Influence is power. Maybe even a super power. Imagine being able to harness influence as a skill. To be able to use it when the situation calls. The truth is, this is more possible than you may have thought, thanks to research done over the years.
One book in particular has had the biggest impact in this field: Robert Cialdini’s Influence. In it, Cialdini introduces the 6 principles of influence that will help you persuade others. Theses 6 principles are reciprocity, consistency, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity.
“I think the power of persuasion would be the greatest super power of all time.”
Persuasion as a superpower is very much within reach. In this post, we’ll explore these six principles more closely and how you can use them. And if you want to learn more, be sure to check out the book.
One of the most basic principles of influence is to simply give that which you want to receive. In other words, doing right by others is a good way to get others to do the same for you. This idea of reciprocity is a powerful one.
There are a couple of ways to have this reciprocity work for you. Giving others small gifts, treating others with respect, and doing favors for those in need, are all things that can win you points with other individuals.
So a good approach is to always help others and be kind when you have the opportunity, because you never know how it may help you down the line. Moreover, it is these small acts of kindness that will be remembered and come in handy when you’re in need of a favor yourself.
The principle of consistency is based on the power of active, public, and voluntary commitments, which results in people actually sticking to their word. Let’s walk through these requirements in a little more detail. The first part is an active commitment. By active, Cialdini means something that is written or spoken to other’s. Having people say they will do something is a start, but when they actively commit to it they’re much more likely to follow through.
The next piece is making it public. When other’s witness this commitment, it adds a level of accountability to the statement. And no one wants to go back on their word.
Finally, it has to be voluntary. If you force someone to make an active, public commitment that they didn’t decide on themselves, you’ve accomplished nothing.
So how do you use this? Once you’ve persuaded someone to do something, get them to make these types of commitments to implement the principle of consistency and ensure there is a legitimate commitment to their words.
3. Social Proof
People rely on social cues from others on how to think, feel, and act in many situations. And not just any people, but peers. People they believe are similar to them. This is a key point and what is called social proof.
So if you wanted to influence your interns or a particular team in your department or the new hires, you need to get one of them to buy in first. When they see an employee like themselves seemingly taking action on their own or following a new directive, they are more probable to follow suit.
Having that first person take action makes all the difference and unlocks the power of social proof.
People like those who like them or who they perceive as friends. It’s a simple, yet powerful idea. The principle of liking can be used in a few different ways.
One method is finding common ground with the people you meet. If you can connect with them on their hobbies or interests, you’ll have a solid ground to build from. Being observant of people is a great way to pick up on any clues that may lead you to such common ground.
The other approach is genuine praise. Paying compliments and being charming can go along way to building a positive rapport with others. A word of warning though, don’t go overboard. The key here is genuine praise, don’t manufacture it to the point that you’re clearly trying to butter them up.
When you are perceived as an expert in an area, other’s will be more likely to defer to you. Why? Often because experts are able to offer a shortcut to good decisions that would otherwise take a long time to devise themselves. The idea then is to establish that credibility of authority and expertise.
Many often miss this opportunity because they assume others will identify their expertise automatically. You can’t leave it up to interpretation because it will often be overlooked.
There are a number of ways to establish such authority. A quick and easy one is to make visible all diplomas, credentials, and awards in the office or workplace to establish your background. Of course this may not always be an option. Another approach is to convey expertise through short anecdotes or background information shared in casual conversations.
Just remember, your expertise isn’t always a known quantity, so be sure to convey it when you get the chance.
People value what is scarce. It’s just basic supply and demand. As things become more scarce, they becoming more valuable to others. There are a few ways that you can use the principle of scarcity to persuade others. One is simply to make offers limited-time, limited-supply, or one-time, which immediately creates a sense of scarcity.
At the same time, how you present such opportunities matters too. If you focus more on loss language, or language that demonstrates what you will lose out on rather than gain, your message becomes more powerful.
Finally is the exclusivity approach. Providing access to information, services, or other items to a limited set of people creates a sense of exclusiveness. This often gets translated into being a favor to those people or that you value them more than others.
If you can combine all of these to frame a situation, your powers of persuasion greatly increase. So try to utilize limited offers, loss language, and exclusivity, to create a sense of scarcity.
Mastering these six principles of influence will enable you to maximize your abilities of persuasion. But a word of warning. Don’t abuse these skills. They can easily be used to manipulate and control others.
“Character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion.”
Cialdini is clear to say in his own writing, these principles of influence should be used from a place of good, with your influence being authentic, genuine, and leading others to the best decisions, not only for themselves, but everyone else.
Use it the right way, and you’ll reap the rewards.