Pre-Suasion Summary - Robert B. Cialdini

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Pre-Suasion Summary
Marketing & Sales and Corporate Culture & Communication

This microbook is a summary/original review based on the book: Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade

Available for: Read online, read in our mobile apps for iPhone/Android and send in PDF/EPUB/MOBI to Amazon Kindle.

ISBN: 978-1501109799

Also available in audiobook


Robert Cialdini is a psychology Ph.D. who wrote “Influence” which is a reference for those who work in marketing and sales. In his book, Cialdini explains the psychological principles by which people say yes and teaches us to use these principles effectively. Over 35 years, he studied evidence from his patients, conducted experiments, and one study to understand how and why people change their behaviors. 6 fundamental principles bring about change which you must dominate and defend yourself from if you want to understand how persuasion works and also keep from being tricked by your brain when someone tries to convince you to do something. In this microbook, we distill the essential concepts of Cialdini’s research to help you become better at the art of persuasion. Shall we go?

Discover The Weapons of Influence

Seeking to persuade and lead you to say yes, waiters, consultants and salesmen apply various techniques to influence you and get what they want. To understand how persuasion works and write this book, Robert Cialdini, who has worked in several companies, had read various sales guides, participated in sales training, and did extensive research to understand and describe the reasons why people say “yes” when in fact they meant to say no. He went deep into the techniques of persuasion practitioners and tried to understand what impacts these techniques generate in our minds. The book describes the psychological tactics that can be used in the persuasion process. They are organized into 6 main tactics, which he calls "The Influence Weapons ". These weapons consist of identifying a behavior pattern and exploiting it in order to achieve the desired goal. People who have keen persuasion skills learn to recognize these patterns and through them can get the other party to be influenced to say yes.

Fixed Patterns of Behavior

All animals have fixed behavioral patterns that occur when a specific stimulus arises. For example: the turkey hen has her motherly instincts activated upon hearing the characteristic sound made by her chicks. If one fails to emit this sound, it runs the risk of being ignored by the mother or even dying. On the other hand, if an inanimate object or other animal makes this same sound, the turkey hen recognizes the sound of her supposed chick and gives maternal affection to it. This reaction is automatic. Fixed behavior patterns work well in most cases, simplifying our lives, but they can also be used to deceive us. The human mind tricks us. For example, just adding the word "Why" to a request increases the chances that it will be accepted. These fixed patterns are necessary because they reduce the brain activity necessary to act in each situation. Let's look at an example of how our minds can be fooled: once discount coupons that did not offer discounts were sent to customers in a store due to a printing error. Interestingly, non-rebate coupons made consumers buy as much as coupons with real rebates.

The Contrast Principle

We, humans, perceive things that are close to each other differently from when things are presented to us in isolation. For example, if a cheaper product is shown before a more expensive product, the second product seems even more expensive to our brain. Retail sellers, for example, try to make consumers buy the most expensive product first. If they do not buy the expensive item, the perception is that the prices of the other products are much smaller than they really are. Real estate companies also take advantage of this. First, they show the most expensive real estate with the profile sought by the client, lowering their expectations so that later, when they see the real estate that the broker really wants to sell, are pleased by the cost-benefit of said unit. Car dealers also take advantage of this fact. They first negotiate the value of the car and then the value of the options.

Cialdini's 6 Rules

Now let's take a look at the 6 rules Cialdini has found to help you persuade and prevent being persuaded. Here they are:

Rule # 1: Reciprocity

Human beings always seek to pay back an act of gratitude. We tend not to like those who do not reciprocate. Our reciprocal nature is so powerful that even when we don't like someone, we will give back to said person if they have done us a favor. Cialdini brings us interesting examples of reciprocity. In the United States, for example, President Lyndon Johnson passed various laws in Congress through favors he had done to members of Congress. Jimmy Carter, on the other hand, had great difficulties in reforming the laws, for failing to do give in to Congress members. Another interesting example: in Hare Krishna society, its members are forced to give a flower to passers-by before asking for donations. After winning a flower, they are much more likely to donate. Even a free sample can awaken a person's reciprocity. Many have a hard time saying no to a person who has gifted a free product sample previously. Amway staff, for example, give free product samples to potential customers for a few days for them to test. After the customer uses the product, it's easier to buy it later. During World War I, a German soldier crossed the border to capture an enemy soldier. He found one enemy soldier unprotected who was eating and did not perceive his presence. The soldier offered bread to the German, and this act of kindness made the German soldier to abort his capture plans returning empty-handed. The reciprocity rule causes you to create unsolicited debts. Society expects us to be reciprocal to those who give us something, even if we have not asked anything of them. For example, when a woman accepts a drink from a man, she is erroneously thought to be available to that man.

