How Successful Are You at Influencing Others? Some Tips From the Master of Influence

By Alan Gehringer

dateSun, Nov 10, 2013 @ 12:00 PM

I just finished listening to Robert Cialdini’s work on “Principals of Ethical Influence.”  Mr. Cialdini is the Regents' Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University. He published the 1984 book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.  Mr. Cialdini is known as one of the foremost experts on the topic of influence, persuasion, and negotiation.

Mr. Cialdini based his book on personal research through experimental studies by working as a compliance professional and taking jobs as a salesperson, recruiter, car salesman, advertiser and others.  He did this to research and understand the most commonly used strategies of compliance professionals to supplement his work as an academic.   

He determined there are six primary principles of influence:

1. Reciprocity

We have all heard the saying “you have to give to get.”  The idea behind reciprocity is first to give something to another person in an honest way that provides value to the individual.  This creates a feeling of indebtedness that usually translates into the person wanting to return the favor or give something back. This is because we are uncomfortable with feeling indebted to others.

2. Commitment and Consistency

To apply commitment is to publicly commit to something or put it in writing.  Once we have committed to something, we are then more inclined to go through with it.  This can happen by declaring an action or direction publicly or putting it in writing.  Once a direction is established, it is very difficult to change.  You may have heard that it is beneficial to get people saying “yes” to get them into the habit before discussing the final commitment.  This lends itself to the act of consistency.

3. Social Proof

This principle relies on people's sense of believing what others believe, adhering to social norms or following the trends in play.  People like testimonials, case studies or references to assure themselves that they are doing the right thing.  Have you ever noticed when a contractor begins to do work in a neighborhood, the neighbors catchInfluence: The Psychology of Persuasionwind and the contractor seems to move from house to house?


4. Liking

We are more likely to be influenced by people we like.  Giving people the benefit of the doubt and making your own sincere impressions can contribute to being likable.  Not in the deceptive way of looking on the wall for talking points, people become more likable by really investing and getting to know the individual for the person they are. People are comfortable with people they like and people who are similar. An old German man once told me that people buy from people they like.  Even in the digital world we live in, I still believe the people element is as strong as ever. Another way to be liked is to give sincere compliments to others.

5. Authority

Expertise, experience and knowledge create a sense of duty or obligation to those with authority.  This is what motivates most employees to carry out the wishes of their superiors.  Dressing for success or wearing the right uniform has always made a difference.  Getting the right credentials to put behind your name also helps.  Writing a book or publishing articles or blogs positions you as an expert in your field.  All of these things create an air of authority.

6. Scarcity

We have all heard the saying “less is more.”  This principle is true because when something is limited in quantity or availability, it drives individuals to want it even more.  People are more concerned with not being able to have something than actually having it.  This is why we see so many limited time offers or deadlines on contracts, or sale prices on goods.  Honda Motor Company used to be a master at managing inventory levels with dealers.  While every other automaker was offering deep discounts, Honda's were selling at list price because the dealers could not get enough cars.

All of these principles are powerful and useful, but one must be sure to use them in the right way and with the best intentions.  In today’s environment, we are all looking for long-term customers and relationships.  The only way to develop and cultivate them is to act ethically and influence those that can truly benefit from what we have to offer.

With that, I leave you with one of Mr. Cialdini’s quotes: “The ethical use of influence means: being honest, maintaining integrity, being a detective - not a smuggler or bungler.”

Please let me know your thoughts and how you have used any of the six principles of influence. 

Best, Alan

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Alan Gehringer


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