Robert Cialdini’s Book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”
Updated: Oct 26, 2019
Robert Cialdini wrote a book about how we are influenced in our everyday lives. He studied all the ways we are influenced and broke them down into 6 principles. I believe Cialdini’s book would be extremely useful on your weight loss journey. It was written for a different audience, but the concepts can easily be adapted for weight loss.
Cialdini’s 6 Principles are:
When I do something for you, you will feel obligated to do something for me.
2. Commitment (and Consistency)
We don’t like to seem indecisive or wishy washy, and we like to think we can keep our word. If I say I’ll do something, then I expect I will do it.
3. Social Proof
All people on your block, or on your floor, or in your class are all doing it, so it must be good.
I like doing it, so I will keep doing it.
When someone with authority, even just apparent authority says something, we tend to believe it.
1950: 9 out of 10 doctors agree, smoking is good for you.
2018: 10 out of 10 doctors agree, smoking is bad for you.
If something is scarce, we tend to treat it differently.
“Hurry up, for a limited time only, you have ability to buy this limited edition widget.”
If other people can use these concepts to influence you, why not use them to influence yourself? Salesmen use these on you all the time. If you have ever been to a timeshare sales presentation, you would have been exposed to multiple tactics at once. Were you in with a large group of people, and some celebration occurred when someone bought? You were exposed to social proof. Were you told this deal was on the table for today only? They were creating an environment of scarcity. Did the ask you questions whose answers led you into the idea that you already have and will continue to spend a lot of money on vacations? Then spring the statement, “since you have told us you already spend a lot of money, we can save you money in the future, if you spend all your money up front now.” You will find it hard to disagree because of the appeal to remain consistent. Essentially, they are hitting you with 3 of 6 at once.
This brings up 2 questions you should ask yourself. Why not use these techniques on yourself? How can you use these techniques on yourself? The answer to the first question is yes you can. The answer to the second then involves gaining a deeper understanding of the methods of influence, and then making up some way to use them on yourself.
Normal people tend to reciprocate back to others. This means, if you something to me, or for me, I’ll tend to do something to you or for you. Usually, in normal relationships, these tend to be positive actions. A salesman may use this by either giving you you a gift for listening to the pitch, or during the negotiation process, say something like “Look, I brought the price down, why can you not meet me half way, and bring your price up?” Both tactics are based on reciprocity.
How to Use
To use this on yourself, you need to reciprocate with yourself. If I eat well and exercise today (treat my body well), I can treat myself tomorrow (treat my mind well).
Commitment (and Consistency)
Salesmen use this concept in two different ways. The first way gets you saying yes a lot. Do you like travelling? Is it expensive to travel? Do you find you spend a lot on lodging when you travel? Do you like going to different places? Wouldn’t you love to see some exotic places? Wouldn’t you love to spend less on your trips? You answer: Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Then, they hit you with the sales pitch: “wouldn’t you love to buy this timeshare? You answer: “yes”. Whoah, whoah, whoah, you say. How did I just answer Yes? I told myself no way was I buying. So then you back track a bit. “I don’t really want to buy” you say.
Then they hit you with the second type of commitment: “You just said, you want to save money while you travel, you just said, you love this concept, you just said you totally would buy this.” “Well yeah” you say say to yourself, I did just say all that. I don’t lie, I’m not lier, why would I go back on my word like that. All those yes’ committed you to wanting the product, and that commitment drives you to maintain an internal consistency. If you change our mind now about this, what will you change tomorrow? Green socks are OK? Why yes, I do like liver and chocolate shakes after all? Our desire to remain consistent will drive us to agree with the salesman.
How to Use
Get yourself saying yes to things. Do you want to be thin? Yes. Do you want to be healthy? Yes. Do you want to eat better? Yes. Do you want to live better? Yes. Would you like to eat that tomato for a snack? Yes. Do you want to go for a 20 minute walk right now? Yes.
For the second type requires you to write down your commitments to yourself, and read them every day, and commit to them in your mind as you read them. Write down “I want to be healthy.” Every day read it: “I want to be healthy.” Believe it, live it every day. After awhile, you will be committed to the idea, and will have a very hard time behaving in ways that deny that commitment.
This method of influence often uses your neighbours as pawns in the game of manipulation. The person selling you the product will say “Your neighbours like this product, you will too.” Or, “Look at all the people from your city who also bought.” Or they will use visual and audio cues in a group setting to show how all the other people in the group are also buying the product, and make it seem exciting, that you want to be part of the group too. Or they will use media personalities to help sell the product: “This famous person does it, don’t you want to be like them?”
How to Use
This method of influence can be used in two ways. The first would be to make sure you surround yourself with people who also believe losing weight, exercising, and living healthy are good things, and act on those beliefs. The second, but less effective method would be to model the behaviour of fit, healthy people, who are at the same time leaders. These leaders can either be local to you or people whom you’ll never know personally, but it is important that they are well known and live a healthy lifestyle.
We tend to have positive feelings for things we like. We also tend to overlook negative aspects of those things we like. Salesmen use this by first, being likeable people, then, they make sure they provide reasons for you to like their product. All those positive feelings will help you say yes to their product.
How to Use
The easiest way to utilize this for yourself is to like who you want to become. A person who can play with your children or grand children, participate in activities you may like, or just a person who feels better. Visualize that person, immagine how they would live and the kind of life they would have, and like that person. You could try finding an old photo of yourself when you were young and fit, or, photoshop yourself onto the type of body you want, and like the person you see.
You know those commercials: “9 out of 10 doctors agree” or “I’m not not a doctor, but I play one on TV”, or “This millionaire sports star uses our product, you should too”. They are all examples of appealing to authority. Most people trust authority figures. It is something that we have been doing for thousands of generations. When an authority figure says “Trust me”, we instinctively trust them.
How to Use
The best way to use this method of influence to our advantage is to change our authority figures. If your goal is to lose weight, get in shape, and become a healthy person, then find people who are like that and are authority figures. Find vocal advocates for healthy lifestyles and follow them, listen to their advice, and try to emulate what they do.
We tend to value that which is scarce. Salesmen are using this method when they tell us “For a limited time only!”, or “Only 300 units at this price!”, or “After today, the price goes up.” When we hear that, our hind brain kicks in: “Food scarce, water scarce, safety scarce. Must have it now!”
How to Use
This may be the hardest one to use to our own advantage. Mainly because the payoff from weight loss or exercise is far down the road, and occurs in incremental steps that are hard to see during a given time sample, and we are immediate gratification beings. The best way to use this is to understand how rare fit people are on this planet. The bell curve for population characteristics helps us out here.
On the graph above, obese is everything to the left of the first negative standard deviation, the first standard deviation on the right, athletes are between the second and third, and essential fat are anything to the right of the third standard deviation. Average is between the first negative and first positive standard deviations. This means that if you get yourself down into the fitness range for body fat, you are doing better than 85% of the population. If you can get down into the athletic range, you are better than 97.2% of the population. Fit people are scarce. Strength and endurance fit into the same population curve as well.
As I said, the hard part is using this to your advantage. And at the moment, the only method I see is as a motivator to be better than average. Visualize the change, effect the change, follow through with your change, and to maintain it once you have achieved it.
This is just a start. Go buy the book by Robert Cialdini, and read it. Understand it, and then you can use the information to your own advantage.