How to Influence ~ A book summary

The following weapons of influence represent a brief summary of the book “Influence: The Psychology Of Persuasion” by Robert Cialdini.

The teachings in this book are extremely valuable and timeless. For this reason I decided to briefly summarize each influence method presented in the book.

Just a small note, for some people the words “influence” and “persuasion” might imply some kind of deception or bad intentions. The weapons below can be used with good or bad intentions.

For this reason I tried to remain neutral and restrain any judgement.

Let’s learn how to influence.


Weapon of Reciprocation — Small Favors and Gifts

Reciprocation means to repay an action with another action.

You know, when someone does something for you and in return, when needed, you do something for that person.

Some people abuse of this exchange, turning a fair social dynamic into a manipulative move.

What seems to be like an inoffensive gift, like a flower, can turn into a request for a donation. You liked the flower, now give us your money.

A good defense against this weapon is to only repay an action you feel that has no second intentions.

Weapon of Consistency — Promises and boasting

People want to keep their word. Even if this means doing or saying things that go against their feelings.

War prisoners are ask to write about the negative aspects of their country, slowing turning them into a state of confusion and doubt. Slowing their start criticizing their own flag and other prisoners start treating them as traitors. Prisoners who are called traitors by their own peers start questioning their own position and in some case actually betray their country.

We want to do what we said we will do. Which can be use in our favor and definitely, against us.

Sharing with everyone our intent of losing weight will help us accomplish our goals.

Equally, if someone makes you agree that cars should drive slower in your street, the chances of you agreeing on the installation of a giant ugly sign reading “Drive slower” in your front garden increases tremendously!

Weapon of Social Proof — Influencers and attention

This one is easy to identify, especially in today’s social media environment.

Brands generate social proof by paying influencers for simple product mention on social media.

We tend to follow the masses and businesses know that so they try to squeeze every last drop of social proof by providing potential customers with testimonials, sales numbers and ads.

Sometimes social proof is genuine but most of the times, it is totally manufactured. But still effective. Fake social proof can create a snowball effect and influence people to actually consume the product.

Not only in business but also in social dynamics. Someone who is more socially awkward lacks the access to this weapon of influence, making it harder for other people to interact with him or her.

Why it is easier to get an engineering job if you have an engineering degree? It is not only because you have some expertise in the field but also because the degree gives you massive social proof.

Weapon of Liking — Friends and benefits

People alike tend to attract each other. Being in high school, in gangs or in the workplace, people who dress, look, talk and like the same tend to gather into groups.

This happens naturally. It’s part of the human condition. But it can be used as a powerful weapon, a silent one.

A business can make its employees wear nice suits to encourage a sense of trust and professionalism in their clients. A salesperson can research your Facebook to find out what you like to then bring it up during a sales pitch.

Once we find common points of interests and experiences with someone else we are immediately vulnerable to the weapon of liking. For the good and the bad.

Weapon of Authority — Gurus and doctors

There are many ways authority can influence our decisions.

It can be as straightforward as an order from a boss or a superior where a hierarchical structure is in place. Or it can be an influencer or an author who you perceive as being an authority on a certain topic.

You know why a lot of mistakes happen daily in hospitals? Because doctors mistakenly prescribe a treatment and the nurses blindly follow. The nurses can detect such mistakes but often trust in the authority figure, the doctors.

I personally feel the effects of this weapon after I read books on self improvement. The authors sometimes can seem like they have all the answers.

We often have to rely on other people for advice and guidance but we should always remember this weapon of influence.

Putting authorities on a pedestal leaves you vulnerable for all kinds of misleading thoughts.

Weapon of Scarcity — Brokers and countdowns

There is a scene in The Wolf of Wall Street that illustrates this weapon perfectly.

A broker calls a potential client informing him of potential great investment. But he needs to decide NOW because the market is about to close. The client at first gets confused and wants more information but the broker keeps pressuring him for an answer. “NOW, it’s about to close!”

Scarcity is extremely powerful in today’s world. Everyone has access to everything and we fear for the less abundant times. Once the fear of loss is present, we are no longer rational.

This is true for money, food, attention and specially time.

Have you ever came across a website with a countdown indicating when a promotion will end? Or maybe you saw an item with a limited number in stock?

Chances are that they are simply tools to create a sense of scarcity, making it more attractive. Clever right?


QUESTION ~ Have you recently used or felt the effects of a weapon of influence?