“Persuasion is often more effectual than force”- Aesop

The ability to influence and persuade, is perhaps, one of the most coveted and desirable qualities which every human crave. We, in every walk of life from personal exchanges to commercial transactions need to persuade others to agree to our idea or perspective, to purchase our products or services or to say yes to any request of donation, assent, votes or favour.

We all want to be a skilled persuader, influencer and want to defend ourselves from compliance tactics used by others professionals or individuals but we all act on some deep rooted behavioral instincts and patterns which entails a fixed response in almost every individual and without recognizing our own vulnerabilities we cannot succeed.

One of the best-selling books on the art of compliance, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion written by Prof. Robert B Cialdini explains the art of persuasion in 6 broad principles i.e. reciprocation, commitment & consistency, social proof, liking, authority and scarcity. Every principle is subtly applied by companies, marketers, professionals and after reading all these principles, you can use the art of persuasion as it will no longer be a mystery.

Principle of Reciprocation

Do you also feel indebted when someone do a favor to you and do you try to return the obligation by reciprocating in future? When someone gives you a gift on your birthday or invites you to a party and you try to return the favour by giving him the gift on his birthday or you invite the same person to your party. If the answer is affirmative, then most probably you are a decent and respectable person as per the norms of the society.

The general rule of thumb is when someone does us any favour, then by virtue of Reciprocity rule, we become obliged to return the favor in future. The favour creates a sense of indebtedness and obligation within us, that the only way to redeem ourselves is to return the favor. For exploiters, it becomes a weapon of influence and a subtle compliance tactic. This Reciprocity rule is the outcome of human cooperation and socialization in a society and as a society norm, if you fail to reciprocate, then you fear being labelled as a mean or ungrateful person.

The application of this rule is so pervasive in inter-personal relationships and commercial exchanges, that for someone who recognizes the power of this rule by doing a small and unsolicited favor, can take a bigger advantage without you even knowing whether you intentionally did any act or you just succumbed to his request. Once you understand the wide implications of this rule, you will start believing that nothing is free in this world be it gift from salesman, free sample from marketers, freebies from political parties or any favour from any person who want to gain from you in near future.

Principle of Commitment and Consistency

Let’s try to understand this principle through widely acclaimed experiment.  Some researchers, posing as volunteers campaigning for Road Safety, approached some households in California and requested the homeowners to install a large public service billboard in their front lawns depicting a message of DRIVE CAREFULLY on the billboard. The request, as expected, was refused by a great majority of 83 percent of people but a particular group of house owners accepted the request and offered the use of their front lawn for installing bill board.

The prime reason for the acceptance by that particular group with the request has something to do what happened about two week earlier with them. Two week earlier, as a part of experiment, a different volunteer worker approached this particular group with a small and trifling request and asked them to accept and display a little 3 inch square sign that read BE A SAFE DRIVER on their front door which they accepted.

The conclusion of the research was by making a small commitment to Safe Driving by accepting to display that 3 inch square sign, it changed their self-image and they saw themselves as public spirited citizens who acted on their civic principles and when two week later when they were asked to perform another public service by displaying the bigger Drive Carefully sign they complied in order to be consistent with their newly formed self-image two weeks ago.

The principle implies that once we have made a choice or taken a stand, we will encounter internal pressure to behave consistently with that commitment because we are wired to think that internal consistency is the hallmark of logic and intellectual strength and there is a natural tendency to behave in ways that are stubbornly consistent with the stand.

We fool ourselves from time to time in order to keep our thoughts and beliefs consistent with what we have already decided or done. This is a potent weapon of influence as it can turn citizens into public servants or prospects into customers by making them believe that way. There is one of the reasons why promotional technique wants us to endorse their products on sharing platforms for the sake of winning any promotional offer, services or products are offered on free trials etc., as their main goal is to make us believe and behave in a certain way.

Principle of Social Proof

We want to go to the restaurant in which there is lot of crowd, we want to buy products which has the highest rating, want to see videos with maximum views, want to buy best-selling products or want to check trending news etc. It is totally a normal human behavior as we are unsure of ourselves and when the situation is unclear, ambiguous and uncertain, we are most likely to look around for clues and want some sort of acceptance of our actions.

Our deep rooted tendency to assume that an action is more correct and appropriate if others are doing it is exploited in variety of things. Advertisers love to inform us that their product is selling fast and one of the favorite products of customers used by millions of people, influencers uses bots to increase traffic on videos and likes on pages, websites show testimonials on their page or in comedy shows, people are forced to laugh to produce social proof effect

We need to become more sensitive and recognize the situations where the majority or crowd is mistaken and not acting on their conscious and rational beliefs of their own but on external pressures. We should always make any belief or take any action on the basis of merits only.

For the sake of the brevity of the article, rest 3 principles will be covered in next article, till then just contemplate the wide implications of these principles and how you can use these or defend yourself next time!

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