6 weapons of influence and 19 tricks to fire them

“Power is a tool, influence is a skill; one is a fist, the other a fingertip” – Nancy Gibbs #MondayMorningWakeUpCall

Yes, how to influence people is a skill that can be learnt. And it can be more powerful than using power even though you use just a fingertip instead of a fist, whether metaphorically or real. Since it is a skill that can be learnt and it affects everyone’s daily lives, either as an influencer or as an influenced, author Robert Cialdini set out to teach it through his book titled ‘Influence’.

His objective though was to educate us gullible minds on the ‘weapons of influence’ as he calls them so that we can save ourselves from getting manipulated or conned into doing things we don’t want to do.

While he does take a negative view of the weapons of influence, albeit for a good cause, they can be used to positively impact people personally or professionally. Whether you choose to use these weapons to influence your spouse to have a threesome, your child to share her chocolate, sell shampoo to a bald man or promote the Zotbot mobile app to enrich one’s life is up to you. I am just doing my bit to influence you to become better at influencing.

Here are your 6 weapons with 19 tricks based on human psychology… influence wisely.

Weapon #1: Reciprocation

The rule says that you will try to repay in kind, what another person has provided you. Some ways reciprocation as an influence can be used –

  1. Uninvited favour – You can trigger a feeling of indebtedness by doing someone an uninvited favor
  2. Make a concession – If you make a concession to someone, there will be an obligation on the other person to make a concession to you
  3. The rejection-then-retreat technique – Suppose you want me to agree to a certain request. One way to increase your chances would be first to make a larger request of me, one that I will most likely turn down. Then, after I have refused, you would make the smaller request that you were really interested in all along. Provided that you have structured your requests skillfully, I should view your second request as a concession to me and should feel inclined to respond with a concession of my own and comply with your second request
    1. Sales people can use a refusal to request for referrals
    2. After being exposed to the price of the large item, the price of the less expensive one appears smaller by comparison. In the same way, the larger-then-smaller-request procedure makes use of the contrast principle by making the smaller request look even smaller by comparison with the larger one. If I want you to lend me five dollars, I can make it seem like a smaller request by first asking you to lend me ten dollars. One of the beauties of this tactic is that by first requesting ten dollars and then retreating to five dollars, I will have simultaneously engaged the force of the reciprocity rule and the contrast principle. Not only will my five-dollar request be viewed as a concession to be reciprocated, it will also look to you like a smaller request than if I had just asked for it straightaway.
    3. Warning: If the first set of demands is so extreme as to be seen as unreasonable, the tactic backfires. In such cases, the party who has made the extreme first request is not seen to be bargaining in good faith. Any subsequent retreat from that wholly unrealistic initial position is not viewed as a genuine concession and thus is not reciprocated.

Weapon #2: Commitment and Consistency

A quote from Leonardo Da Vinci sums it up in one line, “It’s easier to resist at the beginning then at the end”

  1. Foot-in-the-door technique – Start with a small commitment and build
  2. Write – Get people to write down goals and commitments
    1. Research has found that something special happens when people personally put their commitments on paper: They live up to what they have written down.
    2. Businesses to cash in on the “magic” of written declarations occurs through the use of promotional devices like testimonial contests where the users compose a short personal statement that begins with the words, “Why I like…”
  3. Asking someone to take a public stand – Whenever one takes a stand that is visible to others, there arises a drive to maintain that stand in order to look like a consistent person. For appearances’ sake, then, the more public a stand, the more reluctant we will be to change it.
    1. As an example, this is why dieticians require their clients to write down an immediate weight-loss goal and show that goal to as many friends, relatives, and neighbors as possible. Clinic operators report that frequently this simple technique works where all else has failed.
    2. The most effective type of commitments however are the ones we accept inner responsibility for a behavior when we think we have chosen to perform it in the absence of strong outside pressures. . A large reward is one such external pressure. It may get us to perform a certain action, but it won’t get us to accept inner responsibility for the act. Consequently, we won’t feel committed to it. The same is true of a strong threat; it may motivate immediate compliance, but it is unlikely to produce long-term commitment.
      1. All this has important implications for rearing children. It suggests that we should never heavily bribe or threaten our children to do the things we want them truly to believe in

Weapon #3: Social Proof

In the context of influence, the principle of social proof states that one means we use to determine what is correct is to find out what other people think is correct.

