I’ve read an interesting book called ‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion’ (: US | UK), by Robert B. Cialdini. It outlines 6 universal “weapons of influence” that are used to persuade people, and how to defend yourself against them:
- Reciprocation: The Old Give and Take… and Take
- Commitment and Consistency: Hobgoblins of the Mind
- Social Proof: Truths Are Us
- Liking: The Friendly Thief
- Authority: Directed Deference
- Scarcity: The Rule of the Few
A good example of this is the labelling technique, which falls under ‘Commitment and Consistency’. It involves assigning a trait, attitude, or belief to a person and then making a request of that person that’s consistent with that label. In practice, for example, this could translate to you telling someone that you consider them to be an above-average citizen that is likely to vote and participate in political events. They would then see themselves a bit differently, as a better citizen, maybe even one that votes!
A more useful example can be used when talking to customer service agents. Knowing that they can sometimes be less-than-helpful when you ask for a tough request, try telling them that “you’re so happy with the service so far that you’re going to write a positive letter or email about your interaction to his or her supervisor as soon as you get off the phone”. If they’re human, they will be more likely to reciprocate the respect and try harder to help you with your request.
I’m currently reading the sequel, titled ‘Yes!: 50 secrets from the science of persuasion’ (: US | UK), where it basically lists 50 great examples of the 6 persuasive principals above. It’s like a goody bag, but in book form!