Douglas Winslow Cooper
5.0 out of 5 stars
It's What's Up front That Counts, Often
Reviewed in the United States on May 26, 2018
“You never get a second chance to make a good first impression” we’ve been advised. Turns out that making a first impression, the opening line or gambit in persuasion, greatly influences the response of the “target” to what follows.
Cialdini doesn’t give this example, but I like it: if you are talking about capital punishment or about foreign orphans, your listener will give you a very different answer if later on asked to spell “euthanasia” (“youth in Asia”). We pay attention to what we are set up to expect.
Dr. Cialdini give many examples of experimental results showing the influence of the preambles to attempts to influence. Sofa or mattress ads with background clouds got buyers to emphasis comfort and pay more than did ads with background coins…for the same set of product options. The texts were the same, but the illustrations were the sub-texts. Many other examples are given, and often the respondents were still influenced weeks later even when having forgotten seeing the ads at all.
Heavily documented, the book is half narrative and half references and notes.
Cialdini’s seminal best-selling book, INFLUENCE, decades old now and still widely cited, discussed the following types of appeals:
Reciprocation: If someone does something for us, we feel obligated to do a favor in return. Not only does the author have studies to show this, he tells how he fell prey himself. Gifts that are meaningful, unexpected, and customized for the recipient are particularly effective.
Liking: Salespeople are urged to try to get the prospects to like them. They are told to dress well, be pleasant, friendly, joke a bit, emphasize commonalities, and provide compliments. Some politicians are careful even to imitate the speaking patterns of their audiences around the country.
Social Proof: I recall there was a play and a song with the title “50 Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong.” This was an appeal to “social proof,” one that held more sway, probably, for the French than it did for the Americans. Still, polls get rapt attention by some, and we are influenced by the preferences of others, sometimes appropriately so.
Authority: If someone who should know tells us something, we are inclined to believe it. Expert opinion is quite persuasive…until contradicted by another expert. Your position on man-made global warming will be strongly influenced by which experts to whom you give credence. Particularly persuasive are those who admit their imperfections up front, then make their points definitively. Cialdini shows how Warren Buffett has mastered this.
Scarcity: “Get it while it’s hot” and “only a few left” and “only x per customer” are variants of the appeal to FOMO, Fear of Missing Out. The perceived values of many things depend in part on utility and scarcity: water in the desert versus at the lake.
Consistency: We like to think of ourselves as consistent, despite Ralph Waldo Emerson’s warning against “a foolish consistency….” It is a virtue of sorts. Mall denizens when asked whether they would sample a new soda flavor agreed much more often when the request was preceded by asking them whether they were adventurous. Most said they were, and most then sampled the new drink, in contrast to what happened when there was no introductory, pre-suasion, question.
These first six were important parts of Cialdini’s INFLUENCE. Subsequently, he has come to add a seventh principal factor of influence: the idea that some others are not merely like us, but are one of us, he terms this
Unity: how we feel about a family member, such as a sibling, as opposed to a friend or colleague. It is not just DNA, although race and ethnicity are often in this category, but some other associations sometimes carry this weight: gender, age, political and religious affiliations. You know it when you feel it: “this person is one of Us.” Much stronger than “like us.” One element is that the conduct of one of the members affects the self-esteem of the others, “we is the shared me.” Actual kinship and the occupying of the same place are two elements that can lead to this feeling, as can moving together, acting together, for example in celebration. Dancing, anyone?
This fascinating book has a wealth of ideas that will make you more aware of the factors that influence you and prepare you to be more skilled when you seek to influence others.
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