Whether considering strategies in marketing or how to design an effective learning experience, it’s important to have a strong grasp of how to best connect with – and influence – your audience.
Dr. Robert Cialdini, best-selling author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion and more recently, Pre-suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade, is arguably the most influential person there is when it comes to the topics of influence and persuasion.
Dr. Cialdini is also Regents’ Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University and president and CEO of Influence at Work. Commonly referred to as the “Godfather of influence,” he has spent his entire career researching the science of influence making him an internationally known expert in the fields of persuasion, compliance, and negotiation.
In this episode of the Leading Learning podcast, Jeff talks with Dr. Cialdini about the core idea behind his new book, tips on how to influence people using “pre-suasion” techniques, and the impact the concept of unity has on influence.
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Read the Show Notes
[00:20] – Thank you to YourMembership, sponsor of the Leading Learning podcast for the first quarter of 2017. YourMembership’s learning management system (LMS) is specifically designed for professional education with a highly flexible and intuitive system that customizes the learning experience. YourMembership’s LMS seamlessly integrates with key systems to manage all of your educational content formats in one central location while providing powerful tools to create and deliver assessments, evaluations and learning communities.
[01:13] – The recordings from our recent Learning • Technology • Design™ (LTD) virtual conference (held March 1–3, 2017), are now available. We created LTD specifically for professionals in the business of continuing education and professional development and you can register to get access to all of the great content delivered at the live online event at ltd.leadinglearning.com.
[01:39] – Highlighted Resource of the Week – Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion and Pre-suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade., both written by Dr. Robert Cialdini, this week’s featured guest on the podcast. We urge listeners to read both of these books (if you haven’t already, or even re-read them) because they have tremendous implications for how we approach marketing and education/learning. See also our earlier post on key points from Influence.
[03:37] – Introduction and information about Bob.
Pre-suasion: The Big Idea
[04:35] – Can you share the core idea behind Pre-suasion with listeners in your own words? And, as you do, I’d love to hear your thoughts on what, if anything, makes the core idea of Pre-suasion so urgent or critical right now. Bob shares that the practice of pre-suasion involves arranging for an audience to be sympathetic to your message before they encounter it. He explains that if a communicator can change the state of mind/mindset of an audience so that it is consistent with the message they are yet to hear, when they do encounter the message, they will be more sympathetic and attracted to it.
[06:18] – Are there some practical tips you can offer to listeners on how they can approach asking questions in a way that is going to produce better answers? Bob says you can even go earlier than the question to think about what happens when people walk into a room. You need to consider how to put them in a state of mind that’s likely to be congruent with the message you want to send in that room. Research suggests people in a wine shop are more likely to buy wine from a particular country if they hear music from that country playing in the store. For those in the learning business, he suggests thinking about what type of music you should play when people are entering a meeting and says it should actually match the goals for the meeting. Doing this helps set a frame of mind that makes messages that fit that concept more agreeable. He also suggests thought should be put into what is showing on the screen of a presentation when people walk in the room. He points out there should be imagery that’s consistent with the goal of the meeting/session (not just the brand/logo of the organization).
[10:02] – Bob addresses what questions to ask, which he says depend on the goal you have for your message. He references a study about the idea of helpfulness in which researchers walked up to people on the street and asked them if they’d be willing to help out with a large marketing survey. Initially, only 29% said they would. However, if the researchers preceded that request for help with a pre-suasive question – such as, “Do you consider yourself a helpful person?” – 75% agreed to participate in the marketing survey. He references another study which asked people to try a brand new soft drink, not on the market yet, where people had to first give their email address – only 33% agreed. But when researchers preceded the question by asking, “Do you consider yourself an adventurous person?”, 77% said yes because they were just steered to their adventurous side. Bob adds that the questions don’t have to be verbal.
[14:03] – Often the purpose of an association meeting is to bring people together to learn. To increase the chances that learning will occur, is it as simple as posing a question (or even on flyers on a table) along the lines of, “Do you consider yourself a committed lifelong learner?” Would that work? Bob says that would work because when you ask that question, it sends people down a particular memory shoot where the target is times when they have been a committed learner. They will then be readied for information that’s consistent with that side of them that’s just been brought to prominence and consciousness.
[15:25] – In Pre-suasion you add a seventh principle of influence to the six you discussed in Influence – unity. So many of our listeners are from trade and professional associations – groups for which the idea of unity, or identity, is a driving force. Can you tell us about why you felt compelled to introduce this seventh principle and if you see ways in which it might be particularly useful to groups like trade and professional associations? Bob shares why he started thinking about it as a separate seventh principle of influence. He began to see evidence in the research literature in behavioral science of the power of the idea of joint membership of common identity in a particular category or group. People say yes to those who they see as of them not like them and all that’s necessary frequently, is to bring to surface that we do share an identity in some way. He also shares an example to illustrate this using a story from his own personal experience.
[19:45] – A further discussion about the concept of unity and how many trade and professional associations often take it for granted and don’t highlight it the way they could. Bob also shares the greatest surprise he got of all the research he studied related to Pre-suasion. This came from a study in which researchers showed pictures to a group: one-third saw a picture of somebody standing alone, another third saw one of two individuals standing apart, and the other third saw a picture of two individuals standing shoulder to shoulder in a cooperative, togetherness pose. For all of them, the researcher got up and pretended to spill a bunch of items onto the floor. Those who had seen the picture of the two people standing together were three times as likely to help the researcher pick the items up. The point that shocked him was that the subjects in the experiments were 18-month-old children.
[22:11] – For somebody who’s role is facilitating learning, what is it most critical to know and practice out of your ideas? Bob says to facilitate learning you have to move people in the direction of learning. The most critical lesson he’s learned to move people in any direction comes from an experience a colleague of his had who set out to find the single most effective influence strategy. He found that the most effective influence strategy was not to have a single influence strategy – you have to change your approach with every situation, goal, population, offer, etc. to align your messaging with the features of the situation rather than to try and make the situation conform to your favorite tactic of influence.
[24:58] – How do you go about engaging in your own lifelong learning? Bob reveals that the key for him is to not only stay current with the research/ideas in his particular arena, but to go outside of that arena to see what people are talking about at the peripheries of his interests. He stresses the importance of developing best practices outside of our own silos.
[26:33] – How to connect with Bob and find out more about his work:
Facebook: Team Robert Cialdini
[27:08] – Wrap Up
Thanks again to YourMembership for sponsoring this episode of the Leading Learning podcast.
A reminder that recordings from Learning • Technology • Design™ (LTD) the virtual conference we held specifically for professionals in the business of continuing education and professional development, are now available. You can get all the details and register for access to those recordings at ltd.leadinglearning.com.
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[29:09] – Sign off