Influence Book Summary by Robert Cialdini

For a couple of months now, I’ve been going deep into the Psychology realm to improve my knowledge of human behavior.

How habits work.

How we respond to advertising.

Why people buy.

And although I’m an Engineer by profession, I think we should all be equipped with the tools that enhance our professional careers.

The power to persuade people is one of those.

In this book summary of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini, you will learn:

  • The ‘tool’ that can increase your persuasion power by 94.44%
  • How you can make strangers go after thieves–even if they don’t like it
  • How national TV manipulates your ability to laugh. You read that right.
  • Why being attractive improves your chance to win at life
  • The persuasion technique you didn’t know you were using

There are so many gold nuggets in this book that I’d argue this book summary won’t even give you sh*t.

But I’ll give this to you anyway so you can decide for yourself whether or not to buy the book.

This book was written by persuasion master Robert Cialdini, Ph.D.

In case you didn’t know, he’s just a regular New York Times best-selling dude with an award named after him, the ‘Robert Cialdini Prize’ given by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.

This book has already been translated into 75 languages and has sold over 3 million copies worldwide.

You just know it’s good stuff inside when it’s THAT popular.

But before we start, let’s debunk the most common myth that people have when they hear the term “Influence”.

Influence is NOT manipulation!

Do you like being sold to? Nobody does.

But that’s what most people do when they try to persuade someone.

Worse, they don’t even care about what their ‘target’ needs, nor what problems they wanted to solve in the first place.

That’s simply not how persuasion works. That’s called shoving something in someone’s face.

I see this a lot when we go to malls in our country.

There are literally HUNDREDS of salesmen flocking right at you when they see you ‘stepped on the line’.

And they won’t even care about what you’re looking for. They go straight ahead to sell their products.

The worst of all, they only tell things about their product, not what it can do for the unaware customer like me.

If they’d just be able to just influence me and not try to direct my actions–there would’ve been a purchase that happened.

And that purchase would be because I wanted the product. I was influenced, not pushed around a corner.

You see, we’re constantly influencing people around us–and we’re constantly being influenced. Is that bad? Nope, not at all.

When you want your little sister to eat vegetables, and you tell them that their friends eat them to become smarter, you’re influencing them.

When you’re teaching a friend something you think might benefit him, you’re influencing him.

Do you see the point? Persuasion is simply NOT manipulation if you use it the right way.

And it’s up to you to use that great responsibility with great power, just as Uncle Ben said. (that quote even ended up in Wikipedia)

With that out of the way, let’s move on to the ‘weapons of influence’.

Weapons of Influence

Like a quickly responding metal detector, your brain is wired to perform immediate reactions when you have a ‘psychological stimulus’ in front of you.

As Robert Cialdini describes it, it’s like an automatic playback that happens without conscious thought.

For example, our brains tend to see scarce objects as more valuable.

We tend to follow every bit of a doctor’s advice–without question.

We base our actions on what other people are doing when we’re uncertain.

And then all of these are justified by logic afterward.

But, for your own benefit, you, too, can use these ‘stimuli’ to your advantage.

Note: It is up to you to use these ethically, as I’ve found a lot of people using these exact same principles to take advantage of people.

My point is…

You don’t need to become a doctor to ‘project’ authority.

You don’t need to drastically increase the price of your product to make it ‘high value’.

You don’t need big tradeoffs to make people comply with your big requests.

We’ll do it just like any other business that uses these tactics to persuade you into taking action.

Just like how the big gorillas do it–Amazon, Nike, Apple, and many more.

Givers sometimes take more

If you’ve ever received a “FREE report” from a website, then you’re subject to Weapon of Influence #1: Reciprocation.

It’s the most basic thing of all–but it’s always hidden in plain sight.

When we give something of value to someone else, that person will have ‘psychological debt’ and will feel compelled to give back to you.

In one experiment, as stated in the book, when a letter asking for donation alone was sent to the recipients, only 18% complied.

You think that might be plenty already. But here’s something interesting.

When the letter asking for donation included an unsolicited gift, the compliance increased to 35%.

That’s a 94.44% INCREASE. 

