WOW Word-Of-the-Week #371: Influence

September 14, 2011 by  

Influence – the power or sway used by others to get us to say yes.

Are you an easy target when asked to support a cause?  Do you have unwanted magazine subscriptions? Do you feel obligated to make donations, buy girl scout cookies, or help the school fundraisers, etc? Are you able to say no when called by a telemarketer? Do you have the ability to sway your customers, guests, clients or members to say yes when making a sale or recommendation?

Robert B. Cialdina, Ph.D. is the author of “INFLUENCE: The Psychology of Persuasion” and for the next seven WOW’s I am going to share ways that you can influence your customers, guests, clients or members to increase sales, as well as, how to not be swayed by someone trying to sell you something you may not want.

Dr. Cialdina writes, “Automatic stereotyped behavior is prevalent in much of human action, because in many cases it is the most efficient form of behaving, and in the other cases it is simply necessary. You and I exist in an extraordinarily complicated stimulus environment, easily the most rapidly moving and complex that has ever existed on this planet. To deal with it, we need shortcuts. We can’t be expected to recognize and analyze all the aspects in each person, event, and situation we encounter in even one day. We haven’t the time, energy, or capacity for it. Instead, we must very often use our stereotypes, our rules of thumb to classify things according to a few key features and then to respond mindlessly when one or another of these trigger features is present.”

“Civilization advances by extending the number of operations we can perform without thinking about them. Take, for example, the ‘advance’ offered to civilization by the discount coupon, which allows consumers to assume that they will receive a reduced purchase price by presenting the coupon. We expect coupons to do double duty. Not only do we expect them to save us money, we also expect them to save us the time and mental energy required to think about how to do it.”

“It is odd that despite their current widespread use and future importance, most of us know very little about our automatic behavior patterns. Perhaps that is so precisely because of the mechanistic, unthinking manner in which they occur. Whatever the reason, it is vital that we clearly recognize one of their properties: They make us terribly vulnerable to anyone who does know how they work.”

This week’s focus is on influence. Both how you are affected and swayed by others, as well as, how you sway your customers, guests, clients or members. When asked to support a cause you really don’t want to support how do you get out of it? Have you ever been caught off guard and agreed to something and later wishing you hadn’t? Have you ever bought something (mindlessly) and then realized afterwards it wasn’t really what you wanted?

Reader Responses

“My wife gives me a hard time because I am an easy mark for solicitors of most stripes. I will ALWAYS buy Girl Scout Cookies or those canisters of caramel corn from Cub Scout Troops, because I was once a Cub Scout. And there are times when young men, usually dropped off by a van in our neighborhood, will attempt to sell large bars of candy for $5 a piece for team uniforms. If I have the money, I will buy those. One thing I won’t do anymore is purchase magazine subscriptions. I did that once and was burned. When asked if I have money for a cause or fund I am suspect of, I will show the person my empty wallet. If they persist and ask for a check, I will tell them I have two young girls I am trying to support, and they are getting all of my money. I say that I am sorry, but I can’t this time. Now, whenever I see a person on the street with a plastic cup, I will put whatever change that I have in the cup or a few dollars, because I know that is probably all that person is going to have for food that day. Most of those people live from day to day in cities all across the country. As with any other business, there will always be charlatans in soliciting. Whenever I get a hard sell from one of them, my antennae go up and I just cut the conversation short. Many car salesmen are like that. However, I am polite. I do not slam doors or get into arguments. That does not pay. But those are a few of the ways that I deal with it. Thanks, Susan. Have a wonderful weekend.” – “Warrior” Joe