PMBA: Influence – The Psychology of Persuasion

Here’s the first in what I hope will be a long series of mini-book-reviews I’m reading from the Personal MBA list.

Influence: The Psychology of PersuasionMany “persuasion” books teach manipulation – here’s how to make people do what you want them to do. Cialdini takes the opposite approach. As a self-described gullible consumer (in spite of being a psych professor), Cialdini explores how “compliance practioners” use the “weapons of influence” against people like him. After identifying each major tool, he teaches defensive techniques. Cialdini doesn’t pontificate. He’s one of us and falls for the same things we do.

This book was a quick and entertaining read. Here are a few of the topics covered:

  • Reciprocation – why fundraisers give gifts, like address labels with your name on them, because accepting them will predispose you to return the favor with a gift
  • Commitment and Consistency – why fraternities haze, why we’ll do anything to reinforce a decision we’ve already made
  • Social Proof – why so much of what we do is influenced by those around us. The suicide trends data reminds me of a similar chapter in Malcom Gladwell’s The Tipping Point
  • Liking – how we’re more likely to be influenced by people we like
  • Authority – why we do things authorities tell us to do
  • Scarcity – how your gym gets you to sign up today by making great offers that expire if you don’t sign on the spot

I’d recommend this book to just about anyone, not just people interested in the PMBA program. It will definitely remind you of times that you’ve fallen for the tricks of master persuaders. I bought my first suit this year (not bad, I made it to 32 before buying a suit). Now I know why it was so easy for the salesman to sell me shoes, a shirt, a tie, a belt, etc after I’d already committed to buy the suit. By contrast, the accessories seemed like little purchases next to the high-priced suit.

If you like this topic, here are a few related books on my shelf that I’d also recommend:

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