4 Ways To Be A More Effective & Ethical Influencer: Interview With Best-Selling Author Robert Cialdini

Written by Scott April 5, 2010

Robert Cialdini influence Interview

How To Ethically Influence Behavior

A few days ago I got the chance to interview Robert Cialdini, best-selling author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion and Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive. Dr. Cialdini’s work has done wonders for my interactions both personally and professionally. The tools he covers have so much potential. I hope you take away even half of what I did from his material. It will change you. Here are the questions we covered.

1. How can influence most usefully be applied to a professional or personal relationship to ensure a closer bond between two people?

2. What have you found to be the most effective influence technique over the course of your lifetime of practical application?

3. Some people feel that influence is about manipulating others into doing what they do not want to do. Given how much of an emphasis you put on ethics, how does your approach to influence differ from other camps?

4. If a reader would like to continue their influence education, and has read your books, what resources do you recommend?

Interview with Robert Cialdini:

1. How can influence most usefully be applied to a professional or personal relationship to ensure a closer bond between two people?

Well I think from my perspective, it involves ethically employing one of the six principles that studies have shown cause people to comply when included in a request or proposal. These increase the likelihood of the other side giving consent. That is, if we employ them ethically—only in ways that give the other side good information. Then we will improve and deepen the relationship with them. The six principles are:

  1. Reciprocation—people give back whatever treatment they receive from you. Do something first by giving value to them. This could be in the form of information, resources, a positive attitude or even a smile.
  2. Scarcity—people seek opportunities that are rare or dwindling in ability. You must differentiate what you have to offer that is distinctly different from competitors. Tell them honestly that they can only get this item or pleasure by moving in your direction.
  3. Authority—people will be most persuaded by you when they see you as having knowledge or credibility on the given topic. It is surprising to see the number of people who do not clearly explain their credentials before launching an influence attempt. People want to know who the experts are before they follow a certain path or comply. If you do not properly and genuinely establish authority up front then both sides fail to gain.
  4. Consistency—people feel the need to comply with a request if it is consistent with what they have already committed to. Have the other side state their true priorities up front and then align the request with those things to keep them consistent to what they told you they value.
  5. Liking—people prefer to say yes to the degree they know and like you. Uncover genuine similarities with the person you intend to influence.
  6. Consensus/Social Proof—people are likely to say yes if you give them evidence that other people like them have also said yes. I recently read a study that a restaurant labeled a few things on their menu as the most popular, and immediately those items became 20% more popular. We find comfort in what the crowd is doing.

When it comes to an intimate setting or relationship, the principle that makes the most sense is often reciprocity. Be the first to give. Inside a relationship, reciprocity spurs the other person to give back and see things in a less self-oriented way.

If they have just received some concession or valuable attribute of the relationship, it’s important for them to return the favor. For example, with a relationship at work, giving them a positive attitude causes them to give a positive attitude in return. If you smile at someone, what happens? They smile back. If you don’t smile at them then they don’t either. Something as simple as a smile can be all the reciprocity that’s necessary.

2. What have you found to be the most effective influence technique over the course of your lifetime of practical application?

It always depends on which situation you are in. If there is genuine scarcity then you use that. You should use whichever principle genuinely already exists and call attention to it. Align with it. I know a marketing professor in Florida. He spent 16 years of his life trying to find the single most effective sales tactic. One day he came up to me and said “Bob I’ve found it. The single best sales tactic is to have no single sales tactic.”

You adjust to the situation or the circumstances you are confronting. Use the things that are already there. You don’t have to create or fabricate anything. You just align yourself with the power of them. In martial arts it’s possible for someone whose physical strength is substantially inferior, to defeat a larger opponent by aligning with momentum, gravity or inertia to borrow their power and win the day. The same applies to social settings. All you have to do is locate them, align with them, get into the flow of their energy and they will align and flow in your favor.

3. Some people feel that influence is about manipulating others into doing what they do not want to do. Given how much of an emphasis you put on ethics, how does your approach to influence differ from other camps?

They key is the lesson we just discussed. Not to fabricate or create one or another of these principles out of thin air. Instead, locate where it always exists and bring attention to it. Authority is often abused in this way. People claim they have knowledge, expertise and know-how so they can get the sale or get the other side to comply. Your relationship or company will suffer as a result of this. The authentic approach is to identify your true expertise. Bring it to the surface. Make it genuine and believable.

Have you ever been cheated? Will you ever go back to that person? No chance. That’s the legacy of a short-term persuader. They achieve short-term success at the expense of long-term disaster. Even if the persuader never expects to deal with you again, we now have a system like never before for spreading their reputation. Whether it’s through the Internet, social media or our networks—the reputation of the cheater is trashed in a much more honest way.

4. If a reader would like to continue their influence education, and has read your books, what resources do you recommend?

There are a number of options. We have a training program that is two days here in Arizona, where people can come and get intensive exposure to the six principles. It is the Principles of Persuasion program. We also offer CD’s and other materials. I wrote a subsequent book called YES! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive. We have a website called InfluenceAtWork.com. We have a monthly newsletter and blog with over 20,000 subscribers where we post on topics regarding new scientific findings on persuasion to move people in their desired directions.

5. Will you be at the Berkshire Hathaway meeting in Omaha again this year?

Yes, we intend to be. We very much enjoy that weekend.

*****

Hope you all enjoyed hearing from the master!

-Scott

Buy Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion at Amazon

Other books you might enjoy:

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