Influence: Science and Practice

Professor Robert Cialdini at Arizona State University is recognized worldwide for his research in the field of psychology and for his book ‘Influence: Science and Practice’ which sold more than three million copies in thirty different languages. In ‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion’, Cialdini talks about his personal experiences and presents case studies of his research to explain how to persuade people to say ‘yes’ even before you have to ask for something.

In the book, the author presents ideas to help you gain the confidence of people by changing the way you conduct your conversations. What you say is important but how you say it can be even more important if you want to persuade people to reach your goals. Also, your attitudes before you start talking can make all the difference.

Realize the hidden cues and visual clues that people leave begin to notice the small details and learn to persuade people infallibly with the help of this micro book. If you can understand and master the tools of persuasion, you will be able to win debates, promote your ideas, and get people to support you.

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Pay Attention To The Initial Moment To Win The Trust Of The Other Person

When talking about persuading someone, the content we present at the beginning has a huge impact on how people will understand what we will present later. A good example is a story of “Jake,” the fire alarm salesman. Jake had an innovative strategy that made him the best salesperson on his team. His technique was simple. When he gave presentations to sell the fire alarms to families, he would start with his standard speech and then bang his head, apologize, and tell people that he had forgotten a crucial part of the equipment in his car. Very politely, he would ask for permission to go back to his car, pick up the forgotten equipment, and enter the house again.

But ‘forgetting’ the equipment was always intentional. Jake had a strategy behind this illusion. Few people allow strangers to enter their homes; this level of trust is only given to friends or family. So when Jake was allowed back, he was making sure people saw him with confidence. In doing so, people saw him as a trustworthy person in their brains and began to believe that he really had their best interests at heart, making people buy their smoke detectors more than any other salesperson.

Jake’s technique for success was built entirely from a trusting association idea. He was not asking to be treated as a close friend or a family member; he simply created situations that caused him to be treated that way. This technique made his clients put him in a specific category, previously reserved only for the people they trusted, and this made them more receptive to Jake’s sales pitch.

Jake’s technique may seem a little outdated, but there is an important lesson here for all of us: trust is a primary human instinct and finding ways to increase it will affect the influence you exert on a person. The key lesson is: building a trusting association can be just as beneficial as traditionally gaining that trust.

Privileged Moments Make The Most Receptive People

Often, the most likely factor in determining someone’s choice in a situation is not the wiser one; but it is the one that caught your attention the most. For example, John has earned his reputation at parties for his ability to read people’s palms. His talent at recognizing each person’s personality accurately surprised everyone-until he read the same woman’s palm, two completely opposing readings, hours apart, and made her enthusiastically agree with the two interpretations. Something about this story was clearly wrong.

Reading someone’s palm is a perfect example of a situation that creates privileged moments in which an individual becomes receptive to the message you are saying. The process is simple. When a palm reader says that your lifeline shows that you are stubborn, you will think about your recent experiences and focus your attention on every experience in which you acted with stubbornness. So naturally, stubbornness is the first thing that comes to your mind, making you agree with what was said.

It is highly unlikely that you will think of situations that prove you are not stubborn because it is much harder to think of situations that challenge a statement than situations that prove the statement. This process is called a “positive test strategy”. Research participants and product testers often feel guilty for abusing this principle. If you ask a potential customer if they consider themselves adventurous and then send a product for them to test, it increases the likelihood that the customer will buy the product. That is because people’s brains have been led to think of all the things that make them adventurous and leads them to buy a new product that fits them into that category. Who does not want more adventure in their life? In the same way, a survey that asks if a person felt happy after testing the product will make happy feelings come to mind, influencing their response.

