Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini discusses the methods people use to persuade others. Cialdini highlights the various tools for persuasion and why they’re essential to recognize.
More importantly, the book gives suggestions on how to counter each influence technique.
Influence is a two-fold book. First, audiences will learn the art of persuasion by using various techniques. Second, learning about these tactics will arm audiences against potential uses on them to better control situations.
First, I’ll outline the book’s details and provide a summary. Then, I’ll give what I liked and didn’t like about the book along with the conclusion.
Page Length: 336
Audiobook Runtime: 10hrs 6mins
Publisher: Harper Business
Cialdini chose to divide the book into seven chapters with a short epilogue. Each chapter highlights a particular method of persuasion used to gain influence in a negotiation or situation.
1. Weapons of Influence.
This chapter highlights each of the six methods that Cialdini discusses in the book. Moreover, short stories that exemplify persuasion encompasses the majority of this chapter.
Cialdini talks about home sales, fish, mother turkeys, and jewelry sales to set up the mystery of persuasion for the audience. Each vignette explains a head-scratching behavior related to human psychology. This chapter will support the rest of the book.
Cialdini emphasizes the mother turkey concept where people operate automatically and get caught off-guard with these influence techniques.
Here, Cialdini introduces the first concept of persuasion. Reciprocation occurs when one party is indebted to another. No matter the debt, there’s a constant pull where indebted people need to reciprocate to their debtor.
Cialdini opens the chapter with a short story about a psychologist colleague who sent Christmas cards to random strangers. Those strangers sent back Christmas cards of their own.
A large portion of the chapter centers on the Hare Krishna Society, who would “gift” a flower to travelers at the airport who would then ask for a small donation.
Recognizing how to combat the reciprocity rule rounds out the end of the chapter.
3. Commitment and Consistency
People feel like they must be consistent. Through short stories like the one at the beginning of this section, Cialdini explains how people can be persuaded by others simply through the desire to be consistent in word and deed.
Several other accounts articulate this point in the book to include a brief discussion on driver safety.
Toward the end of the chapter, Cialdini provides the answer against the consistency principle. Identifying the use of the tactic can disarm the situation and combat the commitment and consistency technique.
4. Social Proof
What do canned laughter and copycat suicides have in common? Cialdini argues that human beings will look to others around them for socially acceptable behavior.
For instance, people tend to enjoy shows that have canned laughter more than others that do not. Similarly, copycat suicides occur more often following a suicide of a similar kind of person, i.e., teenagers, adults, male, female.
Kitty Genovese is another account Cialdini cites in the book. Highlighting the bystander effect provides a strong case for how social proof influences individuals and groups.
Similarly, people have difficulty identifying an emergency and will continue going about their day because others are also acting similarly.
5. Liking, The Friendly Thief
Have you bought something from someone who you liked? Cialdini combines two principles of persuasion into this one.
For example, the Tupperware party uses the principle of reciprocity and social proof to get friends to purchase products. Once party attendees receive gifts and refreshments, there’s an intense social pressure to buy.
Another example Cialdini discusses is the good cop/bad cop routine. People will turn to others if they’re friendly, which makes them vulnerable to persuasion.
Car sales associates are another example that Cialdini uses to articulate this principle.
The final part of the section includes a warning. Separate yourself from the situation where someone is overly friendly and decide whether the product you’re interested in is still worth buying even without the salesman.
6. Authority Directed Deference
A classic tactic for persuasion is to use authority. Cialdini cites the famous Stanley Milgram experiment where an authoritative figure encourages volunteers to ask questions to a “student” in another room.
With each wrong answer, the volunteers would deliver an electric shock to the “student.” Intriguingly, most of the volunteers proceeded to provide electric shocks to deadly levels and would complete the experiment.
Cialdini also talked about the relationship between doctors and nurses. Clothing is also important to show authority in certain situations.
People can persuade others to buy or participate in something simply by making it scarce. Cialdini discusses how members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints will open their newly-constructed temple to the public for a short period of time.
The public may view the inside of the temple before it is closed for regular worship. Using this scarcity principle, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints invokes a sense of urgency to view an otherwise restricted building, making the proposition to attend the tour more enticing.
Scarcity also refers to information. People will convince themselves that scarce information is more persuasive.
Countering the scarcity principle is challenging. However, the book suggests that people must prioritize their wants and base their decisions on their true desires instead of whether an opportunity is scarce or not.
Epilogue: Instant Influence
Cialdini highlights the accessibility of information to people. Because content is readily available, Cialdini suggests that people must revolt when others try to manipulate the public by maliciously using one of these principles.
What I Liked
I enjoyed the book’s simplicity. The layout was easy to follow, and the chapters were engaging. Each section had several anecdotes to demonstrate a particular tool of persuasion and its application to society.
Also, Cialdini recommends counters to such persuasion tactics. He often uses himself as an example in the book for mistakes he has made and possible reactions if he were to return to a particular situation.
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion was a practical guide with real-life applicability. Anyone who ethically applies these principles to their business or life can find these tactics helpful.
Similarly, Cialdini explained each principle so thoroughly that his audience could identify and counter these influence techniques.
What I Didn’t Like
Honestly, I don’t have anything I didn’t like about this book. This is rare for me since there’s almost always something I don’t like. But this one is a great read.
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion is an essential book for all professionals. Everyone needs to be aware of how others may use these tactics to elicit a response or action.
By being aware of persuasion tactics, you can either use them yourself (correctly, of course) or know when someone is using them on you in a negative way.
Overall, I give this book a solid 10/10. I don’t give this score out often. But this book is worth every penny. It is a little dated, but the principles here are timeless.
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Have you read Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion? If you have, let me know what you think in the comments section below. Thanks for reading this book review!