I recently finished reading Influence: Science and Practice (notes) by Robert Cialdini. I first read it in 2014, having seen it on the reading list of several business school class syllabi. This time I wanted to come at it from a more intentional point of view, namely: it's useless to know how something works if you don't have the skill to influence others to adopt your approach. It's a recipe for long term frustration. It makes sense to get better at the the other side—being able to transmit an idea or approach effectively—because if you don't, the time spent improving the idea itself is wasted.
That's just the work-related bit. Since starting this draft, we've been treated ("treated") to an internet-row seat to monsters storming the U.S. Capitol. The entire world isn't based on the best ideas and the best execution and the best moral judgment—but in the best case, it is. That world has to start—to originate from, to radiate from—somewhere. At some point it is a moral or ethical imperative to lead and influence. If you try to live a good, moral life, and you sit back or are unable to push the front in the right direction, then the side of treachery wins.
One more thought, and we'll get back to what was intended to be the point of the post:
There is no reason why good cannot triumph as often as evil. The triumph of anything is a matter of organization. If there are such things as angels, I hope that they are organized along the lines of the Mafia.—Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan (1959)
I wanted to ruminate a little bit about the book before moving on to the next one—to extract a little more information and try to use it somehow. Honestly I don't like thinking much about influence or persuasion because, for reasons I don't understand, those terms are on the same par as manipulation for me. It's silly, and I know it, but in the clinch that's the feeling that I have. (Cialdini, Robert, and Sarah Cliffe. "The uses (and abuses) of influence." Harvard business review 91.7-8 (2013): 76-81.)
Get over that feeling is something I'm working on this year. This book was one front. I've signed up for the OB 524 Negotiation class at Wash U this semester, and for the MGT 6540 Strategies for Influencing Others class at Wash U's continuing education center. I'll find some other books and things on the topic to read and I'll pass those along when I get to them (starting in February—going to finish up this PMI-ACP cert in January first).
The way I want to think about some of these common scenarios I encounter and methods for dealing with them—at least the ones relating to weaknesses—is in terms of frameworks. There are some things in the world worth thinking about in detail, appreciating all of their nuances as I craft an individual response as they arrive on my desk. But that's not most things. Most things have some sort of front-end heuristic associated with them—if this, then that—that filters the world down to a set of dealwithable decisions. You need a good toolbox of heuristics, else you'll be inundated with inputs, and decision quality will suffer.
The book gives six principles for persuasion, primarily in terms of "you need to recognize these when they happen to you so you can defend yourself", but with a perspective shift they can also be tools for performing:
- Reciprocation: people want to repay others who have given them something, even if the something given was unwanted or only a concession from an earlier offer
- Commitment and consistency: people tend to want to appear consistent with their prior words, beliefs, and actions
- Social proof: people tend to follow what other people are believing or doing, especially in situations that are ambiguous
- Liking: people tend to comply with other people then know and like or who they are similar to
- Authority: people tend to comply with authority
- Scarcity: people assign more value to opportunities when they become less available
So, that's roughly the plan—to try and bulk up the weak skill muscles.
In the meantime, here is a pile of references from the book that I've collected for future reading:
- Langer, Ellen J., Arthur Blank, and Benzion Chanowitz. "The mindlessness of ostensibly thoughtful action: The role of "placebic" information in interpersonal interaction." Journal of personality and social psychology36.6 (1978): 635. (pdf)
- Chaiken, Shelly, and Yaacov Trope, eds. Dual-process theories in social psychology. Guilford Press, 1999.
- Kahneman, Daniel, et al., eds. Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases. Cambridge university press, 1982.
- Gruner, S. L. "Reward good customers." Inc. 18.16 (1996): 84-84.
- Mauss, Marcel. The gift: The form and reason for exchange in archaic societies. 1954.
- Thompson, Leigh. "An examination of naive and experienced negotiators." Journal of Personality and social Psychology 59.1 (1990): 82.
- Schienker, Barry R., David W. Dlugolecki, and Kevin Doherty. "The impact of self-presentations on self-appraisals and behavior: The power of public commitment." Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 20.1 (1994): 20-33.
- Sherman, Steven J. "On the self-erasing nature of errors of prediction." Journal of personality and Social Psychology 39.2 (1980): 211.
- Freedman, Jonathan L., and Scott C. Fraser. "Compliance without pressure: the foot-in-the-door technique." Journal of personality and social psychology 4.2 (1966): 195. (pdf)
- Deci, Edward L., and Richard M. Ryan. "The general causality orientations scale: Self-determination in personality." Journal of research in personality 19.2 (1985): 109-134. (pdf)
- Higgins, E. Tory, et al. "When combining intrinsic moti (vations undermines interest: A test of activity engagement theory." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 68.5 (1995): 749.
- Lepper, Mark R., and David Greene. "Overjustification research and beyond: Toward a means-ends analysis of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation." The hidden costs of reward: New perspectives on the psychology of human motivation (1978): 109-148.
- Byrne, Donn Erwin. The attraction paradigm. Vol. 462. Academic Press, 1971.
- Blake, Robert R., and Jane S. Mouton. "Intergroup problem solving in organizations: From theory to practice." The social psychology of intergroup relations (1979): 19-32.
- Stanne, Mary Beth, David W. Johnson, and Roger T. Johnson. "Does competition enhance or inhibit motor performance: A meta-analysis." Psychological bulletin 125.1 (1999): 133.
- Manis, Melvin, S. Douglas Cornell, and Jeffrey C. Moore. "Transmission of attitude relevant information through a communication chain." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 30.1 (1974): 81. (pdf)
- Eagly, Alice H., Wendy Wood, and Shelly Chaiken. "Causal inferences about communicators and their effect on opinion change." Journal of Personality and social Psychology 36.4 (1978): 424. (pdf)
- Worchel, Stephen, and Susan E. Arnold. "The effects of censorship and attractiveness of the censor on attitude change." Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 9.4 (1973): 365-377. (pdf)
- Worchel, Stephen, Susan Arnold, and Michael Baker. "The Effects of Censorship on Attitude Change: The Influence of Censor and Communication Characteristics." Journal of Applied Social Psychology 5.3 (1975): 227-239. (pdf)
- Worchel, Stephen, Jerry Lee, and Akanbi Adewole. "Effects of supply and demand on ratings of object value." Journal of personality and social psychology 32.5 (1975): 906. (pdf)