Robert Cialdini has answered so many questions for me in his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. Robert has taken the mystery of why we do things that, at the time, seem a mystery even to ourselves; why some people have enormous influence over others; and what we can do to get results, and protect ourselves when “under the influence” of persuasion techniques.
Within the book the types of influence have been split into 6 possible categories. These are Reciprocation, Commitment and Consistency, Social Proof, Liking, Authority and Scarcity. Each chapter ends with a section titled “How to Say No” and gives a story provided by a reader to show how certain persuasion techniques affected them. To study these techniques, Cialdini has sought training in areas such as sales positions, and also conducted psychology experiments to observe people's behavior. He has carefully taken the reader through people's behavior, and used research and personal stories to explain why certain techniques result in a change of behavior, and also how they have improved some results by tweaking just one part of the experiment.
Cialdini has been very careful to explain not only areas that we are at risk of being taken advantage of, but also to show how these same behaviors can work to our advantage, and in the bigger picture as an important part of reasonable and acceptable control in society. He has given examples of how techniques can work in our favor, how we can use them ourselves in business, and how we can use them with our children.
I was amazed at seemingly “small” occurrences that had a huge impact on societies, with riots occurring; and how similar events in families can result in different behaviors in children. Simple changes such as order of presentation i.e. cheapest to most expensive or vice versa, for best results. By adding a component such as an authority, or a trusted friend, or a sense of obligation such as a free gift or favor all play a part in the final outcome of a sale or request.
Cialdini was very aware, in writing this book that this information is useful to us as consumers, members of society, victims of con-men, business people, authority figures and can be used ethically and unethically. The human ability to influence, and be influenced occurs as a result of our conditioning, and personality and being aware of it in our own lives is one way of achieving better outcomes in some of our daily transactions.
If you are looking for a book that will give you a detailed overview of the techniques and art of persuasion, and a touch of humour, this is a must read. Make sure you have a pen and paper while you read. You will need it.
Have a wonderful day.