You’ve probably heard the expression “do unto others as you would have others do unto you”. The concept of giving is central to most social, religious and ethical philosophies. Far from being altruistic, however, Robert Cialdini, points out that giving is the best way to influence others to give to you.
“The tendency among humans is that we want to give back to those who have given to us,” says Cialdini, the author of “Influence: Science and Practice” and a renowned expert on persuasion. This tendency toward reciprocity is one of the six universal principles of influence.
Now Regents’ Professor of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University and Distinguished Professor of Marketing in the W. P. Carey School, Cialdini has spent much of his career closely examining what he calls the “persuasion professions”: marketing, sales and other vocations that rely on getting people to do what you want. But reciprocity and influence aren’t confined to silver-tongued salesmen:
“This is not just universal to the influence professions that I examined,”says Cialdini . “This is a tendency that is universal throughout all of the cultures of the world.”
In his decades studying persuasion and influence Cialdini has tested how poeple respond to influence both in controlled laboratory settings. His studies clearly point to the idea that the capacity to influence isn’t accidental or good luck, but rather results from a predictable set of behaviors and human responses.
This isn’t all academic though, Cialdini has spent much of his research undercover working in the field with professional influencers – sales and advertising executives, recruiters, fundraisers, political lobbyists and cult leaders – to improve science’s understanding of influence and human behavior.
From his clinical and practical research Cialdini has distilled that art and science of successful persuasion down to six basic principles, each of which relies on a specific, distinct psychological response among those being influenced. By teasing out these principles and applying them Cialdini says that we can both improve our own persuasion skills and become more aware of when others are trying to influence us.