Robert Cialdini has spent his entire career learning and teaching the science of influence. His book Influence: Science and Practice has sold more than 2 million copies and can be found in 26 languages. Cialdini's immense knowledge of the subject has earned him the title of "The Godfather of Influence," and he is one of the most cited living social psychologists in the world. Cialdini is currently regents' professor emeritus of psychology and marketing at Arizona State University and president of Influence at Work, an international consulting, strategic planning and training organization.
SUCCESS: How did you start studying the psychology of influence?
Robert Cialdini: The very beginning was the realization that I was the characteristic patsy; I was easily swindled and bought things I did not want and contributed to organizations I'd never heard of. As an avid student of what makes people do what they do, I became curious as to how we are influenced. Upon further investigation, I discovered that there was no systematic scientific approach that modeled influence. There were no universal features of the influence process that. if incorporated into a request, proposal or recommendation, inclined people toward saying yes.
Can everyone benefit from the principles of influence you have defined?
RC: Due to the fact that the principles are based on scientific laws, they are both teachable and learnable, and therefore beneficial to everyone. It used to be that we thought of the ability to be persuasive as an art bestowed upon a chosen few. There are those who seem to be gifted. But influence is not just an art; it is a science based on principles and facts.
In your profession, you can become more successful agents of influence by learning and applying the principles while being entirely ethical. This is not a lesson in manipulation, but a guide to detecting authentic desires within a person and bringing them to the surface-Becoming a detective of influence is both ethical and effective.
Would you explain some of the principles of influence you have uncovered?
RC: The first is reciprocation. People will be ready and eager to help you when you have first done something for them. This principle suggests that to be successful one must be proactive in their approach instead of reactive. Give first, and then receive, not the opposite. Actually, it is a maxim that is embedded in every major religion. Christianity calls it the Golden Rule.
As an example of its effectiveness, there was a study done on tip amounts given to servers at restaurants. The study proved that applying reciprocity can significantly increase tips when used at the moment patrons are deciding the tip amount. When a mint was given on the tray holding the check, tips went up 3.3 percent. If two mints were on the tray for each diner, tips increased by 14 percent. Receiving two mints was unexpected by the diners, causing them to want to give back.
In this day and age, one of the most valuable assets you can give someone to help them do their job better and be more successful is information. Giving information first can generate a feeling of gratitude causing one to want to reciprocate.
The second is commitment or …