Adding a gift almost DOUBLED the letter’s ability to make people donate.

But this principle does not just end with giving out freebies. It could also take the form of a concession.

When Cialdini was approached by a Boy Scout in the streets, he was asked to buy $5 tickets to the Annual Boy Scouts Circus. Naturally, he declined.

But the real deal comes next. He was asked to buy a $1 chocolate bar instead.

From a noncompliant state, the Boy Scout managed to get Robert into a compliant state just by doing that ‘big request-then-small request’ trick.

This is what Robert calls, ‘rejection-then-retreat’ technique.

The reciprocity principle is, by far, my favorite principle to use–simply because it’s win-win.

Who doesn’t want win-win, anyway?

This could be as simple as giving someone a glass of water, treating them out for lunch, or giving them a piece of gum.

As an example, I’m planning on giving out a FREE report or book. It’s really valuable, but I’ll give it for free.

What will I take in return? Well, first off, I’ll send it to your email address.

But the principle will take effect when I’ve made you results for reading that book.

You will feel compelled by the value I gave you, and then for that, I’ll be able to recommend you helpful products (99% of the time: books) that I’m affiliated with through email.

Got it? I hope that by being transparent, we’re going to build trust here.

Anyway, let’s move on to the next principle!

You did NOT sign up for this

Whenever you ask someone a small favor, it becomes more likely to persuade them to comply with your next request.

This is weapon of influence #2: Commitment/Consistency.

And this happens because we humans have an inner desire to become consistent with our actions and our identity and avoid what we call cognitive dissonance, a state of inconsistency between thought and behavior.

You’ll see the consistency principle largely at work in nonprofits.

In one study, a group of homeowners found that only a few people would be willing to place a “Drive Safely” board in their lawns. However, the rate of compliance in the same neighborhood was increased by 400% when one simple trick was done.

The trick was, 10 days prior to the “ask”, a small request was made. 

The request was to place a small postcard in front of their window with a “Drive Safely” printed on it.

Because of this rather small favor, these people experienced a change in identity–making them more likely to comply with the larger request.

They changed their role from passive homeowners to “Drive Safely” supporters just by putting up a small postcard in the front windows of their houses.

And I think this is why the concept of “funnels” in the Internet Marketing realm is so damn effective.

Strangers are “acquired” through a “FREE gift”.

The acquired contacts are then influenced through the email sequence, and makes some of them “ready to buy”.

When the act of buying happens, they would then take up another sequence of offers that tell them to buy another valuable, but higher-priced product.

The simple concept combines the Reciprocity principle and the Commitment principle so well that a lot of internet marketers have already made millions out of it.

Anyway, let’s move on to the next principle.

Human see, human do

Why do you think Testimonials are there when you check out sales pages? Because they’re so damn powerful.

When uncertain, we tend to look at what other people are doing and base our actions on them. In extreme cases, we follow the norm even if it’s the wrong thing to do. This is called pluralistic ignorance.

It’s Weapon of Influence #3 at work: Social Proof.

In a 2015 study, researchers used the power of Social Proof to improve the likelihood of people to buy healthy products than unhealthy ones. 

What did they do?

They just put out banners that informed the customer of this “most sold cheese in the supermarket”.

What happened was people who had low self-control had a very high likelihood of being influenced by the Social Proof principle.

Hence, it definitely shows that the weapons of influence can not only be used for our own benefit (usually business), but also for the best interest of others. I encourage you to do the same.

Looks don’t matter. Personality does…SOMETIMES.

Whether you like it or not, attractive traits matter. In fact, they enhance our positive traits even more, according to a study.

This is Weapon of Influence #4: Liking.

What’s better than having an “amplifier” for our good characteristics?

Aside from physical attractiveness, we generally like people that fall in these three categories:

  1. People who are like us
  2. People who give us compliments
  3. People who share a common goal

So, whenever you feel like you want to increase your chances of influencing someone, try and look for something similar between you two, and avoid mentioning the differences.

I’ve even looked at some “dark” psychology tactics that encourage finding a common enemy and then throwing rocks at them.

