Organisational Change Management Volume 2

How to Persuade and Influence People

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. In change it is important to get an understanding of the psychology of social influence, ie the psychological processes underlying how we can influence others to modify their attitudes or behaviours that results in positive outcomes for all parties.

. One method of persuasion is fear. Using only fear as a method of persuasion is not very effective as it can paralyze people's thinking. Fear causes a threat response by the brain which results in the brain becoming less efficient when it needs to be most efficient. On the other hand, it can motivate if people can visualize positive ways out of the situation and/or encourage recipients to take action to reduce the threat.

. There are better alternatives than using fear, ie

"...It usually makes great sense to repay favours, behave consistently, follow the lead of similar others, favour the request of those we like, heed legitimate authorities and value scarce resources..."

Robert Cialdini, 2001

. There are 6 basic tendencies of human behaviour that come into play in generating a positive response to a request. They are reciprocation, consistency, social validation (social proof or consensus), liking, authority and scarcity. All these involve relationship building, ie identifying and developing the appropriate link and leverage.

1. Reciprocation (we feel obligated, especially socially, to return favours performed for us). All societies subscribe to a norm that all individuals repay in kind what they have received, and evolutionary selection pressure has most likely entrenched this behaviour. Receiving a gift - unsolicited and perhaps even unwanted - can motivate most people to return the gesture. This extends to more than presents and favours; it applies to concessions that people might give to one another. For example, convinced that you will reject my large request, I make a concession to you by acceding to your smaller request. You may very well then reciprocate with a concession of your own, ie agreement with my greater request.

Furthermore, the feeling of indebtedness caused by the power of reciprocity is generally more powerful than the effects of liking or disliking someone.

Linked with reciprocity is personal touch and any extra effort you do for somebody else. The more personalised you make a request, the more likely you'll get someone to agree to it.


"...reciprocity is the social glue that helps bring and keep people together in cooperative relationships..."

Noah Goldstein et al, 2007

When offering something free you need to stress the value and significance of any gift. Otherwise it is less likely to be appreciated. Furthermore, a gift or favour is more persuasive if it is unexpected and personalized.

The way the favour/gift is given is important; it should be offered genuinely and in a completely unconditional manner so that it builds a solid foundation for trust and mutual appreciation. It should not be seen as an incentive.

Research (Noah Goldstein et al, 2007) has found

"...recipients of the favour perceived it as more valuable immediately after it was performed and less valuable as time passed. Favour-doers, on the other hand, showed just the opposite effect; they placed a lower value on the favour immediately after it was performed and then placed a greater value on it as time went by..."

Noah Goldstein et al, 2007

It is thought that memory of events get distorted over time and people have a tendency to see themselves in the most favorable light, ie receivers think they didn't need much help, while doers may think they gave more than they actually did.

2. Consistency/commitment (we want to be consistent with our commitments and values). This involves the desire to be, and to appear, consistent. Most people like to feel, and want others to be, consistent. Thus it is important to focus your message so that it is consistent with the audience's pre-existing attitudes, statements, values, beliefs, practices and actions. Furthermore, your message needs to help people free themselves from the previous commitment but to avoid inferring that their previous commitment as a mistake. Need to praise the previous commitment and describing their decision as correct at the time they made it, as it was based on then available evidence and information. This helps them to free themselves from the previous commitment and allows them to focus on the new proposal without feeling loss of face for inconsistency.

People's preference for consistency grows stronger as they get older. This is explained by inconsistency being emotionally upsetting and older people have a greater motivation to avoid emotionally upsetting experiences. Furthermore, this can partly explain why older people as a group showed more resistance to change.

If you have agreed to something before, it is easier to get your commitment again later.

Examples of this are

. Foot-in-the-door technique where you start with a small purchase and get people committed so that is easier to get the larger purchase later on

. Labeling technique involves assigning a trait, attitude, belief or other label to a person and then making a request of that person that's consistent with a label. This is only successful when the trait, attitude, belief or other label accurately reflects the audience's natural capabilities, experiences or personality.

