Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade – Robert Cialdini

Here are four ways to be more persuasive:

What is a revolutionary way to influence and persuade others? Pre-suasion. According to Robert Cialdini, Regents’ Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University, and a visiting professor of marketing, business and psychology at Stanford University, as well as at the University of California at Santa Cruz, he states that pre-suasion is essentially setting up certain conditions prior to delivering a persuasive message to maximize the probability of a favorable outcome. This is essentially done by changing one’s environment to one that’s more controllable. This is a good book on the psychology of human behavior and would recommend it to anyone who’s looking to become more influential or persuasive. However, I personally enjoyed his previous book Influence : The Psychology of Persuasion better as the persuasion strategies outlined in that book are more within your “control.” Nonetheless this book was a good read and anyone who has enjoyed Robert Cialdini’s first book can gain new insight from this one. Here are some of the points to the book:


1. Just as it’s the case with everything else in life, top performers spend more time on whatever they’re exceeding at than their average counterpart. This is the same with those who are top persuaders or influencers as they’ve spent more time developing, practicing, and refining their skills. Everyone’s looking for that magic bullet or secret pill that will immediately allow them to get instant results, however, there aren’t any. Sure there are certain tactics or strategies that one can employ but overall you can hardly call them a magic bullet. Whatever you want to get good at in life, you need to spend more time and attention on it. Want to be more fit? Go hit the gym more. Want to become wealthier? Go provide more value to others. Want to have better relationships? Go read some books on it.The highest achievers spent more time crafting what they did and said before making a request. They set about their mission as skilled gardeners who know that even the finest seeds will not take root in stony soil or bear fullest fruit in poorly prepared ground. They spent much of their time toiling in the fields of influence thinking about and engaging in cultivation—in ensuring that the situations they were facing had been pretreated and readied for growth. Of course, the best performers also considered and cared about what, specifically, they would be offering in those situations. But much more than their less effective colleagues, they didn’t rely on the legitimate merits of an offer to get it accepted; they recognized that the psychological frame in which an appeal is first placed can carry equal or even greater weight. Besides, they were frequently in no position to tinker with the merits of what they had to offer; someone else in the organization had created the product, program, or plan they were recommending, often in fixed form. Their responsibility was to present it most productively. To accomplish that, they did something that gave them a singular kind of persuasive traction: before introducing their message, they arranged to make their audience sympathetic to it. There’s a critical insight in all this for those of us who want to learn to be more influential. The best persuaders become the best through pre-suasion—the process of arranging for recipients to be receptive to a message before they encounter it. To persuade optimally, then, it’s necessary to pre-suade optimally.


2. When we think about influence and persuasion, we usually focus on just the tactics or the delivery of the message. However, influence and persuasion can only come AFTER trust has been established. I’m quite positive that you’ve experienced a similar situation before where some sketchy or shady salesperson has approached you about a product that you’re interested in purchasing. However, because of the salesperson’s off putting appearance or approach, you decide not to buy from this individual as you don’t trust him or her. Establish trust first before you try to persuade rather than the opposite.One practice stood out as central to his success. Before beginning his sales effort, he established an aura of trust with the family. Trust is one of those qualities that leads to compliance with requests, provided that it has been planted before the request is made. Despite the mountains of scientific reports and scores of books that have been written making that point and suggesting ways to achieve trust, Jim accomplished it in a fashion I’ve not seen in any of them. He did it by pretending to be a bit of a screwup. The sales sequence taught to all company representatives was fairly standard to the industry. After making small talk to build rapport, the prospects (usually a couple) were given a timed ten-minute written test of fire safety knowledge designed to reveal how little they knew about the actual dangers of a home fire. Then, at the completion of the test, representatives began the active sales pitch by demonstrating the alarm system and walking prospects through a book of materials documenting the system’s superiority to all others. Everyone else brought the book into the house from the start and kept it close by, ready for use. Not Jim, though. He would wait until a couple had begun taking the knowledge test, when he’d slap his forehead and say, ‘Oh, I forgot some really important information in my car, and I need to get it. I don’t want to interrupt the test; so, would you mind if I let myself out and back into your home?’ The answer was always some form of ‘Sure, go ahead.’ Oftentimes it required giving him a door key. I watched Jim make three presentations. Each time, his ‘forgetfulness’ surfaced in the same way and at the same point. On the drive back to the office later that evening, I asked him about it. Twice, he wouldn’t give me a straight answer, annoyed that I was pressing to discover his selling secret. But when I persisted, he blurted, ‘Think, Bob: Who do you let walk in and out of your house on their own? Only somebody you trust, right? I want to be associated with trust in those families’ minds.’


