First, people find great confidence and assurance that people like them have made a decision before them and that decision worked out just fine.
In my longtime effort and pursuit of understanding the laws of effectively communicating and interacting with others, there are a few things that are worth understanding about people, and I am going to share with you two big ones.
In The Power of Positive Deviance, Richard Pascale explains social proof:
A well-known principle of chemistry establishes that active ingredients can be mixed together with little effect until a third ingredient- often an innocuous catalyst- triggers a chemical synthesis. Analogously, the social system is the catalyst between all the stuff we know versus what actually alters our behavior and mental maps. Social proof? Simple idea, really: it boils down to ‘seeing is believing.’… We use social proof to decide how to dispose of an empty popcorn box in a movie theater, how fast to drive on a highway, or whether to tackle that fried chicken or corn on the cob with our hands at a dinner party. At the more consequential end of the spectrum, we rely on social proof to inform moral choices- whether to assist an inebriated football enthusiast who falls on the sidewalk or step forward as a whistleblower.
According to Robert Cialdini, social proof is one of the six key principles of persuasion. When combined with reciprocity, consistency, authority, liking, and scarcity, it can be used to influence people’s actions.
A study cited by Cialdini concerned charitable donations, finding that showing people a list of their neighbors who had donated to a charity led to a substantial increase in funds raised. The more names on the list, the more people donated. Cialdini also explains how the use of social proof can backfire.
Campaigns to reduce drug and alcohol consumption which cite high rates of abuse can have the opposite effect. People subconsciously seek to comply with the many others who are engaging in this behavior. Cialdini writes:
The principle of social proof says so: The greater the number of people who find any idea correct, the more the idea will be correct…We will use the actions of others to decide on proper behavior for ourselves, especially when we view those others as similar to ourselves…When we are uncertain, we are willing to place an enormous amount of trust in the collective knowledge of the crowd…First, we seem to assume that if a lot of people are doing the same thing, they must know something we don’t…Social proof is most powerful for those who feel unfamiliar or unsure in a specific situation and who, consequently, must look outside themselves for evidence of how best to behave there… 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.
Second, sometimes people need to be told what to do, but without their permission, it can sound rude.
In the book “Exactly What To Say,” by Phil Jones, we learn that these two factors create the power in the application of the Magic Words “most people.” When you tell people what most people do, their subconscious brain says, “Aha, I’m most people, so if that is what most people would do, then perhaps that is what I should do too.”
The examples he gives in this book are helpful as you try and put this into method practice in your own daily conversations.
- What most people do is complete the forms with me here today. You then receive your welcome pack and we get you booked in for a launch.
- What most people do is place a small order to get started, commit to a few of the best products, see how they work out in their daily routines and then decide what they want to do next.
- Most people in your circumstance would grab this opportunity with both hands, knowing there is almost no risk.
So my question to you is this…Most people put the words “most people” into their daily conversations, and most of those people see an immediate positive effect, will you?