Six Keys To Influence Almost Anyone [Part 1 Reciprocity]

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Being consistently thoughtful and kind goes a long way!

This is part ONE of a multi-part series on the important topic of influence. Or maybe a better way of putting it is how to persuade anybody to do almost anything.

How does this sound to you?

Well, let’s goooooo!!

Many of the techniques and principles you are about to learn come from the book: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini. 

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If you’re not familiar with the book or Cialdini – here’s the download: 

  • In 1984 he published his famous book based on three years of in-the-field research. 
  • Soon after publishing, the book became a monster success, selling over five million copies, and is considered one of the best business books ever written on the topic. Cialdini is for sure the OG on this topic. 
  • Ironically, he didn’t write the book for a business audience. He wrote the book to protect those from people who understood the levers of influence and how to wield these powerful tools. 
  • The book deals with six key principles of influence Cialdini identified from his research:
    • Reciprocity
    • Commitment and consistency 
    • Social proof
    • Liking 
    • Authority 
    • Scarcity 

In the next six editions, I’m going to provide a total breakdown of each principle. Along with suggestions on how YOU can use these principles in your business. 

Why are these principles so powerful?

Because we live in a crazy world. 

It’s overpowering – with the vast number of different messages coming at us. 

We’re distracted, stressed, and time-poor. 

Sadly, I don’t think it’s going to get better as we go on.

But because we are humans – we have a superpower: the ability to adapt. 

We find shortcuts to help us cut through and deal with the chaos. 

  • We do favors for others if they have done something nice for us
  • We look at influencers to tell us what to buy, how to think
  • We seek out brands we are familiar with
  • We believe in commitment
  • We vote for others who are “like us” 
  • And we jump into action when we’re told there’s only a limited time or limited amount of something available

As a marketer, it’s important you understand these principles of influence because knowing them will make you more powerful. More effective. And put more money in your purse. 

Not only that…

…they can help when you want to ask for a raise.

And maybe, most importantly, understanding these principles and how they are used will help you spot when someone is trying to use these tactics on YOU. 

Now, let’s talk about the first principle. 

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Principle #1 / Reciprocity

This powerful principle is based on the idea: Do something nice for someone else, and they will in turn do something nice for you. 

Easy enough to understand. 

We are taught this lesson at an early age. It’s part it part of our societal norms. Here’s a great example…

In a study cited by Cialdini, a group of students were asked to rate a certain set of paintings. One of the raters in the study was an assistant in on the study. Cialdini calls him Joe. 

In the study, Joe did two things. 

For one group, he participated similarly to the other raters. But for the other group, there was one small change. 

Joe brought in two bottles of Coke. One for himself one for the other person in the room. Outside of the Coke, everything else was the same. 

When the assignment was over and the study completed. Joe then asked for a favor. He was selling raffle tickets for a new car. If he sold the most tickets, he would win $50. He asked the students if they would buy a ticket. 

It shouldn’t come as any big shocker that Joe sold more tixs to the group that got the Coke. 

But here’s where things take an interesting turn. 

The researchers wanted to go deeper and determine if those who “liked” Joe would end up giving him more than those who didn’t like Joe. 

Here’s how Cialdini described the findings. 

For those who owed [Joe] a favor, it made no difference whether they liked him or not; they felt a sense of obligation to repay him, and they did. The subjects who indicated they disliked Joe bought just as many of his tickets as those who liked him.

The reciprocity rule was so strong that it simply overwhelmed the influence of a factor – liking the requester – that normally affects the decision to comply. 

Did you catch that line? 

Whether we like a person or not, one simple act will trigger us to give back in kind. And sometimes the “payback” can be many times greater than the initial gift. 

A bottle of Coke at the time cost ten cents. Tickets for the raffle were a quarter. Sometimes people provided three and even four times more than the value they received. 

Interesting, right? But wait there’s still more…

Cialdini identifies another form of reciprocity called reciprocal concessions. This is also known as the Rejection and Retreat Technique.

The best way to describe this is through this story Cialdini tells: 

One day I was walking down the street in my hometown when I was approached by a Boy Scout. The Scouts were having a circus and the boy wanted to know if I wanted to buy a five-dollar ticket to the event. 

I passed on the tickets to the circus. And then the Boy Scout asked, “Well then if you don’t want to buy any tickets to the event, how about buying some of our chocolate bars? They are only one dollar.”

Guess what? Cialdini ended up buying a couple of chocolate bars!


The power of the principle. If the person we are dealing with pulls back on their request, we feel compelled to also go along. 

This doesn’t apply to just Boy Scouts selling candy bars. This principle is so powerful it can impact even the top levels of our government. As we are about to learn. 

Cialdini tells this crazy story of G. Gordon Liddy, one of the people involved with the Watergate break-in. 

Another pause here – if you don’t know the G. Man – let me take you on a little detour. It’s worth it.

Liddy was one of the architects behind the famous Watergate break-in in the early ‘70s. 

The idea was this: Liddy along with a group of others would break in and bug the office of the Democratic National Headquarters office. Sounds insane, right? 

You’re right it is…

The plan went sideways, Liddy and the group were arrested and Liddy ended up spending close to five years in jail for the crime. In the meantime, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein made a ton of money writing their book about the break-in and coverup called:  All The President’s Men.

Back to the story…

You would think a plan to break into the Democratic headquarters would be out of the question. And for a time – it was. Liddy presented a plan to some of the highest-ranking members in the Nixon administration: John Mitchell, Jeb Magruder, and John Dean. John Mitchell was the Attorney General of the country at the time!!

Liddy’s initial plan came with a (get this) $1,000,000 price tag. Mitchell, Magruder, and Dean laughed Liddy out of the room. So, what did Liddy do? 

He came back with a plan that was half of that – but only to get the same reaction. 

So, Liddy came back with a plan that ONLY ran $250,000. By that point the three others thought the plan was still crazy…but what the heck for $250,000 they could afford to give it a try. And they did!

Were these men stupid? Not really. But they did get swept up in the Rejection and Retreat Principle. 

So you see it doesn’t matter if you’re selling candy bars or pitching big ideas Rejection and Retreat is a powerful technique YOU can use to get people to do what you want. 

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Putting Reciprocity To Work 

Now that we have covered that principle – let’s talk about how you can use it in your world. You should start with keeping this in mind. You need to be genuine in your approach and your gift. 

If you are just looking to benefit from a kind act…you are going to be disappointed. So here are some thought starters: 

  • Send out a birthday card and/or holiday cards to past clients with a hand-written note.
  • Send out thank you cards to clients you haven’t heard from in awhile.
  • Invite a client out and treat them to a coffee.
  • Do something to add value to a client’s vacation package.
  • Provide them with a list of your favorite things to do, places to eat in the destination.

Rejection and Retreat Technique

There are plenty of opportunities to put this technique into action. 

  • You could use this when you are providing your client with a quote. Start with the higher number first. 
  • You could use this when you are asking for a raise. 
  • You could use this if you want to raise money for an organization. 

The key is to have the backup offer ready to go so you can slide it in if the first request is turned down. 

Next week I’m going to go deep on principle number two Commitment and Consistency. 

Until then – stay awesome. 

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