• Why does a commitment determine how we will act?
  • How can we influence others knowing about the role of commitment?
  • Can commitments end up with us regretting our decisions?

Here, red10 ‘s Paul Gaskell explains Robert Cialdini’s 8th Principle of Pre-suasion, Commitment, how it works and how it could work for you.

Post-suasion Principle

If you’ve read our previous articles on Pre-suasion principles you’ll be aware of commitment as a one of the principles. Key idea is that humans prefer to be consistent with what they have already said and done, and this preference influences future behavior. And, it’s particularly true when the commitment is public.
Illustrating this is a simple change implemented at some UK medical facilities to reduce the number of appointment no shows. Instead of the receptionist completing a reminder card, the patient was asked to do it – the subsequent no show rate dropped by 18%.

Commitment in action

If you are trying to persuade someone to do something big, they are likely to be more open if they first respond to a smaller request that establishes a commitment. This is called “the foot in the door approach”. Whereby the commitment created by the first response was key in getting such a positive response, making it easier for them to take the more significant action.

The most effective commitments align with how we see ourselves. One example for me started when I was invited to volunteer for our local Food Bank a few years ago. I’ve become increasingly committed to support them. When I see a request from them now, I’ll try to find a way to help out.

Installing Commitments

Cialdini talks about ‘installing’ commitments. In a recent interview he uses an example of a friend of his who has been successful at multiple interviews in recent years by installing a commitment for his interviewers.

  • He starts the interview with a thank you and a statement/question. He says he’ll be happy to answer any questions they have, but first he’d like to ask them a question, he’s curious about what was it about his application that they liked so much and made him seem a good fit for the job?
  • The answers build this really positive story. The interviewers are left viewing him more positively than they might otherwise, committed to the story they already told.

Be aware of foolish consistency

In the more recent edition of ‘Influence – the psychology of persuasion’, Cialdini has more focus on the misuse of the principles. His advice is to scan our heads and stomachs when being asked to act on a commitment, to ensure it’s reasonable. The number of unwanted vacation timeshares might be explained by a sales approach that uses several of the principles, including commitment – e.g. you’ve invested all this time on the presentation, you’ve said you like to travel, you’ve said you love the resort – which by itself should not be enough for people to invest thousands of dollars.

Look out for ways commitment is used both in a positive way and maybe not so positive. Look for ways to apply to situations where you need to influence people to act differently.

If you are interested in finding out more, or would like to arrange an Influencing Skills Masterclass for your teams, please get in touch. Check out previous articles on the Presuasion principles of Unity and Place.