Influence: Science and Practice

Book by Robert b. Cialdini, Review by Denice Moffat

Influence is a book written with controlled Psychological research. I loved the first sentence of the introduction (but I didn’t write the book.)

“I can admit it freely now. All my life I’ve been a patsy. For as long as I can recall, I’ve been an easy mark for the pitches of peddlers, fund-raisers and operators of one sort or another. . .with personally disquieting frequency, I have always found myself in possession of unwanted magazine subscriptions or tickets to the sanitation workers’ ball.”

Actually once at a veterinary continuing education event this one company fed us up and gave us drinks. I ended up purchasing 100 toothbrushes you could put on your finger to use to brush your dog’s teeth with! It took me about 5 years to get rid of those things and I gave most of them away! How embarrassing.

I was introduced to this book when I took the One Minute Millionaire course a few years back. So many people talked about this book that I felt compelled to buy it. Boy, did I learn what a patsy I was. This book will tell you every trick a salesperson uses to get you to purchase their product. I write this book review in an attempt to educate those of you who are new to alternative medicine.

I know there are good and not-so-honest people in every field but it seems like in the alternative medicine field we have more than our share of medicine shows and bogus products that come and go. I’d have to say from experience that most of the networkmarketing company products rely on the placebo effect with you “sponsor” constantly pumping you up with very convincing testimonials of how great their products work. So let’s get some education under your wings and maybe that will save you a few bucks and cut out the time it takes to get you well shall we?

I can’t possibly hit all the different ways that people try to manipulate you but here are a few:

Providing a reason: When we ask someone to do us a favor,  we will be more successful if we supply a reason. People like to do things for a reason.  Example: “May I use the Xerox machine first? I’ve only got two pages and I’m in a rush.”

Expensive must be good: Price is the trigger for quality. Example—Those people on a vacation where turquoise jewelry was featured mostly purchased the higher priced pieces because they must be better than the lower-priced pieces. Does that mean inexpensive must be poor quality?

Discount coupons: but are they? One tire company found that mailed-out coupons which, because of a printing error, offered no savings to recipients produced just as much customer response as did the error-free coupons that offered substantial savings.

If an expert says so, it must be true. Oh, and I’ve determined that the farther away from the client you live the bigger expert you are. And the closer you live—well, Jesus didn’t get any respect in his home town either.

The contrast principle: Clothing stores instruct their sales personnel to sell the costly item first. If they sell you a high-priced suit first the sweater or blouse to go with it doesn’t seem as much. Studies show that you’ll almost always pay more for whatever accessories you buy if you buy them after the suit purchase than before.

The Set-up Property: Another example of contrast would be a real estate company maintaining a couple of run-down houses. The houses are not intended to be sold but only to be shown so that the genuine properties in the company’s inventory will look way better by comparison. Hmmm. I’ve fallen for this one before. Darn.

Automobile dealers use the contrast principle as well. They’ll sell you a car and THEN present the options which don’t seem like so much after the thousands of dollars you’ve already signed up for in payments.

The Rule of Reciprocation: A very potent rule. It says that we should try to repay, in kind, what another person has provided us. By virtue of the reciprocity rule we are obligated to the future repayment of favors, gifts, invitations and so. Does anyone get those “free” address labels in the mail as they ask for a donation? What about those 10 free trees for the $10 donation for that tree organization. Or the car salesman asks you if you’d like a coca cola before he asks you to buy something. Giving something small greatly increases the chances that when they ask you for something you’ll feel obligated to fulfill their request. And if the favor is uninvited or they do something nice for you and it surprises you the chance of them getting something from you is even greater. Often people won’t ask for help if they cannot reciprocate the favor. This rule is so embedded in our society that if you give something and don’t expect anything in return often you are not liked.

Rejections-then-Retreat: One way to increase the chances someone will comply is to ask of them something  you know they will reject. Then as for what you want. Most likely they’ll feel bad for rejecting you in the first place so they are more likely to give in to the second request.

A friend recommended: Door to door salespeople increase their sales by being able to mention the name of a familiar person who “recommended” they call on you.

Commitment and consistency: One social psychologist did a study in Bloomington, Indiana. He called people as part of a survey and asked them if they would volunteer to go door-to-door collecting money for the Red Cross. Since it was just a survey and the people didn’t want to seem cheap or hurt the surveyors feelings they said they would.  A week later when the Red Cross came door-to-door asking for volunteers they noted a 700% increase in volunteerism. The public had already committed to the work just days before and now felt obligated to hold up to that commitment.

