Setting the Stage for Influence

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When it comes to influencing others’ decisions, are you focused on strategy or tactics?  We know it’s not just what you say it but how you say it that will influence a person to take action.  As a presentation trainer and coach, I believe it’s important to focus first on strategy – delivering a powerful and succinct message in an engaging manner that the recipient is ready to receive. Only after that’s mastered (no small task!), should you focus on tactics such as NLP and body language.

Several years ago, Robert Cialdini published Influence, the Psychology of Persuasion. It has become the “bible†among social psychologists and communicators concerned with understanding how to influence people to make decisions. He recently updated his concept in Pre-suasion, and it’s important to understand how he updated his theory.

As I’ve noted in a prior blog, his research identified six major strategies of influence:

  • Reciprocation – people want to reciprocate your actions
  • Liking – people prefer to work with people they like
  • Social Proof – people are more likely to act with evidence that others do the same thing
  • Authority – people submit to authority
  • Scarcity – people are more likely to act when the thing they want is scarce (e.g., limited time)
  • Consistency – people like to act in ways that are consistent with how they see themselves.

These are very useful as strategic positioning issues for a presentation. For instance, four of the strategies explain why buyers prefer sellers they’ve had great experiences with in the past.

In Pre-suasion, he focuses on the issue of timing prior to employing a strategy and using it to get a person in a state of mind that’s consistent with the influence you want to produce.  Some examples:

  • To encourage a person to buy a bottle of French wine, expose the person first to French music
  • To encourage a person to try an untested product, we can inquire whether the person is adventurous.
  • If we want a person to feel warmly toward us, hand them a hot drink
  • If we want people to be more helpful, show them pictures of people close together
  • Showing a picture of a runner winning a race helps create a state of mind for achievement
  • A picture of Rodin’s The thinker, creates a state of mind for careful assessments

Building on this approach a colleague focuses on the core motives model of social influence in which he notes the importance of the relationship of the information to decision-stage of influence. For instance:

  • First, the goal is to cultivate a positive association. The principles of linking and reciprocity are likely to help do so.
  • Second, the goal is to reduce uncertainty – so they see the decision as wise. Here social proof and authority become effective influential supports
  • Finally, the goal is to motivate action. The fact that a well-liked friend showed me proof that experts recommend an action, may not be enough to get me to act. Using an appeal to consistency encourages me to do what I usually do and scarcity – act now or lose out – should close the deal.

How are you using the influence strategies now? Understanding how Pre-suasion works, what can you do to enhance your effectiveness? Share with us so we can all learn!

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