Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

When you hear people talking about their “soft skills” they’re talking about personality traits, social graces, communication skills, language, personal habits & friendliness.

If you’re in business in any capacity your soft skills are the ones you will use and need the most if you want to be successful.

Of all the skills you should be focusing on developing, your soft skills should be at the top of the list.

This brings me to one of my favorite books. Robert Cialdini’s, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion is one of the best books I have read when it comes to influencing or persuading people.

This book focuses on how you can use your soft skills to influence people and it’s based on Roberts 6 key principles of persuasion.

Personally, I find it amazing at how true these simple rules are and how easy they are in implement in many areas of your life, both offline in your relationships and online in your communication and content marketing.

Use it for Good, not Evil

With great power comes great responsibility…

These principles can be used for good but they can also be abused. I would hope that most people will keep their ethics top of mind when applying these principles.

There is a fine line between influence and manipulation and if you want to succeed in business for the long term, it’s best you stay away from manipulation as the karma police just might come after you.

Influence involves change, it’s the ability to move people in the desired direction where as manipulation is about deceiving people to get what you want.

What is Influence?

Here are Robert Cialdini’s 6 principles of influence

1) Reciprocity 

People tend to return a favor, thus the pervasiveness of free samples in marketing. The good cop/bad cop strategy is also based on this principle.

For example, you may donate money to a charity that gave you a flower in the street.

You may help a friend move because they helped you move. A painting company i read about gave it’s customers a potted flower after every job they completed and asked them for referrals. Most people returned the favor by sending new customers their way.

2) Commitment and Consistency 

If people commit, orally or in writing, to an idea or goal, they are more likely to honor that commitment because of establishing that idea or goal as being congruent with their self-image.

Even if the original incentive or motivation is removed after they have already agreed, they will continue to honor the agreement. For example, in car sales, suddenly raising the price at the last moment works because the buyer has already decided to buy.

3) Social Proof 

People will do things that they see other people are doing.

For example, in one experiment, one or more confederates would look up into the sky; bystanders would then look up into the sky to see what they were seeing. At one point this experiment aborted, as so many people were looking up that they stopped traffic.

This is about conformity and group think.

4) Authority 

People will tend to obey authority figures, even if they are asked to perform objectionable acts.

For example, pharmaceutical companies put actors in doctor uniforms in their ads to try a use an authority figure to influence the buyer.

5) Liking 

People are easily persuaded by other people that they like.

People were more likely to buy if they liked the person selling it to them. Sounds simple enough. Cialdini cites the marketing of Tupperware in what might now be called viral marketing is a great example of this.

The whole MLM/ direct sales industry is based on this principle.

6) Scarcity 

Perceived scarcity will generate demand.

For example, saying offers are available for a “limited time only” encourages sales.

You see this a lot in the web world when companies are launching a new service.

Pinterest, Gmail and other services used this principle when they allow only current users to invite friends to the service. When it’s not open to everyone, everyone wants in.

In Closing

These 6 principles are indispensable in business. If you do any form of sales, which I believe everyone does, you need to know and understand these principles.

For one, they will help you if you want to influence other. They will also be helpful when you start to realize when someone or some business is trying to influence you. Chances are good that they know and understand the 6 principles of influence.

If you want to dig in more, I suggest you buy the book.

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Do you have any examples of when you used or have seen these principles used?


  1. Joseph on December 5, 2012 at 11:07 am

    Hey Craig

    I a wrote a post on how you can apply these principles to salary negotiation:

    • craigcherlet on December 5, 2012 at 11:16 am

      Thanks Joseph

      Great post on the application of Dr. Cialdini principles.

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