3. It’s human nature to believe that whatever we’re focused on is more important. This is also true that when something is focused on more, we believe that it’s more important just as it’s the case in videos and photos. When the focus is on a particular person, we believe that person is of greater importance. If we were to witness an interaction between two people but from two different angles, we would place a greater importance on the different people depending on the angle that we watch it at despite it being the same interaction. Taylor and her colleagues conducted a series of experiments in which observers watched and listened to conversations that had been scripted carefully so that neither discussion partner contributed more than the other. Some observers watched from a perspective that allowed them to see the face of one the parties over the shoulder of the other, while other observers saw both faces from the side, equally. All the observers were then asked to judge who had more influence in the discussion, based on tone, content, and direction. The outcomes were always the same: whomever’s face was more visible was judged to be more causal. Taylor told me a funny but nonetheless enlightening story about how she first became convinced of the power of the what’s-focal-is-presumed-causal phenomenon. In setting up the initial study, she arranged for a pair of research assistants to rehearse a conversation in which it was critical for each discussion partner to contribute about equally. Standing alternately behind first one and then the other person, she found herself criticizing whomever she was facing for ‘dominating the exchange.’ Finally, after several such critiques, two of Taylor’s colleagues, who were watching the conversation partners from the side, stopped her in exasperation, asserting that, to them, neither partner seemed to be dominating the conversation. Taylor reports that she knew then, without a single piece of data yet collected, that her experiment would be a success because the rehearsal had already produced the predicted effect—in her. No matter what they tried, the researchers couldn’t stop observers from presuming that the causal agent in the interaction they’d witnessed was the one whose face was most visible to them. They were astonished to see it appear in ‘practically unmovable’ and ‘automatic’ form, even when the conversation topic was personally important to the observers; even when the observers were distracted by the researchers; even when the observers experienced a long delay before judging the discussants; and even when the observers expected to have to communicate their judgments to other people. What’s more, not only did this pattern emerge whether the judges were male or female, but also it appeared whether the conversations were viewed in person or on videotape.


4. The words that you’re exposed to affect your behavior and who you become. This is why I believe it’s vital to protect yourself from who you listen to and who you have around you. This is why I’ve cut out negative people in my life and tune out music where the lyrics aren’t very positive despite having a catchy and upbeat tune. You want to make sure that the messages that you’re listening to are moving you forward toward your cause.Staying within the realm of violent language for the moment, consider the results of an experiment that exposed people to hostile words and then measured their subsequent aggressiveness. In the study, subjects completed a task requiring them to arrange thirty sets of scrambled words to make coherent sentences. For half of the subjects, when the words they were given were arranged correctly, they resulted mostly in sentences associated with aggression; for example, ‘hit he them’ became ‘he hit them.’ For the other half of the subjects, when the words they were given were arranged correctly, they resulted mostly in sentences with no connections to aggression; for example, ‘door the fix’ became ‘fix the door.’ Later, all the subjects participated in another task in which they had to deliver twenty electric shocks to a fellow subject and got to decide how painful the required shocks would be. The results are alarming: prior exposure to the violence-linked words led to a 48 percent jump in selected shock intensity.


5. We like and relate more to those who are similar to us; it’s just human nature. We believe that the more similar someone else is to us, the more we feel that they’re understanding of us and thus we become more open to them. When trying to influence or persuade someone, find similarities between you and that person prior to delivering your message. The more your audience sees a resemblance between the both of you, the more he/she will be open to your ideas. The recognition of what Eastern-world audiences value furnished South Korea’s government with a wise negotiating tactic to use in dealing with Afghan militants. It was a tactic that, although simple, had been almost absent from the approach of Western negotiators in Afghanistan up to that point and is still underused there by Western powers. In July 2007 the Afghan Taliban kidnapped twenty-one South Korean church-sponsored aid workers, holding them hostage and killing two as a savage initial show of will. Talks designed to free the remaining nineteen went so badly that the kidnappers named the next two hostages they planned to murder, prompting the head of the South Korean National Intelligence Service, Kim Man-bok, to fly in to try to salvage the negotiations. He brought a plan. It was to connect the South Korean bargaining team to something central to the group identity of the militants: their language. Upon his arrival, Kim replaced his head negotiator, whose appeals had been transmitted through an Afghan translator, with a South Korean representative who spoke fluent Pashtun. According to Kim, who won the hostages’ swift release, ‘The key in the negotiations was language.’ However, it was not because of any greater precision or lucidity of the verbal exchanges involved but because of something more primitive and pre-suasive. ‘When our counterparts saw that our negotiator was speaking their language, Pashtun, they developed a kind of strong intimacy with us, and so the talks went well.’


By Ryan Timothy Lee


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