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How to Be Persuasive: Commitment & Consistency

We recently began a conversation about why each of us, no matter what our careers or areas of interest, needs to know how to be persuasive. We’re taking a look at Robert Cialdini’s six principles for being persuasive, from his book “Influence: Science and Practice.” The first principle we talked about was Reciprocation.

The next is Commitment and Consistency, which says that once a person has committed to something they are more likely to follow through with it.

Have you ever wondered what is done with all those signatures that are gathered by advocacy groups? You’ve seen them standing on the streets, or maybe sitting outside of a building on your campus. The honest answer is that they usually don’t do anything with the signatures!

The idea is that if you sign a petition saying that you support something (or you are against something, or you’ll vote for a particular candidate, etc.), then you are more likely to take some follow-up action in support of that position.

Maybe you will call your congressman, or you’ll show up at the voting booth and cast your vote for that person, or you’ll go online and get more information about their organization.

“If you want to be persuasive, think about how you can help others make a commitment.”

Recently when I was speaking about persuasion, a congressional intern laughed out loud at this part. He said that their office gets petitions all the time with thousands of signatures, which get filed away somewhere. He wondered why a group would go through the effort of gathering signatures when they had to know it would only be seen by an intern in the Congressman’s office. The groups know, trust me. The point of gathering the signatures has much more to do with the commitment the signers are making than the intern on the Hill.

There are a lot of non-political applications for this principle as well. For example, I have an app on my phone for tracking what I eat and how often I exercise. I started using it as a result of a New Year’s resolution—and I’m still using it months later. Why? The app sends me reminders several times a day to log my activity. Because I committed to using the app, I’m more likely to use it consistently.

If you want to be persuasive, think about how you can help others make a commitment. Is there something they can sign, download, or share?

Have you experienced or used this principle? We’d love to hear about it in the comment section below. The next principle we’re going to look at is Social Proof. This is one of my favorites, so stay tuned!

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