Have you walked into a store, chatted with a sales manager, made a purchase, and then regretted the purchase upon driving home? Have you ever received a sales phone call, and then produced to purchase whatever junk the salesman was making? What about donated to a cause you didn’t actually believe in, but were sold on through your conversation with the volunteer? Enter Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, by Dr. Robert Cialdini, the classic book on persuasion, explains the psychology of why people say “yes”—and how to apply these understandings. Dr. Robert Cialdini is the psychology expert in the rapidly expanding field of influence and persuasion. His thirty-five years of rigorous, evidence-based research along with a three-year program of study on what moves people to change behavior has resulted in this highly acclaimed book.
In this post, I will provide you a brief summary of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, and tell you my takeaways that I’m looking to apply in my life.
Summary of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
In Influence, Dr. Cialdini argues there are six universal principles to persuasion: reciprocity, scarcity, liking, authority, social proof, and commitment/consistency. These principles are so powerful that they generate substantial change in a wide range of circumstances. Some of these principles you are probably aware of, some of them you may not be.
People are more willing to comply with requests (for favors, services, information, concessions, etc.) from those who have provided such things first. The rule of reciprocity is essentially, I do something for you, and in return, you do something for me.
For example, according to the American Disabled Veterans organization, mailing out a simple appeal for donations produces an 18% success rate; but, enclosing a small gift (personalized address labels) boosts the success rate to 35%
People find objects and opportunities more attractive to the degree that they are scarce, rare, or dwindling in availability. Even information that is scarce is more effective. How many advertisements have you seen where the commentator says, “For a limited time, act now!”?
A beef importer in the US informed his customers (honestly) that, because of weather conditions in Australia, there was likely to be a shortage of Australian beef. His orders more than doubled. However, when he added (also honestly) that this information came from his company’s exclusive contacts in the Australian National Weather Service, orders increased by 600%!
People prefer to say yes to those they know and like. You are much more likely to help your friends and family than a stranger on the street.
In one example, research done on Tupperware Home Demonstration parties shows that guests are 3 times more likely to purchase products because they like the party’s hostess than because they like the products.”
People are more willing to follow the directions or recommendations of a communicator to whom they attribute relevant authority or expertise. These authorities include doctors, lawyers, businesspersons, police officers, etc. We generally trust people with credentials and a lot of education.
One study showed that 3 times as many pedestrians were willing to follow a man into traffic against the red light when he was merely dressed as an authority in a business suit and tie.
People are more willing to take a recommended action if they see evidence that many others, especially similar others, are taking it.
One researcher went door to door collecting for charity and carrying a list of others in the area who had already contributed. The longer the list, the more contributions it produced. Another example is bartenders who will stuff the tip jar to make it seem like they already have received a lot of tips during the night.
People are more willing to be moved in a particular direction if they see it as consistent with an existing or recent commitment. “You are a nature loving person and our conscious about your health. Would you like to try some organic food that was made without harming the Earth?”
Consider how small that commitment can be and still motivate change forcefully: Gorden Sinclair, a Chicago restaurant owner, was beset by the problem of no-shows—people who made table reservations but failed to appear and failed to call to cancel. He reduced the problem by first getting a small commitment. He instructed his receptionists to stop saying, “Please call if you change your plans” and to start saying, Will you call us if you change your plans?” The no-show rate dropped from 30% to 10% immediately.
Takeaways and Action Steps
With all books I read, I try to take away 2-3 things for me to apply in my life. Time would be wasted if I didn’t takeaway anything from my reading.
The two principles that I found most interesting were consistency and reciprocity. The principle of consistency was most interesting to me – I’ve definitely been sold to where the salesperson was using consistency.
One of my most embarrassing money stories is how I got involved in an MLM scheme. I was walking through campus my last year of college wearing a dress shirt (I was coming from my internship) and I was stopped by 2 people. They started to sell me on a business opportunity. They said I looked sharp and smart, and thought that since I was smart, then I should meet up with them because the opportunity they had was a way for me to leverage my intelligence.
I met the guy at a coffee shop later that week, and ended up going through with joining. (This is painful writing this, ha!) For a fee of $300, I got involved in the organization, and now had to start selling. I wasn’t too happy, and felt a little slighted. Though at the same time, I wanted to get into entrepreneurship. I stuck it out for a month but ultimately it wasn’t for me
In the future, I will look to see situations where salespeople are using the principle of consistency and reciprocity.
We are bombarded by sales ploys and deceitful techniques each and every day. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion will help you become more aware of these techniques, but also help you gain a better understanding of the human mind and human behavior. For me, my biggest takeaways were the rule of reciprocity (I do something for you and you do something for me, provided it’s not manipulative) and the use of consistency in sales (“You are this a type of person who does X. Y is definitely the product for you!”) If you are in sales or deal with clients on a regular basis, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion is a must read!
You are a person who enjoys reading and learning right? Buy this great book on influence! (I just used the principle of consistency on you 😉 )
What are you reading right now? Do you enjoy reading books about psychology?