The (he)Art of Persuasion

 In Story

According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) national report, more than 100 million startups are launched every year. This is about three startups per second with a success rate of 1/3 Worldwide Business Start-Ups. It’s exciting, and the world is full of possibility. Yet, with all of those new ideas out there, getting someone to listen, let alone buy, is a challenge. You cannot make someone want to listen.

In the early 1980s, a psychologist named Robert Cialdini spent three years studying how we influence others. He worked “undercover” at auto dealers, telemarketing firms, and non-profits with the intention of learning how people are affected by others to decide to buy. At the end of his research, he wrote a book called “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”.  The book outlines six principles that lead to “a yes.” In 2017, Robert Cialdini added another principle to the original six.

Businessman practicing the art of persuasion

Six principles force us to think about our audience

In our practice as executive coaches, we use these principles to help leaders build communication for more significant impact. The principles are authority, consistency, reciprocity, scarcity, liking, and consensus; the seventh principle is unity. The principles are beneficial to make sure all the issues, objections, and arguments have been considered in presenting ideas or projects. However, Cialdini’s principles also force us to think about our audience – who they are and what they want, which is one of the most important considerations when we seek to influence. As psychologist Dr. Jesse Marczyk says in an article in Psychology Today, “You need to treat those you hope to persuade as people and engage with the ideas and values they actually hold.”

Prepare to persuade by asking questions that reflect Cialdini’s principles

After reading Cialdini’s book, I looked at his list of principles and realized that besides embracing them as principles to employ in my communication, I could use the list itself as a way to check on whether or not I have prepared to persuade. Using his principle as guides, I created a list of questions. The next time you plan a vital communication, consider the principles of persuasion to plan for how people are influenced by asking the following questions:

  1. Authority: What gives me the authority to present this?
  2. Consistency: How will I demonstrate a commitment to my ideas?
  3. Reciprocity: What’s good for me and good for them?
  4. Scarcity: What’s the downside – what won’t happen if we don’t do this?
  5. Liking: How can I bring my best self to this?
  6. Consensus: Where has this worked before?
  7. Unity: What common experience do we have?

For more on how to influence others, please see these posts on this blog

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