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on December 14, 2001
Whatever Cialdini says here is, pretty much, common sense. However, after finishing the book I did feel I gained numerous insights. Could Dr. Cialdini be applying some of his 'Persuasion' hooks to make this work appear more than it is? If so, then he is a master; all the more reason to read it!
The fundamental message of the book is that human beings (much like animals) have certain mental 'hot-buttons' which when activated, elicit a predictable knee-jerk reaction in our thinking and actions. And these knee-jerk reactions could be very different from what we would have conducted given the luxury of time, equanimity and logic.
As mentioned above, some of what Cialdini presents is blatantly obvious, if considered just at face value. For instance, the 'Reciprocity' principle essentially says that we feel obligated and respond differently when someone has initiated something seemingly positive toward us. No kidding! Where Cialdini is insightful lies in demonstrating that this initial favor can be completely irrelevant in terms of its utility to us, or can draw a much higher payback out of us, without us even realizing. Additionally, Cialdini is able to point out numerous instances of exploitation in everyday life settings that result from the application of this principle. These are depths to which my 'common sense' does not bother to go into and this book is therefore an eye-opener.
There are instances where I think Cialdini is making a strong leap of faith in explaining the rationale behind certain observable actions. For instance, he points out that we wait longer to honk at an expensive car blocking an intersection than a economy car. He then jumps to his conclusion that the longer wait for the expensive car behind is due to a 'deference' to the wealthier driver. This is not a scientific conclusion. Many might consider the driver of the stalled Porsche in front to be impetuous and cocky, and the hesitation in honking is due to fear or avoiding an unpleasant exchange!
Regardless of these minor imperfections, this book is educational, entertaining and of course, Persuasive!
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on May 11, 2001
*Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion* is one of the most useful books I have read in a long time. Its author, Robert Cialdini, a psychology professor at Arizona State University, applies his technical background to the task of explaining in everyday terms a subject that impacts all of us: persuasion, and the psychological principles that make it work. Sales professionals are a natural audience for this book; they will find in it the explicit theory and scientific research behind what they have already been doing for years by instinct and trial-and-error. For the rest of us, this book is a powerful defense against those manipulators who seek to exploit our psychological vulnerabilities to get us to comply with their desires.
Cialdini's basic theoretical perspective is that, to deal with a complex world, our brains have automatized responses to various phenomena. In the long-run and in general, these mental mechanisms are practical tools, enabling us to live in society harmoniously and to make decisions quickly and with minimal effort. In specific cases, however, they can misfire, leading to bad decisions. Hence our vulnerability to people who know how these mechanisms work when we do not.
After introducing his subject, the author tackles six of these "weapons of influence" in six chapters. He first explains what they are and how they are used, utilizing personal anecdotes, scientific studies and vivid real life examples to make his case. Much of this is fascinating stuff. For example, according to Cialdini, some of the very techniques advertisers and salespeople use today were used during the Korean War to seduce American POWs into collaborating with their Chinese captors. And the Hare Krishna Society, its fundraising efforts in the 1960s frought with public relations problems, owed its dramatic turnaround in the 1970s to the adoption of solicitation tactics based on shrewd psychology. Cialdini then rounds off each chapter by suggesting what we can do to defend ourselves. He is not a behavioral determinist; half of not falling prey to our unconscious responses is simply being aware that they exist and then taking action to circumvent them or to leverage them in our favor.
For the record, I must state that this book is not perfect. Cialdini sometimes interprets human psychology in ways that I do not believe are warranted given the studies he cites. But endnotes and an ample bibliography are included for readers who are interested in doing further research. Taken with a grain of salt, I believe *Influence* is a worthy read--whether you are a sales professional, or someone who is unwilling to be an easy mark for one.
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on February 28, 2001
My brother, once again, put me on a great book that I wouldn't have glanced at otherwise, Robert Cialdini's INFLUENCE, THE PSYCHOLOGY OF PERSUASION. Cialdini is mostly interested in the way marketers use psychological persuasion to sell products. He writes of 6 definite techniques in which sellers can make buyers comply. In each technique he explains a classic example of how that technique is used. He demonstrates how the Chinese Prison Camp officials were able to coax anti-American statements from American POW's during the Korean War, why 30 eye witnesses did nothing to stop the beating and murder of a woman in New York City, and how Jim Jones was able to persuade his followers to mass suicide. Scary, but they are the same phenomenon that helps Bubba sell you a car.
The book works on both edges of the sword. While Cialdini's focus is to make consumers better informed about the way they are sold products, the quote on the front suggests that its the most important book for marketers in 10 years. Meaning that the information will not only help consumers steer clear from phony salesmen, but that phony salesmen will be even better prepared to be phony if they read the book before you. If you're Machiavellian, you'll enjoy your new powers of persuasion. If you're more virtuous, you enjoy the ability to thwart the powers of these characters. Either way, I suggest you be the first one on your block to read it.
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on December 23, 1997
Persuasion is one of those rare, all-encompassing topics which have direct and immediate implications for everyone. This is an interesting and definitive account of this important topic.
Taking for granted the 'good deal' motivation, Cialdini condenses the many variants of persuasive influence into six major categories. These are reciprocation (give and take), commitment and consistency, social proof, liking, authority (and perceived authority), and scarcity.
A slightly ironic feature of the book (and to be honest I always find these all-encompassing topics ironic, it is kind of like voting on how to vote - what would it mean for example if a democratic election lead to socialist organisation?) is that the reader is persuaded by the use of logical well-developed argument, and insightful examples. Probably a case of the 'good deal'.
A compelling contribution of the book is to note that each of the reasons for persuasion dealt with are in fact rational, time-saving 'short-cuts' developed in response to increasing information overload. In a wide-range of instances these work well, and we therefore tend to use them automatically. But this leaves us susceptible to the con-artists of this world, whom Cialdini cutely terms 'compliance professionals'.
Some may argue that by revealing the secrets of persuasion Cialdini is unleashing an evil force onto the world. I disagree, as well as identifying the venom, Cialdini provides the antidote.
A quibble is that a number of the studies (though clearly seminal) are dated, some of them from the 60's and 70's. It would be informative for the reader to know when and how the results achieved have been replicated. Also, Cialdini appears to concentrate excessively on a small number of examples in making his point, sometimes it would be nice to receive some 'social proof'. Nonetheless, a well-crafted and absorbing book on a topic which has far-reaching implications no matter what one's aims.
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on June 15, 1997
If you are interested in learning what the
tools of persuasion are and how they are
used, this is an excellent reference and
a very easy read.

