Book notes: Pre-Suasion

Pre-Suasion book summary by Marlo Yonocruz

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Pre-Suasion by Robert Cialdini


Synopsis: “The author of the legendary best seller Influence, social psychologist Robert Cialdini, shines a light on effective persuasion and reveals that the secret doesn’t lie in the message itself but in the key moment before that message is delivered.

What separates effective communicators from truly successful persuaders? Using the same combination of rigorous scientific research and accessibility that made his Influence an iconic best seller, Robert Cialdini explains how to capitalize on the essential window of time before you deliver an important message. This “privileged moment for change” prepares people to be receptive to a message before they experience it. Optimal persuasion is achieved only through optimal pre-suasion. In other words, to change minds, a pre-suader must also change states of mind.

His first solo work in over 30 years, Cialdini’s Pre-Suasion draws on his extensive experience as the most cited social psychologist of our time and explains the techniques a person should implement to become a master persuader. Altering a listener’s attitudes, beliefs, or experiences isn’t necessary, says Cialdini – all that’s required is for a communicator to redirect the audience’s focus of attention before a relevant action.” -Amazon

Opening thoughts:

Influence easily made it into my top 10 books, so it’s safe to say that picking up this book was an easy decision. I’ve been on this sales, negotiation, marketing train the past few months so I figured I should keep it going.

Key notes/ideas:

