Why do some messages persuade and other don’t persuade? What makes sales and advertising organizations successful? When are the principles of persuasion and influence most successful, and when do these principles not work?
Pre-suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade, by Dr. Robert Cialdini, is an incredible book about how you can create situations which will increase the chances of persuading your audience.
In Dr. Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, we learned about the 6 key principles of persuasion, and how to salespeople use these tactics to try to get you to buy their product or service.
In contrast to Influence, Pre-suasion looks to discuss the scenarios and situations where the odds of persuasion can increase.
Pre-suasion looks to answer the question, “What can someone who wants to persuade do before they start to present their message, product, argument, etc.”, whereas Influence talks about ways to connect during a discussion or sales pitch.
When making a decision, who we are can affected by where we are emotionally, physically, etc.
Through extensive research, Dr. Cialdini has found a number of factors which can be used to sway an audience to become more receptive to your ideas and goals.
For anyone interested in psychology, sales and marketing, and leadership, Pre-suasion is a fantastic book to read.
The rest of this post includes a summary of Pre-suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade, takeaways from Pre-suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade, and a reading recommendation for you.
Book Summary of Pre-suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade
For many years, social psychologists focused on what strategies could be employed to persuade in the moment.
In Dr. Cialdini’s other book, Influence, he lays out the 6 principles of persuasion in detail:
- social proof
While these are very important and beneficial to understand, what else can affect a message and interaction? How can we improve the odds of our message being received in a positive light?
Are there any other things to consider in addition to these principles of persuasion?
In Pre-suasion, Dr. Cialdini looks to answer the question, “what can communicators do before they speak to get their message accepted?”
Through research and investigation, Dr. Cialdini shares with us his discoveries and a number of tips to apply in life when trying to persuade others.
The Importance of Attention in Pre-suasion and Influence
When looking to communicate, the first thing that should be considered is framing your argument and the attention of your audience on a specific perspective.
If something is readily able to be thought of, then it will be easier later on for those thoughts to come out.
One example in the book talks about how in the 2000s, the media focused more on the troops and army who were fighting in the Iraq War vs. the strategy and politics surrounding the war.
Because of the elevated attention and focus on how great the troops were and everything they were doing, there was less focus on some of the shortcomings of the campaign.
In terms of public perception of the war, since the media wasn’t producing as much content on these shortcomings, the public thought the war efforts were worthy of support.
Along these same lines, if you can connect with your audience and help them imagine and feel the benefits (or consequences) of a certain situation, you can get buy in.
This has happened many times with false accusations during investigative interviews.
Over time, the interviewers will slowly guide the interviewee into constructing a story of being guilty of the crime.
By making assertions like, “do you recall doing X to the victim?” and then if the interviewee answers, “well I don’t remember, but I can imagine doing this”, following up with “Yes, well you can imagine, maybe you did end up doing this act”, this can be very potent in getting a confession of guilt.
How to Gain and Hold Attention
Now that we have established the importance, how can you gain and hold attraction when communicating?
First, there are a few things which will always gain a person’s attention:
- and the unique
However, these things need to be aligned with both what your audience’s needs are, and what your message is.
For example, it wouldn’t make sense to show a violent clip and then ask for someone to buy diapers. This is not congruent and definitely would not be a way to persuade someone to want to buy diapers.
Instead, there are certain types of information which will hold an audience’s attention:
- the mysterious,
- the unfinished,
- and the self-relevant
Cliffhangers work because humans will naturally be curious and want to know more. If you are given everything in one go, then you won’t want more.
By employing these thoughts, you can gain the attention of your audience, keep it, and then work to deliver your message using techniques described in the next sections.
The Effect of Association on Pre-suasion and Influence
When looking to persuade and influence, association is incredibly powerful. Both language and imagery can be used to affect our thinking positively, or negatively.
Similar to using affirmations to change your internal thought processes, association is very powerful when used to connect ideas and feelings to guide a conversation.
However, it’s important to note that using the right associations are how you can bring about change.
One of my most favorite examples from the book was how a health care organization does not use any language related to violence.
Instead of using the word “target”, they use the word “goal”. Instead of using the phrase “beat their competition”, they use the phrase “outpace their competition”.
