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  • Irina Ketkin, author of #adventuresofthelearner

Theory vs. reality of persuasion

One of the most popular models of influencing in recent years was created by Robert Cialdini (2009).


The model suggests there are 6 principles of persuasion that can be used in any situation (Cialdini, 2001):

  • Reciprocation – if a person receives something from another person, the first feels obliged to reciprocate the favour in the future

  • Consistency – if a person does something insignificant in a certain area, they are more likely to commit to doing something bigger in the same area

  • Social validation – the so-called ‘herd mentality’, where people validate their decisions by what other are doing and saying and repeating the same actions

  • Liking – people cooperate more easily with others they like and less with those they do not like as much

  • Authority – having the authority or expertise in a certain area makes people comply more readily with request coming from said authority or experts

  • Scarcity – limited resources naturally makes people want more of those.


The author suggests that the principles can be applied to any situation requiring some sort of influencing. Although one needs to be careful not to use the framework for serving their own needs; and thus turning the methods of influencing into manipulation. As Ferris (2010) notes “the way you can tell a master of political skill is “You can’t. That’s their genius””.

While extremely user-friendly, these principles are not always applicable in every situation. For one, some of these require an investment of time before you approach someone you need to influence. The model also does not take into account the political context of the relationships; or the power dynamics between people, as well as the cultural differences in the larger sense of geographical traditions.


Another tool that can be used in conjunction with Cialdini’s scientific principles of persuasion are the four phases of negotiation, as cited by Peeling (2010):

  • Preparation – establishing the “frame of negotiation” or what each of the parties wants to achieve and what possible issues there currently are

  • The sharing – swapping information with the opposing party where the ‘frames’ are put on the table

  • Bargaining/Haggling – the stage where both parties make offers and listen for counter-offers

  • Closure and commitment – closing the deal and committing to the agreed actions


While very simplistic, this method provides a good foundation for leading successful negotiations. Ultimately, they can be used as a backbone. However, different approaches and frameworks add more steps or consideration, as well as skills and techniques. The list below outlines some important terms that the above does not take into consideration:

  • BATNA - Best alternative to a negotiated agreement,

  • Reservation price

  • ZOPA - Zone of possible agreement

  • Value creation through trades

  • Types of negotiations (integrative and distributive)

  • Skills: listening, asking questions, creating value, etc.


Cialdini, R. (2007). Influence. New York: Collins.

Cialdini, R. (2001). The Science of Persuasion. Scientific American, [online] pp.76-81. Available at:

Peeling, N. (2010). Brilliant negotiations. Harlow: Prentice Hall Business.

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