In my last article on defining and evaluating Influence Skills of product managers (reminder – Influence Skills was rated as the most important quality in a survey) I mentioned the book Influence by Robert Cialdini. The book, in my opinion, is about influence tactics and not about building a longer lasting working relation based on trust and mutual value in a multi-encounter environment.
The book does present many tactics you can put to use when you are trying to break in or get what you want in some zero-sum games. In my opinion it does not help build an end to end process for win-win in outcomes in situations where you meet the same people over and over.
For instance using asking for a small act and then relying on escalation of commitment to get more and more of what you want does not sound to me like a mutual value-creation and fair value-share arrangement. As I wrote before, Influence is based on trust, mutual value-add and effective communication.
But that is just that, my opinion.
There are two invaluable tactics from the book that I recommend you use without compromising on mutual value and trust.
Because, Because, Because
The Influence book tells us about the effect of using the word ‘because’ in asking for an action from anyone. When asking for a favor/task from others, a Harvard study found, you will have greater success if you explain the reason for your ask,
People simply like to have reasons for what they do.
“would you help me get the SKUs created in two weeks because of product launch”
In fact the study went a step further and tested just the use of the word ‘because’ even with illogical reasons and found that it had better effect than giving reason without using ‘because’.
“would you help me get the SKUs created in two weeks because I am in a hurry”
I am not going to make a recommendation that you use ‘because’ with illogical reasons but stop with their primary finding about people like to have reasons for what they do and give a valid reason after ‘because’. In fact this fits perfectly with my recommendation about showing mutual value and effective communication. Using ‘because’ helps us get the value message across effectively.
Options over Ultimatum
The second tactic that helps is giving your peers/customers/bosses multiple options and asking them to pick one over presenting them a single option and making it a ultimatum. Presenting multiple options changes the decision from saying yes or not to a single option to picking the best among the multiple options you present.
Here is a real life case study from the world of politics,
The WSJ article on President Obama won the Health Care vote describes how he changed the conversation:
Mr. Obama’s most effective move may have been calling for a bipartisan summit on health care, shifting the conversation away from Democratic paralysis. Aides knew there was little chance they would reach a bipartisan agreement, but it forced Republicans to put ideas on the table, framing the choice as between two sets of ideas, rather than simply a referendum on one.
It is easier for the people you work with to compare the merits of different options vs. deciding merits of picking or not picking the only available path you present.
I recommend you go one step further and present three options and invariably you will get the middle option.
Present multiple options because it turns a yes or no decision into informed choice among multiple options based on relative value.