Since they are a health care company that looks to help others, violence should not be a thought on any employee’s mind.
In addition to language, geography and someone’s physical location can affect their thinking.
If you are trying to work on a project which requires a lot of creativity, being in a room which is very boring could be a negative.
Likewise, if you are trying to do something problem solving intensive, then it might not be optimal to be distracted with many colors and noises.
Using Pre-suasion to the Fullest
As I mentioned in an earlier paragraph, pre-suasion is all about how to connect with your audience before going into presentation.
Once you have drawn attention to the appropriate pieces of information, and used association to further guide your audience, then Dr. Cialdini says you should then use the six principles of persuasion to further guide your audience.
Again, these six principles of persuasion are as follows:
- social proof
These principles are so powerful that they generate substantial change in a wide range of circumstances.
One last point which is discussed in the book however is the importance of unity.
Embracing unity when looking to persuade involves tapping into the fundamental behavior of human beings.
There are two ways in which unity can be achieved: in being together, and in acting together (and these can happen at the same time).
One example is when dealing with family members vs. strangers – I’m guessing you would rather help your family member because they are “one of us” and of the same bloodline.
You also can see this in fans cheering for their favorite sport teams; total strangers can become best friends for a few hours at a game.
Unity and the want to feel together with others is fundamental to humans, and is another way we influence an outcome.
Depending on the context, suggesting you are on the same team, by experiencing similar experiences, and connecting through a past living situation, birthplace or birthday, can influence and attract others to your message.
Is Pre-suasion Ethical?
Using the strategies of persuasion and influence to gain an advantage in communication can be used for good or bad.
In the context of this book, Dr. Cialdini devotes an entire chapter to discussing the ethics of pre-suasion.
His argument is that pre-suasion should only be used for good, and if used for bad, at least in the area of business, then there will be negative consequences for those bad acting businesses.
Dr. Cialdini hypothesized and proved that through experiments that if a business is unethical, then these businesses will suffer from:
- Poor employee performance
- Employee Turnover
- Employee Fraud
At the end of the day, pre-suasion can be used for good or evil, and we need to be aware of this fact.
As consumers, we need to be aware of these tactics when looking for products and services, and as communicators, we can be aware of some of the strategies we can use to attract others to our message.
Takeaways from Pre-suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade
With every book you read, it is a must to have takeaways and actionable items to implement in life.
The main takeaway from Pre-suasion is how you can change the frame and narrative of a situation by using different language or imagery.
By changing the way you approach a situation with certain statements, actions and questions, you can guide a situation towards a result you want.
Funnily enough, I experienced pre-suasion first hand the other week at the bar.
I was talking with a girl about finances, how she is a Dave Ramsey enthusiast, and how she was paying off debt.
One area of personal finance, which is more on the travel and lifestyle side of things, is credit card hacking. With credit card hacking, you look to hit a certain level of spending ($2,000 in the first 3 months for example), and after hitting this “minimum spend”, you will get cash back or airline miles.
At the bar, there was a “minimum spend” for using your card to pay.
When she said she needed to get another drink to meet the “minimum spend”, I got excited because I thought she was talking about credit card hacking!
Instead, she told me she uses a debit card and she just needed to get to a $10 purchase to use her card.
What a face palm moment for me, ha!
This situation proved and showed to me it’s entirely possible to be susceptible to prior discussion when thinking and making decisions in the future!
My takeaway is pre-suasion is not only possible, but very potent.
Pre-suasion should be used for good. By reading this book, I now know some more ways to get buy in from others.
Our Recommendation for Pre-suasion
Pre-suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade will help you gain a better understanding of the human mind and human behavior.
If you are in sales, deal with clients on a regular basis, or are involved in presentations towards people you need to get approval from, Pre-suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade is a must read!
Even as a consumer, or as someone interested in psychology, Influence is a fantastic book. Influence will open your eyes to some of the tricks and techniques of big corporations and sales companies.
By reading Pre-suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade, you will learn how to set yourself and your message up for greater reception, and discover ways to align your audience the right way before you start your pitch.
After reading, you’ll learn how to become a skilled pre-suader, and know how to gain attention in the right way.