I originally picked this up on the strong recommendation of several entrepreneurs that I work with. The original goal was to learn more about marketing techniques. I ended up walking away with a lot more.
What’s interesting about reading this book is how often I found myself saying “oh, that’s why!” – it explains a lot about human behavior and why we do the things we do. It explains a lot about not only how we are influenced, but why … and why it makes sense that it might be so. And of course, what you might do once you recognize it.
I’m a member of the board of a local non-profit agency that has an annual luncheon. I used to cringe at some of the way that items were done. I use to wonder “couldn’t the money we’re spending on this nice meal be better spent on our mission?”. After reading Cialdini’s book, I understand now some of the very legitimate reasons that a fund raising organization would organize things the way they do. Cialdini lays out six principals of influence – reciprocity, scarcity, liking, authority, social proof, and consistency – and watching a luncheon unfold in that light really helped me see what was happening, and why.
Regardless of how the book is positioned, this is not a marketing tactics book, nor a true “how to” book. It’s also not a “defense against influence” book. Rather, Cialdini takes an analytical look at influence, how it works, why it works, and how people react. He does touch on “defense” only in the sense that he does mention in several instances how one might react if you become aware that you are being influenced, and how to judge whether that influence is improper or perhaps appropriate.
I recommend this book strongly not only for folks attempting to influence others (parents, educators, government officials, marketing professionals … the list goes on – it’s really all of us at one time or another), but also those who want a better understanding of why people behave the way they do in many circumstances, and how you might want to be better aware yourself of outside influence.
It turns out that this book is currently very popular, so I’d recommend checking into it soon, before your bookstore runs out.
Influence – The Psychology of Persuasion, by Robert B. Cialdini