Summary: Pre-suasion by Robert Cialdini

Dr. Cialdini is the writer who brought the influence to the mass market with his first book Influence. Towards the end of 2016 he then later published a new book: Pre-suasion. He intended to extend and build upon his previous work. Overall the book was quite fast to read, full of examples and stories that made the ideas memorable. It is well written.

Lesson 1: You can lead the answers with your questions

For example, if I ask you: “Given the recent terrorist attacks in London, how dangerous do you perceive the threat of terrorism to be?” the question is clearly leading the answer. It’s the same with “Are you happy?” vs “Are you unhappy?”. The raw question is the same, but the last one persuades to look for dissatisfaction moments whereas the former one incentivises the search for happiness times.

Lesson 2: Whatever grabs our attention, we think is relevant

You cannot change people’s minds with facts and logic. People do not change their minds. But in general you can choose what to make relevant. You can choose what people pays attention and therefore considers important. During elections if media speaks about terrorism, security is going to be a relevant topic for the campaign.

Lesson 3: The choice of words matter

After reading a text about old people the readers walked slower than in the control group. The same effect but beneficial for us can be used if we get to use words that the reader links with positive feelings.

Lesson 4: Attention tunnels

If you funnel a person into answering certain things, then they will have a harder time backing off. For example, if you want someone to help you, ask them first if they are helpful people. Almost everyone will say yes, and when you ask to fill the questionnaire they will have difficulties in rejecting your offer.

Lesson 5: People only pay attention to Sex, Violence, and novelty

Sex (or a beautiful person in the ad) is good to sell products to be prettier or find a mate. If you want to sell coffee may not be as useful. One of the deepest instincts is survival. Therefore violence or danger are attention grabbers. If you tell about the *dangers* of smoking, chances are that people will quit (as it happened in the 50s). Humans are explorers by nature. We’re wired to find patterns, so if something changes our brain has to figure out what went different and the effects it will have for us.

Lesson 6: Keep people’s attention by making it about them

After grabbing someone’s attention you should retain it. To do so, make it about them. Not “they”, or “people”.

Lesson 7: Unfinished tasks are remembered

If you have a pending task you’ll be likely to remember. People desire closure. Once done people forget about it. An unfinished story or mystery will keep people captivated until the end.

Lesson 8: Mental associations

No thought exists on its own, all ideas are linked together. New associations can be created even when people are totally unaware of them. Also use the right wording for it. Maybe instead of business targets would be better business goals.

Lesson 9: Build trust

If you behave as if the other people already trusted you they will. And if people trust you then you already have a huge advantage.

Lesson 10: Unity

People should feel they have something in common with you, they should think that you’re part of the same unit. Unity is about shared groups, identities, and world views. To create unity you can move together (e.g. dance).

In the end this could be summarised as try to live an optimistic life and try to find the bright side always. Be confident that people are good and be genuinely curious about them.

External vs internal motivators

Recently I did a post on why do people follow the rules ‎which is tightly linked with this one. One could say that the external motivators may be the rules and the internal motivators the discipline. But in my opinion it does not work like that. External motivation comes from others cheering you but also from environment changes -laws-, the market, etc. Internal motivation is the motivation that people should aim for. You should do things because you believe in them, not because they tell you but because you deeply believe that it is the right thing to do.

If you knew you would get never caught would you kill a person? For most of us, unless there is something wrong with your head, this idea give us disgust. It is not because you would spend 20 or 30 years in prison, this is because you know it’s wrong. So why don’t we apply the same logic to the rest of our lives?

Do you work in a company because you like it or because it pays the bills? If you do it to pay the bills you’re going to do an ok job so you don’t get fired. Whereas if you do it because deeply inside you think that you’re making a difference and love it, then you would not mind going for the extra mile. The extra mile is what sets the difference now a days.

So think: What do you do because there is nothing better around? What do you do because otherwise your life would be bland?

We follow the rules

We follow all the rules is the sentence that rises a big red flag. If a company has to advertise that they follow the law that means that there is something sketchy about it. If a person says that he or she follows the rules be wary that they may be playing on a thin line.

But also, when companies say they follow the rules it may also mean that they do not want to build a better product but instead they want to do the bare minimum. If it’s legal why should they make an effort to upgrade and change things?

For example, the car seat belts were not mandatory at the beginning of the automotive industry. Volvo developed the invention and made it publicly available because it considered that a patent would kill people. So why didn’t all automotive companies jump and implement the belt in their cars? They didn’t because it incurred in extra costs on their side, and there was no law that forced them to do so.

So, following the rules is a strategy that can help you short term but rules keep changing. Striving for greatness will help you more in the long term.

Hell yes or no

Most of the time we roam around earth without a clear direction. We let the winds guide us, we accept everything, we take up activities because some friend asked. Just because we don’t dislike something it does not mean that we like it.
Yeah, I could read this book, but it’s an ok book. Wouldn’t it be better to read that other awesome book? Just because it is there does not mean that you should take it in.
We should stop doing things that do not spark joy in us and create space for the activities that brightens us up.

So every time you need to take a decision think. Is it a hell yes!! ? if not, then it’s a sharp no. No shame, no regrets. Otherwise you will be to busy for the things that make you happy.

We live in a society where we put each other’s genitals in our mouth but we don’t like the black spots on the bananas

We are full of contradictions. You think you’re smart because you are able to point out the contradictions of the others but you don’t escape them either. Some examples:

  • Work so we have money for our retirement vs. Be with our families and enjoy them now. We need to do both.
  • Democracy vs. People making bad choices. Democracy is not perfect and not good for every society. The problem is what system works better?
  • Enjoy every day vs. Live careful, healthy lives.
  • Speak your mind vs. Let others be. Let’s have free speech, but not be insulting.
  • In the end all of us have contradictions, but those contradictions have a reason. As Aristotle’s put it Virtue is the happy medium between two extremes. Rarely life is white or black. In many cases we need to compromise, don’t be afraid to find a middle ground for your ideas.


    “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”
    Hunter S. Thompson