Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

by Robert B Cialdini

This is a classic ‘essential’ text that first came out 30 years ago. Perhaps as a result of its age, the writing style is often quaint, but that somehow adds to its persuasiveness, appropriately enough.

And persuasive it sure is. Cialdini asks what influences us to say ‘yes’ to things. Before nudge theory, and before behavioural economics, these are the techniques of the car salesman, the suicide cult leader and the Tupperware party, laid bare, analysed and painstakingly researched. We are treated to dozens of extraordinary stories and research findings, that show how amenable we all are to ‘weapons of influence’.

What ultimately convinces is the author’s proposal that in our frantic world of information overload, we rely on shortcuts when we make decisions. Shortcuts like: ‘What are other people doing?’ ‘What do I feel about the person asking me to make the decision?’ and ‘What did I do last time?’ He summarises these as Reciprocation, Commitment and Consistency, Social Proof, Liking, Authority, and Scarcity.

These shortcuts usually serve us well, and so are extremely useful.

For ‘compliance professionals’, however, these shortcuts are an opportunity to lead us in to making decisions that are not necessarily the best ones for us. That’s when the ‘weapons’ of influence get scary. Cialdini offers some thoughts on how to defend yourself against these weapons, which can be summed up as ‘Be aware of them’.