How to Predict the Future: Give Your Audience a Label

In his classic book Influence, Robert Cialdini describes the power of consistency in affecting human behavior:

Just after placing a bet, [people] are much more confident of their horse’s chances of winning than they are immediately before laying down that bet. Of course, nothing about the horse’s chances actually shifts; it’s the same horse, on the same track, in the same field […] the reason for the dramatic change has to do with a common weapon of social influence… It is, quite simply, our nearly obsessive desire to be (and to appear) consistent with what we have already done.

A series of experiments in California found that just making a small grammatical change when asking people about their voting behavior, could increase their likelihood of actually voting:

In each experiment, participants completed one of two versions of a brief survey. In one version, a short series of questions referred to voting using a self-relevant noun (e.g., “How important is it to you to be a voter in the upcoming election?”); in the other, questions that were otherwise identical referred to voting using a verb (e.g., “How important is it to you to vote in the upcoming election?”). […] Noun wording leads people to see attributes as more representative of a person’s essential qualities. [my emphasis]

People that were posed the first question actually turned out to vote more frequently than the second group.

Psychologically, people have a desire to maintain consistency in their behaviors and actions. And this desire for consistency also applies to external labels they have been given by others.

You can help someone follow through with some action by just paying attention to your words.

Praise someone for being a committed and loyal client. It will help them maintain that buying relationship.

Recognize and acknowledge a team member’s work ethic. They will be motivated to live up to that image and keep the hard work going.

And if a prospect needs a little push to close the sale, draw attention to their decisiveness and their past willingness to experiment with new solutions that seem high-quality (which hopefully your service is).

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