Ever sign a petition? What do they do with all those names? Well, sometimes they don’t do anything with them. But, by signing the petition you’ve committed to the group’s position and will be more willing to take future steps that are consistent with that commitment. And people usually live up to the commitments they put down on paper. Also if you make a public commitment “My name is Sally and I’m a food-a-holic and I will lose 20 pounds by December 16th” or whatever that public announcement is you’ll be much more apt to complete that commitment.

People who go through a great deal of trouble or pain to attain something tend to value it more highly than people who attain the same thing with a minimum of effort.

Social proof is a great and sometimes awful motivator. When certain types of suicides or murders are highly publicized there are higher percentages of people who also die but it may not be through the same methods. How strange. Monkey see, monkey do. Example: Reverend Jim Jones’s cult and the mass suicide by drinking cyanide Kool-Aid. In general society thinks that if a lot of people are doing the same thing, they must know something that we don’t. Sometimes it just doesn’t benefit us to be Sheeple or Lemmings you know?

The Friendly Thief: by providing the hostess with a percentage of the take some network marketing corporations arranges for its customers to buy from and for a friend rather than from an unknown salesperson. Two examples that come to mind are Tupperware parties and Pampered Chef parties.

The Endless Chain method: Some sales people mention one of your friend’s names as having purchased product. They then use your name on the next friend (that you’ve referred them to).

The Law of Similars: Studies have demonstrated that we are more likely to help those who dress like us, have similar backgrounds, similar interests, age, religion, politics and smoking habits. In addition, many sales training programs now urge trainees to “mirror and match” the customer’s body posture, mood and verbal style to get positive results in sales.

Compliments: Often when people flatter us or claim affinity they want something.

Part of the Family, extended family, club, clique, team, group or blog: When success resulted from mutual efforts, it becomes especially difficult to maintain feelings of hostility toward those who have been a part of those efforts. Garry Smalley, one of my favorite relationship experts put it this way, “Crisis brings a family together.”

Conditioning and association: Just the presence of the visa/mastercard symbol at a charity function increases people’s spending. There is an association with trust and some symbols. That’s why big companies try to get celebrities to promote their products as well.

Blind obedience to authority pressure: When a physician makes a clear error, rarely will one lower in the hierarchy think to question it—precisely because of conditioning. Each person in the hierarchy knows their job and they do it.

Letters of recommendation:  You’re more apt to get the job if the recommendation letter states one unflattering comment.

Time Limits: People are more apt to act if time is running out and if there is a call to action to ensure the greatest deal they will get. Some companies train their sales people to say, “It’s company policy that even if you decide later that you want this machine, I can’t come back and sell it to you.” (I’ve also read that Blood Type O people are more apt to purchase things in a hurry. They jump on instant gratification more readily than other blood types.)  As opportunities become less available we lose more freedom and people hate that so they feel nudged to make a purchase. I once purchased a bunch of oak furniture from a place that was going out of business. My boss at the time later shared that this company had been going out of business for three years now and had used the same “final days” sign for that entire time.

Scarcity tactic: Around the year 2000 I was exposed to many clients who had fallen prey to the scarcity game. “Do you have a generator? Do you have a winter coat? Do you have several pounds of butter? Toilet paper? Years supply of food? Guns and plenty of ammunition? Because the roads are shutting down, there will be a truckers strike, they won’t be making winter coats any longer. . .” on and on it went every week. One woman had a semi-load of toilet paper in her basement and several shelves of Romance novels (for people who would be running out of toilet paper that she would not be providing toilet paper to). “I’m not giving them MY toilet paper” she said. “They can use the pages in these books to wipe themselves. Imagine.

There are a few characters out there like who are always running from the government  because they know too much and their families are in jeopardy and they have the cure for some hard-to-conquer disease and the “government” is after them. They have to paint their windows black to people can’t see in and find them although they seem to be running a business and making good money at it somehow often with the help of a trusted friend who sees and believes in their vision for saving the planet.  This makes their products really expensive because of all the offices they have to open and then shut down in the middle of the night and move to a safer spot. Cancer therapies are really prone to this kind of tactic, so beware of the high-priced therapy touted by someone whose life is in danger because it’s SOOO good.

The Take Away principle: It’s amazing how people react when you threaten to take something away from them—even if they’ve never or rarely use an item. This principle is why many people get more for their junk by selling it through an auctioneer.

Well, those are a few things I gleaned from the book. How many have YOU fallen prey to? Isn’t it crazy?  Mr. Cialdini writes in an engaging manner with lots of examples and personal stories. I’m sure you’ll see yourselves or your children in some of them as having been taken advantage of. I’m holding that you have not used these principles on other people. It just doesn’t seem right.