Discover How Persuasion Tactics Influence Human Decision-Making Almost Automatically

The world of persuaders uses our basic instincts against us and turns them into responses of compliance

‘Influence: The psychology of Persuasion’ is a book authored by Robert Cialdini, PhD, based on the understanding and study of how, when, and why people tend to say “Yes”? It explains why a request made in one way is rejected, while the same request formulated in a slightly different way is accepted.

During his research on the psychology of compliance, Robert Cialdini spent nearly three years working undercover in the sales departments of various industries to study the behaviors of salespeople, fundraisers, advertisers, recruiters, etc. His goal was to determine what made people say yes and what types of compliance techniques worked best.

Basically, the decision-making process is universal. It involves automatic triggers that are unconscious mental shortcuts that we all use to make decisions. These triggers are: reciprocity, commitment and consistency, social validation, liking, authority and scarcity. Generally, those shortcuts help us make the right decisions, but sometimes they can be hijacked, and we make decisions that are contrary to our interests.

People respond predictably, consistently, and unsuspectingly to 6 automatic triggers

To recap, these automatic triggers are: reciprocity, commitment and consistency, social validation, liking, authority and scarcity.

1. Reciprocity

People are most willing to comply with requests for favors from those who have provided such favors first. This means that we feel a strong need to return favors and gifts. Vendors, businesses, and charities often offer free samples or gifts for this reason. The Disabled American Veterans group found that people donated twice as much when they received free stickers in the mail.

This idea of reciprocity echoes the one that author Steven Covey applies to social connections in "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People". In it, he introduces the concept of "emotional bank account", suggesting that to build deep and meaningful relationships, we must treat each one as a separate bank account. We must constantly make new "deposits" into the relationships that matter to us.

For example, if you have kids, take them on an adventure, spend time doing what they like or simply listen to them with an open mind. Later, when conflicts arise, then these past deposits will sustain the relationship.

2. Commitment and Consistency

Once we have made a choice or taken a stand, we are under personal and interpersonal pressure to behave consistently with that commitment. Unfortunately, this natural inclination can lead us down the path of foolish consistency. In fact, if we can be induced to perform a small action, we are more likely to perform larger ones in the future. Also, when we make a public commitment, we feel pressure to appear consistent with it. For example, weight loss clinics ask their clients to make their goals public because it helps them stick to the diet.

3. Social Validation

People are more likely to take a recommended action if they have evidence that many other people, especially similar people, are taking it. Suppose a person is going door-to-door to raise money for a charity and has a list of others in the area who have already contributed. The longer the list, the more contributions will be made. Another example is that advertisers like to tell us that a product is “the fastest-growing” or best selling because they don’t have to convince us directly that the product is good, they just have to say that many other people think so.

4. Liking

People prefer to say yes to those they know and like. For 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.

5. Authority

People are more willing to follow instructions or recommendations from people to whom they attribute relevant authority or expertise. For example, one study found that pedestrians were three times more likely to follow a man into traffic against the red light when he was merely dressed as an authority in a business suit and tie.

6. Scarcity

People find objects and opportunities more attractive when they are rare, or in the process of becoming rare. Scarcity can be seen in auctions, and when products are sold for a limited time or in limited numbers.

Tips to use ‘persuasion tactics’ to your advantage

• If you ask someone for a favor, you’ll be more successful if you provide a reason – using “because” to trigger a more automatic compliance response.

• Use the reciprocity rule to your advantage and beware when it is used on you. A small favor can create a “web of indebtedness” where you feel like you owe another person. There’s no such thing as a free lunch!

• Use concession and reciprocity to get someone to comply. You increase your chances of someone agreeing to your request by first making a substantial request that the other person is likely to reject. An example: "If you want a kitten, ask for a pony first.” After being turned down, you then make a more modest request that you were really interested in all along. The other person sees the second request as a concession and is likely to respond with a concession of their own.

• Be conscious that if someone can get you to make a commitment (that is, to take a stand, to go on record), they will have set the stage for your automatic and ill-considered consistency with that earlier commitment. Once a stand is taken, there is a natural tendency to behave in.

• Be conscious of when social validation could be at work. Are you making your decisions based on the crowd? How do you even know the crowd is correct when they are individually wondering what the crowd thinks?

• Beware of salespeople and advertisements using scarcity to force you into a sale. Things such as “limited time left” or “limited amount left”. If you think something is about to go away, you are more likely to desire it.

• Beware of feeling inclined to act because of the fear of loss. Realize that humans want to avoid loss more than they seek an equivalent gain.

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