I found it manipulative, though, especially if it’s a dishonest attempt.

On the bright side, there is a piece of timeless advice from How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, and that is: Give sincere and honest appreciation.

Compliments shouldn’t be flattery. (even though it still works)

That said, Dale Carnegie hits home with this principle. His advice is just way ahead of his time and is increasingly valuable in this day and age.

Why power is…well, power

The lab coat is an awesome persuasion tool.

How could I tell? It’s because of one study conducted at Yale University.

Random people were told by a researcher to assist in a “scientific learning” experiment that tests the effect of punishment on learning and memory.

Of course, these people took the role of the “teacher” and was authorized to administer shocks to the “learner” sitting on the electric chair. 

Whenever the learner made a failed recall attempt, the voltage would increase by 15 V. Can you imagine how high is this?

Now, what happened? On average, the “teachers” administered up to 450 Volts to the “learner” before trying to quit the experiment.

It’s messed up. The learner wasn’t dead, though. He’s just an actor who pretended to become electrified.

The true subjects were the “teachers”. It seems that they followed the original researcher’s orders without fail even though what they’re doing seemed unethical.

The results of the real experiment were clear–an authority figure has a huge influence on our actions. So high, in fact, that 60%+ of people went out of their way to electrocute the learner using values higher than 300V.

This is Weapon of Influence #5: Authority.

I was able to experience the power of this principle back then when I was entering a village that required a ‘car sticker’ to get in.

During my first attempt, the guards didn’t let me in.

I was using a sedan and was wearing t-shirts. No wonder why.

The next time, however, it was kinda funny. I used the Authority principle without realizing it.

I was then driving a pickup and was wearing a long-sleeve buttoned shirt.

Lo and behold, the village guards even gave salutes when I was passing by.

On other occasions, I tend to get listened to more when I wear more formal clothes than my regular casual wear. 

It’s not just physical appearance, though. It’s also when you’re known for your expertise, or you have achieved the results someone else wants.

For example, when your site gets featured on Forbes, put “As seen on Forbes” on your site; you’ll instantly become an “authority” figure.

If you’re able to lose 56lbs of fat in 8 months, then put out your results; you’ll instantly become an “authority” for weight loss.

When you’re authoritative, 99% of the time you’re instantly respected by other people without them even knowing you.

That, in turn, becomes a primer for your persuasion attempts.

“Limited” Time Offers

I remember back then when I stumbled upon a video on dating, this guy said: “Don’t always be available.” It didn’t make sense. 

But now that I know Weapon of Influence #6: Scarcity, it made sense to me.

By the way, I think the “don’t always be available” thing is poor advice.

I say “Pursue your goals first before anything else.” It’s the real way to increase your self-worth.

Anyway, I’m going off on a tangent here.

Have you noticed that most product launches include “limited time offers”?

And that almost all businesses use most of these 6 weapons of influence to make you buy?

It’s because they’re THAT effective.

When an object is a “limited edition” release, or it’s just “200 pairs across the globe”, the perceived value increases tremendously.

Come to think of it, a “one-time offer” is more likely to get you to buy than regular offers.

The fear of missing out (FOMO) is real.

It’s why some courses only open twice or once a year, and make tens of thousands of dollars once they open.

It’s why people in a relationship tend to become more attractive to the opposite sex.

It’s why you naturally persuade your friend to attend a seminar because “it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

I think you can even use the scarcity principle by making what you say a “secret” or something nobody else knows. 

Personally, I’ve used the Scarcity principle to force myself into action. Whenever I think an opportunity to learn a lot of things while you’re young is “once-in-a-lifetime”, I get excited about reading more books.

And I want to learn them fast. That’s how I got interested in learning how to learn in the first place. 🙂

Conclusion: Influence Book Summary

With all of that said, the more principles you combine into a persuasion attempt, the more likely you’ll influence the behavior of your “target”.

Just like how salesmen do it. And how advertising does it.

You can learn more about Influence on Amazon:

I’ve been thinking, though…which of these do you think is the most powerful weapon of influence?

Let’s talk about it in the comments 🙂

Categories Notes