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The Science of Influence

Posted on February 10, 2010 by under Leadership.    

We had a great speaker, Dan Norris, at the PACS meeting today. Mr. Norris is a Cialdini Method Certified Trainer (CMCT), personally trained by Dr. Robert Cialdini and Dr. Gregory Neidert. He specializes in the science of ethical influence, which is the main topic of his presentation at today’s meeting.

Mr. Norris shared with our group the six principles of persuasion: reciprocity, consensus, authority, consistency, scarcity and liking. Being a sleuth (see below), I naturally found all of this interesting.

SIDE NOTE: Most professionals fall into three groups: bunglers (clueless people who fumble opportunities to influence others), smugglers (those who apply the principles unethically) and sleuths (detectives of influence who are more effective than bunglers and more ethical than smugglers, and more successful than either of the other two types).

I see myself as a sleuth, anyhow. That’s the group that I seem to identify with most. I’m not a smuggler and, while I may miss out on some opportunities, I don’t really identify with bunglers because I am aware of the importance of influence and I am trying to get better at it.

The first principle that Mr. Norris talked about is the principle of reciprocity. Simply put, people are obliged to give back to others who have given to them. This principle reminds me of the emotional bank account because it’s all about building relationships.

He then talked about the principle of consensus. Basically, people determine appropriate behavior by examining the behavior of others. Consensus is activated by evidence of how others are thinking, feeling, doing (social proof). People are followers who are heavily influenced by the actions of others, especially if these others are similar to them.

Speaking of social proof and being a follower, people rely on those with superior knowledge or wisdom for guidance on how to respond or behave. This is the principle of authority at work. Authority or credibility comes from expertise (or being perceived as an expert) and/or trustworthiness. For example, doctors and dentists prominently display their diplomas and certificates on their walls to establish credibility. How can our employees introduce their expertise to customers and earn credibility? I also pondered, how can I do this myself?

Consistency is another principle of persuasion. Basically, once people make a choice they feel pressure to behave consistently with what they’ve previously done. Then he talked about commitments and how they should be active and public because public goals/commitments are more likely to be achieved. Another thing that’s important to remember is that commitments should be voluntary.

There the Samuel Butler quote, “He who complies against his will is of the same opinion still.” It relates to the idea of buy in. If it’s not voluntary then there’s no buy in, and when there’s no buy in then people are less likely to keep their commitments.

Then there’s the concept of scarcity. Opportunities appear more valuable when they are less available. Darcy and I talked about this a bit in terms of dating. You know the old saying, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” I think that is a romance/dating application of the scarcity concept. In some instances, women who are less available or maybe even unattainable seem more desirable to men. On the flip side of that, women who are very available get a reputation of being easy.

Liking is another principle of persuasion. People prefer to say yes to those they know and like. Some of the keys to this principle are similarity (a technique that Isaac uses a lot without even knowing it), praise and cooperation. I think that is how Isaac gets me to agree to all the stuff he wants to implement at work. He is a tricky one. (Just kidding, Isaac. I know he’s not being manipulative about it.)

I was completely fascinated by influence and persuasion and the principles Mr. Norris shared. Darcy and I had joked about how all of the principles can be applied to dating (reciprocity for instance is where the woman pays sometimes and the man pays sometimes). However, in reality the principles apply to everything. Whether at home or at work, we’re exercising influence every moment of our lives. If we don’t realize this, then we’re probably a bungler. LOL.

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