June 10, 2008

Universal Principle of Influence #4: Consistency

Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.
--- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.
--- Oscar Wilde

Professor Robert Cialdini identified six universal principles of influence: Reciprocity, Scarcity, Authority, Consistency, Consensus and Liking. This time, we're looking at #4: Consistency.

We want to be in harmony with our previous attitudes and behaviours. Especially in public.

The Restaurant
A restaurant reduced "no shows" from 30% to 10% by adding two words: will you.
  • Restaurant: "Will you please call if you have to change or cancel your reservation? [pause]
  • Client: "Yes, of course"
The clients now felt obligated to phone because they said they would. You want to get a small, clear commitment and then build.
We all fool ourselves from time to time in order to keep our thoughts and beliefs consistent with what we have already done or decided. ... In most circumstances, consistency is valued and adaptive. ...The person whose beliefs, words, and deeds don't match may be seen as indecisive, confused, two-faced, or even mentally ill. On the other side, a high degree of consistency is normally associated with personal and intellectual strength. --- Robert Cialdini
Action Steps
Get commitments that are active, voluntary and public. We'll look at each in turn.

While talk is cheap, the unspoken is worthless. It's much easier to break a New Year's resolution we tell no one about. Get commitments verbally, but ideally in writing --- even if preliminary or tentative.

In my early days as a manager, I'd make notes of action steps after meeting a staff member. This took time and didn't get the intended outcomes. Results improved when I got the person to do the writing. The same works with clients.

He that complies against his will
Is of the same opinion still
--- Samuel Butler

If you've ever asked a child to clean their room (or been asked to clean yours), you know that force or coercion doesn't work over time.
You don't create a commitment inside people that they don't already have. But you can look for commitments that they've already made, and then you can align your requests with that, so what you're offering them gives them precisely what they're looking for in a business partner. --- Robert Cialdini
We want to look consistent to others. That's why small agreements can lead to big results.


No comments:

Post a Comment