  • The psychological frame in which an appeal is first placed can carry equal or even greater weight
  • The best prersuaders become the best through pre-suasion, the process of arranging for recipients to be receptive to a message before they encounter it
  • What we present first changes the way people experience what we present to them next
  • Trust is one of those qualities that leads to compliance with requests, provided that it has been planted before the request is made
  • All mental activity arises as patters of associations within a vast and intricate neural network, and influence attempts will be successful only to the extent that the associations they trigger are favorable to change
  • Opening steps that influencers take can be called “frames,” “anchors,” “primes,” “mindsets,” or “first impressions”
  • 6 psychological principles deployed in long prospering influence businesses:
    • Reciprocation
    • Liking
    • Social proof
    • Authority
    • Scarcity
    • Consistency
  • Importantly different from influence is the science-based evidence of not just what best to say to persuade, but also when best to say it
  • Privileged moments: the window of opportunity following a pre-suasive opener when a proposal’s power is greatness
  • The importance of attention is importance
    • People give importance to things that have their attention
  • There is a geography of influence. Certain places can prompt certain associations favorable to change
  • In deciding whether a possibility is correct, people typically look for hits rather than misses
    • People look for confirmations of the idea rather than for disconfirmations
    • Most people focus on the presence of confirming evidence rather than the absence of it
  • If you wish to change another’s behavior, you must first change some existing feature of that person so that it fits with the behavior
    • To make someone want to buy something, you have to change their beliefs, attitudes, or experiences with the product
    • Asking “do you consider yourself adventurous and like to try new things?” gave a higher percentance of compliance with giving contact information in a survey
  • Whatever we can do to focus people on something (an idea, person, object, etc) makes that thing seem more important to them than before
  • Agenda setting:when a communicator gets the audience to focus on a key element of a message, they pre-load it with importance
    • The amount of news coverage on an issue can make a big difference in the perceived significance of the issue
    • Lack of direct notice makes banner ads more effective
  • Any practice that pulls attention to an idea will be successful only when the idea has merit
    • If the arguments and evidence supporting them seem meritless by an audience, directed attention to the bad idea won’t make it any more persuasive
  • To get the benefits of peoples’ attention, you must keep the focus unitary
    • Focus on the quality of your brand or produce and not splitting focus to comparing with others
  • Embedded journalists during the Iraq war covered simply the minutiae of the war, not the overall political issues
    • Because the overwhelming media coverage on not the why’s, but the who’s and how’s, the predominant media message to the public was that the thing you should be paying attention to is the conduct of the war, not the wisdom of it
  • Issues that gain attention also gain presumed importance
    • What is focal is causal
    • Perceptions of influence, importance, and causality meet the challenge of captured attention
  • Commanders of attention: The attractors
    • Certain cues seize our attention vigorously. Those that do so most powerfully are linked to our survival
    • Sexual and violence stimuli are prime examples because of their connections to our fundamental motivations to reproduce in one hand, and to avoid harm in the other
  • In any situation, people are dramatically more likely to pay attention to and be influenced by stimuli that fit the goal they have for that situation
    • Heightened anxiety due to fear messages against smoking causes people to be delusional in order to dampen the anxiety effect
    • Fear messages are most effective when incorporated with opportunities for assistance and change
    • Studies show that a message promoting distinctiveness of a museum was more effective after people watched a romantic movie. However, a message promoting the popularity of a museum was more effective after people watched a violent movie
      • A popularity-based appeal will be most effective when people are put in a wary state of mind and driven by a desire for safety
      • When people are put in an amorous state of mind and driven by consequent desire to stand out, a unique-based appeal will be most effective
  • A change in environment or circumstance captures attention and interrupts Pavlov’s classical conditioning experiment
  • In order to survive, any animal needs to be acutely aware of immediate changes to its environment, investigating and evaluating these differences for the dangers or opportunities they might present
    • Cuts are crucial to persuasive success because they can be manipulated to bring in to focus the feature of the message the persuader believes to be most convincing by shifting the scene to that feature. That cut will instigate an orienting response to the winning featured in an audience members brains before they even experience it
  • Unfinished tasks are more memorable, hoarding attention so they can be dispatched successfully
    • The need to go back to unfinished tasks reflects a need for cognitive closure
    • When an important outcome is unknown to people, they can hardly think about anything else
    • Example: Professor using mystery stories as a way to keep his students attention
  • In contests of persuasion, counter arguments are typically more powerful than arguments
  • Mystery format:
    1. Pose the mystery
    2. Deepen the mystery
    3. Hone in on the proper explanation by considering and offering evidence against alternative explanations
  • One of the best ways to enhance audience acceptance of one’s message is to reduce the availability of strong counter arguments to it because counter arguments are typically more powerful then arguments
    • Mysteries help audience not only pay attention to the general details, but also the smaller details
  • The brains operations arise fundamentally and inescapably from raw associations
    • Associations can be called the building blocks of thought
  • The main purpose of speech is to direct listeners attention to a selected sector of reality. Once that is accomplished, the listener’s existing associations to the now spotlighted sector will take over to determine the reaction
    • The main function of language is not to express or describe, but to influence. Something it does by channeling recipients to sectors of reality preloaded with a set of mental association favorable to the communicators view
    • Savvy marketers want to illuminate connections to negative associations and increase connections to positive associations
    • People prefer things, people, products, and companies that have an association with themselves
    • We can alter a key components of our external self persuasive geography or we can alter key components of our internal self persuasive geography
