Have you ever read a book that changed your life?
A book that left you feeling that you’d read something truly important as opposed to merely interesting?
Influence by Dr. Robert Cialdini certainly fell into that category for me.
It explains the six main psychological principles that underpin the concept of influence. It’s scientifically impressive, both in terms of the authors credentials, and the studies it cites.
It’s also incredibly engaging and entertaining. The illustrative anecdotes are enjoyable as well as illuminating.
Above all, the book is incredibly useful. It allows you to become more influential while also giving you the knowledge and skill to resist malicious influence.
Today I’d like to share with you the main concepts found in Influence, as well as some ideas as to how creatives and entrepreneurs can apply them in their life and work.
The first principle Cialdini focuses on is reciprocation.
He makes a convincing case that people feel a deep urge to give something if they have received something.
Several examples are given, such as companies which offer gifts such as cheap pens. Their motive isn’t altruistic. They give in order to get, leveraging the deep desire for reciprocity that exists within humans.
Like almost anything, the rule of reciprocation can be used for good as well as malign purposes.
I think there is genuine harmony between the idea of positive reciprocation and Seth Godin’s concept of permission marketing.
So what are some of the ways you can make the law of reciprocation work for you?
- Your mailing list. If your business engages in CRM, you are probably looking to build a mailing list. Rather than getting people to sign up for its own sake, offer something of value in exchange. This should be genuinely valuable and tailored to the needs of your specific audience/customers. Monitor your email open rates to see if people continue to read your content after the initial gift has been received. Aim to keep only the people who show consistent engagement even after receiving the free offer.
- A free, personalized consultation. No matter what service you provide, be willing to offer a small chunk of your time for free to potential clients. Approach this in the spirit of Stephen Covey’s win/win or no deal paradigm. Use the chance to explore whether a win/win opportunity exists between you and the new individual.
- Serving your creative community. Say, for example, you’re a writer. By being a positive and supportive presence in the lives of your fellow writers, whether online or offline, you will naturally receive reciprocal treatment. This shouldn’t be done with the intention of getting something in return. However, the law of reciprocation will ensure this is what ends up happening.
Too many creatives and entrepreneurs have a sense of entitlement. They expect to get something before giving something.
Instead, flip your perspective.
Offer to provide as much genuine value as possible, and you will inevitably
receive it in return thanks to the principle of reciprocation.
Commitment and Consistency
The second principle of Influence is ‘commitment and consistency’. Cialdini treats these two ideas as a single concept due to how intertwined they are.
Commitment basically involves getting people to take a small step before asking them to take a larger one. To picture this in action, think about charities which ask for an almost token donation, such as a dollar, before then asking for larger amounts.
This is also witnessed in the ‘foot in the door’ approach of salesmen. For example, some salesmen will begin by offering a low-value item, such as a smoke alarm, at something close to cost price. After this initial step has been taken, they then upsell the prospect onto more expensive safety programs or equipment.
Consistency refers to people’s psychological desire to maintain a stable self-image, not to mention the personality they project to the world. The concept of ‘keeping up appearances’ is directly related to this principle.
So how can you ethically utilize the ideas of commitment and consistency in your entrepreneurial and creative pursuits?
- Make it easy for people to commit. Offer something for a very affordable price. For example, Ramit Sethi offers valuable advice for free on his blog. He then offers an incredibly affordable personal finance book. After people have made these low-investment commitments, it’s easier to upsell them to his higher priced coaching programs.
- Don’t dismiss the power of public and written commitments. When people write down their commitment, it becomes a lot realer to them than if they had merely thought about it. Similarly, people feel greater pressure to maintain commitments when they are public.
- If you are able to figure out how someone sees themselves, you can more easily influence them. Speak to the way they see themselves, rather than how others may see them. The caveat to this is to use the principle for good. Only seek to influence people in ways which represent a genuine win/win.
The key takeaways here are to make it easy for people to commit to you and what you have to offer, and to understand how people see themselves so you can speak to them more effectively.
People look to others for indicators of how to behave.
For example, it’s a lot easier to join in an existing round of applause than it is to be the first person to clap. Studies have also shown that if experimenters stop on the street and point at the sky, random passersby will stop what they are doing and gaze upwards.
What are some of the ways you can use the principle of social proof to your advantage?
- Give strong signals of social proof. For example, make testimonials a prominent part of your online presence. Give potential clients the feeling that they are joining a party rather than walking into an empty room.
- Incentivize people to demonstrate social proof on your behalf. This could take the form of a contest where people can win something cool if they share your latest content, for example.
- Resist the urge to manipulate social proof. It might be tempting to take a shortcut, by buying reviews, purchasing fake social media followers, or any other illegitimate way of demonstrating social proof. This may work in the short term, but in the long term, you’ll often be found out to your embarrassment and detriment.