Some examples from the book:

Find out how G. Gordon Liddy sold a $ 250,000
breakin to his fellow watergate co-conspirators
(Hint: It's the same technique as for used
car sales)

Going to the hospital? Find out why you may
be at risk from and susceptible to authority
as simply stated as the title, "Doctor".

Why was Jim Jones so successful at Guyana?
How was he able to single handedly mastermind
his infamous massacre?

What do weathermen and professional athletes
have in common?

Educate yourself about the tools of persuasion.
Learn how to recognize when those tools are
being used and strategies for avoiding being
manipulated. Learn how to use these tools to
your advantage.

To paraphrase, "Manipulation happens". We can
either accept it and move on, or we can educate
ourselves, be aware of when and how it happens
and of what we can do to prevent it or use it
to our advantage. Robert Cialdini's book is
an excellent reference towards that end.
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on March 27, 2002
Cialdini offers a fasinating insight into how we are all influenced and conditioned to respond and comply in specific ways.
I remember reading somewhere that he immersed himself in the world of compliance professionals by enrolling in a variety of sales and training programs so that he could observe and learn the techniques and strategies from the inside.He learned to sell encyclopedias, vacum cleaners, real estate,cars and even portrait photography! As well as sales he posed as a professional or aspiring professional in advertising, public relations and fundraising organizations. He then talked to political lobbyists and religious cult members to establish ways in which they created influence. I last learned that he was conducting trainings with mckenna breen in the UK.The book is well worth reading just so you can recognise when the techniques used to influence you are being used and how to to defend yourself against them. A great book, enjoy!
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on October 9, 2001
This book is fun to read. It is basically a study on certain peculiar human traits that when triggered would automatically elicit an almost subconcious automated response. The 6 traits that are presented here are as follows:
(1) Reciprocation
(2) Commitment and Consistency
(3) Social Proof
(4) Liking
(5) Authority
(6) Scarcity
What is amazing about these 6 traits is not that they are unusual (all these traits can be treated as common sense), but the scale of influence they are able to exert from a sales deal to human torture and destruction. This book really explains and reaffirms why these traits work and the power they have by providing numerous interesting examples of different form and scale. It goes to show why we are affected by them. It is a powerful book especially if you want to use them as what the author called 'weapons of influence'. Enjoy!
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on January 8, 2011
When I first started to read this book I was mortified at the loss of my naivety. It brought back to me every slimy sales interaction I've experienced and how truly awful some of them felt. I struggled with how I could use these techniques and maintain my personal integrity. As you progress through the book perspective does come albeit some times slowly. These techniques can be used unethically or ethically. And lots of people with integrity use them all the time only to be considered great marketers, etc. So in the end, if you have anything to do with marketing, sales or promotion of any sort (pretty much everyone) you'll want to read this book. Otherwise you risk being at a serious disadvantage.

My only criticism is I would have liked the perspective of becoming a Jujitsu master to be more positive instead of a self defense requirement.
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on June 24, 2002
This book discusses some really effective persuasion techniques. Cialdini illustrates each of these techniques with a lot of examples. The examples explain how to play the role of the persuader and how to spot these techniques at play if you're infact the persuadee ... every chapter has a "How To Say No" section.
This book belongs on your shelf if you're interested in knowing why some people are more influential than others. Why some people get their way. And how you could do the same. This book will especially interest you if you're in the retail business trying to market directly to customers.
I gave it 4 stars because the book is too wordy. The material covered in the book is great. But it could have been written better and condensed to about 1/2 the size.
Nevertheless, enjoy the book!
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on March 4, 2003
I went out and bought this book after I was unable to attend a seminar with the author. I had a pocket guide from Cialdini called the "princiles of ethical influence", and now I have the substance behind that guide. And am I happy I purchased this book. It is a must read for anyone who wishes to understand the craft of sales better. If you want to be a more complete shopper, pick up this book. It is written for everyone, for everyday life.
However, I gave this book four stars because of the over use of examples and clinical study. Okay, maybe that is appropriate for some, and would lead them to better understanding but it was more than I needed. Regardless, this book will remain one of the few I will read more than once.
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