The Strategist

Unconsciousness of Persuasion

03/31/2015 - 17:40

Not everybody is fortunate enough to have this gift. There is just a handful of gifted by nature people who know how to capture the audience's attention, how to win over the undecided and how to dissuade opposition. It is not about only the ease with which they use personal charm and eloquence to persuade others to do what they want, but the zeal with which people perform required tasks.

by B Rosen
by B Rosen
It is sad that these innate masters of persuasion are often unable to realize his remarkable gift or transfer it to others. This complex problem stalks managers of organizations where each day they need to figure out how to motivate and direct the work force with a high level of individualism. The principle of "I am the Head, and that's it" does not work. Even if this principle did not humiliate and demoralize all interested parties, it would still be out of place in the world of cross-functional teams, joint ventures and partnerships of various enterprises, shortly - the factors that blurs the lines of authority. Under these conditions, the talent of persuasion has a much greater impact on people's behavior than formal power structures.
How can managers acquire the talent of persuading if even most talented practices cannot pass it? Let us turn to science. Over the past fifty years, behavioral scientists conducted experiments that shed light on some of the techniques that make people give in, submit or change their point of view. Persuasion works when it affects a limited number of deep human motives and needs, and works very predictable way. Persuasion, in other words, is controlling basic principles that can be taught and that you can learn and apply.

1. People love those who loves them

Application: get real similarities and offer genuine praise.

If you want to influence people, make them your friends. How? Two factors are particularly important: the likeness and praise. Similarity brings people together. In one experiment, described in an article from 1968, participants stood up close to each other after they learned that they have a common view on political issues and that they share the same social values.

Managers can use the similarities to establish relations with a new employee, a head of another department or even a new boss. Informal discussions during the working day create the perfect opportunity to find at least one common theme. It is important to communicate early, as this will create a basis for trust and goodwill in subsequent conversations. It is much easier to get support for a new project, if you grip the people you are trying to convince to take part in this project.

Praise - another reliable method to bind people - flatters and disarms. Positive comments about the traits of another person, his attitude to work or on the execution of his work, in turn, create a sustainable sympathy and desire to follow the nice person. Along with the cultivation of a fruitful relationship, managers can also use praise to restore damaged or unproductive relationships.

2. People pay the same coin

Application: do as you would be done by.

People obey the universal tendency to treat people the way they are being threated. If you have ever caught yourself in that smile at the colleague just because he or she smiled at you first, you know how this principle works.

Charities rely on reciprocity in order to increase their funds. For many years, for example, Disabled American Veterans organization used just only one well-composed letter for asking for donations and received only 18% of responses to its appeal. But, when the organization started to insert a little gift in the envelope, the response rate had almost doubled and reached 35%. Gifts were extremely small, but the thing was not about what recipients received. It was the fact that they ever received something.

3. People follow a similar example

Application: equal in status people better convince each other.

As inherently social creatures, people rely heavily on cues from others about how should they think, feel and act. These intuitive assumptions were confirmed in practice. For example, in 1982 in the journal Journal of Applied Psychology, the following experiment has been described. A group of researchers went through the apartment in Columbia (South Carolina), and requested donations to charity campaign, showing a list of local residents who have already given money. The researchers found that the longer the list of donated, the more likely it will be made a new donation.

For people who were asked to make a donation, the names of friends and neighbors in the list were a form of social evidence on how they should proceed. If the list had unfamiliar names, the effect was not so strong. In an experiment conducted in the 1960s and described in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, residents of the city of New York was asked to return a lost wallet to its owner. The wallet was returned with great enthusiasm when they learned that another New Yorker has done the same. However, if the other was a foreigner, then enthusiasm almost disappeared.

Managers can make the following lesson from these two experiments: the persuasion can be extremely effective when it comes from the equal rank. Imagine that you are trying to modernize the process of your department. Group of veteran resists. Instead of independently convince employees of the benefits of modernization, ask an employee who has been working for a long time to support your initiative at a general meeting of the department. This fellow colleague is much more likely to persuade a group than the next performance superior. Presented in the simple manner, the effect works best horizontally rather than vertically.

4. People align with clear commitment

Application: people’s commitment must be active, public and voluntary.

Most people prefer to stick to their expressed views. Even a small commitment can powerfully affect future actions. Israeli researchers, whose paper was published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin in 1983, asked half the residents of a large housing complex to sign a petition in favor of a recreation center for disabled. It was noble, and the request was a small favor, so that almost everyone who had been interviewed, agreed to sign. Two weeks later, on National Day of donations for disabled people, all residents of the complex were asked to make a donation on the same occasion. Just over half of those who did not sign the petition, made a donation. But a surprising number of (92%) of those who signed the petition, gave money. Residents of the complex felt obliged to demonstrate their commitment to the project, because their choice was made on their own, publicly and voluntarily.

There is a striking empirical evidence indicating that the choice made independently and spoken aloud, written or otherwise proven irrefutably, much will guide more clearly future behavior than when the same choice is not outspoken.

The conclusion is obvious: if a manager wants to convince an employee act in a certain way, he should get written confirmation of this. Suppose you want the employee to submit reports in a timely manner. As soon as you will get him to agree, ask him to summarize its decision in a memo and send it to you. By doing so, you increase the chances of fulfillment of the obligation because, as a rule, people follow what they have written.

If you want a fundamental change in human behavior to be happened, you do not have to threaten them or push them for him to begin following the obligations. They may consider any change in their behavior as a result of intimidation, rather than a personal commitment. The best method is to identify something that people genuinely appreciate the work, and then tell them that your wish is compatible with the data values. This will serve as a basis to change his behavior. Since people make these changes themselves, it will continue to control their behavior, even when you do not keep an eye on him.

5. People obey experts

Application: prove that you are a professional; do not think that it is evident.

Surprisingly often, people mistakenly assume that others obviously recognize and evaluate their experience. That is exactly what happened at a hospital, where my colleagues and I were invited. Physiotherapists were upset that many patients stopped to perform the necessary exercises once discharged from the hospital. No matter how hard the doctors tried to prove that exercises are necessary to be constantly performed at home - and this is actually the only condition for the restoration of independent operation - their words did not reach the goal.

Conversations with some of the patients helped to define the problem. They knew about the education and experience of their doctors, but physiotherapists, which urged them to continue to practice at home. The question was only to make up for the missing information. We just asked the Director of the therapeutic department to hang all the diplomas and certificates of employees on the walls of classrooms. The result was stunning: the number of patients who agreed to do the exercises, jumped to 34%, and since then has not decreased.

Nothing had to be invented; we did not have to spend any time, energy, or money on this process. Professionalism of the staff was real: all we need to do is just to present it in the right light.

6. People always want more

Application: highlight the unique benefits and exclusive information

Goods and opportunities seem more valuable when they become less accessible. You are able to radically change the current course of action just by honestly telling a colleague that you can miss the last chance to talk with the boss before he left for a long vacation.

The power of "language of loss" was demonstrated in 1988 in a study of California homeowners described in the Journal of Applied Psychology. Half of the homeowners were told that if they insulate their homes, every day they will save a certain amount of money. The other half was told that if they do not insulate their homes, they will lose the same amount every day. Many more people have warmed their homes compared with those who were spoken the language loss. The same phenomenon occurs in the business: the decision of the head has much stronger impact if aired in the language of loss.

However, remember: you have to be sincere. If fraud is discovered (and it will happen), it will destroy any enthusiasm that your words initially caused.

original by Harnessing the Science of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini