Summary Written by Jill Donahue
“The best persuaders become the best through pre-suasion – the process of arranging for recipients to be receptive to a message before they encounter it.”

- Pre-Suasion, page 4

The Big Idea

Ethics - Pre-Pre-Suasive Foundation

"Do not seek dishonest gains, dishonest gains are losses."- Hesiod, Pre-Suasion, page 214

We all know that the most important part of building a house is creating a solid foundation. Trust is the strong foundation upon which successful influence is built. When customers and employees can trust the ethics of an organization, they are more likely respond to an organization’s influence.

Cialdini offers three recommendations that he believes all organizations should adopt:

  1. Employees incentive structures should include honesty ratings by clients.
  2. The ethical reputation of the company as a whole should be measured and included in assessments of yearly performance.
  3. Senior management’s (and especially the CEO’s) compensation packages should have a component of ratings of the firm’s ethical orientation by employees.

By focusing attention on ethics, an organization can elevate the perception of trust, and ultimately become more influential. Sounds like an ideal win/win!

Insight #1

A Baker’s Dozen Ideas

"Unfortunately, the great majority of scientific data on persuasion goes unused by practitioners – even valuable findings such as this."- Pre-Suasion, page 81

Pre-Suasion includes countless examples for how to influence behavior. Here is a baker’s dozen of ideas for you to use. One of these is not true. Which one?

If we want them to:Then we should first:Buy a box of expensive chocolates

Arrange for them to write a much larger number than the price of the chocolates

Choose a bottle of French wine

Expose them to French background music before they decide

Agree to try an untested product

Ask whether they consider themselves adventurous

Do better on a math exam (high school senior females)

Ask them to record and reflect on their year (but not their gender), and have female monitors instead of male

Feel warmly toward us

Hand them a cold drink

Be more helpful to us

Have them look at photos of individuals standing close together

Be more achievement oriented

Provide them with an image of a runner winning a race

Make careful assessments

Show them a picture of August Rodin’s The Thinker

Trust us

Reference the weakness of your offer or idea up front

Deepen their loyalty

Ask them to recommend your brand to a friend

Be helpful

Ask them first if they consider themselves to be a helpful person

Change a behavior (e.g. lose weight)

Create If/when… then plans (e.g. When I’m hungry at 2pm, then I will reach for an apple)

Gain interest in your presentation or article

Begin it with a mystery

So did it work? Did posing the mystery up front (i.e. “Which one is not true?”) engage you?

The answer of course, is number 5: If you want someone to feel warmly towards you, give them a warm drink, not a cold one.

Join our newsletter

Sign up for the very best book summaries right to your inbox.
We care about your data in our privacy policy.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Insight #2

When and Where—Important Considerations

"It is possible to learn scientifically established techniques that allow any of us to be more influential."- Pre-Suasion, page 12

To illustrate the power of timing, Cialdini shares the story of how his publication deadline was pushed back by a year. While he was preparing to go to another university for a semester to work on his book, the dean of the school called. He described the wonderful office he had for Cialdini, the new computer, staff support etc. Cialdini was pleasantly surprised. It was even better than he expected.

Then came the ask. One of the professors was ill. Would Cialdini mind teaching just one class? He immediately saw his precious writing time slip away as he pictured all the time needed to prepare, teach, and work with the students. Yet he said yes. Why? On reflection, he realized it was classic influence. The Dean had offered the favor of an unexpected and delightful surprise. So when he asked for a favor in return, he had to say yes.

But as Cialdini reflected, he realized that had the Dean called the next day, he would have graciously declined. It was all in the timing. The most powerful reciprocation effect is immediately after the favor. As time passes, its potency declines.

To illustrate the power of your environment, Cialidini describes his challenge writing for a general, rather than an academic audience. He had two desks from which he would write; one in his office at the university with shelves of professional books and a fabulous view of imposing scholarly buildings. The other desk was in his apartment with a view onto an ordinary city street, filled with ordinary people doing any of a thousand ordinary things.

From which desk do you think he had greater success writing for a general ‘layman’ audience? Yup! His desk in the city. There the background cues in his physical environment guided his thoughts and helped him think from the perspective of his audience.

I work with pharmaceutical professionals, helping them be patient-focused influencers who partner with healthcare professionals to create better patient outcomes. So it makes sense that I should encourage my clients to have pictures of patients in their offices (action shots rather than head shots work better), videos of patient stories to watch, or podcasts about patient outcomes to listen to each day.

Surprisingly, Cialdini tells us, some of the behavioral science researchers have never seen implications of their amazing studies put into practice. What a pity. These researchers are doing great work – showing us better ways to influence. We just need to put that learning into action!

Read the book

Get Pre-Suasion on Amazon.

Robert B. Cialdini

Dr. Robert Cialdini has spent his entire career researching the science of influence earning him an international reputation as an expert in the fields of persuasion, compliance, and negotiation.

Subscribe to digest
Read about our privacy policy.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.