Opening Plenary: Harnessing the Science of Persuasion

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Harnessing the Science of Persuasion
National Meeting attendees were treated to an opening keynote speech by renowned leader in the field of influence Dr. Robert Cialdini. Dr. Cialdini has spent his entire career researching the science of influence, earning him an international reputation as an expert in the fields of persuasion, compliance, and negotiation. His book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. Influence has sold more than two million copies and is regarded as a seminal work in the field of the psychology of persuasion. 
Dr. Cialdini explained how Alliances may best bring his ideas to bear on their own multi-stakeholder coalitions; that is, how best to deliver those elements of a case support so people open their ears and minds. “If people open their minds, that will be enough to cause an impact,” said Dr. Cialdini.
Dr. Cialdini discussed research he has conducted around six universal pillars of influence. The first three have to do with enhancing the connection between people. “If we enhance our rapport with people, they feel secure in taking our advice or partnering with us. Our goal is to move people in our direction by reducing their uncertainty about us—are we the right people to partner with?” said Dr. Cialdini. Uncertainty causes people to freeze. One research firm found that you gain assent 60-75 percent of the time with a strong relationship (as opposed to a weak tie).
The next three principles of influence concern credibility and authority as persuasive factors. Looking to authorities is another way to reduce uncertainty in making decisions. Said Dr. Cialdini, “When people are uncertain, they don’t look inside themselves for answers—they look outside. One place they look is to peers. This is why websites like Yelp and TripAdvisor are so popular. What are peers doing?” For example, Bose print advertisements featuring expert opinions were 60 percent more effective than those without.
Dr. Cialdini believes that trustworthiness is paramount, especially in the context of the AF4Q Alliances as sources of honest health care information. But what if an Alliance is working with someone for the first time? What can people do to produce instant trust? As it turns out, Dr. Cialdini has identified the best way to make a presentation to break through barriers of trust. Most people will present their strongest arguments first. Dr. Cialdini said this is a mistake; you need to establish your trustworthiness early on in making a case. “The advertising world has given us a gift by finding that when we mention a weakness in our case early on, it establishes our credibility. It shows people we are knowledgeable and trustworthy because we’re willing to talk about the positives as well as the negatives,” said Dr. Cialdini.