Cialdini includes 6 main principles of persuasion in the book, none of which I have arrived at yet. However, I have read the introduction and first chapter; both of which include concepts worth knowing.
Firstly he uses an example of mother turkeys to draw a comparison. The mother turkey determines whether it will sit on and protect something as if it were its offspring exclusively by listening to whether it makes a certain chirping sound. Evidently, it doesn’t use visual cues or anything like that to even double check. It will sit on a sound device making those noises and behave exactly as if it were a baby turkey. This is an instinct. It’s like an automatic response to a certain cue which has evolved into the turkey’s psychology over time. Usually, this does work out well and certainly it’s been successful over evolutionary time. However, sometimes instincts like this can be mistaken. Potentially they may be exploited by researcher, predator, prey or parasite. Instincts like this are very common throughout nature, though; they save a lot of brain power.
Cialdini’s argument is that humans also have these instincts and they may be similarly exploited, for lack of a better word. As of yet, I feel tentatively unsure to what success this may be applied to humans in the real world. Of course, there are other influences at play and there’s the matter of the conscious mind overriding. How best to consider or use these ideas? Let’s read on.
There was a study where a researcher asked to jump ahead of the line to use a printer, using a scripted request. They were allowed to move ahead by queue members about 60% of the time. Then they tried the same thing adding to the script “because…” followed by a simple reason. This time they were allowed 93% of the time. Then it was tried again by tactfully adding the word “because” to the first script without any additional reasoning or information given. Over 90% again. This proves a feature of human psychology which I assume is well documented: people are more likely to agree to something if “because” is added (or they perceive a reason is given).
I tried adding “because I want to see you” to an invitational msg to someone in an attempt to get them not to flake. It was a typical situation that someone would usually flake in. it didn’t work – they flaked. However, I do believe it felt more persuasive than not giving a reason like that. When I imagine receiving that message I do feel a certain compulsion. It seems that this technique could be applied fairly simply as a sweetening agent to requests or offers. I wonder if ceteris paribus, over time fewer people would flake if I used this. Does using this interfere with other stronger elements in the equation such as intention or anything like that? This is entering territory beyond my intelligence to theorise about and ought to be known through experience rather than supposition.
Another key concept is the contrast principle. Picture this. Three buckets of water in a row: one cold, one room temperature and one warm. The subject puts one hand in the cold and one in the warm. Leaves it for a while. Then simultaneously puts both hands in the room temperature water. The left/cold hand feels that the water is hot and the right/warm hand feels that the water is cold. It’s the same water. Our perceptions of something are shaped by what it’s being contrasted with.
In sales, it’s well known that if you want to sell some more expensive items as well as some cheaper ones, one should introduce the most expensive ones first. For example, a suit followed by ties and sweaters. Or a car followed by extras. This is because the cheaper items seem much cheaper when compared to the more expensive one so are more likely to agree.
If you want to be perceived as more attractive then accompany or follow someone who’s less attractive than you. If their face could launch a thousand ships then wait in the hallway until peoples’ eyes have readjusted.
This knowledge seems valuable in principle but I wonder just how often it could actually be useful. Those who could use it more often such as salespeople or marketers may master the art of using it to their advantage. Whereas if you rarely have stakes riding on persuading others then your opportunities to use and master it will be scarcer. Thus, we can say that the more you may use it the better it is, although perhaps at some point it is simply learned and can’t usefully be learned any better so doesn’t provide any further marginal benefits. It would feel marvellous to try this and it actually work, though. It’s a pity there aren’t practise exercises to help you to really apply and internalise it.
A potential problem with putting this stuff into practice might be that unless the opportunity is just right it would seem contrived. It could be that you ought to be thinking about something else or taking a different approach. It may best be thought about behind the scenes and in preparatory phases. This seems also to be a principle, just good to have at the back of your mind if you ever need it, subtly shaping how you move through the world. Also, there’s a risk of the person knowing what you’re doing. That begs the question is this unethical? I don’t think so. Manipulative? Perhaps a little. Embarrassing? Quite possibly, especially if it’s someone you know and it’s to their disadvantage.
Cialdini also makes the important point that the ultimate in persuasion is simply to offer the most value. I think this is the more primary thing to be concerned about: offering value. On the other hand though; it doesn’t hurt knowing how to optimally phrase or position what you’re offering, especially since the competition probably does.