & Charles-Sire, 2011).

Persuading Others with Love

Given the research above, it seems that the idea of love itself can be very persuasive. This agrees with a lot of common influencing behaviors in loving relationships. After all, many individuals try to "butter up" a partner with something romantic or loving before hitting them up with a big request. Partners may also covertly or overtly link loving feelings to demands for specific behaviors—"If you really love me, you would do it."

Nevertheless, the research suggests that more subtle tactics might work just as well, or better. Rather than arranging a full romantic dinner, simply playing a partner's favorite love song might be enough to prime the right emotions. Similarly, rather than making a heavy-handed "If you love me..." demand, simply try to gently reminisce with your partner and remember some loving times you've shared. Even a small note or sign containing the word Love might provide the persuasive effect you need.

Overall, then, getting people to think about love in various ways appears to make them more agreeable to your requests. This effect holds whether they are inspired by a romantic song, recall a loving memory, or just see the word Love printed on a t-shirt. In any case, such thoughts of love are indeed persuasive.

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  • Charles-Sire, V., Guéguen, N., & Pascual, A. (2012). Words as environmental cues: the effect of the word "Loving" on compliance to a blood donation request. The Journal of Psychology , 146, 455-470.
  • Lamy, L., Fischer-Lokou, J., & Guéguen, N. (2008). Semantically induced memories of love and helping behavior. Psychological Reports, 102, 418-424.
  • Lamy, L., Fischer-Lokou, J., & Guéguen, N. (2009). Induced reminiscence of love and chivalous helping. Current Psychology, 28, 202-209.
  • Guéguen, N. (2014). Inducing the concept of love among men and their compliance to a donation request for an association against domestic violence toward women. Psychological Reports: Relationships & Communications, 115, 884-887.
  • Guéguen, N., Jacob, C., & Charles-Sire, V. (2011). The effect of the word " Loving" on compliance to a fundraising request: Evidence from a French field study. International Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Marketing, 16, 371-380.
  • Guéguen, N., Jacob, C., & Lamy, L. (2010). 'Love is in the air': Effects of songs with romantic lyrics on compliance with a courtship request. Psychology of Music, 38, 303-307.

© 2016 by Jeremy S. Nicholson, M.A., M.S.W., Ph.D. All rights reserved.

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