We received some positive feedback about the recent post, How to Lead Without Authority, and in response I decided to do a little more research on the topic. While doing so, I came across the work of Robert Cialdini, a professor of psychology at Arizona State University who has made it his life work to study the importance of persuasion in influencing workplace relationships.
In his bestselling books, which include the most recent Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be More Persuasive, Dr. Cialdini has identified six principles to help you be more persuasive in your everyday work life, including:
Principle of Reciprocity
Dr. Cialdini found that people are more likely to say yes to you if you have said yes to them first. If you first show a willingness to get on board with your colleagues’ projects, then they will find it more difficult to decline support for yours.
Principle of Commitment and Consistency
People will agree to something if it complies with their existing worldview. Therefore, if you liken your proposal to another idea your colleague recently agreed with, you will play to her internal desire to be consistent.
Principle of Authority
Obviously, it’s easier to persuade direct reports because you are the manager. But even if you aren’t the boss, establishing yourself as an organization-wide expert on a particular topic will do wonders to increase others’ perception of your authority and render them easier to persuade.
Principle of Social Validation
The field of television advertising was built upon this principle, which states that people are more willing to take a recommendation if they are provided evidence that “others like them” are already doing it. So if you want to convince colleagues, get some testimonials from those who are friendly to your cause and at the same level as those who you’re trying to persuade.
Principle of Scarcity
People find opportunities more attractive to the degree that they are rare or dwindling in availability. Your colleagues will be more likely to agree to your proposal, for example, if they believe that they have to “strike now while the iron is hot.”
Principle of Liking
There is no getting around the fact that people prefer to say yes to those they know, like and trust, so if you want to be more persuasive at work, take the time to strengthen your personal relationship with each colleague you hope to influence.