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By Steve Schenck

In the previous article, I presented Robert Cialdini’s principle of Reciprocation. Did you think of a few times that you have used this in your life? What about other people who have used it to influence you to buy from them, give them a referral to an important person, or do them a favor?

The second principle is Commitment and Consistency. The point here is most people will perceive that their decision is the right one after they have begun acting on it. Once people commit in action, in writing or in speech they tend to keep that commitment.

In a way, a commitment is a promise you make to yourself. You have an image of who you are, and you strive to support that image by being committed and consistent. If you have adopted the habit of doing something that people now expect of you, peer pressure helps to “keep you in line.” If you sign a document that you will do something, or you say in public that you will do something, you feel pressure to keep that commitment, and be consistent with what you have written or said you would do.

A nonprofit fundraiser might ask “You are an honest person, aren’t you?” If you say “Yes,” you have given a commitment and stated that you fit that self -image the fund raiser described. You have now set yourself up to agree with the person and feel pressure to do to what (s)he asks next. The fundraiser might say, “Then, $5 per month is a fair amount to ask for our cause to stop corruption in the world, isn’t it?” If you say “Yes” to that, you have committed yourself even more and are likely to give a donation of some kind. This is another big reason why many people do not look strangers in the eye on the street or in other public places. They don’t want to find themselves agreeing to something they had not planned on doing.

If a store finally gets you to buy an inexpensive piece of merchandise or a vendor finally convinces your business to place a small order, that has created a change. Here, you have changed from a prospect into a customer and you are now likely to see yourself buying from this person again in the future.

Have you ever typed your email onto a landing page in exchange for a free eBook, a free App, a free version of software, or a free in-depth webinar? Yes? The first part of this was Reciprocation – you have given them your email in exchange for something. However, when the eBook, App, software or webinar follows up with an offer to buy the “professional, full service version” at a bargain price, the principle of commitment and consistency now comes into play. You have already shown an interest and immersed yourself somewhat into the product. If you really value what you have gotten from the product so far, you feel a pressure to continue to buy it. Your self-image identifies you with using their product. You feel you have made a commitment and feel you need to be consistent in giving value to yourself by paying for a fuller, even more useful version of the product.

Having impulse items at the cash register: gum and candy at the cash register of a food market; inexpensive cute toys, magnets or keychains at a gift shop; and travel size cosmetics at a skin care shop are examples of “start small and build.” Once you get comfortable with buying small items, you are likely to get comfortable buying other items that are larger and have a higher price tag.

Part of the psychology of this commitment and consistency principle is that you must go on automatic with many of the physical decisions in your life such as walking, driving, greeting people, doing your tasks at work, and doing personal errands. You cannot afford to figure out the details of how to do these from scratch like you did when you first learned how to do them.

On a mental and emotional level, you do things that are consistent with your earlier decisions. This can lead to positive things if you are developing a habit that benefits you. If you are taking on habits or spending time with people which are undermining your health, finances, or self- awareness this may lead to a new consistency that damages you.

Are there ways to defend against being manipulated by sudden urges or by people in unexpected situations?  There are many ways, but here are two.

1) When you feel that you are being manipulated, tell that person that you cannot agree to anything right now and leave to think somewhere else.

2) Train yourself to recognize when your emotions or likes / dislikes are being strongly appealed to. When you notice this, don’t agree to anything. Let your mind and emotions come to an agreement in some calm space when you are not under pressure to decide.

We all are influenced by others. The concept of ethical influence, looking after the interests of others, versus influence for self-gain at any cost, can build great relationships, in business, in governing, and in personal relationships. People are looking for those that they can trust for the long run.

There is much to this. It applies to all areas of your life which is why I encourage you to read Influence, Robert Cialdini’s book.

The next article will address the third principle.

Photo credit: Commitment by Bambookarma