Book Review: Influence by Robert B. Cialdini
Every once in a while there comes along a book that can change your life forever.
This can be a spiritual change, a physical change or a change on how you see the world.
How you perceive information.
“Influence” by Robert Cialdini falls into the latter.
This title offers the reader a lens which to view the world through. Able to uncover the tenets of persuasion that dictate a large proportion of human decision making behaviours.
With the advent of “behind the curtain” media such as “Making Of A Murderer” and “The Big Short” (Both excellent series/titles by the way) Influence is more compelling and relevant in today’s world of self-proclaimed gurus, shysters and snake oil merchants.
Influence allows you to identify these persuasive behaviours so you won’t fall victim to them. In addition it can also empower you to use these behaviours for you own means (for better or worse – well, that’s up to you!)
We’ve all seen a common device in TV and movies. A character will act like they are wrong or give a sensible option to a decision maker, only to have the option shut down and the decision maker then chooses the seemingly less desirable option.
But all along, the original character WANTED that seemingly “less desirable” option to be chosen. Making them the persuader and ultimately in control of both the situation and the outcome. Hence the idea of persuasive behaviours has now filled your head (as I have persuaded you to do so).
If you feel a touch foolish after reading that, don’t worry. You’re not alone.
Cialdini himself states at the start of the book that “I can admit it freely now. All my life I’ve been a pasty.” an “easy mark” and “a long-standing status as a sucker”.
But it is this realisation itself that stoked the fires of Cialdini’s curiosity towards “The psychology of compliance”. That is, why a request phrased one way will ultimately fail, while only a slightly different approach will garner a much better result. Thus began his three year program of study on what moves people to change their behaviors.
The methods used to get that simple little “Yes” out of someone can be placed into one of 6 base categories. These are what Cialdini considers “the weapons of influence”;
– Reciprocation: The old give and take…. And take
– Commitment and Consistency: Hobgoblins of the Mind
– Social Proof: Truths are Us
– Liking: The Friendly Thief
– Authority: Directed Defence
– Scarcity: The Rule Of a Few
Each chapter’s idea is dissected and laid bare. Not only using research based evidence from past studies (over 35 years worth by Cialdini’s approximation) but also the specific studies Cialdini undertook himself in understanding these basic tenets of influence.
Now you might be thinking that this is just a book where an author asserts a specific point of view and backs up these assertions with science-based evidence.
Well you’d be correct. But where this title ultimately differs is that within each of the tenets some studies allow Cialdini to draw varied conclusions to his original assertions. This gives Cialdini far more gravitas in his research and the ideas he’s communicating. Plus gives the reader a higher level of understanding of the concepts at hand.
I found the epilogue, “Instant Influence: Primitive Consent For An Automatic Age” the most compelling section. Using a humorous exchange between an acerbic talk show and the late, great Frank Zappa, Cialdini lays the foundation for the fundamental theme of the book;
“Very often when making a decision about someone or something, we don’t use all the relevant available information; we use, instead, only a single, highly representative piece of the total. And an isolate piece of information, even though it normally counsels us correctly, can lead us to clearly stupid mistakes – mistakes that, when exploited by clever others, leave us looking silly or worse.”
This final part of the book emphasises the need for us to look beyond that which might appear truthful at face value. But they can leave you exposed if you only trust the most “widely known” part of it.
From Twitter feeds to “Trending Stories” on Facebook to targeted advertising, unless we look within ourselves to get a bigger slice of the picture, more often than not in the digital age, we’re going to lead ourselves astray and in turn, exposed.
Although Influence isn’t a long book as far as page count is concerned (approx 300 pages) the font is pretty small and thus can take a little longer to read.
But I found both the content and the way it was presented (via Cialdini’s affable writing style) so compelling, the title never felt like a chore to read.
Is Robert Cialdini’s Influence a life changing book?
I whole-heartedly say yes.
But don’t let my “highly preventive piece of the total information” sway you. You can grab a copy for yourself from our friends at Social Book Co (Affiliate Link). There they will compare prices from hundreds of different online retailers and will locate the book at the least expensive price for your location.
Cam’s Review Score
Essential reading. Grab your copy now.