This is the March 2019 meeting of my business book club! We discussed the book Influence by Robert Cialdini.

There are six weapons of influence: reciprocation, commitment and consistency, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity.

Reciprocity is created when you receive something and you feel as though you have to give something back in return. It often produces a yes response to a request due to a feeling of indebtedness. Reciprocity can be created by someone doing us a favor, whether it’s welcome or unwelcome. The rule can trigger unfair exchanges. It creates a sense of compliance on the receiver that if they don’t give something back, they will have broken some unspoken rule.

The next tactic is commitment and consistency. The desire to be and to appear consistent is a highly potent weapon of social influence, and it sometimes can cause people to act in ways that are contrary to their own interests. It is so powerful because it is based on the understanding that inconsistency is thought to be an undesirable personality trait. A person who is inconsistent may be seen as indecisive, confused, or two-faced. A high degree of consistency is associated with someone who has personal and intellectual strengths. While consistency is important in directing human action, the reason you do it is because of commitment. If you make a commitment, you then through consistency will follow through on that commitment. Written commitments are much more effective than verbal ones. The reason is that the effort that goes into making the commitment results in greater ability to influence the person who made it.

The next tactic is social proof. Social proof is what we use to determine what is correct behavior and what we should. If we see other people behaving in a certain way in a given situation, we take those cues to determine for ourselves that we should behave the same way. Social proof works very well when you’re in a condition of uncertainty. When you don’t know what to do yourself, you’re more likely to look to others to see what is the correct behavior.

The next tactic is liking. In general, people prefer to say yes to the request of someone they know and like. Customers are more likely to buy something from someone that they know and like. This can also be applied to people you don’t know, but who are physically attractive. Research shows that we automatically assign favorable traits to good-looking people, such as talent, kindness, honesty, and intelligence. This happens subconsciously, so we’re not aware that we’re making this connection. One other influential characteristic that affects liking is similarity. We like people who are similar to us. Similarity can be in any area- opinion, personality, trait, background, lifestyle, etc. Someone who dresses like you, you would automatically assume that they are similar to you, and you would like them more. We also like things that are familiar to us. Familiarity has an effect on liking, and it also affects our decision about all kinds of things.

The next tactic is authority. The power of the influence of authority can be seen in the famous psychology experiment by Professor Milgram. In the experiment the participant in a teacher role was instructed to deliver intense and increasingly dangerous levels of shocks to another person in the experiment. In reality there was no shock delivered, and the victim was an actor. The purpose of the experiment was to see how much suffering ordinary people would be willing to inflict on other innocent people to obey an authority figure. Within all of us there’s a deep seated sense of duty to authority. No one wants to defy the wishes of their boss. The use of authority can be used to trigger compliance in others. Even the symbol of authority can trigger this compliance. Titles are one way to symbolize authority. Once someone has a title such as a doctor, professor, or a government official, people will give them an automatic deference. Clothing can also be a symbol of authority. An example of this would be police uniforms.

The next tactic is scarcity. Scarcity is highly influential in determining the worth of an item. As a general rule, if something is rare or becoming rare, it’s more valuable. Related to scarcity is a technique called the limited number technique. Another similar one is a deadline tactic where there is a time limit. A going out of sale or a low on stock message is used to get buyers to buy things quickly. You can also create a desire for an item by banning it. Part of why banning works is not that people want whatever has been banned more, it just has a perception that it’s better or it’s something more than what they had thought it was before it was banned.

Find the book on Amazon.

Learn more about the author and his work here.