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Why do we say yes?

In other words, "how can we make people say yes to us, to our offers, to our projects, to our ways of seeing things?"

It is called persuasion. Persuasion is powerful. It plays with our emotions in a very subtle way. Well-applied it can move masses, it can increase sales, it can change people's perception of the world.

It is powerful! Therefore, it should be used wisely and for the good. Otherwise, it becomes manipulation.

The American Psychologist, Dr. Robert Cialdini, has devoted much of his career to finding the answer to these questions.

He then identified six universal principles that explain how you can persuade a person to say "yes" to your suggestions. Here they are:

  1. Reciprocity: if you want to get something, give something. In this order. Give first, then ask for what you want. Reciprocation creates a psychological sense of obligation on us. The archeologist Richard Leakey says, "we are human because our ancestors learned to share their food and their skills in an honoured network of obligation."

  2. Authority: we tend to follow the advice of experts; a doctor wearing a white coat; a professional displaying his certificates and achievement in a wall, or website, and alike. Tip: in your area of expertise, find out what the "white coat" is.

  3. Consistency: walk your talk. We look up to people who are consistent in their words and behaviours. A good personal consistency is highly valued in our culture. It is at the heart of logic, rationality, stability and honesty. It provides us with a reasonable and gainful orientation of the world. It helps us to build habits that will help us to "survive". However, "rigid consistency" refrain us from seeing other perspectives, sieging us of reason, which can lead us to behave, and take decisions, in ways that are clearly contrary to our own best interests. It is a challenge to leave "old habits" and build new ones.

  4. Consensus: it is about social proof. Humans are herd people, pack animals. We do what others do. The principle applies especially to the way we decide what constitutes correct behaviour. The problem comes when we begin responding to social proof in such a mindless and reflexive fashion that we can be fooled by partial or fake evidence. Tip: if you want someone to do something, show others doing it. This is why testimonials are powerful.

  5. Scarcity: we all want what is rare and special, and we are also afraid of losing what we have. Tip: when trying to persuade people to say "yes" to your offer, it might not be enough to talk about the benefits only; you also need to point out what people will lose if they don't take your offer. We are all scared, and uncomfortable with change. We usually feel that we will lose something. Therefore, you need to tell, and show, people what they will lose if they fail to take action, to move.

  6. Liking: we like people who are similar to us, who compliment us, who cooperate with us towards a common goal. This is the most universal principle: people prefer to say yes to people they like.

As per Dr. Robert Cialdini, each of the six principles has an intrinsic ability to produce a distinct kind of automatic, mindless compliance from people, that is, a willingness to say yes without thinking first. The evidence suggests that the ever-accelerating pace and informational crush of modern life will make this particular form of unthinking compliance more and more prevalent in the future (well, I believe we have enough examples around us, don't we?). And he continues, it will be increasingly important for the society, therefore, to understand the how and why of automatic influence.

After researching on the six principles of persuasion, and reading Dr. Cialdini words I transcribed here, I find the urge to go deeper in the subject so I can understand and learn how and why automatic influence works, and how to apply it for the good.

Saying that, I'll bring this topic in more detail in our next The Monthly Coach next Friday, March 25th. Join me if you want to learn more.


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