. Getting people to commit to engage in socially desirable behaviours in the future puts pressure on them to behave consistently with their commitment. Ideally this commitment is voluntary, active and publicly declared to others. Furthermore, you need to ask them to describe their reasons for supporting the future commitment; this will increase the pressure to honour their commitment.

. Write down agreed to goals/commitments, etc; this is called active commitments. This is based on people judging themselves on their actions rather than non-actions

3. Social validation/proof (we look to what others do to guide behaviour, eg peer group pressure or behaviourial norms). One of the fundamental ways we decide what to do in a situation is to look to what others are doing or have done there. If many individuals have decided in favor of a particular idea or action, we are more likely to follow, because we perceive the idea to be more correct, more valid. Compliance can be stimulated by demonstrating, or merely implying, that others just like us have already agreed. Examples include

. Testimonials from satisfied customers/clients emphasizing the benefits of your organisation/ products/services, etc. Ideally the person giving the testimonial has credibility with your target audience.

. In your publicity stress that many others are doing what you are asking them to do, ie follow the lead of the majority.

. Use symbols to support social desirability behaviour as it gives positive reinforcement in the form of an ego boost, eg smiley face..

4. Personal acceptability or liking (the more we like people, the more we want to say yes to them). Affinity, rapport and affection all describe the feeling of connection between people. People prefer to say "yes" to those they like. Physical attractiveness, similarity, compliments, cooperation can all stimulate or promote liking. Notice that most successful media advertisements include people who are usually "physically attractive".

5. Acknowledged authority (we look to experts to show us the way). By touting their experience, expertise or scientific credentials to highlight authority, these people are respected and listened to.

6. Understand scarcity (the less available resource, the more we want it). Items and opportunities become more desirable as they become less available, or are acknowledged as unique, rare and uncommon. This can be linked with greed!!!!! Furthermore, need to be careful of offering to many options as too much choice can result in less sales as people can find the decision-making process frustrating, overwhelming and demotivating. Owing to the burden of having to differentiate too many options, eg food products. On the other hand, sometimes potential customers do not know precisely what they want until they understand what is available. There can be a subtle difference between not enough choice and too much.

Furthermore, there is a concept called compromise choices, ie choices that fall between what they want, at a minimum, and what they can possibly spend, at a maximum. Generally buyers compromise by opting for the less expensive, or moderately priced, options. Thus your highest priced products/services create to potential benefits for your organisations, ie

i) superior, high-priced products will meet the needs of small segment of clients

ii) including a higher priced version of a product/service makes the next highest priced models more attractive


- knowledge is power

- loss is more powerful persuasively than gain

- most publicity/advertising, etc is designed to move products/services, not people.

- playing the boss card to influence staff is a mistake as it encourages resistance and attempts to evade demand.

Furthermore, it is important to remember the relationship-raising approach, ie build on your existing relationship ("you know that we have been together for a while now"). Streamline this by incorporating the pronouns "we", "our" and "us" in the request. By building on the relationship itself, links are forged with accompanying trust, strength and security. Furthermore,

"...Another remarkable quality of this technique is that it provides nothing not already known. Typically, both parties understand they are in a relationship. But that implication-laden piece of information can easily drop from the top of consciousness......the thing most likely to guide behaviour decisions is not the most potent or familiar or instructive aspect of a situation; rather, it is the one that is most prominent in the consciousness at the time of the decision..."

Robert Cialdini, 2004

On the other hand, people more readily search for and register separations than connections. Furthermore, under anxiety-provoking circumstances, the relationship-raising approach may not be appropriate. But the most successful negotiators concentrate on areas of shared interest rather than differences.

It has been estimated that less than 10% of population has a natural gift to be persuasive

One of the best ways to be persuasive and influence people is to be positive, ie



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