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  • Toby Sinclair

Book Summary: Influence by Robert Cialdini | The Big Ideas and Best Quotes

Updated: Aug 23, 2020

A book summary of Influence by Robert Cialdini
A book summary of Influence by Robert Cialdini

3 Big Ideas:

  1. 6 weapons of influence:Reciprocity, Commitment, Social proof, Authority, Liking, Scarcity.

  2. We respond automatically to the six types of influence. Understanding this allows us to manage how marketeers and other people t try to influence us without realising

  3. Learning the principles of influence allow you to recognise when they are being used on you so that you can avoid doing something you’d later regret


A well-known principle of human behavior says that when we ask someone to do us a favor we will be more successful if we provide a reason. People simply like to have reasons for what they do.
Since 95 percent of the people are imitators and only 5 percent initiators, people are persuaded more by the actions of others than by any proof we can offer

1 Follow Up:

The six principles can help encourage change in organisations and help influence leaders to change behaviour.


A longer book summary if you have time....



We should try to repay in kind, what another person has provided us.

Common Examples:

  1. Free Gifts 

  2. A leader offering attention and mentorship to followers in exchange for loyalty

  3. Refer a Friend Deals (Refer and receive one month free)

Influencing Change:

  1. Put together a personal learning list for a leader you want to influence

  2. Buy lunch for someone who you have a difficult working relationship with – Luncheon Technique

  3. Buy a book for a leader you want to influence. On a topic you think might help with a challenge they are facing – Make it personal by including a note

Make these acts feel personal. This will maximise its power.

Commitment and Consistency

When stating a belief we are wired to try and act consistently with that belief. 

Common examples:

  1. Front of Door Technique – Ask a person to agree to a large request by having them agree to a modest request first

  2. Ask people to recommend your product, they will likely to continue using it as they have publicly endorsed it

Influencing Change:

  1. Ask leaders to state publicly their support for a cause – e.g. Diversity – They are more likely to act consistently with that publicly stated belief

  2. Ask leaders to publicly champion a new way of working, such as agile

Social Proof

We view a behavior as more correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it.

Common Examples:

  1. Canned laughter (laughing track) causes viewers to laugh longer and more often. It is more effective in poor jokes.

  2. Bartenders seed their tip jars with a few dollars to give the impression that tipping is the norm.

  3. Bystander Effect – individuals are less likely to offer help to a victim when other people are present; the greater the number of bystanders, the less likely it is that one of them will help.

Influencing Change:

  1. Connect people with role models – make new behaviours seem like the norm

  2. Share success stories widely

  3. Organise panel events where teams can share their stories


We tend to obey figures of authority (people with titles or expertise)

Common Examples:

  1. Uniform and other clothing can create appearance of authority – Thai Gem Scam is great example of this principle and others!!

  2. Job Titles in corporations – e.g. Vice President

  3. Referencing experts in your work

Influencing Change:

  1. Asking an external well know speaker(possibly author) to present to your organisation

  2. Referencing the source of an idea when sharing it, perhaps from a book

  3. Asking senior management to recommend a training course to their teams


We are more likely to agree to someones request if we know and like them

Common Examples:

  1. Give compliments

  2. Express shared interests

  3. Joe Gidard – “I have never sold a car in my life. I sold Joe Girard.” – Understand that you are not selling a product, you are selling yourself

Influencing Change:

  1. Dressing in a way that is similar to those you are influencing

  2. Finding common interests

  3. Using language that is familiar

Scarcity (FOMO)

We perceive something to more valuable when its less available

FOMO(Fear of Missing Out) – the uneasy and sometimes all-consuming feeling that you’re missing out — that your peers are doing, in the know about, or in possession of more or something better than you

Common Examples:

  1. Restaurant with a queue outside – Creates impression of scarcity

  2. Black Friday – “One time deals that cannot be missed!”

  3. – 42 people are looking at this hotel now

Influencing Change:

  1. Limit the number of people and teams you work with. Create impression that services are lower in supply and high in demand

  2. Express that spaces on a training course are limited (first come first served)

Thai Gem Scam

Perfect example of many principles in action. Story taken from here:

Thai Gem Scam
Thai Gem Scam

Bangkok’s infamous gem scam has ruined the holidays of many, many visitors to Thailand and it is an important thing to be aware of beforehand if you want to avoid becoming yet another victim. 

The con-artists always targets the new, first time arrivals (THE BACK DROP IS UNCERTAINTY WHICH MAXIMISES INFLUENCE POTENTIAL) to Thailand and consequently you find them hanging around the main tourist attractions, particularly Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, Wat Arun and the National Museum. New arrivals are often somewhat surprised at the friendliness of people (LIKING) in the Land of Smiles, and unfortunately can become a bit too trusting of strangers which leaves them vulnerable to this scam. What we’ve described below is a typical example, but there are many variations.

