Saurabh Arora

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Why we say Yes and How to say No

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On Dave McClure‘s recommendation, I recently read one of the most amazing book on understanding human beings and marketing – Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini. It’s an interesting read and Robert does a good job explaining the weapons of influence (why we say yes) backed with real life case studies and strategies to defend from the same (how to say no). Noted below are the six universal principles explained in the book.

  • Reciprocation: The rule says that we should try to reply, in kind, what another person has provided us. We are obligated to the future repayment of favors, gifts, invitations, and the like.
  • Commitment & Consistency: The rule says that we have an obsessive desire to be (and to appear) consistent with what we have already done. Once we have made a choice or taken a stand, we will encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with that commitment.
  • Social Proof: It’s our tendency to see an action as more appropriate when others are doing it normally.
  • Liking: The rule says that we most prefer to say yes to requests of someone we know and like.
  • Authority: The rule says that we have a deep-seated sense of duty to authority within us all.
  • Scarcity: The rule says that the idea of potential loss plays a large role in human decision making. We are more motivated by the thought of losing something than by the thought of gaining something of equal value.

There are many examples that Robert mentions in the book that greatly enhance our ability to appreciate these principles. One such example is described below.

In a study, a set of home owners was incentivized to reduce home energy consumption by publicizing their names in local newspaper articles as public-spirited, fuel-conserving citizens. Another set was just told about the benefits of energy conservation and encouraged to do the same. The first set, much to our expectation, reduced energy consumption by the end of the study. However, interesting to note was the fact that these set of homeowners continue to reduce energy consumption even beyond the incentive period. The necessity to consistently behave as per previous public commitment proved to have a lasting impact on these homeowners.

Other than the examples mentioned in the book, I’ve come across two such examples that knowingly (or unknowingly) use one of the above mentioned principle:

  • Jason Calacanis in his famous Jason’s List mentions “This reciprication effect is a natural part of our existence, and there is nothing wrong with it. Just this week someone who attended a tech meetup at Mahalo met me in a bar and bought me and my father a drink. We talked for 30 minutes, and now for the cost of $15 in drinks I would take that guy’s call any time. How could I not–it would be rude!”. Read complete post on Business Insider.
  • Steve Cheney in his recent post notes “Group buying also does an incredible job creating perceived scarcity”.

I’m now actively trying to use these principles in areas such as negotiation and networking. Have you used Robert’s principles to influence others? Or are you planning to use? I would love to hear them.

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Saurabh Arora is is crunching numbers at Faceboook. Previously, he got his hands dirty doing product development, online customer acquisition, product marketing and online revenue generation for one of the India's leading online job portal.

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