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The Six Pillars Of Persuasion Knowledge That Could Save Your Pocketbook

Jul 7, 2008
Have you ever purchased something and then immediately realized you wish you hadn't, or tried to figure out how that salesperson at the store or door got you to purchase something you never really wanted in the first place?

This recently happened to a friend of mine named John. You see, he recently got his carpets cleaned for free. After having hung up the phone and trying to figure out what he got himself into when he signed for the free carpet cleaning he knew something was up because one never gets something for free, not from a total stranger anyway.

Those nagging doubts were nothing compared to the regretted purchase of a $2,000 vacuum that left him scratching his head thinking. "Now how did that happen?" Especially when he was not even thinking about purchasing one before he had his carpets shampooed for free.

It got me to thinking about the power of persuasion in its many different forms. Has this ever happened to you? From time to time we all find ourselves buying something we hadn't intended to, or coming home with something we really didn't want.

Most of the time we are blissfully unaware of the forces that motivate us to purchase things we had not intended to, and it is a driving force behind today's need to have it society that is living beyond their means. However, it can also help salespeople make their living.

History, society, and its cultures have conditioned people to be vulnerable to six highly specific catalysts for behavior motivation or change. They are ingrained so deeply that they are readily used for persuasion by people of all sorts.

A comprehensive analysis performed by Dr. Robert Cialdini in is publication "The New Psychology of Modern Persuasion," states that these tactics "can make us unwittingly switch from objection to acceptance to compliance regardless of our intent."

Behavioral Occurrences in Nature and Society

These fixed action patterns are nearly mechanical and commonly seen in mating rituals of different species. Commonly an activation trigger is a commonly threaded feature. This is usually a specific attribute that compels the other to react. This may include direct eye contact, color patterns, or pre-behavior cues.

In an experiment with turkeys, hens cuddled fake cats with bared teeth and fangs simply because they emulated the cheep-cheep sound like a chick. The distress cal overrode all the other instinctual cues. Even in face of danger the hens tried to console their "chicks" due to a strong instinct to preserve the species.

This stereotypical behavior is useful due to its efficient form and automatic form of behavior patterns in a complex environment.

Attempting to decipher every observation on the matters of behavioral persuasion is impractical and time consuming. It could become time consuming and paralyzing. Therefore, shortcuts need to be made. Stereotypical rules-of-thumb can help greatly to advance us each day through the rigors placed on us by the media. Then, when we encounter these, we could respond accordingly. Then these socially acceptable and accepted behaviors could work out well for us.

Humans, unfortunately, are just as susceptible as turkeys to behavioral modification triggers. Often time these triggers can be activated by "compliance professionals," such as sales people and the media. It would be efficient to have the six triggers that compel us to act in a certain way committed to our knowledge base so we can understand what makes us react in a certain way given each situation.

The First: Reciprocation

Reciprocity is a rule about repayment. We should try to repay what others have provided to us in some way. It says that we are obligated to return compensation for favors, gifts, invitations and even in conversations. It is a crucial aspect to species survival and to progress of civilization. Its meaning is evident; we can give things away without fear of loosing resources and thus protect, or even increase resources.

We can see evidence in this from the phrase "much obliged" which stems from the more natural "thank you." Cultural studies show that there is not a culture on this planet that does not adhere to this rule. It keeps us from appearing to be moochers, ingrates, or appearing lazy.

There are two major examples of this that can be readily seen in society. One famous one is that of the Hare Krishna religious sect. After failed attempts to raise adequate contributions they resorted to different tactics. They adopted reciprocity and gave out flowers to passerby. After refusing to accept the flowers back, they then requested a donation. This approach helped strangers overcome their fear, distrust, and dislike for the sect. their donations soon skyrocketed.

A second form can be seen in another group for disabled veterans. After going door to door requesting donations they son decided to try reciprocity. They simply gave home owners a lapel pin and asked it they would mind wearing it for a few days. Then they moved on to giving them free yard sign as a method of support. Finally, they came back around and requested donations. Their donations rose by over 75% that year.

The Second: Commitment and Consistency

This trigger comes from a desire to appear to be consistent with our previous actions or implied actions. Once we have made a choice or taken a stand on an issue or topic, we inevitably think we must comply with various pressures that would cause us to comply with our earlier commitments. This would then, justify our earlier decisions. We would strive to base all future actions on this emotion rather than clearly thought out, rational actions based on logic.

