Harnessing the Science of Persuasion

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Harnessing the Science of Persuasion
by Robert B. Cialdini
A LUCKY FEW HAVE IT; most of US do not. A handful

of gifted "naturals" simply know how to cap/ \ ture an audience, sway the undecided, and convert the opposition. Watching these masters of persuasion work their magic is at once impressive and frustrating. What's impressive is not just the easy way they use charisma and eloquence to convince others to do as they ask. It's also how eager those others are to do what's requested of them, as if the persuasion itself were a favor they couldn't wait to repay. The frustrating part of the experience is that these bom persuaders are often unahle to account for their remarkable skill or pass it on to others. Their way with people is an art, and artists as a rule are far hetter at doing than at explaining. Most of them can't offer much help to those of us who possess no more than the ordinary quotient of charisma and eloquence but who still have to wrestle with leadership's fundamental challenge: getting things done through others. That challenge is painfully familiar to corporate executives, who every day have to figure out how to motivate and direct a highly individualistic workforce. Playing the "Because I'm the boss" card is out. Even if it weren't demeaning and demoralizing for all concerned, it would be out of place in a world where cross-functional teams, joint ventures, and intercompany partnerships have blurred the lines of authority. In such an environment, persuasion skills exert far greater influence over others' behavior than formal power structures do.

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HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW

Jo leader can succeed without mastering the art of persuasion. But there's hard science in that skill, too, and a large body 3f psychological research suggests there are six basic laws of rinning friends and influencing people. OCTOBFR 2001

H a r n e s s i n g t h e Science o f P e r s u a s i o n

cially compelling-similarity and praise. Similarity literally draws people together. In one experiment, reported in a 1968 article in the Journal of Personality, participants stood physically closer to one another after learning that they shared political beliefs and social values. And in a 1963 article in American Behavioral Scientists, researcher F. B. Evans used demographic data from insurance company records to demonstrate that prospects were more willing to purchase a policy from a salesperson who was akin to them in age, religion, politics, or even cigarettesmoking habits. Managers can use similarities to create bonds with a recent hire, the head of another department, or even a new boss. Informal conversations during the workday create an ideal opportunity to discover at least one common area of enjoyment, be it a hobby, a college basketball team, or reruns of Seinfeld. The important thing is to establish the bond early because it creates a presumption of goodwill and trustworthiness in every subsequent THE PRINCIPLE OF encounter. It's much easier to build support for a new project when the people you're trying to persuade are already inclined in your favor. Praise, tbe other reliable generator of affection, both charms and disarms. Sometimes the praise doesn't even People like those who like them. have to be merited. Researchers at the University of THE APPLICATION: North Carolina writing in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that men felt the greatest regard for Uncover real similarities and offer an individual who flattered them unstintingly even if the genuine praise. comments were untrue. And in their book Interpersonal Attraction (Addison-Wesley, 1978), Ellen Berscheid and The retailing phenomenon known as the Tupperware Elaine Hatfieid Walster presented experimental data party is a vivid illustration of this principle in action. showing that positive remarks about another person's The demonstration party for Tupperware products is traits, attitude, or performance reliably generates...
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