  1. Tell stories of similar proof – Since the principle of social proof also says: The greater the number of people who find any idea correct, the more the idea will be correct, salesmen spice their pitches with numerous accounts of individuals who have purchased the product. Sales and motivation consultant Cavett Robert captures the principle nicely in his advice to sales trainees: “Since 95 percent of the people are imitators and only 5 percent initiators, people are persuaded more by the actions of others than by any proof we can offer.”
  2. When the world is using… – Advertisers love to inform us when a product is the “fastest-growing” or “largest-selling” because they don’t have to convince us directly that the product is good, they need only say that many others think so, which seems proof enough
    1. The principle of social proof operates most powerfully when we are observing the behavior of people just like us. It is the conduct of such people that gives us the greatest insight into what constitutes correct behavior for ourselves.
  3. Create the momentum – Bartenders and charity jars often “salt” their tip jars with a few dollar bills at the beginning of the evening to simulate tips left by prior customers and thereby to give the impression that tipping with folding money is proper social behavior

Weapon #4: Liking

We tend to get more influenced and more likely to say yes to requests, to people we like. While this fact may not be startling, what may be interesting is how this simple rule can be used to influence people and win sales deals. For this one needs to know what are the factors that cause one person to like another person? Once you know the factors you can try adapting them to suit the situation

  1. Similarity – We like people who are similar to us. This fact seems to hold true whether the similarity is in the area of opinions, personality traits, background, or life-style. So find something common!
  2. Compliments – Pure praise does not have to be accurate to work. Positive comments produced just as much liking for the flatterer when they were untrue as when they were true
  3. Physical attractiveness – Research has shown that we automatically assign to good-looking individuals such favorable traits as talent, kindness, honesty, and intelligence. Furthermore, we make these judgments without being aware that physical attractiveness plays a role in the process.
  4. Familiarity – For the most part, we like things that are familiar to us. It appears that in an election booth voters often choose a candidate merely because the name seems familiar
  5. Conditioning and association – People irrationally can develop a negative feeling for someone associated with a negative event or a positive liking when associated with a positive event.

Weapon #5: Scarcity

The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost. —G. K. CHESTERTON

  1. Fear of loss – The idea of potential loss plays a large role in human decision making. In fact, people seem to be more motivated by the thought of losing something than by the thought of gaining something of equal value.
  2. Make it difficult to possess – Things that are difficult to possess are typically better than those that are easy to possess, we can often use an item’s availability to help us quickly and correctly decide on its quality.
  3. Sudden scarcity – People see a thing as more desirable when it has recently become less available than when it has been scarce all along.
  4. Make it competitive – Not only do we want the same item more when it is scarce, we want it most when we are in competition for it
    1. Each prospect who was interested enough to want to see the car was given an appointment time—the same appointment time. So if six people were scheduled, they were all scheduled for, say, two o’clock that afternoon. This little device of simultaneous scheduling paved the way for later compliance because it created an atmosphere of competition for a limited resource.

Weapon #6: Authority

Most people have a deep-seated sense of duty to authority within us. So much so that even if the order is against one’s moral judgement, you will still be unlikely to defy it, World War II being a classic example.

  1. Order (wisely) – When all weapons of influence fail then using the power of authority (prudently and judiciously) as a parent, teacher, boss, person with a superior title or from one wearing a uniform of law and order may be the strongest weapon.

Ready, aim, fire… to influence GOOD in the world.





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