Most of us are yet to fully grasp the impact of leaked personal data. It was while reading ‘Pre-Suasion’ by Robert Cialdini, that I further realised the importance of this information to corporations. The title of the book is a term Cialdini has coined for his method of prepping an audience – to get them to respond positively to the message they’re about to receive. Think of how easily we could be coerced by a brand once it’s armed with information that Facebook leaks about us. For instance, if you’ve perhaps just posted about your love for coffee, that moment is ripe for an e-seller to flood you with advertisements about coffee machines. Instead of having to set you up into being more receptive to the idea of purchasing the product, they’ve just waited for the precise moment to push that thought.
As a social psychologist researching influence for decades, Cialdini’s thoughts on persuasion are extremely relevant today. This is especially considering how our personal data online has become currency for corporations that want us to buy their ideas and products. While most would look at this development with a sense of foreboding, I would encourage you to read what Cialdini says about Pre-suading. Once you know of the techniques they’re using on you, you’re better prepared to combat it.
I like how Pre-Suasion has given me well-researched scientific backing for beliefs that I instinctively held. For instance, ‘priming’ is the art of putting a recipient in the right frame of mind to receive a message before delivering it. It’s why I focus a lot on how entrances to the spaces we work on are designed. It’s not just about creating a positive environment in advance. It’s also about putting the client or the team members in the right mode of thought. Even simple elements like a piece of art or furniture or even the colour scheme could be instrumental to impact.
Cialdini’s previous work also talked about Reciprocity, the method of rewarding an audience in advance to improve the possibility of a positive response. In Pre-Suasion, he adds timing to this equation, highlighting the importance of the right moment. The concept of ‘reverse hoteling’ – leaving a borrowed desk/cabin in an even better condition that you took charge of it in – originates from this cycle of gratitude. Modern workspaces have been implementing this instinctively too. At agile offices, which allow flexibility in working hours, work locations and even the scope of responsibility, team members would be more inclined to value the freedom they get and consequently more likely to give their best to the projects.
But perhaps the biggest takeaway for me from Pre-Suasion is the seventh principle of influence that Cialdini added to the six listed in his first book – Unity. Workplaces now don’t just want you to look at your office as a place of work – they want to create a sense of belonging. Team members working towards a common objective is not just a line from a staid mission statement. It’s an idea that I see them putting into practice. I observe these shared workspaces trying to inculcate a shared culture and working to encourage inclusivity of diverse, unique abilities of different team members. It’s about striving to leverage everyone’s special traits to work with a unified mindset.
I suppose anyone who browses through these principles will have different situations to apply them to. Pre-Suasion is then a handy read for you – irrespective of what field or background you belong to. It’s not just about influence in business – but life, the universe and everything else.