Have you ever bought something or subscribed to a service that you even didn’t want? Meet john. He felt manipulated after buying his new vacuum cleaner and he was wondering why he said yes to the salesperson. One day he hears the doorbell and opens the door. The person introduces himself as the senior sales associate and tells him, “Do you wanna know why this is the last vacuum you’ll ever need?” He comes inside looks at one of the paintings and says, “ John, great painting, I have a similar painting in my home too.” After some friendly chit-chat, he finally shows the vacuum he is selling and mentions that three of John's neighbors have already bought one from him. Then he offered to leave the vacuum with John for the weekend to try it out. When he returned on Monday, he told John that he sold all his vacuum units over the weekend and the sample vacuum is the last unit he had in stock. And now John owns one of the vacuums that he had no plan to buy. If you’re like me, this probably has happened to you too. We are all being influenced in some ways without even realizing it. I always wondered how people get us to say yes. There are only 6 universal principles of influence that these people do.
Principle #1: Reciprocity: When we receive something, we feel obliged to give something back.
In pretty much all human cultures, People who take without giving tend to be judged negatively. If someone gives us something, a free sample, for example, we feel obligated to at least hear what they have to say. When I go to Costco, I love trying their free samples. But have you ever asked yourself why they give free samples? It’s because they know some people will feel a social obligation to buy the product after the smiling employee has given them a taste. An Indian supermarket sold 1000$ of cheese in a few hours by inviting customers to slice their own free samples. The customers who got their free sample felt obliged to buy. For ladies, if a guy takes her out to an expensive dinner, she feels obligated to go out with him again even though she weren’t that into him. People can use this principle against us. They may give us a gift that we even don’t want and then ask for a favor in return. Even unwanted gifts work. The Hare Krishna Society gave people on the street a free flower before asking for a contribution. Most people didn’t want the flower, but the volunteers were trained to never take it back. So people felt an obligation to give a dollar or two, before throwing the flower in the nearest garbage bin. With this strategy, they opened hundreds of centers. If a person starts to make requests after giving you a gift or favor, know that they are using this principle against you.
Principle #2: Consistency: We feel compelled to be consistent with what we have said or done in the past.
When we take a stand or make a choice, we feel compelled to behave consistently with our earlier commitment and to justify our own decisions. This principle is more like to be in work when you put an effort into something or you declare something in public. This is why it is recommended to write down or verbally state our goals, as we then stand a much greater chance of sticking to them. One study showed that if you call people on the phone, registered voters, and asked them if they will vote in the upcoming election, they of course say yes. And they now vote significantly more often than if they didn’t receive that phone call getting them to commit to that sort of thing. In another study, Households were called and asked to predict what they would do if they were asked to volunteer for three hours to collect for charity. Three days later, they were recalled and asked to collect for charity. This led to an increase in the number of volunteers by 700%.
We will act in ways that are consistent with our identity, beliefs, and values.
Principle #3: Social Proof: We copy the actions of other people
When we’re uncertain how to behave or react, we look to others for answers. We assume that if lots of people are doing something, it must be correct. This principle is so powerful that it can cause people to do things they personally disagree with. Every time that I go to amazon and find two similar products if one has only 5 good reviews but the other has 5000 good reviews, I always buy the product with more reviews. I guess you do the same too. It’s social proof in action. This shortcut helps make our lives easier. Sometimes I laugh at a joke that I didn’t even get just because all my friends are laughing. Basically, everyone else is doing it, so I’ll do it too. In bars and churches, they use this to get more tips or donations. They usually put some money inside the jar to tell you, look other people are giving money, so you should too. Have you ever wondered why some TV shows like Friends have fake laughter that is even kind of annoying? They use a fake laugh because it makes us laugh more often and longer. It sends the message that look everyone thinks this is funny so you should too. Studies show these laugh tracks make people rate shows as funnier.
Principle #4: Liking: Generally, we’re more likely to agree to someone’s request if we know and like the person.
One of the factors that cause us to like somebody else is how similar we feel to that person. So the individual, who on a youtube video, comes across as every person, as just like the audience he is speaking, will get that liking, will get that focus of attention, and will make the information more likely to be considered. We like people who are like us. This is why salespeople often try to create rapport by finding any hobbies and interests they have in common with their prospects. We also tend to like people who are more attractive. Studies found we automatically attribute traits such as talent, kindness, honesty, and intelligence to attractive people. We also like people who work with us, instead of against us. Working together towards a common goal and being “on the same side” is very powerful. Cops usually use this technique against people. The bad cop slaps up the villain. A good cop tells a bad cop to buy everyone a coffee out of his own money. This makes the villain think someone is working with him and trusts that cop to confess. Some salespeople use this principle against us. When a salesman approaches the person recommended, saying “your friend recommended this for you” it increases the chance they will make a purchase. Turning the salesman away is difficult as it’s like rejecting one’s friend.
Principle #5: Authority: We follow people in positions of authority
We are all conditioned to obey figures of authority. People can use this principle against us by associating themselves with symbols of authority like titles, clothing, and other status symbols. We often judge someone’s position by the clothes or uniform they wear. Some medical ads take advantage of this by hiring actors who play doctors on TV shows. They are not medically trained, but they wear the white coat that subconsciously conveys medical authority. In one experiment, 22 nurses in a hospital were phoned by someone claiming to be a doctor, who told the nurses to give a patient some medicine. The problem was that the man was not a doctor and the dose of medication he prescribed was deadly! Yet 95% of the nurses went to follow the directions. This demonstrates the power of automatic obedience to a title. That’s why hospitals have a 12% daily error rate. This is because, nurses and junior doctors will very rarely challenge the decision made by an authoritative figure, despite receiving potentially bizarre requests.
Principle #6: Scarcity: We want things more when they’re harder to get
Generally, we perceive something to be more valuable when it’s limited in availability. Numerous studies confirm that people are more driven by the fear of loss rather than the desire to gain. People have probably used this principle against you. When you go to a store and you see they have a limited-time offer. They say this product is in short supply and cannot be guaranteed to last long. Sometimes they may tell you that you have to buy NOW or the price will go up very soon. They used this technique against me when I was buying my car. Sometimes they may even lie and tell you the product you want is out of stock and Because of its lost availability, it suddenly jumps in attractiveness. And then they say let me go and check again and come back and tell you they have only one product left. When this happens have no doubt that they are using this principle against you.
Each of these principles offers shortcuts to decision-making, but can also be used against us if we’re not mindful. You can use the insights from this book to positively influence others while protecting yourself from deception. Some say this book is “dangerous knowledge” because it shows how people are often misinformed and manipulated. That may be true, but I think it’s better for more people to be aware of these “weapons of influence” than continue living in the dark.