  • Medical student syndrome where a student experiences symptoms of an illness they are learning about and focusing on
  • How to increase personal happiness:
    1. Count your blessings at the start of every day and give it focused attention by writing it down
    2. Cultivate optimism by choosing before hand to look on the bright side of situations, events, and future possibilities
    3. Negate the negative by deliberately limiting time spent dwelling on problems or on unhealthy comparisons with others
  • You have the power to make yourself happier, just like you have the power to lose weight
    • But just like eating healthy and going to the gym faithfully, you have to put in the effort every day, you have to stay with it
  • We can use these attention shifting activities. Relatively simple attention-based tactics can help manage our emotional states
    • Student claimed his increased test scores were attributed to reduced fears and increased confidence via his rituals before test taking
  • If/when then associations to help us achieve goals
    • Forming if/when then plans to build good habits and breaking bad ones
  • People are more likely to select brands that are subtly implemented, but are more aware and defensive about overt and direct product placement
    • Infomercials are placed late at night at the end of the day not because broadcasting fees are lower, but that people are tired and they don’t have the mental energy to resist the ads emotional triggers
  • Time constraints of analyzing the data will also affect decision-making
  • The way successful openers operate for a communicator: they pre-suasively channel recipient’s attention only to those concepts that are associated favorably with the communicator’s particular goal
  • In terms of gift reciprocation, meaningful is not the same as costly. Meaningful gifts in the eyes of others can be an expensive
    • Requesters of various sorts can elevate the likelihood that they will receive high levels of benefit from others if they first deliver benefits viewed by the others as meaningful and unexpected
    • Customization. People should feel especially obligated to reciprocate a gift designed to meet their particular needs
  • Highlighting similarities and giving complements increases liking and gives ascent
    • Similarities and complements cause people to feel that you like them.
    • Once they come to recognize that you like them, they’ll want to do business with you
    • His number one rule for sales people is to show customers that you genuinely like them
  • The strength of social proof is that it destroys the problem of uncertain achievability
  • Sometimes information becomes persuasive only because an authority is its source
    • A credible authority possesses a combination of two highly persuasive qualities: expertise and trustworthiness
    • A communicator who references a weakness early on is immediately seen as more honest and trustworthy
  • We is the shared me. The conduct of one member of a group affects the self-esteem of the others
    • Evoking the power of kinship
  • Warren Buffett acknowledges the problems to demonstrate to the shareholders that he is fully aware of it and he’s fully willing to reveal them
  • Strategic leveraging of existing unities to spur others to action and help victims
    • Blurred sense of self other identity
  • Liking: when people act in unison, they not only see themselves as more alike, but also evaluate each other more positively
    • Music possesses rare synchronizing power
    • Music and romance are strongly associated with one another in life
      • Music is best suited in advertising for emotional and feeling products
  • Co-creation can be a route to unification
    • Asking for advice is good advice
    • Businesses getting their customers to help co-create with them
    • Giving advice is a mechanism of unity, and the desire to support a product or company due to feelings of being linked to the brand
  • Companies who use unethical persuasion tactics may profit in the short term, but will negatively affect its long-term profits if exposed
    • The amount of unethical activity on the part of commercial organizations remains high. Apparently, many senior leaders are cognizant of the potentially ruinous consequences i’ve discovered ethical misconduct but are not deterred by them
    • Poor employee performance is the biggest saboteur of company profitability
    • Employee moral stress in the workplace contributes to poor performance
      1. The more unethical the climate, the poorer the workers job performance
      2. The more unethical the climate, the more stress felt at work
      3. That particular stress caused poor performance
    • Stress caused by an ethical practices increase turnover and increase those turnover costs for the company
    • Those who cheat for you will cheat against you. If you encourage the first form of deceit, you will get the second, which will cost you much more
  • Create lasting change by installing strong commitments
  • Pre-suasive openers can produce dramatic immediate shifts in people
    • To turn those shifts into durable changes, it is necessary to get commitments to them usually in the form of related behavior
  • The most effective commitments reach into the future by incorporating behaviors that affect one’s identity
    • They do so by ensuring that the commitment is undertaken in an active, effortful, and voluntary fashion because each of these elements communicates deep personal preference
  • We are all becoming less and less able to think hard and well about what best to do in many situations
    • Most of us are likely to act automatically to cues in certain situations
  • Who we are is where we are
    • Physicians, like most people, are either patient serving or self-serving depending on their attentional focus at the time
  • Who we are with respect to any choice is where we are attentionally, in the moment before the choice
    • We can be channeled to that privileged moment by choice-relevant cues we haphazardly bump into in our daily settings, or by the cues a knowing communicator has tactically placed there, or by the cues we have stored in those recurring sites to send us consistently in desired directions

Closing thoughts:

While the ideas and concepts posed by the book were great, I couldn’t help but feel like this book has a lot of extra fluff. Similar to Cialdini’s last book, I felt his main points could have been summarized into a few key points. The rest of the book was mostly a series of drawn out explanation and anecdotes to support his points. While I do see value in driving the point home with scientific research and explanations, I found myself wanting to skip past to get to the meat. Even then, the meat was pretty predictable.

Overall, great ideas especially if you’re an influence practitioner (salesperson, marketing manager, etc). For the average person, the information is nice to know but not necessary. The last book was written specifically to give the average consumer insight into the tactics and principles used against them. However, this book is a more in depth look into what can increase your influencing skills.

Nutshell: Influence practitioners should target the privileged moments before the interaction to greatly increase their effectiveness.

Rating: 3.5/5

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