The Science of Influence and Decision-Making

Your ability to make decisions and influence people at work are critical to your success, whether you’re working as a project manager an operations manager or in human resources the way you communicate and influence people around you will be one of the biggest predictors of your success.

Over the years researchers have worked to understand what motivates people to make a decision and how we are persuaded by others. Some people believe that humans consider all the available information in order to make a final decision , but is not always like that, due to the increasingly overloaded life that we lead we need shortcuts to guide our decision- making.

Robert Cialdini is the father of the science of influence and says that there are 6 principles that guide decision-making and influence.

Those principles are:

  1. Reciprocity – People tend to return a favor, thus the pervasiveness of free samples in marketing. In his conferences, he often uses the example of Ethiopia providing thousands of dollars in humanitarian aid to Mexico just after the 1985 earthquake, despite Ethiopia suffering from a crippling famine and civil war at the time. Ethiopia had been reciprocating for the diplomatic support Mexico provided when Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935. The good cop/bad cop strategy is also based on this principle.
  2. Commitment and Consistency – If people commit, orally or in writing, to an idea or goal, they are more likely to honor that commitment because of establishing that idea or goal as being congruent with their self-image. Even if the original incentive or motivation is removed after they have already agreed, they will continue to honor the agreement.
  3. Social Proof – People will do things that they see other people are doing. For example, in one experiment, one or more confederates would look up into the sky; bystanders would then look up into the sky to see what they were seeing. At one point this experiment aborted, as so many people were looking up that they stopped traffic.
  4. Authority – People will tend to obey authority figures, even if they are asked to perform objectionable acts. Cialdini cites incidents such as the Milgram experiments in the early 1960s and the My Lai massacre.
  5. Liking – People are easily persuaded by other people that they like. Cialdini cites the marketing of Tupperware in what might now be called viral marketing. People were more likely to buy if they liked the person selling it to them.
  6. Scarcity – Perceived scarcity will generate demand. For example, saying offers are available for a “limited time only” encourages sales.
source (Wikipedia)

Understanding and using these influencing principals will help you be more effective and successful in any workplace, try them.