Focus Depends On The Situation

Many years ago, when Tylenol packages were recalled because they tampered with deadly levels of cyanide, an excessive number of people used lot numbers of adulterated products, 2880 and 1910, to play the lottery. Why would anyone do that? Most people would never associate poison with luck, but the number of people who used those numbers was so high that the lottery commission had to stop more betting

The main reason that these numbers were used was simply that the numbers were in the media. Thousands of people heard these numbers several times over a few weeks, and they were fresh in their minds when they went to play the lottery. Some have won with this play, but this behavior demonstrates an excellent illustration of the ‘focus on anything is causal’ principle.

When people see that some factor gets special attention, as in the case of a lot of Tylenol, they will involuntarily assume that there is an important reason for this.

The same pattern of thinking can be seen in police interrogations that lead to false confessions. As false confessions typically occur in interrogation sessions lasting more than 16 hours, mental and physical exhaustion may be the main reason. However, with some witnesses, it may be difficult to find out whether the confession was honest or not. Some studies show that viewers tend to rely more on the person who is most visible during a discussion. Therefore, the cops who appear in front of the shoot, give the idea that they have more control over the situation because they are at the focal point of the image. Having films that show the two people equally, removes this tendency and makes it easier for viewers to come to more accurate conclusions about the confession.

The focus is always casual. Whatever your focus is, it will be more important in some given situations.

Communication Changes Promote Advances

Joseph Campbell said, “If you want to change the world, change the metaphor.” And that’s an important lesson. Some of the most successful organizations in the world have a unique way of dealing with their business. For example, SSM Health is one of the most successful health insurance companies in the United States, and one of the causes of this was a fundamental change in the language used by the company. During meetings, officials refused to use words as ‘topics’ and instead used ‘information points’. In the same way, they had business ‘goals’ instead of ‘business’ ‘targets and were ‘outdated’ by the competition and not ‘won’ by it. These small word changes may seem subtle but have produced real results for SSM Health and for other organizations that use a positive word association in their business.

By choosing to focus intentionally on words that encourage renewal and financial health, SSM Health maintains this mentality with its employees, allowing them not to be distracted from their mission, which is to improve the health and well-being of each patient they treat.

Some scientific studies have shown similar results. In one experiment, doctors who are exposed to aggressive words are more likely to treat their patients painfully. In another example, employees who get paper notes with pictures of athletes winning a race are more likely to fight for ambitious results. Preparing our minds with words and images that create a positive association that we are struggling with something, makes it easier for our brains to move from the metaphor to the desired realization.

Discover The Principle Of ‘Geography of Influence’

When Robert Cialdini began writing this book, he wrote some parts in his office at the university where he worked and others at his home. When he re-read his work later, he realized that the things written in his house were much better and more accessible to the public. The reason for this contrast is simple: while writing from his office, he faced intimidating buildings and was surrounded by successful and skilled colleagues. He then had to write to match the high academic standards of his colleagues. When he was writing at home, he was surrounded by newspapers and books that made him write more casually, which suited his audience much more than the boring and serious writing of the Academy.

This principle is called ‘Geography of Influence’ and reveals itself in different ways in your life as well. Words, pictures, and places can create associations and lead to predictable changes.

For example, women who are reminded to focus on the fact that they are women – circulating or writing their gender before some math test, for example – tend to outgrow women than men who are not remembered for their gender before taking the test. Apparently, this is due to the strange and imprecise stereotype that women are worse than males. But when women are placed in a test room with female teachers, they are not reminded of this gender stereotype, and the difference in performance disappears.

Cialdini tells us that the general principle of ‘Geography of Influence’ can manifest itself in different ways – both positive and negative – from being able to remember good things as you get older, to becoming more productive at work. Geography of Influence controls how our environment and physical space affect our behavior.

