I worked as a political figure for six years. Within these six years I used principles and strategies to lead my group.
As cheeky as it may sound, I read up on books that taught the ways of human nature in order for me to stay ahead of my game.
I read books such as: The Art of Seduction, The 48 laws of Power, The 33 Strategies of War and The Laws Of Human Nature, all by Robert Greene.
Recently, I came across a book that piqued my interest in the topic of power and influence.
This book is: “Influence: The psychology of persuasion” by Robert B. Cialdini, Ph.D
As I mentioned earlier, I am a sucker for books and information on human interaction and influence.
If this article makes you cringe because you cannot phantom playing power games.
Or you find this Article to be manipulative in nature, then exit now.
But just know that every day, these same principles are being used to influence you in one way or another.
And you would be lying to say that you don’t want power for yourself.
I believe it was Robert Greene that said “No one wants less power; everyone wants more.”
It’s the reason why you buy things, work at a job you hate, and are in a relationship you might want to get out of but for some reason you can’t.
The forces of these principles act on all of us everyday, including myself.
In this article, we are going to explore some Machiavellian psychology through Cialdini’s 7 principles of influence.
So without further delay, let’s talk about them!
Cialdini’s 7 Principles Of Influence
In his book, Cialdini mentioned 7 principles with an undercurrent of a few more concepts that provide another layer of complexity when it comes to human nature.
For now, we are going to stick to the 7 principles.
1. Have a reason why
When you want to get something from someone, such as cut the line in the grocery store, you will have a higher success rate if you provide a reason why.
For example, stating “excuse me miss, I double parked, do you mind if I step in front of you because I don’t want to get a ticket?”
This statement has a higher chance of success than if you were just to ask just to ask: “Excuse me miss, I double parked, do you mind if I step in front of you?
Spot the difference?
In his book, Cialdini provides a similar example he pulled from a study conducted by Harvard social psychologists Ellen Langer.
It goes “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the xerox machine because I’m in a rush?”
In this study, she found that those who inserted a reason into the request had a success rate of 90%, as opposed to those who had a 60% success rate who didn’t.
In other words, phrasing the request as “excuse me, I have five pages, may I use the xerox machine?” Didn’t have quite the same outcome as the former.
In a later study, Langer found that it wasn’t necessarily the reason per se but the word “because” that trigger the automatic response of compliance.
A similar phrase was used but keeping everything the same with the exception of “I’m in a rush,” produced a similar outcome.
The phrase was “Excuse me, May I use the xerox machine because I have to make some copies?”
This points to the deeper topic of conditioning and triggers that I’ll save for a later article.
2. Reciprocation through social obligation and reject & retreat
We as humans hate being indebted to others. The thought of owing something to another because they did us a favor generates untargeted discontent that we unconsciously act upon.
This is a fact that is exploited everywhere now a days, including social media influencers who provide value to their audience for an extended period of time, then ask for a sale periodically.
A great example of this is Gary Vaynerchuk and his book “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook.”
Which implores that you offer value up front, then ask for the sale on the back end or in the interim of your jabs.
Don’t get it twisted, this is not a bad thing, this is how it should be.
We should be offering value upfront THEN asking for something after we have done so.
Too many people think about “ME FIRST” rather than giving the value first.
Another way to render compliance through reciprocation is the “reject and retreat” strategy.
This is where you ask for something grandiose, intending to get rejected, then follow up with what you wanted all along.
You see examples of this when you walk down a grocery store aisle.
The store personnel places the expensive items at eye level, you reject it then move down lower to something cheaper, then boom, they make a sale.
Here’s a quote from a wise child “if you want a kitten, ask for a pony first.”
3. Commitment & Consistency
We tend to align our outer actions with our inner values and beliefs.
Think of this principle as one that illustrates the need for congruency. We must be congruent in our actions and thoughts or we will generate a certain level of cognitive dissonance.
Because we try to avoid cognitive dissonance, which is the holding of two contradictory beliefs or values, we must align our inner and outer actions.
Here’s a technique, get someone to do you a favor. When a person does this favor for you, despite them not liking you, they will soon come to like you.
Their rationale aligns with their action of doing you that favor.
I used this tactic many times on counterparts to throw them off. I would ask them for a simple, innocent favor. Over time I would escalate the frequency of asking favors of them.
Soon they started to like me. They thought “why else would I be helping this guy? I must like him.”
Here’s where it really gets squirrely? Because we try to avoid cognitive dissonance as much as possible, We will even go to the lengths of changing our inner beliefs because of the actions we have taken. This angle is much more sinister than the previous take illustrated.
