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Influence And Persuasion

by Phyllis Pollack
November 2009

From the Blog of Phyllis G. Pollack.

Phyllis  Pollack

       Recently, I read Robert B. Cialdini’s  book Influence: Science And Persuasion (4th ed., Allyn & Bacon  2001). It was an excellent book, and I highly recommend it.

       In it, Mr. Cialdini lists six “weapons of influence” or six principles by which we can influence and persuade people not only in high stakes negotiations but in every day transactions.

       Mr. Cialdini starts with the premise that because life is so complex, most of us operate on autopilot. Rather than think long and hard about each and every action we take during the day, we use “short cuts” or almost mindlessly repeat the action patterns that we tested long ago and found to be tried and true. Otherwise, we would never get anything done.

       With this premise in mind, the author explains the six principles:

      1. Reciprocity – “The rule says that we should try to repay, in kind, what another person has provided us . . . .By virtue of the reciprocity rule,  then, we are obligated to the future repayment of favors, gifts, invitations and the like” (p. 20 - italics original).

      2. Commitment and Consistency – Each of us desires to be and to appear to be “. . . consistent with what we have already done. Once we make a choice or take a stand, we will encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with that commitment. Those pressures will cause us to respond in ways that justify our earlier decision” (p. 53 – italics original).

      3. Social Proof –“  This principle states that we determine what is correct by finding out what other people think is correct. The principle applies especially to the way we decide what constitutes correct behavior. We view a behavior as correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it ”  (p. 100 – italics original).

      4. Liking – “…as a rule, we  most prefer to say yes to the requests of people we know and like” (p. 144). Thus, an astute negotiator will use “the liking bond between friends . . .to produce assent” (p. 147).

      5. Authority – “Follow an expert” (p. 179-italics original). We each have a deep sense of duty and authority. Thus, we will obey orders of authority, even, if, those orders do not make sense (p. 183). There is “…  the extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on command of an authority. . .”  (p. 183).     

      6. Scarcity – “Less Is Best and Loss Is Worst” (p. 204). An item that is rare is more valuable. Thus “. . .opportunities seem more valuable to us when they are less available… ” (p. 205 – italics original). Similarly, “… [p]eople seem to be more motivated by the thought of losing something than by the thought of gaining something of equal value.” For this reason, “… the threat of potential loss plays a powerful role in human decision making” (p. 205).

       It is easy to see how using these principles in a negotiation or mediation can work to a party’s advantage, and thus assist in resolving the dispute.

       The book is fascinating and a very good read! Try it!

       . . . Just something to think about!


Phyllis Pollack with PGP Mediation uses a facilitative, interest-based approach. Her preferred mediation style is facilitative in the belief that the best and most durable resolutions are those achieved by the parties themselves. The parties generally know the business issues and priorities, personalities and obstacles to a successful resolution as well as their own needs better than any mediator or arbitrator. She does not impose her views or make decisions for the parties. Rather, Phyllis assists the parties in creating options that meet the needs and desires of both sides.  When appropriate, visual aids are used in preparing discussions and illustrating possible solutions. On the other hand, she is not averse to being proactive and offering a generous dose of reality, particularly when the process may have stalled due to unrealistic expectations of attorney or client, a failure to focus on needs rather than demands, or when one or more parties need to be reminded of the potential consequences of their failure to reach an agreement.

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