Excerpt: In this post, we want to give some examples of how to use Cialdini’s six principles of persuasion in practice. Well, we won’t explain all the principles ourselves, but Cialdini will do so too. Some of the persuasion principles come with a video in which Dr. Cialdini explains the principle himself. If you want a more extensive explanation the work of Cialdini on the psychology of influence, please make sure to read this post that will give you a recap of his work as published in his bestselling book ‘Influence.’
6 Universal Principles of Persuasion
In his book, Robert Cialdini uncovered 6 Universal Principles of Persuasion. Shortcuts that our brain uses to make decisions, or in Cialdini’s words shortcuts that make people ‘say yes.’ What makes the work of Prof. Cialdini so interesting is that he shows influence at work. He translates scientific research in the area of behavioural design and human psychology into practical business applications. His widely acclaimed studies are highly instructive to those who want to be more influential.
The six universal principles of persuasion (POP), also called the principles of influence are:
- Consensus or Social Proof
In this post, you’ll find a series of videos in which Robert Cialdini explains the persuasion principles himself on various business conferences. It’s, therefore, a showcase how broadly his thinking can be used in practice.
Persuasion Principle 1: Reciprocity
“People say yes to those who have given to them first.” In this short 3.16 minute video, Cialdini tells about the social norm that exists across cultures that explains why the reciprocity principle helps to influence people’s behaviour. Who would think that remembering someone’s birthday could be so important if you want people to remember yours? You’ll know after watching this video.
To summarize: give what you want to receive. If a colleague needs help, and you can ‘lend’ him one of your team members, you’ll get his help later.
Persuasion Principle 2: Scarcity
People want to have what is scarce. How can you use this in daily business? There have been several examples of the scarcity principle working simply by saying something will be limited. There’s been an example that when British Airways announced that they would no longer fly to London – New York twice a week with the Concorde as too little passengers were using the service, sales took off the next day. Nothing changed about the Concorde, it became scarce and therefore wanted.
You can also use the scarcity principle by using exclusive information to persuade. Influence and rivet key players’ attention by saying for example ‘just got this information today.’
Persuasion Principle 3: Authority
“People are very willing to follow the lead of an authority. Suppose you are that authority? The implication is that you need to your background, experience, and credentials in the minds of the people you want to influence before you begin the process of influence”. This is how Cialdini starts his explanation of the principle of persuasion called ‘authority’. To sum it up, the principle shows that if an expert says it, it must be true. You can watch the 3.20-minute video here:
Don’t assume your expertise is self-evident. Instead, establish your expertise before doing business with new team members or clients. In conversations before a meeting, describe how you solved a problem similar to the one on the agenda.
Persuasion Principle 4: Consistency
If you want to get the loyalty of people that don’t quite trust you yet, the best way is to make them commit to something. Use the foot in the door technique where a small request paves the way for compliance with larger subsequent requests. To fully use the long-lasting power of commitment and consistency:
- Make people commit to something small first, making it easier to follow-up with larger requests;
- Try to showcase their choices to the public, so that they’re now accountable to everyone else;
- Get them to put in as much effort as possible, so that they’ll perceive the results as more worthwhile.
Persuasion Principle 5: Liking
How do you get to like your customer, client, patient or user? By using the same tools, you can use for them to like you. You try to discover similarities. If you find something about someone you truly admire, you are going to like that person more. It’s all about having empathy. The key skill every behavioural designer should have. But it has to be genuine. It has to be true. This is how you can make sure you’ll find a genuine reason to like your ‘public.’ Cialdini explains this in this 5.02-minute video.
In short: to influence people, win friends through similarity. Create any bonds with peers, bosses and direct reports by informally discovering interests. And praise: charm and disarm, make positive remarks about others.
Persuasion Principle 6: Consensus/Social Proof
People follow what those around them are doing. In this video, Cialdini explains the principle of social proof. He uses the case about reusing towels in hotels. What’s very interesting is that he makes a clear distinction between cooperation and social proof. Want to know why cooperation didn’t work, and social proof did? What’s this 6.01-minute video taken on a pharmaceutical conference in Las Vegas.
And to add on to this, a very short video (0.55 minutes) in which Cialdini explains the door hanger experiment, that showed how social proof could help people save energy.
How can you use social proof in another way? Use peer power. For example, ask an esteemed ‘old timer’ in your company to support your new initiative or plan.
Would you like to learn more?
Be sure to also check out our posts on the work of Kahneman and BJ Fogg. Two of the other significant scientists from the field of human-centered thinking and behavioural psychology. Or do you want to master the science of influence yourself? Check our two-day Behavioural Design Academy: