The art of winning people over and mobilising support – Pallavi Pinakin

Since its publication in 1984, Dr. Robert Cialdini’s book titled Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion has been the definitive authority on the principles of subtly achieving one’s desired goals through interaction with other people. Influence and persuasion are incredibly powerful skills to possess, be it in social situations or in the workplace.

Learning how to wield these tools not only helps one become more influential and persuade people to take specific action, or purchase a product or service, it also helps safeguard oneself against manipulation from others in the world of business.

Cialdini explores the idea that since decision making can be a tiring and confusing process, individuals use rules of thumb to decide on a course of action. These rules can be understood and adopted by you to encourage others to take certain steps.

These are his principles of persuasion and influence, and some suggestions on how best to deploy them in the workplace.

RECIPROCITY If you do something for someone without conditions or expectations, that person will be far more inclined to return the favour. Humans value balance and equality, and don’t like feeling that they owe others. Reciprocity is why gifts and free samples are so compelling in soliciting follow-up sales.

One can harness the power of this principle in a professional setting by helping others, publicly praising colleagues and offering free content, products or services (up to a limit, of course!) to prospective clients. Though counterintuitive to how business is usually done, this methodology focusses on the approach of giving first and receiving later.

SCARCITY The principle of scarcity suggests that the less of something there is, the more valuable it becomes in the eyes of people. A handbag becomes more valuable when it is a limited edition and folks are more inclined to buy a product on the spot after reading ‘only five pieces left at this price!’

You can greatly increase people’s interest in your service by reducing its availability or at least creating a perception of scarcity, be it by announcing rapidly depleting stocks of a product or adding time pressure to the purchase of an item.

Customers are usually unaware of their preference for a scarce product; but as soon as they’re made aware of what they stand to lose if they miss out, they tend to be much more inspired to buy it.

AUTHORITY We instinctively gravitate towards listening to individuals who are experts in their fields as their credibility lends them great authority on the subject matter. We trust dentists in white coats to sell toothpaste to us in the same way that we trust lawyers with certificates on their office walls.

True authority can’t be self-declared however, or come solely from titles or positions – one’s prowess and experience have to be demonstrable and verifiable.

Consequently, one of the best ways to promote a sense of authority is by asking others to recommend you to prospective clients or higher-ups. People will be more likely to trust you if others have already spoken highly about your skills.

TWIN CONCEPTS Human nature is drawn to the twin concepts of consistency and commitment because we generally like to stay true to our self-image. If one believes oneself to be a generous person, he or she will continuously perform acts perceived to be in line with that particular personality trait.

Professionally, this tendency can be utilised by asking someone for a small favour. Once a person has committed to you in the smallest of ways, the consistency principle will encourage them to act on that sense of obligation time and again in increasingly greater ways.

Rather than asking for a promotion or additional resources straight up, try to ask for a small favour from a higher-up first, then gradually move on to requesting what you genuinely need.

LIKEABILITY We’re far more likely to do something for someone we favour compared to someone we don’t care for or about. To employ this principle successfully to your advantage, you must go beyond being simply cooperative or nice.

According to Cialdini, being relatable is the most important aspect of likeability.

This is the idea behind advertisements featuring individuals who appear to be consistent with the product’s target market. So try to find common ground with your colleagues and clients, and build rapport with them.

CONSENSUS Being social animals, human beings seek social proof, and find comfort in conformation and social norms. This is why we would rather eat at a crowded restaurant than an empty one even though service will be obviously slower.

Announcing the popularity of your product, service or idea can work wonders – because people will auto­matically trust the fact that many others already endorse it.