Cialdini’s book analyzes the concept of influence, science, and practice. He posits that influence is the creation of change in an individual’s way or norm. Influence can be perceived as a change in attitude, behavior, or perception. However, research has shown that influence cannot be claimed until it has been demonstrated. Not all people can be influential, but most of us maximize their influence on others. Though research has shown that influence is inborn, Cialdini argues that it is a misconception that has embodied majority of individuals in the society. Influence can be learned, as learning institutions have incorporated influence in its arts curriculum (Cialdini, 1988). However, there is a science in the concept; thus, it is taught in various institutions.
Ethical consideration has been pivotal when influencing individuals to change a behavior or attitude. In an attempt to make the principles of influence beneficial to an individual, there is a need to observe etiquette and good rapport. This will ensure that one can be guaranteed the future influence on other individual’s character. Ideally, an individual should have some beneficial impact on his/her life. In achieving this, the universal principles that harness influence must be articulated. These principles include reciprocation, scarcity, authority, commitment, and consensus.
Reciprocation involves individuals giving back the same treatment they received from other individuals. For instance, where an individual receives certain influence, he/she can subject other individuals to the same treatment. Influencing behavior or attitude can be undertaken in numerous ways. In my case, for instance, during my high school life, I was able to influence my fellow student to have a positive attitude towards mathematics. He believed that mathematics was meant for geniuses, and not for the average-minded people like him. During his time in high school, he was able to perform extremely well and also influence other students with the same attitude he had in his life. Currently, he has opened an institution that encourages students to have positive minds towards their problem, no matter how difficult it may seem.
The second principle of influence, as stipulated by Cialdini, is scarcity. The competitive nature of our society has made resources and opportunities scarce. Cialdini posits that individuals will always try to grasp an opportunity when it is offered to them, especially where its availability is rare. Individuals tend to imitate, and eventually acquire, unique character traits, behavior and attitude in the society. For instance, being knowledgeable in certain issues like politics and scientific phenomena implies that people will want to get influenced from the way you undertake activities. My friend had a unique knowledge in literature; he was more than an orator. Every time when he presented a speech, the audience was left agape due to his fluent presentation and a perfect choice of words. Most people wanted to change their attitude and behavior to suit that of an orator. He had much influence in the society due to his unique talent.
Thirdly, authority is another principle of influence that is common in the society. People are always influenced by an authoritative character, especially when one is knowledgeable in a given area of life. Indeed, one cannot make himself a leader, but the society will select an individual from the activities that he/she undertakes. Most knowledgeable individuals are given respect and are supposed to guide the society in the right way – they are the mirrors of the society. As I was one of the few students who had studied higher education in our region, I was bestowed with the utmost respect. The society relied upon my advice on the day-to-day activities. In case of disciplinary actions against my fellow youths, I was called to give them advice in an attempt to influence their behavior and attitude towards life.
The fourth principle is commitment. Cialdini defines commitment as the feeling that people comply when you ask them to do something. The success of commitment will depend on the level of consistency in which individuals were publicly involved with your request. Commitment is rarely achieved, as individuals’ influence may not always be consistent. In a normal environment, people cannot become committed with a single request. Though they may comply with the request, it is not a guarantee that you would be able to commit them to your future request – commitment is built over a number of requests. For instance, when a manager requests the staff workers to be profit-oriented and perform their duties with due diligence, the manager must have demonstrated a similar scenario of success in an earlier period for them to be committed. Commitment is a challenge to many organizations due to change in managerial principles and personnel.
The fifth is the liking principle of influence. When people in the society like you, one would expect a positive response from them when you make a request. An individual should build a positive rapport and ensure that the activities one undertakes are not against the societal norms. Building trust across all sectors in the society is challenging, but one should minimize serious errors. The principle is usually articulated by most political bigwigs. The activities that they perform in the limelight – media’s presence – are choreographed to show their positive attributes. As they are human beings, the dark side of their lives is usually evident; however, they tend to conceal it from the media or public. For this principle to be achieved, one should be cautious with the activities he/she undertakes.
Finally, there is the consensus principle of influence among individuals in the society. Cialdini posits that consensus will be achieved if one can provide the society with the evidence of the people who have accepted the request. Ideally, this principle inclines so much on the experience of an individual in the society. Affirmation of the request will be realized when one provides a logical evidence on how the request had impacted other lives. In my case, when I influenced my fellow student to change his perception on mathematics, I provided an example of how another student, who was in the same class, had improved his grades after changing the attitude. I had to provide a copy of his previous and current results in order to support my claim. Indeed, that was an easy strategy to convince him, as people tend to rely on evidence in order to change their attitude.
In conclusion, influence will be achieved when one articulates the principles stated by Cialdini. Though not all principles have the same weight or influence in life, realizing a positive response would imply a combination of two or more principles. In my opinion, the vital weapon of influence is reciprocation, as most individuals would be influenced in the society. One needs to influence a few people and build a network at the same time.