We can best see this behavior in action at casinos, race tracks, and other sources of gambling. Before the first bet is placed, usually a lot of thought goes into the decision. Mostly the bettor will try to understand if the best choice was made. After the first bet has been made there is no going back. The need for a consistent action and consistency of behavior brings the bettor into a pattern that matches the initial action. The bettor then will continue with the same pattern since they feel justified, or they feel they must justify their previous actions.

Many times we fool ourselves into thinking that we must continue to act in a certain way so as to be consistent with our previously held belief system and patterns of action. Being wishy-washy or inconsistent is usually seen as a negative thing.

The Third: Social Proof

Social justification is a strong trigger. It is often also called peer-pressure. It simply describes a desire to act in a manner that other people think of as correct. It usually defines most people's ideas about correct behavior. We often feel a behavior is correct or justified if we see others performing this behavior. It's the old adage "monkey see monkey do."

Social pressure or compliance to accepted behavior generally means we will make fewer mistakes if we act the same way others do. Usually there is some social evidence against or for the behavior. What people around us do is usually seen as the correct thing to do. In most circumstances this is true, staying in the lines while driving or at the grocery check out lines are prime examples.

Another example of how it is being used to manipulate people is in sit-com television. More and more shows are being aired that would have formerly been found to be repulsive by the masses. This is simply because of the canned laughter used by the shows imply that others like it, so should you. And it has been an effective technique since the first sit-com aired many years ago.

Research suggests that audiences will laugh longer and harder when the cue is implied. It is even effective for substandard behavior that otherwise would be directly repulsive or unentertaining. Its direct and effective motivation deeply effects consumer behavior and thus improves a production companies or commercials effect.

The Fourth: Liking

Knowing and liking someone may be one of the biggest motivators yet. It certainly is a very strong trigger. Either knowing and liking someone, or wanting them to know and like us may motive us to comply with many things.

This can be seen in most network marketing businesses. Simply get the hostess to invite people who know and like her, or that she knows and likes and they will feel obligated to purchase something form a complete stranger. We can see this in Tupperware, make-up businesses, and other hostess and party type based network marketing home businesses. Those who come to the party will purchase things form someone they hardly know just because they like the hostess and feel obligated. They feel good about their purchases simply base on this fact.

Other network marketers take a different angle. They attempt, and sometimes successfully, to establish a friendly relationship in an effort to get you to like them. A prime example is a car salesman who made the Guinness Book of World Records as the "world's greatest salesman" by selling five cars per day using this tactic and offering a fair price.

The Fifth: Authority

Many are compelled by authority to act on given commands. Its lead or be lead trigger that makes most follow authority to "safety." It signals the willingness of humans to go to any extreme length while submitting themselves to commands from authority figures. It also shows the sheer strength authority has on people.

It has its advantages when placed in society. In general, an accepted system of authority allows for the development of a social structure to take on a sophisticated nature and develop systems for commerce, leadership, defense, and enables a society to move as a whole toward a common goal. It benefits such things in society as resource protection, trade, expansion, social justice, and a government control that would be hard to impart without it. Because authority implies access for followers to more resources, and implies protection of resources and life, it makes it easy to get people to comply with those in authority. The notion of complying with authority is generally trained from birth on as the right thing to do, and the necessary thing to follow and disobedience is deemed wrong or discouraged.

One famous study we have all heard of if we have ever taken a course on psychology of the human mind is that of a panel of participants who were under the command of an authority figure wearing a lab coat. The lab coat wearing participants were instructed to steadily implement increasingly painful shocks to another third panel of participants. Unknown to the participants following the lab coat wearers orders, the third group really were not receiving shocks at all. But that did not stop them from continually turning up the shock level of the machine and repeatedly administering shocks no matter how much pain the third participants pretended to be in.

The Sixth: Scarcity

Ever see those "limited time" offers? Scarcity is a trigger used to imply dwindling resources and a must have desire. Its appeal is based on merits that imply it's unavoidable to run out, or will be completely unavailable at some point and must be pickled up now. As long as it is less available, on a limited supply basis, has an imposed deadline, or is extremely rare it will be perceived as very valuable.

The ubiquitous time-sensitive offerings used in marketing make this claim all too clearly. They imply that customer must purchase this item before it is too late. These are often staring us straight in the face as one time sales events, never really going-out-of-business sales, fake count down timers, and other compelling offers such as "a limited number will be sold," or "a limited number may join."

In reality, the supply is not really limitless, nor is anything in the virtual or real world that can be produced by man ever going to suddenly disappear forever. At least this is not usually the case in our lifetimes.
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