Need to influence decision-making?

Have you prepared the ground ahead of time?

Want a list to check you’ve done all you can?

Here, Will Sudworth and Kirsten Campbell share red10 ‘s interpretation of Professor Cialdini’s Pre-suasion Principles.

Are you a Gardener?

If you’re a gardener, then you’ll know that you need to remove the weeds, feed the soil and plant the seeds weeks in advance of anything worthwhile growing well.

In the same way, Professor Robert Cialdini’s research into Pre-suasion identifies principles that caused the recipients to be more open to the discuss the proposals you wish to make.

How can you do this?

The 8 Principles

Click on each principle to find out more. If you read them all, you’ll read the wonderful story of a wedding planner helping a couple to prepare the ground for a wedding that wasn’t originally welcomed by all…

Begin with the end in mind

“Recognise the central element of the message that would make it most wise for someone to accept “ – Cialdini

Ask yourself:

  • What result do you want from the pre-read?
  • What is the essential element that you want accepted?
  • What would ‘over the finish line’ look like?
  • What’s the win : win?

Wedding Story Example
We’re following the story of a wedding planner, hired by the couple themselves. The couple want to make their vows in a ceremony and then have a party afterwards. It’s going to be a challenge. A bit like the story of Romeo and Juliet, there’s been a lot of conflict between the two families in the past. A good result would be a wedding where everyone enjoys themselves and no fighting breaks out. A great result would be a wedding where individuals from both families forgive, forget and start again.

Building a sense of “we”

This is truly pre-suasion: planning the approach so that the right people are involved early on.

A group that co-creates and proposes a solution together feels ownership in a very different positive way.

E.g. could the full group draft the project charter and agree on the who-what-why-when-how and then trust a division of labour in smaller groups to follow-through on the plan, meeting together periodically to keep track of progress?

Wedding Story Example

The wedding planner discovers that the key will be for both sets of parents to be positive towards the wedding.
She starts discussing ways in which both sets of parents can meet and feel involved…

This is a moment when people are truly listening

These are moments that we create (or simply using existing privilege moments) before we present an idea or proposal or recommendation so that people are attuned to that idea.

Avoid under privileged moments: e.g. speaking just before or just after the person you want to influence as they will be rehearsing or rehashing and not listening properly to you.

Engineering or simply planning to use privileged moments: e.g. in the quiet moment just after a successful meeting
e.g. when something has been achieved so that there is lot of goodwill to build on.

Read more about Privileged Moments here

Wedding Story Example

The wedding planner suggests that the couple have a rehearsal of the ceremony. The couple invite both sets of parents to both the rehearsal and a private dinner together immediately afterwards. The celebrant is very warm and welcoming. The mixture of music and poems is uplifting and emotional. In the dinner immediately afterwards, both sets of parents share how moved they were by the rehearsal. It is at this ‘moment’ that the couple share their dream for a wedding in which the families make a new start. Both parents agree to help.  

Doing or saying something that encourages someone to be more receptive

Marketing researchers walked up to individuals and asked them to participate in a marketing survey for no compensation, finding that only 29% of them agreed to participate.

But if the researcher first asked a pre-suasive question, “Do you consider yourself a helpful person?,” people thought for a moment and almost all of them said “yes.”

Then the research said, “Well, could you help us with our marketing survey?”

And now 77% agreed.

Wedding Story Example

Both families have their own ‘family crest’ – a shield with pictures on it that have a meaning. The wedding invites display a new family crest for the couple that is the blend from both of the family crests with a bridge at the centre. The invites are signed by both husband and wife to be, both of whom are changing their surname to be double-barrelled to include both of their original surnames. The card invites everyone to a “Ceremony and Party building bridges for the future of our families”.

Read more about Priming here

Attracting attention and increasing curiosity like a magnet

Self-Relevant Name Dropping: Pre-read attracts attention by mentioning the reader by name, or mentioning their department or project.

Unfinished Stories: Increase their curiosity by starting a story but not finishing it until later in the document (or meeting).

Creating Mystery: Creating curiosity and intrigue by presenting a puzzle to be solved.

Wedding Story Example

The couple hand-write a special message on each invite, mentioning the invitee by name and asking them to help them build something special.

The building blocks of thoughts

Often using metaphors, similes or visual metaphors: “I think therefore I am”

In a study on ‘thought building’ they asked people to read an article. To 50% of people the article described crime as a beast. To the other 50% the article described crime as virus.

The study then asked people for their view on the best response to crime – there was a 22% difference depending on which article they had read.

The ‘beast’ metaphor increased the number whose solution for criminals was prison.

The ‘virus’ metaphor increased the number whose solution for crime was the treatment of problems in society, e.g. unemployment rates.

Wedding Story Example

The celebrant is asked to tell stories at the ceremony about the importance of building, rather than knocking things down. 

The location changes the way you think

Put pictures of your clients in the location you are using.

So that you then write the pre-read with them in mind.

Writing the pre-read in the place you will meet them in, or often meet them in.

When Cialdini started writing his pre-suasion book in a university, its opening line was originally very boring:

“My academic subdiscipline, experimental social psychology, has as a principal domain the study of the social influence process”

Re-writing it in a business client’s office, the opening line changed to something much more engaging:

“As a kind of secret agent…”

Wedding Story Example

The party is held in a beautiful castle in the middle of a set of medieval bridges. It was the place the couple invited their parents to for the dinner after the rehearsal.

This is Post-suasion

Gaining commitment to increase the chances of follow-through Create a commitment pattern using: if/when->then

e.g. “When it is 8am and I’ve brushed my teeth, then I will take my pills.” i.e. associate desirable goals and actions with triggers that we will experience. This technique increased diabetes pill taking by a minimum of 55% Getting people to state the commitment themselves.

In a study in a doctors surgery they tried three approaches:

  1. Just giving date/time
  2. Giving a card and receptionist writing date/time on it for them
  3. Giving a blank card and asking the patients themselves to write the date/time. This reduced no-shows by 18%

Wedding Story Example

At the party, all the guests are asked to make a personal commitment to support the couple by taking a wooden building block each, writing a special message on it, signing it, and handing over the brick so that it can be used in creating a sculpture of a bridge that builds during the evening and is completed before guests leave.