When people want to join certain groups, they are made to jump through a series of hoops that gives them an opportunity to “prove” themselves to the group—in other words “we wanna know if you really bout that life.”
Here’s the thing, certain groups will have you commit small actions with little or no consequences. Then these actions get seemingly more and more dangerous, immoral, etc.
The more one engages in these actions, despite their values and morals not aligning initially, the more their values start to align with that of the group.
It works because when someone is forced to do something they can just say that they were pushed into doing it and it wasn’t a true reflection of who they are hence the reduction of cognitive dissonance.
But when they commit these actions of free will, no matter how sinister, they tend to align their inner morality with the action as to avoid any incongruity.
Of course this principle can be used for good, such as escalating commitment for charitable donations and such.
4. Social Proof
The undercurrent of this principle lies within using other people to illustrate that you have established influence over others.
You see this a lot in the fitness industry where personal trainers emphasize their credibility through posting videos of themselves training clients on social media.
We also see this a lot in marketing. Advertisers market to people by showing people who are similar to their target audience in their ads.
In the dating world, this also works to your advantage, especially with the use of social media.
Whether you realize it or not, social proof comes to your aid when it comes to dating when you show “proof” that you’re dateable via the amount of social interactions you have.
Pictures of you with a group of friends or the opposite sex signals that you are desirable, and in the case of men who are married, pre-selection is at their advantage.
Social proof works because we all have a need to belong. We have a deep desire to be respected as well. These are evolutionary traits that can be transcended but built into our beings nonetheless.
Social proof can work negatively because we tend to be a bunch of copycats.
During a case of emergency, the bystander effect is at play where we go the route of inaction instead of taking action to potentially save lives. Seeing others not take action, prompts us to do the same.
When there are conflicting social proofs, we have to choose who to follow suit with. This is where things like raw numbers, rapport and overall social status comes into play.
Social proof is related to the principle of liking as well as commitment and consistency in the sense that people tend to follow people they like.
I frequently used social proof and being likable as a way to play politics as a leader.
Liking is pretty straight forward and probably the most primitive out of all of these principles.
In sales, we get people to like us then we sell to them.
We get people to like us by having an authentic interest in them and their world. We like what they have going on in regards to who they are as a person.
Once we have this trust and rapport built with them, they are more likely to contribute to our cause.
This can go beyond sales into branding, charity, etc.
When you can show that you are similar to your audience in some way or even highlight their strengths, this increases YOUR likability.
Here’s the whole spectrum of things that lead to liking: similarity, praise, rapport, the halo effect, trust, giving, helping, cooperation, attractiveness, apologetic, exchange, listening, proximity, forgiveness and reciprocity
We tend to follow those who seem superior to us.
This principle coincides with the marketing principle that relies on sculpting perception.
But authority comes from something more tangible as well. More times than not, it comes from holding positions of power where people can actually tell you what to do.
In the internet content marketing world, authority is established through showing that we’re knowledgeable about our chosen field.
Going more concrete, authority is displayed through charisma, attitude, confidence, tone of voice posture and body language.
When we speak with conviction, are well groomed and well dressed, this also exerts a certain level of authority.
Think about how you confirm authority in others: they speak assertively about a topic, they are dress in such a way that solidifies our assumption about their authority, other people do what they tell them to do(social proofing is at work here), when we google them their credentials or other evidence of authority comes up.
Authority is a solid way to influence but it is not my most favorite because I’m not a fan of brute force “persuasion.”
We tend to want things now if we think it won’t be available in the future.
We see this in sales a lot. On e-commerce sites, we see those little tickers that countdown how long a sale will be held.
This operates on our being prone to anticipated regret, where we imagine ourselves in the future regretting not taking a certain action in this moment.
This is very powerful, especially when used on the over thinking types.
There is a strong emotional element that accompanies anticipated regret because we not only think about the logistical circumstances of our regret, we think about the emotions we will feel behind our regret.
Scarcity works in opposition to us as parents. When we forbid a our child from engaging certain activities, it makes the child more curious and convinced that they should actually engage in that activity.
Scarcity works in dating as well, playing hard to get or being off the market makes people want you even more.
The value of something goes up the harder it is to get. This is just something that is built into our psychological hard wiring.
These principles are enough for you to look at the landscape you are currently in with fresh eyes.
Look around at your work, school & family, especially your circle of friends and watch these principles at work.
Although we explored some Machiavellian examples, there’s no need for you to actually go ahead and use them.
Just merely being aware that these principles are constantly at work is enough for you to yield personal power that helps you navigate this complex, beautiful world.
Cialdini, R. (1984). Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, New York: Quill