Reciprocal Concession: One of the ways to make your requests accepted is to make a large, complex request that is likely to be denied first. After the refusal, make a second request, now more moderate. It is important that the first request be audacious, but not unrealistic. After the bold request, people feel they should give you something in return, and so a reasonable request is often accepted. If there is a more expensive and cheaper version of a product, it is better to advise the person to buy the most expensive first. Selling the cheapest product becomes much easier with this approach. We feel responsible and satisfied after agreeing to a settlement. The concession makes us believe that we caused a change and thus become more vulnerable.

How to Say No to Reciprocity: It is important to identify when we are being reciprocated for commercial reasons. In this case, we must mentally program to understand that we do not have to reciprocate commercial offers.

Rule #2: Commitment and Consistency

After we make a choice or take a stand, personal and interpersonal forces make us behave consistently with this choice or position. Our culture values consistent people. Also, consistency means we do not have to rethink our choices every time. Once we make a decision, we do not want to have to think about it again. During the Korean War, Chinese Communists called for US military prisoners to speak relatively innocent phrases such as "America is not perfect" or "Unemployment is not a problem in communist countries." Once they gave into the first request, the Chinese kept asking for more and the captured acted consistently with the previous sentence. Many even deserted. In journalism, for example, when the editor asks a writer to write an article in favor of a cause, readers come to believe the author defends that cause. Agreeing with small requests may seem insignificant at first, but this gradually changes one's self-image and makes one susceptible to persuasion. We are consistent, and we compromise if we believe we are doing something for our sake and not for external pressure.

How to Say No to Consistency: To avoid being a victim of your own consistency, always ask yourself, "Would I make this same choice again?". You need to answer the question by ignoring what you did or said earlier, and also the information that the person that is trying to persuade you has been able to capture in the past. If the answer is no, do not create reasons to say yes and be consistent, just say no and move forward.

Rule #3: Social Proof

We tend to accept a behavior as being adequate if we see other people adopting it. The more people who do it, the more acceptable that behavior seems and the more displaced we feel for not taking such conduct. Humans use the behavior of others to determine the best behavior for themselves. For example, auditorium programs use recorded laughter to make people laugh more and more often. That works even with bad jokes. Waiters tend to put some change in their tip jars, so people feel obligated to tip more. In the Jonestown massacre, people followed each other taking poison, and this resulted in a mass suicide. People followed what the others were doing without knowing and this caused a tragedy. Other examples include: Children learn more from their peers than from adults; When news of a suicide hits the front page of a newspaper, more suicides occur; There is also the concept of plural ignorance when, in a group of strangers, no one reacts to an event or an accident. If you find yourself in a similar situation where you need to keep people from ignoring an event, call someone from the group and give it a task. The others will follow and take action as well.

How to Say No to Social Proof: Understand that social proof is often a farce, like the laughter of auditorium programs. In other cases, social proof is a snowball. The more people take action, the more people repeat that, and the snowball grows. The snowball happens when no one knows anything about what is happening, but everyone acts as if the others know.

Rule #4: Appreciation

Appreciation is also a weapon of persuasion. People appreciate things for different reasons. One is the appreciation of physical attractiveness. When others perceive a person as attractive, it filters the way they see that person. Our brains do not tend to accept that we are judging people by their appearances, but in fact, this occurs all the time. Studies have shown that more attractive criminals tend to have lower jail terms than criminals who look ordinary. Teachers tend to believe that the prettiest children are also smarter. Attractive people are more likely to persuade others, and the only scenario where this does not happen is when that person is seen as a competitor of the person who would be persuaded. Another aspect that generates appreciation is the similarity. We like people who are similar to us. Therefore, car dealers seek to find common ground, such as sports, teams or even neighborhoods, to show themselves as similar to the buyer. Beyond attractiveness and similarity, greetings and compliments also generate appreciation. The human being loves to be flattered and compliments tend to increase the appreciation you feel for the praiser, even if the compliments are not sincere. Familiarity also generates appreciation. If you have any familiarity with another person, such as a common name, it affects your judgment. Finally, the association can also generate appreciation. Someone who always brings bad news ends up gaining a negative connotation, whereas people who only bring good news tend to be more appreciated. For example, men who see a car with an attractive model inside it tend to value that vehicle better than men who saw the same car empty. That's why it's important for advertisers to associate with positive images. The connection needs not be logical, as in the example of the car. This technique works because people associate what they see together, and if they like what they see, one of the items goes up in their concept. People, for example, manipulate the visibility of their connections with winners and losers, by hiding from the latter. These characteristics are especially common in people with low self-esteem. Many people tend to inflate their connections to seek success, while others try to inflate the success of the people with whom they are associated to appear more successful.

