7 Principles to Follow to be Influential

7 Principles to Follow to be Influential

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By Jonathan Pelosi

My favorite authority on the science of influence and persuasion, Robert Cialdini, suggests leveraging the following principles (I’m going to paraphrase him here for simplicity sakes)

1. Reciprocation

In short, if you do something for someone else, they feel inherently obligated to repay the gesture in some form or another. i.e. You notice a colleague on your team is particularly slammed with work and is trying to wrap up a project before going away on vacation. By voluntarily offering to help ease his/her workload, they will be very grateful, and for the purpose of this discussion, be far more likely to do something for you next time you ask. Thus, your ability to influence them rises dramatically as a result.

Takeaway: Proactively look for ways you can help add value/do favors for the people that matter to you. Caveat – the process must be genuine, if people sense you’re doing something for them because you expect something in return, this will backfire, badly.

Related: Do You Want to be a Good Leader? Obtain These 11 Traits

2. Commitment and Consistency

You’re essentially aiming for the opposite of flaky and unreliable. The more consistent you are (think integrity here) the more likely people are going to take your words seriously.

Similarly, by getting people to commit to an action in some form or another, you significantly increase the chances of influencing that person to perform that desired action. i.e. Retail stores. The simple act of you trying on a pair of pants  vs. just looking at them, increases the probability you’ll buy them. This is why retail sales people place such an emphasis on getting shoppers to try things on. The more time and energy you can get a person to invest into something, the more committed they feel. The more committed they feel, the more likely they are to follow through with that commitment.

Takeaway: Stick to your word, and get people to agree to small asks that build towards the original, bigger ask you had in mind. aka Don’t try and sell someone an entire outfit outright, start off by having them try on a pair of pants, and then maybe see how some new shoes would look with them, then a new shirt to compliment it all, and before you know it, they’ll have purchased the whole ensemble.

3. Social Proof

This could also be referred to as the “Lemming Effect”. People are more inclined to do something that they know other people are doing or have done. If you have ever found yourself following a crowd before, this is the same concept. You just assume that that many people must be going in the right direction, and you feel more comfortable with your decision to follow them.This also highlights the same reason infomercials/shopping channels will show you how many items have been sold during the program, viewers will subconsciously say themselves “well it must work if 459 people have already bought it”.

Takeaway: If you’re trying to influence someone to take a certain action, fine ways to demonstrate previous examples of others taking that action. The person you’re trying to influence will be more likely to comply with your request.

Related: 9 Characteristics of Successful Business People

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4. Likability

People are much more inclined to do things for people they like. An extension of this principal is that people like people like themselves. You can test this principal by asking yourself if you have anything in common with your closest friends? Similar hobbies or interests, similar attitude towards life, similar sense of humor, etc.

Takeaway: Look for commonalities you share with the people you’d like to influence, and highlight those similarities in an effort to build rapport. You will have a much easier time mobilizing others to help you achieve your goals if they like you.

5. Authority

If you are recognized and perceived as an expert and/or authority on a matter, more people will be inclined to listen to you. i.e. Your Doctor tells you to do something, more or less, you’re going to do it.

Takeaway: Establish your credibility and expertise in a particular field, the more you do, the more influential you’ll become.

Related: 7 Qualities of the Most Charming People

6. Contrast

If you’ve ever found yourself spending slightly more on something than you originally planned, you’ve probably been the victim of the contrast principal. i.e. new tv, was $1999.99 now $1299.99 Whereas you originally might have set aside $1000.00 for your new tv budget, you now may be persuaded to spend a bit more for the bigger model because it’s $500.00 off – by contrast, it appears to be a steal. Another example could be if your child comes home and tells you he or she was arrested for shoplifting…and then says, “truth be told, I wasn’t arrested for shoplifting, but I did get a “D” on my math test”, by contrast to the notion of having your child arrested, a “D” on his or her math test doesn’t seem all too bad.

Takeaway: Under promise and over deliver, and always start with a higher ask then expected,that way when you present your actual request, it will seem that much more reasonable, and the person will be that much more inclined to oblige.

7. Scarcity

People want that which they feel cannot have. Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman speaks to this same concept with the idea that people are proven to be more motivated to avoid pain, then they are to gain pleasure. If you can position something as valuable and in short supply, people will make a greater effort to acquire it, even if they don’t necessarily need it. Retailers leverage this principle all of the time i.e. “While supplies last”, or  “only 2 more days left left” or “almost sold out”. Another example includes the concept of “playing hard to get”.

Takeaway: create an element of scarcity, and whoever you’re trying to influence will perceive whatever it is you have to offer as more valuable. This is also why very high scale restaurants will tell you they’re booked solid even if they aren’t, they want to create a sense of exclusiveness vs abundance.

One important note, with any of these principles, you have to want to genuinely help others in the process. If you are looking to influence others simply for your own benefit, in the end, you’ll get burned.