Few books illuminated the worlds of marketing, sales, psychology, and leadership as Dr. Robert Cialdini’s 1984 classic Influence. Since their inception, Cialdini’s six principles — (1) Reciprocity, (2) Commitment and Consistency, (3) Social Proof, (4) Authority, (5) Liking, and (6) Scarcity — have shone like flares marking the path toward getting what you want.

So, here’s the twist.

It turns out that Influence was only part one of a larger journey that took Cialdini another 30 years to complete. While the six principles are powerful and scientifically validated “weapons,” they didn’t spotlight the most critical moment of any persuasive exchange: the moment before.

As Cialdini explains in his new book Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade: “The best persuaders become the best through pre-suasion — the process of arranging for recipients to be receptive to a message before they encounter it. To persuade optimally, then, it’s necessary to pre-suade optimally. But how?” The rest of Pre-Suasion sets about answering that question.

And yet for leaders, another “how” remains: How does this apply to me?

In other words, what pre-suasive principles stand out when it comes to initiating organizational change, motivating teams, and guiding projects? What are the common pitfalls that come not just from ignoring the moment before but mishandling it? And most importantly, how can companies create a culture of “unity” to foster agreement and healthy critique?

To answer those questions, I connected with Dr. Cialdini to ask him about the secrets to being a persuasive leader.

If you had to pick a single principle from Pre-Suasion for leaders, what should they take away?

Dr. Robert Cialdini: The one that jumps out at me is personified by Warren Buffett.

Fifteen years ago, I was given a gift of Berkshire Hathaway stock. In the annual reports, I noticed something unique. Most reports begin with strengths. They start with the most powerful arguments, the most beneficial reasons why someone should continue investing. Then, they mention the drawbacks.

Buffet does the opposite. He begins with the drawbacks by highlighting their recent mistakes on the first or second page: “Here are the things we did wrong. And here’s how we’re going to try and fix them.”

The approach is disarming. I’ve seen him do it 15 times and I still say to myself, “Wow. This guy is being straight.” What’s more, I’m immediately drawn into what he’s going to say next. I’m poised to listen — riveted really, which is saying something for an annual stock report — because in presenting the drawbacks first, he establishes trust.

You can read Aaron Orendorff’s full interview with Dr. Robert Cialdini in Mashable here: https://mashable.com/2017/04/12/how-to-be-a-persuasive-leader-robert-cialdini.amp

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