If there is a way you can genuinely demonstrate people value and love what you have to offer, it makes it a lot easier for others to feel the same way.
The fourth principle of Influence might sound too obvious, but it’s more nuanced than it seems.
Simply put, the more people like you, the greater influence you will have over them.
Obviously, you should be likeable for its own sake rather than just to exert greater influence. Also, you shouldn’t pursue likability at the expense of your other aims or ethical values.
Caveats aside, how does Cialdini suggest likability can be utilized in pursuit of influence?
- Similarity leads to liking. You are more likely to be liked if people see themselves in you. Do you ever notice a lot of successful writers and artists emphasize their normality in their bio? Often through talking about their kids, their pets, and their coffee habit! Despite the fact they are multi-millionaires. The more you are able to emphasize your commonality with someone, the more they will like you, and you will be more influential as a result.
- As shallow as it sounds, people like attractive people more than unattractive people, all else being equal. This works in several ways. Scientific studies have shown that people who conform to conventional standards of attractiveness experience better treatment in life. Now, this is basically outside of your control. However, you can increase your own attractiveness and therefore your influence in several ways. Ensure you dress in what is considered to be attractive clothing for your field. This is contextual. An executive will dress differently from a graphic designer. Also work on your body language, your smile, and your empathetic listening.
- Your verbal interactions with people also play a role in your attractiveness to them. If you listen attentively, show interest, and subtly compliment, you are likely to come across as more attractive than if you do not. Similarly, your attractiveness through conversation will depend upon what you are used to. Consider the classic case of good cop/bad cop. The good cop is a lot more influential in contrast to his partner. The exact same good cop approach would be a lot less effective if no bad cop was present!
Don’t manufacture aspects of your personality to come across as likeable. That’s manipulative and will likely be found out. Instead, know which genuine parts of yourself to emphasize in order to come across as more likeable.
Human beings are hardwired to be influenced by authority.
We are socially conditioned in this way since childhood. Obedience to authority was needed to both survive and succeed in society.
What a lot of people underestimate is the extent to which authority will impact them.
Consider the famous Milgram experiment. The researcher demonstrated that people will act in ways they never would have believed in the course of obeying authority.
Even the Judeo-Christian tradition is build on authority. When Adam and Eve disobeyed, things started to take a turn for the worse!
So how can you use authority to increase your own personal influence?
- Titles are authoritative. Formal qualifications work in the same way. Why do you think lawyers often display their certificates on the wall of their offices? Or people list lettered titles such as PHD after their name? People are influenced by displays of authority.
- You don’t need a formal title necessarily. However, within your own niche or field, you should find something similar. This could be graduating from a respected course taught by a prestigious teacher. If you are unsure, spend some time browsing the online presence of the leaders in your field or niche. How do they display their authority? How can you do the same?
- Don’t be flagrant with your authority. To use a comparison, think about someone who owns a Rolex. If you happen to notice it on their wrist, that’s great. However, if they keep rolling their sleeve up, before eventually asking whether you like their watch, it comes across as try-hard and tacky. Display your authority in a subtle, classy way.
Similarly to likeability, authority is subjective and contextually dependent.
Figure out what passes for credible authority within your niche, and find ways to acquire then subtly display it.
The final principle of influence stated by Cialdini is scarcity.
Think about diamonds, caviar, and rare baseball cards. At the most basic level, they’re just combinations of atoms like anything else. Why is caviar more expensive than a mango? Is it actually tastier? Does it look better?
It just happens to be more scarce.
How can you put the concept of scarcity to work in increasing your own personal influence?
- If you offer a paid service, such as a coaching program, be selective about who is eligible. If you offer your service to either a limited number of people, or only certain people are able to qualify, you create genuine scarcity.
- The same principle can apply with physical or information products. If you offer a limited discount, your product seems scarce, and people are influenced towards buying it as a result.
- Avoid creating false scarcity as this destroys your credibility. Have you ever been online and seen a countdown clock for a product or service? But then you refresh the page and the clock magically resets? This is appalling false scarcity that should be avoided at all costs.
If you are able to find ways yourself or your offerings are genuinely scarce, your influence will increase as a result.
Influence For Creatives & Entrepreneurs – Final Thoughts
Thanks for checking out this guide to using Cialdini’s principles to increase your own personal influence.
If you’ve enjoyed this, I’d urge you to check out the full book. I have no financial stake in the book and will make nothing at all if you check it out. I just firmly believe in sharing great work with people who will benefit from it.
Do you make use of these principles in your everyday life? Are there other ways you’ve found to increase your personal influence?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments!