How can you enhance your powers of influence and persuasion? In his latest book, renowned psychologist Robert Cialdini offers a few tips for getting what we want from those we’re talking to… before we even ask for it! This technique is known as “pre-suasion”.

Ever heard of Robert Cialdini ? A psychology professor from the University of Arizona, he’s regarded as one of the world’s leading experts in the science of persuasion. And in his latest book*, he draws inspiration from the communication methods used by advertisers, politicians and lobbyists to get what they want. And the result of his analyses? It’s apparently not so much the message itself that really counts, but the few moments immediately preceding its delivery. In other words, the power of persuasion comes into play before the first word has even been uttered, during what he calls the “pre-suasion” phase. So here are his 3 tips for influencing the receptiveness of your contact, colleague or client.

  1. Creating a favourable situation

The starting observation is that people are unknowingly influenced by the environment surrounding them. So to increase the likelihood of them acceding to your request, you need to ensure they’re in a context where they feel at ease or which is at least in tune with the situation. For instance? Robert Cialdini cites a French study from 2012 in which men were stationed in front of different shops and tasked with approaching female passers-by. Those who took up position outside a florist’s obtained a telephone number in 25% of cases, compared with just 10% of those who were outside a shoe shop and 14% of those outside a baker’s.

  1. Applying the principle of reciprocity

It might seem (almost) obvious, but it’s harder to say no to someone who has just done something for you. It’s the good old principle of give and take! Whether it’s a nice coffee, a sample, or a small gift, the idea is to give the other person a feeling of owing something in return. On this point, Cialdini bases his argument on another experiment, this time conducted in the Netherlands. A sample of people were sent a letter asking them to take part in a lengthy opinion poll in exchange for payment. Result: those who were sent the payment before the questionnaire replied in greater numbers than the others.

  1. Fostering a sense of belonging

Birds of a feather flock together, so the saying goes. We’re naturally drawn to people who have the same name as us or who were born on the same day or in the same town as us, etc. So whether through the words you choose or the things you do, it’s important to give the other person the impression of being part of the same tribe, of coming from the same world as you.

*Pré-Suasion : Le pouvoir de l’influence commence avant qu’on ait prononcé le premier mot, éditions First, 2017.

(ENG : Pre-Suasion : A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade, Simon & Schuster, 2016)