Influence by Dr. Robert Cialdini
Sit Down and Read
One Line Summary
The Secrets of Masterful Persuasion Revealed! Hypnotize Others To Do Your Bidding
It may be a bit dated at this point, but there is no more popular book on the subject of persuasion than Influence by Dr. Robert Cialdini.
It took me a long to finally get to reading, but I’m so glad I did. Because this one really is that good.
Through meticulous and in depth scientific research, Cialdini has identified several key triggers of persuasion. I say “triggers” because it really almost is like flipping a switch. When these triggers are pressed, people will be influenced whether they agree to it or not.
So before you go on reading, understand that your ethics are in your own hands. Information is amoral; intentions are not. So it’s up to you to choose how to apply what you will learn.
The more my ambitions expand, the more I’ve realized that my ability to be persuasive has had to grow with it. There is simply no way to cause the change you want to see in the world without understanding how to influence others. So for me, this is a topic that I love to talk about.
Why it’s Awesome
For this review, I’m going to list the influence triggers Cialdini has identified and share them with you one at a time. So here we go.
Often, just giving a person a reason they should comply with what you asked for is powerful in its own right. Don’t just ask, explain.
That might seem obvious, but how many times have you ever said “Can I have…” or “Will you…” without explaining yourself? Track it for the next week.
Understand that the human mind is tricky. It can rationalize almost any sort of behavior, but it needs a reason to grab onto. By giving them that reason, now they can explain to themselves why they should comply. That is why sometimes the reason itself is irrelevant, as long as it’s there.
Potential Con Uses: Making up a reason for behavior that will not benefit the person
You do for me, I do for you. That’s reciprocity in a nutshell.
People will typically give you back whatever you give to them. So when you give them something of value, it’s almost like they have to give you something back.
Think about it. How many times have you heard “this person has done so much for me, I have to…” or “I have to return the favor” or any other variation?
This is also the basis of content marketing, which you are indulging in right now. When someone creates valuable content, now you are far more likely to buy their product out of sheer fairness. Or some other equal value exchange.
Potential Pro Uses: Providing an excellent service and getting a referral in return
Potential Con Uses: Forcing a gift on someone that is not wanted
This is the “emperor has no clothes” or “herd” effect. When people believe something is true, other people immediately assume that idea has credibility and so they will believe it as well.
In my opinion, this may be the most powerful trigger of all. Human beings exist within a social structure and so this runs so deep in us. Monkey see, monkey do.
Potential Pro Uses: Genuine reviews of a product
Potential Con Uses: Exaggerating or lying about how much other people truly are on board with what you are trying to persuade.
This one is huge as well. When someone is a perceived authority, people often just stop thinking and go with whatever that person says.
I say perceived because who is there to truly decide that someone is an authority on anything? Another authority? And who is that authority that gives that person authority? So on and so forth.
So authority is always self-declared. At the same time, we clearly can point to people that have more credibility in certain areas. I’m still going to want to take my stock advice from Warren Buffet over the homeless man on the street. But the point remains is that authority is subjective.
Potential Pro Uses: Picking out a medical professional
Potential Con Uses: Inflating your credentials, Nazi Germany
Pretty self-explanatory, we are influenced by people who we like.
We like people for all sorts of reasons. Maybe they just remembered our name. But one major reason is that they seem like us.
You may have heard someone someone say when they’re trying to be persuasive, “I’m just like you”. Or maybe they simply implied it in a subtler way. Either way, that’s this principle at play.
I’ve also heard this one called The Jones Effect when I worked in sales. Essentially the company I worked for would teach us to create a situation where the prospect felt like they were part of a group of other people like them.
Potential Pro Uses: Creating familiarity with people
Potential Con Uses: Excessive Nationalism / tribalism,
We like to remain consistent to our self-image. So when people make a commitment of some kind, they like to follow through on it. Even if it’s not to their benefit.
Thing about the items you have in your apartment or house that you won’t throw away simply because you committed to purchasing it at some point. The money is already gone, and yet you can’t give it up because it would mean being inconsistent.
Another word you may have heard for this is investment. When people are invested in something, they automatically want a return on that investment.
Potential Pro Uses: Getting someone to commit to a healthy life choice
Potential Con Uses: Getting someone to commit to someone bad for them
Imagine that you were the only person in the world with an iPhone. How badly would you want one? How much would it be worth to you?
That’s the principle of scarcity. Things that are scarce have value, things that are abundant are not valuable.
It really comes down to arbitrage. If everyone has an iPhone, then you’re no different than anyone else and there’s no arbitrage to be gained from having one. At best you’re just on par.
But if you’re the only one with an iPhone, that’s a huge advantage. While everyone is forced into playing Snake on their Nokia, you get to stream YouTube videos. And while everyone else has to wait to get home to send an e-mail, you can do it while waiting in line at the grocery store.
Potential Pro Uses: Letting your customer know that their competition is not aware of X product or information
Potential Con Uses: Valuing something purely because it is scarce, not because it’s valuable
So that’s the list. Notice that I tried to point out that these triggers can be used for positive or negative reasons. It’s up to you to decide how. But don’t be surprised if misusing some of these triggers comes back around and bites you in the ass. People don’t like to be lied to.
Why Does It Suck
This book is a bit dated at this point. Many marketers and behaviorial scientists have run with Cialdini’s work since then and have expanded on it. So these are certainly not new (re: scarce) ideas.
The Wrap Up
Must read for any leaders, marketers, CEO’s, salespeople or anyone else who does persuasion for a living. Then you may want to consider moving deeper into studying all of these triggers and how they each work. There has been a lot of work done since Cialdini.