Are you Influential? 6 principles may change how you engage

Written by Vince Thompson, Contributing Editor

How often do you get your point across? Get buy in? Get your way? Have you noticed how some people always seem to get their way? It may not be that they are smarter than you. It may be that they know something you don’t. Understanding influence is a field of study and Robert Cialdini, PhD, a social psychologist and distinguished professor of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University, is the man many turn to. His New York Times bestselling books have sold over 2 million copies and his book, Influence: Science and Practice, has been named one of the best business books of all time by CEO Read. His latest book, Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive has been on the New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestseller lists. Having helped countless individuals and companies we’re honored to have Dr. Cialdini spend a little time with us.

Can you explain what you do?

I do research, I write books and I give workshops and training on the science of influence. I teach how it’s possible for one person to move another person in his or her direction. . . But doing so not by changing what is offered but in changing the way it’s being offered.

Is there a difference between influence and persuasion?

Persuasion usually involves convincing somebody that a particular idea, product or service has high quality merits and is deserving of our attention because of the features and aspects of it. For instance, I could try to persuade you to see a particular movie with me by talking up the plot, the actors and telling you that the film’s screenwriter was successful in the past. But another way I could get your assent is by simply reminding you that you chose the movie we saw last week. I could influence you to move in that preferred direction by simply using a different kind of lever than mere persuasion—one that will motivate behavior change rather than simply convincing you the idea was good.

Do smart people know these things inherently?

Many smart people do know it but the smartest people know that if they weren’t born with this ability they can still learn it – they know that it’s teachable and it’s trainable. It’s something they can acquire and they can become better at the influence process as a result.

Without conducting our own studies, are there guideposts we can rely on in coming up with an approach?

There are six universal principles of influence. If we use them as touchstones, they will allow us to be significantly more successful in our influence attempts. They are:

• Reciprocation. People give back to you the kind of treatment that they’ve received from you. If you do something first by giving something of value—be it more information or a positive attitude—it will all come back to you.

• Scarcity. People will try to seize those opportunities that you offer them that are rare or dwindling in availability. This is an important reminder that we need to differentiate what we have to offer that is different from our rivals and competitors. That way, we can tell people honestly “You can only get this aspect or this feature by moving in our direction.”

• Authority. People will be most persuaded by you when they see you as having knowledge and credibility on the topic. You’d be surprised how many fail to properly inform their audience of their genuine credentials before launching into an influence attempt. That’s a big mistake.

• Commitment. People will feel a need to comply with your request if they see that it’s consistent with what they’ve publicly committed themselves to in your presence. The implication there is to ask people to state their true priorities, commitments and features of the situation that they think are most important. Then align your requests or proposals with those things. The rule for consistency will cause them to want to say yes to what they’ve already told you they value.

• Liking. People prefer to say yes to your request to the degree that they know and like you. No surprise there but a simple way to make that happen is to uncover genuine similarities or parallels that exist between you and the person you want to influence. That person is going to like you more and be more willing to move in your direction.

• Consensus. People will be likely to say yes to your request if you give them evidence that people just like them have been saying yes to it too. I saw recent study that showed if a restaurant owner puts on the menu “This is our most popular item” than it immediately becomes more popular.

Do your findings apply regardless of cultural, social and economic differences?

Well there’s good news and bad news. The good news is yes, all six of these principles apply in all human cultures. But the bad news is the priorities associated with them will change from culture to culture.

There was a study done by Citibank that asked managers what they would do if a colleague came to them for assistance on a project that wasn’t theirs and it required their time, energy and resources. Under what circumstances would you feel most compelled to comply with that request? Turns out in US, UK and Canada, the answer was to ask yourself, “Has this person done anything for me recently?” If so, they felt they had to say yes. That falls under the rule for reciprocation – giving back to those who have given to me. In the Far East, the answer was, “Is this requester connected to my boss?” If so, they felt they had to say yes out of loyalty to their boss. In the Mediterranean, the answer was “Is this person connected to one of my friends?” So here, it wasn’t loyalty to the boss but it was loyalty to their friendship network. Instead of authority, liking was the major guiding principle.

And then in Germany and the Scandinavian countries, the answer was, “According to official rules and regulations of this organization, am I supposed to say yes?” Here, there was commitment and consistency. They were committed to a particular business model, so therefore they were going to be consistent with it. People in the US also care about friends, of course. In Germany, they also care about reciprocity, of course. But the highest in priority in the list of principles of influence shifts from culture to culture.

How can I get readers more engaged in this blog? (Great Q for me…hopefully helpful to those of you building brands with social media!)

We’re existing under a time of economic uncertainty right now and there is some research that shows that when people are uncertain they don’t look inside themselves for an answer—they look outside. They look to two main places. The first involves asking “what are people just like me doing here?”. So, one of the things you can do (and listeners/readers can do as well) is gather information about what is the trend and what is the upward swing in the number of individuals who are moving in your direction. If people see that a lot of others are doing this—especially people like them—then it seems like it’s the right thing for them to do too.

Besides peers, when uncertain, people look to the experts on the matter. Be sure to convey that your blog will offer expert information regarding the matters that you are dealing with. The best way to do that is to interview someone who is an expert as a guest and describe that person’s credentials. Well, people will then be more likely to pay attention. And finally, you can post a top five list of the things people could do to achieve a goal. People are very impressed by an authority who has the knowledge to know what those top five things are, and they pay special attention to those kinds of lists.

To learn more about Dr. Cialdini and his work, Click Here:

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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