By Jeff Damulira
Dr Robert Cialdini has been the best specialist in the realm of persuasion and influence, ever since he published influence in 1984. Neverthless, I have stumbled upon his recent publication on persuasion such as Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade. Here is some free excerpt from his book:
PRE-SUASION: An Introduction
As a kind of secret agent, I once infiltrated the training programs of a broad range of professions dedicated to getting us to say yes. For almost three years, I recorded the lessons taught to aspiring automobile salespeople, direct marketers, TV advertisers, frontline managers, charity fund-raisers, public relations specialists, and corporate recruiters. My intent was to find out which practices worked time after time. So I answered the organizations’ ads for trainees or otherwise arranged to be present in their classrooms, notebook in hand, ready to absorb the wisdom born of long-standing experience in the business of persuasion.
In these programs, advanced trainees were often allowed to accompany and observe an old pro who was conducting business. I always jumped at those opportunities because I wanted to see if I could register not just what practitioners in general did to succeed but also what the best of them did. One such practice quickly surfaced that shook my assumptions. I’d expected that the aces of their professions would spend more time than the inferior performers developing the specifics of their requests for change: the clarity, logic, and desirable features of them. That’s not what I found.
The highest achievers spent more time crafting what they did and said before making a request. They set about their mission as skilled gardeners who know that even the finest seeds will not take root in stony soil or bear fullest fruit in poorly prepared ground. They spent much of
their time toiling in the fields of influence thinking about and engaging in cultivation—in ensuring that the situations they were facing had been pretreated and readied for growth. Of course, the best performers also considered and cared about what, specifically, they would be offering in those situations. But much more than their less effective colleagues, they didn’t rely on the legitimate merits of an offer to get it accepted; they recognized that the psychological frame in which an appeal is first placed can carry equal or even greater weight.
Besides, they were frequently in no position to tinker with the merits of what they had to offer; someone else in the organization had created the product, program, or plan they were recommending, often in fixed form. Their responsibility was to present it most productively. To accomplish that, they did something that gave them a singular kind of persuasive traction: before introducing their message, they arranged to make their audience sympathetic to it.
There’s a critical insight in all this for those of us who want to learn to be more influential. The best persuaders become the best through pre-suasion—the process of arranging for recipients to be receptive to a message before they encounter it. To persuade optimally, then, it’s necessary to pre-suade optimally. But how?
In part, the answer involves an essential but poorly appreciated tenet of all communication: what we present first changes the way people experience what we present to them next. Consider how a small procedural difference has improved the bottom line of the consulting business of a Toronto-based colleague of mine. For years, when bidding on a big project, it wasn’t unusual to get price resistance from the client