Can we resist the pull of influence?

By Sue Hornblow, Key Performance Group

Last week, in Wellington… I wandered past a book shop.. RELOCATING read the sign.. 50% OFF EVERYTHING. The first time, in a hurry I walked past. The second time, now with time to spare, I noticed the shop was busy and not wanting to miss a bargain…I wandered in “just to look”. Half an hour latter with a bag of books and cards I exited.  One book I picked up had no price, it looked interesting, I made a note to myself that I would buy it at a certain price… I paid four times that amount!!  Reflecting latter I thought about how I had known but not been able to resist the influence of that sale. Every day we are influenced in this way and even when we are aware it is very difficult to resist.

So what happened here?  I had acted exactly as I am programmed to act according to Robert Cialdini, the author of The Phsychology of Influence and Persuasion.  He identifies six of what he calls “weapons of influence” that   result in compliant behaviour.  I succumbed to at least three, namely

Social proof:  lots of people were in the shop.. it must be a good sale

Scarcity:  the feeling that if I did not act now the opportunity would be lost

Commitment and consistency: I picked up that un- priced book, I carried it around the shop, it would take quite an effort to put it down.

You will be familiar with these tactics. Marketers and sales people know and use our vulnerability to these human traits, but even though we recognise them they are very hard to resist. Sometimes they are employed more subtly.  Influence can of course be exerted ethically or otherwise.

With an understanding of how these strategies work, we can use them ethically in our own day to day business to help get buy into change initiatives, to build cooperation and collaborative team work, achieve outcomes and improve results.

For completeness the other compliance strategies are liking, authority and reciprocation. I will discuss these in a future blog.

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One thought on “Can we resist the pull of influence?

  1. You are absolutely right. Few days ago I had such experience like you. I went to a discount shop of Bata to purchase my jogging shoe. When I left the shop I had a bag full with three pairs of shoes!

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