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Influence and Persuasion

Influence is a powerful currency in the business environment that gives a lot of leverage to those who master this skill. It is not surprising that there is an extensive body of literature on the art of persuasion and its application in real life. Such is the book by Bob Burg titled Winning Without Intimidation: How to Master the Art of Positive Influence. In short, his work elaborates on and illustrates one of the key principles of healthy and effective communication: respond, not react (Burg, 2005). Burg’s book provides a lot of practical examples of how to respond in different situations, ranging from family quarrels to workplace conflicts. Though Winning Without Intimidation contains useful advice, it gives the impression of being targeted toward those people in the audience who are rather short-tempered. Apart from that, not all recommendations are culture-agnostic and, hence, should be taken with a grain of salt. For instance, being straightforward is frowned upon in high-context cultures, such as Chinese, Japanese, or Korean. For this reason, Burg’s rules for “winning without intimidation” are not exactly universal.

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A better example of a book on the subject matter is Robert Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. Though it promotes a similar approach to communication problems, the one that prioritizes kindness and compassion, it is more concrete about the qualities that a person needs to foster to harness the art of persuasion. I would like to note that this book is internationally recognized. By now, it has sold three million copies and made it to Fortune’s

“75 Smartest Business Books” ranking and 50 Psychology Classics. In short, the book answers the question as to what a person needs to and what he or she needs to be to make people say yes. Part of the appeal of the book is its scientific foundation. As opposed to other self-help and communication works that make vague, often “new age” claims, Influence is authored by a holder of a Ph.D. degree in psychology with 35 years of rigorous research under his belt.

What I liked about Cialdini’s Influence is the idea that persuasion is not a separate skill. Instead, it is a product of a harmonious personality built on some scientifically proven, desirable social traits. For instance, the principle of reciprocity states that people are more likely to take action when someone does them a favor. Cialdini (2006) provides an example of free samples that now can be found at almost any big store but some time ago used to be a novel and risky idea. Therefore, it becomes clear that a person should cultivate generosity and offer something valuable to others before making requests.

Apart from that, Cialdini masterfully describes and explains relatable but not often straightforward human behavior patterns such as scarcity mindset or social proof. In this sense, Influence is not just a guide to persuading others but also understanding oneself with all human errors and biases. Cialdini’s Influence seems to expand beyond what is covered by McLean’s (2010) Business Communication for Success, though the latter can also find a place on an ambitious person’s shelf. However, since McLean’s work discusses business communication, on the whole, it does not linger as much on the topic of persuasion.

Memo

Dear Colleagues,

As you all know, in this company, we follow the philosophy of meeting people halfway and treating each other with empathy and compassion. You have personally felt the effects of our shared vision when after your requests, the company approved Casual Fridays and flexible working hours at least two days a week. I believe that we have all benefited from the friendlier atmosphere and improved morale at our office. We have ranked as the third best place to work in our town and received a rating of 4.8 on Glassdoor with reviews suggesting that our corporate culture is one of a kind. Now as we are approaching the Christmas holidays, our company has a lot of work to complete before the next year. It’s been a good year for us.

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This is why I suggest that we supported each other in achieving our 2020 goals by offering help on the weekends. Showing up at work on Saturday and Sunday around holidays has long been a tradition at this company that all employees have grown to appreciate. Science has shown that volunteering has surprising mental health benefits. By giving back to the community, you improve your self-esteem. It is also a good chance to connect to your coworkers and make new friends. All in all, volunteering will give you renewed creativity, motivation, and vision that you can channel into your personal and professional life. All other departments have already agreed to work part-time the next weekend, and now they are waiting for our reply. Please reflect on this message and inform me of your collective decision as soon as possible.

Sincerely yours,

Memo Analysis

For putting this memo together, I used the key ideas from Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. At the very beginning, I remind my employees that the company has made a genuine effort to meet their needs for better work flexibility. Therefore, following the principle of reciprocity, they will be more inclined to return the favor and volunteer during the weekend. Next, I utilize the principle of scarcity by creating the image of a company as a unique workplace that is hard to find. By doing so, I want my employees that they were lucky to work here and that others hold this company in very high regard. Science has proven that people desire more what they can lose or what is not already abundant and easy to access.

I use the official ratings as a source of authority to show that it is not just my opinion but the actual statistics that support this argument. Another use of the principle of authority can be found in the second paragraph of the memo. Cialdini found that people were inclined to trust credible, experts. Therefore, I found and shared information on the psychological benefits of volunteering to add even more substance to my argument.

Later on, I make use of two of Cialdini’s principles at once: social proof and consensus. First, I tell the employees that volunteering on the weekends has been a tradition at our company. I also add that all other coworkers have been appreciating the opportunity, which should influence the attitude of those reading my memo. At the very end, I share the information on the decision that other departments have already made. Since all other workers have found volunteering acceptable, the readers will feel the pressure to conform and not to go against the flow.

References

Burg, B. (2005). Winning Without Intimidation. Executive Books.

Cialdini, R. B. (2006). Influence: The psychology of persuasion. New York: William Morrow.

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McLean, S. (2010). Business communication for success. Flat World Knowledge.

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