Pre-Suasion: Review

Ask people in the know: “who do you think is the most influential persuasion professional of the past 30 years?” One name will be mentioned: “Robert Cialdini.”

The author of the all-time classic Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini, finally returned in 2016 with an all new book that presents an all new approach to persuasion. Looking to make as big an impact as he did the first time around, that book, which easily landed on my list of 10 books to read for 2017, is Pre-Suasion.

Pre-Suasion Review

First, I’ll list an unfortunate aspect of Pre-Suasion – it’s deceptively thick. Close to half of the actual number of pages in Pre-Suasion from cover to cover actually consist of references and endnotes. But…the endnotes are nothing if not interesting. And as for the main parts of Pre-Suasion itself? The material is excellent. I wish I could review all of it, but first let’s go over the single most important thing.

Attention is Importance

You know it, but you don’t…pay attention to it. Robert Cialdini opens Pre-Suasion by focusing on the importance of attention itself as a psychological phenomenon, so I’ll open this review by doing the same.

Why do we typically assume that whatever we are focusing on in the moment is especially important? One reason is that whatever we are focusing on is especially important in the moment. It’s only reasonable to give heightened attention to those factors that have the most significance and utility for us in a particular situation: a strange noise in the dark, the smell of smoke in a theater, a CEO standing to speak.

This sensible system of focusing our limited attention resources on what does indeed possess special import has an imperfection, though: we can be brought to the mistaken belief that something is important merely because we have been led by some irrelevant factor to give it our narrowed attention. All too often, people believe that if they have paid attention to an idea or event or group, it must be important enough to warrant the consideration. That’s not true.

This is a review of the “focusing illusion,” and it’s the bedrock of the book. The main message of Pre-Suasion is that if you can shift your prospects’ attention, you have their influence. You and your message are important to them. From here, you can move them along to complying with your requests. One great example comes in the form of…

Target Chuting

We can review a humorous story to start off with. Robert Cialdini relays:

On one particular evening, I was feeling out of place at a house party where I knew almost no one. Because interacting socially with strangers is one of my secret areas of self-doubt, I began doing palmistry as a way to fit in. I even read the home owner’s palm twice, once at the beginning of the night and once when he returned a couple of hours and several drinks later, wanting to know more. In the middle of the first reading, I’d bent back his thumb and said, “You know, I can tell that you are quite a stubborn man.” During the second reading, when bending back his thumb, I said, “You know, I can tell that you are quite a flexible man.” After each of the opposing depictions, he thought for a second and admitted that I was absolutely right about who he really was.

How can this be? Robert Cialdini shows that the answer has to do with focus and confirmation bias. What Robert Cialdini did was focus his acquaintance’s attention on particular aspects of his personality. Because he was paying attention to those particular aspects of his personality – those times when he was either stubborn or flexible, he emphasized one attribute by remembering relevant experiences. In the meantime, he completely discarded other memories and experiences, because he wasn’t paying attention to or looking for them. As Robert Cialdini says, our cognitive bias is to look for confirmations and not disconfirmations.

Pre-Suasion is all about elevating attention to a related concept before you make your main message. In this experience, which he calls “target chuting,” Robert Cialdini elevated attention to the concepts of flexibility and stubbornness, respectively, sending his target down a selected “chute.”

Ask the right questions and make the right statements about particular concepts and you now have your prospect focusing on things which you can transition into material that’s far more favorable to your main message or argument. For instance, in a review of work done by two communication scientists, Robert Cialdini cites that starting by asking “do you consider yourself an adventurous person who likes to try new things?” got total strangers to eventually give up personal information.

If you recognize this as being something similar to the kind of “yes-set” agreement in Unlimited Selling Power, you’re on to something. Unlimited Selling Power can be described as the art of persuasion, the kind you’ll be using in your everyday conversation. Pre-Suasion, on the other hand, is more like the science. In Pre-Suasion, Robert Cialdini does an extensive review of the laws of persuasion, the principles that govern the universe of getting compliance, while the authors of Unlimited Selling Power go over how you can apply them to ordinary experience. Use the two books as companions and you have a very formidable system with which to bring you closer to all your goals.

Valentine's Day Peanuts

The Great Seduction Equalizer

If, in this review, you’ve been pondering the possibilities for the use of this type of Pre-Suasion or “channeled attention” approach in not only your financial life, but in your romantic one as well, you’re on to something. I can do you one better. Robert Cialdini does a review of this hilariously simple, but powerful study:

In “To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do this,” Mandy Len Catron claimed to have found a marvelously effective way to produce the intense emotional closeness and social bonds of love – in the space of 45 minutes! she knew it worked, she said, because it had worked for her.

The technique came from a program of research initiated by a husband and wife team of psychologists, Arthur and Elaine Aron, who hit upon it in their investigations of close relationships. It involves a specific form of coordinated action, in which partners engage in a reciprocal, turn-taking exchange sequence. Other psychologists have demonstrated that a history of reciprocally exchanged favors leads individuals to give additional favors to their exchange partner, no matter who provided the last one. It’s a tendency that fits with my account of the Harrisons’ agreeing to house an 18-year-old student they had never met, not because they owed his family favor but because they had a decade-long history of exchanging holiday cards with them. The process of reciprocal exchange had prompted the Harrisons’ assent by creating a relationship rather than an unmet obligation.

The Arons and their coworkers helped explain this kind of willing assent by showing how extended reciprocal exchanges bind the transactors together. They did so by employing a particularly unifying type of reciprocal exchange strong enough to “unify” people into love with each other: personal self-disclosure. The procedure was not complicated: In pairs, participants took turns reading questions to their partner, who would answer, and who would then receive their partner’s answer to the same item. Advancing through the 36 questions required participants to disclose progressively more personal information about themselves, and, in turn, to learn more personal information about their partner. An early question would be, “What would constitute a perfect day for you?” whereas later in the sequence, a question would be “What do you value most in a friendship?” And near the end of the list, a question would be, “Of all the people in your family, whose death would be the most disturbing?”

Relationships deepened beyond all expectations. The procedure generated feelings of emotional closeness and interpersonal unity that are unparalleled within a 45 minute span, especially among complete strangers in an emotionally sterile laboratory setting. Moreover, the outcome was no chance occurrence. Hundreds of studies using the method have since confirmed the effect, and some participants have gotten married as a result.

Do you think you can use this in your game? Can you see it helping you get more and better girls? Well, my review can’t go on forever (Google doesn’t like that). You can find out more about how this technique works in Pre-Suasion, along with the power of the unexpected surprise, the careful control of fear-based messaging, and how to easily elevate your brand or product over your competitors’. For only $15, all this and much more is at your fingertips, awaiting command.