The Steps To Change

In his first book Pre-Suasion, Cialdini talks about six universal principles that affect the level of influence a person or situation has:

  • Reciprocity: As a general principle, people say ‘yes’ when they feel they owe something. If you can make people feel in debt to you (for example, by giving them a piece of chocolate when they enter your store), they will probably give you something in return (such as buying chocolate).
  • Empathy: Getting people to like you is one of the best ways to encourage them to do something for you. You can achieve this by getting them to identify with you because we all like people who are more like us.
  • Authority: People prefer to listen and respect those who are experts in their areas, so to gain influence, it is important to present yourself as a person of authority. Different studies have shown that using a medical lab coat made some participants considered more reliable as test instructors.
  • Social Proof: What others are doing is a great motivator for long-term change. For example, showing people that their neighbors are saving electricity is the best way to influence someone to reduce their own consumption.
  • Shortage: We all want a little more of the things we do not have, so creating a sense of scarcity increases the customer’s motivation to buy a product. That’s why many popular products release limited versions.
  • Consistency: Most people like to show consistency between their past and present behaviors. Thus, an influential person can lead people to associate their present actions with past behaviors, thus influencing their behaviors.

These six principles together are important motivators to get people in the direction you want with your decision. But beyond them, Cialdini decided to add a seventh principle to his list of influence.

Promoting Unity Helps Change Others

Our ability to generate change in others is often based on shared personal relationships, which create a persuasive context that seeks approval. Cialdini discovered a seventh universal principle of influence, which is unity. Unity often comes from a sense of relating to people who are similar to us, usually through family ties. These ties lead us to high levels of acceptance, corporation, empathy, help, trust, and approval.

Some of the best ways to develop unity are to highlight things that show common genetic points, whether through family ties, geographic location, or life experiences.

For example, most people willing to welcome Jews during the Holocaust were people who came from open households to receive various groups of people in their homes and to treat them equally – regardless of their color or beliefs. This experience of welcoming others and expanding their family concepts made them more open to Jews at the time of the Holocaust.

Unity can also be formed when people struggle for a common cause or have a common interest. For example, studies had shown that when participants sang or played instruments together, they were more likely to help each other after that. Commercial brands can take advantage of this innate loyalty by asking consumers to advise them on how to make their products better. That will encourage them to feel that they have a common interest in the company and consequently increase brand loyalty.

The Ethics Behind The Techniques of Persuasion

Knowing how to persuade people to do what you want and when it’s ethical to do so are two completely different problems. Cialdini was very concerned, in revealing the secrets of persuasion to the world in his first book, on how this power would be used, after all, it can be used for both good and evil.

For example, companies often put profits above any ethics in their decision-making process, regardless of the likelihood that they will be caught and punished for their transgressions.

However, those who choose to use persuasive techniques for unethical reasons would be making a foolish decision, since there is concrete evidence that unscrupulous persuasion tactics cost the business dearly. That happens for three main reasons:

  1. Weak employee performance: Working in a morally challenging environment has an exhausting effect on employees and often makes them less efficient during their working hours. This moral stress can do as much damage to employee performance as dealing with difficult, regrettable customers.
  2. High employee turnover: Placing employees in an environment of questionable morality causes many of them to quit, increasing the costs while the employer tries to recover. Typically, the most qualified employees are those who resign in this situation, so other employees will need to work hard to replace countless hours of training invested in those employees.
  3. Prevalence of fraud and irregularities: Employees who stay in the company are usually those accustomed to tricks and schemes. That undermines the company’s culture greatly. Therefore, these businesses experience corruptions of the company’s own team. These employees take full advantage of the situation and work to make matters worse.

Final Notes:

In most cases, when you try to persuade someone, that person’s decision has already been made long before you make your final argument. People’s decisions depend on how you present the information to them. So your preparation makes all the difference so that the buyer – or anyone else you want to influence – makes the decision. By learning the art of ethical persuasion, you will become able to receive more positive responses in any situation.

Thanks to the Geography of Influence, your work environment will have a great impact on your results. Make sure that you prepare an appropriate environment that leads you to success. And if you are trying to influence others, make sure your environment will help you. When you are talking to someone you want to influence them, try to create a bond or a sense of unity between you. One simple way to do this is to find common ground through casual conversation. Establishing a sense of unity will make you much more successful in persuading someone.

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