It usually starts with a male stranger approaching you, often in uniform (AUTHORITY), on the way to or nearby any of main tourist attractions, and telling you that you can’t go in at the moment. They can come up with dozens of reasons why: “Oh didn’t you know it’s a Buddhist holiday today”, “closed for cleaning”, “closed for repairs”, “only Thai people can enter in the morning”, “closed because the monks are chanting now”, “it’s only open on Wednesdays” etc. (CONSISTENCY – YOU WANT TO STICK TO HOLIDAY PLAN) By far the best approach is just to ignore anyone trying to talk to you on the way in, which may seem rude but it can be very difficult to get away if you start any conversation with them. In the vast majority of cases, there is absolutely no truth in what they are saying, it’s just a ruse to get you started in conversation with them. If the place really is closed, find out for yourself from the entrance and don’t take anyone’s word for it. No one is going to be offended if you try and enter, even if it really is closed for a holiday.

Not wanting to offend or appear ignorant (CONSISTENCY), you may let them talk you out of going to Wat Pho or wherever it is you really intended to go. But not to worry, your new friend knows somewhere equally impressive that is still open – “the famous 100m high Standing Buddha temple”. It’s not mentioned in your guidebook for some reason, but he will kindly mark the location of it on your map for you. He may also casually talk about a special promotion on gems or jewelry that is on today, but will put no pressure on you to buy any. (SCARCITY)

After another 5 or 10 minutes of conversation, he will usually offer to arrange a tuk-tuk ride for you to the new temple at a bargain price (10B/20B, say, or even for free) (SCARCITY) explaining that tuk-tuks overcharge tourists and so he can get that the price that cheap for you because he is Thai (LIKING). Alternatively, they claim that by taking you there and then to a special export shop they get free petrol/gasoline coupons and so that is why it is cheap.

Either way it’s worth remembering that tuk-tuks are no cheaper than taxis in Bangkok, and even the shortest of rides starts at around 50B. If you’re offered a ridiculous price like 100B (or less) for a whole afternoon’s worth of sightseeing, it’s only because they know they can make much more out of scamming you.

At the new temple (the so-called ‘Standing Buddha temple’, ‘Lucky Buddha temple’ etc – really just an average temple in an out-of-the-way location), the tuk-tuk driver waits outside while you go in. Inside you’ll be fortunate enough to meet a smartly dressed (AUTHORITY) Thai man who speaks excellent English (LIKING), and claims to be a university professor / business man / student / tourist official etc. You’ll chat for a while (they often have excellent knowledge about your home country), and eventually the conversation gets round to jewelry and gems, confirming the special deal (SCARCITY) on at the moment that the man on the street mentioned earlier. Essentially, this special deal involves bulk buying gems at a low price in Thailand in order to resell them for a vast profit in your home country. This is dressed up in any number of ways – you don’t buy from a shop but from a special “international export center”, today is a special export day, it’s an opportunity previously only open to Thai students to finance their studies abroad but now tourists can do it as well (SCARCITY) , there’s a special tax break today, it’s part of a tourism promotion, it’s a wholesale factory price, backed by the government, you get a certificate of authenticity and a money back guarantee etc

On to the gem shop, and you are well looked after with personal service from the manager, free drinks etc. (RECIPROCATION) There then follows a high-pressure sales pitch, after which far too many people are persuaded to spend in the region of 100 000B (US$2500), 200 000B (US$5000) or more on gems which they hope to resell at a profit in their home country. The gem shops often pay lowlife foreigners to linger in their shop posing as a customer and casually mention to you that for years they have bought Thai gems from this shop, sold them back in France / USA / Singapore / etc, and have made loads of money doing it (SOCIAL PROOF). A bit too conveniently, they’ll have receipts and documentation on them to back-up their story.

For many people, the knowledge that a fellow foreigner has done it successfully is what finally persuades them to buy (SOCIAL PROOF). To ensure you get the gems out of Thailand safely, with no problems from customs, the shop will offer to mail the gems to your country for you. When you actually come to buy the gems, you may find the shop doesn’t have the facilities to accept credit cards itself (a warning sign in itself – Visa and Mastercard have cut them off for high levels of fraudlent transactions). You may have to go and buy gold from a nearby shop with your card and then pay them in the gold you just purchased.

What most people find out soon enough when they try and sell them is that the expensively purchased “gems” are really only worth a tiny fraction of what you paid for them. You’re actually more in luck if you’ve been sold worthless bits of cut-glass masquerading as gems, as this is actually illegal and gives you a legal leg to stand on. Either way, virtually all the money that was spent on the gems is now lost. The receipt, money back guarantee and certificate of authenticity are barely worth the paper they’re printed on.


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