How to Say No to Appreciation: Keep your feelings for the other person and do not take them into account when saying yes or no. Even if you like the other part, you should consider and ask yourself: Despite this, would I say yes to this request?

Rule #5: Authority

We are programmed to obey authorities most of the time. And we usually see an order in isolation instead of understanding the situation as a whole. That makes us vulnerable to symbols of authority such as titles, clothing, and accessories. For example, if someone is presented as a teacher, students perceive him/her as a physically taller person than if the same person were presented as a student. Another curious example: taxi drivers tend to take much longer to honk to a luxury car that hinders traffic than to an average car. When people are asked about their bias, they generally underestimate and do not believe they are susceptible to these authority symbols.

How to Say No to Authority: To avoid persuasion by authority and its symbols, you must ask yourself: is this person's authority real? Are they really an expert in this area? Why would an authority care whether or not you agree with him/her? A person with authority is more likely to persuade us if we believe that it is impartial, so it is important to find out what their interests are towards you.

Rule #6: Scarcity

Often, the very idea of losing something we own motivates us more than the idea of earning something of similar value. We believe that things which are hard to come by are better than easy things. That is why our mind regards scarcity as a synonym of quality. Moreover, as things become scarcer, the less free we become. We hate to lose the freedom we already have. When the KGB tried to take the liberty given the Soviet citizens by Gorbachev, the citizens rebelled and fought. People do not give up their freedom without fighting. Other interesting examples of how scarcity affects us:

  • When parents interfere in an adolescent relationship, couples tend to want to get together and get married more often;

  • Censored information is more valued than open information. In some cases, to better distribute information, it is better to censure it than to leave it open;

  • Revolutions occur more when the economy goes through periods of prosperity, and there is a setback that causes people to lose things than when things stop improving; Scarcity and rivalry, when combined, are also a powerful weapon. ABC lost $ 2 million for a $ 3.3 million bid to get the film Poseidon Adventures' exclusive rights. It could have spent only 1.3 million but spent more for wanting to fight scarcity and also against the bids of its rivals CBS and NBC.

How to Say No to Scarcity: True pleasure lies in living something rather than just owning it. Scarcity leads us to buy things just to own them. Think long before you buy something only for its rarity. Will this item be useful in the future?

Instantaneous Influence

Weapons of influence are automatic reactions that we use to make decisions when we do not have all the information. Knowing these weapons is essential so that we can increasingly make decisions and make analyzes in an instant. In a world where everything constantly changes and new products and services arise in our lives, we need to understand more and more about all the weapons of influence. We need to assimilate them to react correctly to what the world gives us. We also need to create defenses to companies and brands that exploit these weapons unethically and spread this knowledge so that as many people as possible can understand how they work and thus can defend themselves against evil persuaders.

Final Notes:

In order to persuade and also avoid being a victim of persuasion, you need to know the behaviors that happen in our minds that make us agree with each other and say yes. In his work, Cialdini raises the 6 fundamental principles for you to understand how persuasion works. Memorize them, practice them and adopt them in your life to avoid falling into the mental trappings in which our brain puts us.

12min tip: Did you like the subject persuasion? You'll also like the micro-book Believe, I'm Lying, from Ryan Holiday. There he tells us a bit about how companies use the internet, blogs and social networks to manipulate us. Go get it!

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Who wrote the book?

Robert Beno Cialdini is Professor Emeritus of Regent Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University and was a Visiting Professor of Marketing, Business, and Psychology at Stanford University as well as the University of California at Santa Cruz. He is best known for his 1984 book on Persuasion and Marketing, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. The book sold more than three million copies and was translated into thirty languages. The author was listed on the New York Times Best Seller list, and Fortune lists him in his "75 Smarter Corporate Books." Cialdi... (Read more)