Influence By Robert Cialdini – Book Review

Best for:

Those interested in psychology, communication, marketing, influence, and sales. If you want to know about underlying triggers for decision making, this is an invaluable resource.

Difficulty to digest:

While there are many studies mentioned throughout the book, Cialdini’s style is approachable and conversational. Most readers should be able to easily glean the major points made in the book.

Key Insights:

Influence is an insightful book which delves deep into the understanding of persuasion. The book starts with an introduction, followed by the six main influences Cialdini identifies; reciprocation, consistency, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity. These are, more or less, shortcuts our brain naturally uses to help conserve energy when making decisions. We can use these influences to understand our decisions and make better ones. We can also use them as leverage to convince others to make certain decisions.


The book starts with the idea of reciprocation. In essence, reciprocation means we often feel like we ‘owe’ someone if they do something for us, regardless of the size or meaningfulness of the favor. For example, if someone gives you a useless, broken pencil, you’re more inclined to lend them $5 as a result of the rule of reciprocity. Even though the second exchange is larger, their gift activates the rule of reciprocity. Cialdini shares several examples of how corporations or individuals use this rule to gain additional compliance.

Commitment & Consistency

The next influence is commitment and consistency. This is activated whenever we commit to something – we’re more likely to follow through to prove we’re consistent with ourselves. It’s difficult to refute your own words and actions when reflecting, even if you were pressured to make the commitment. This is why it’s often advised to write out your goals – it can easily be made public plus it’s in your own handwriting. Outsiders hoping to use this influence often get a small concession, then use the desire for internal consistency to build upon it. They then create a narrative which appeals to consistency but results in larger asks. You’re a football fan? Then why not buy these season tickets. 

Social Proof

Social proof is the next influence in Cialdini’s book. When social proof is active we use the actions of others as indicators of good choices. The more people acting in a particular way, the more strongly we’ll feel it’s the right thing to do, especially if we feel they are similar to us. Outside influencers use this by indicating a large number of people have participated in the action they want to induce. Join over 10,000 users, today! 


The next factor is liking, which means that we tend to do things for people we like. This should be straightforward to most of you so I won’t delve into it too deeply (though there are some interesting points in the book). Cialdini’s main caution is to be careful what you agree to based purely on liking. Be sure to revisit the details of any offer before you agree to it, especially from someone who has a lot to gain.


The next influence is authority, which means we’re conditioned to accept facts from certain sources without checking too deeply into their authenticity. For example, if you see someone dressed like a doctor giving medical advice you’re more likely to believe it’s true and follow through with it. Checking authority can save our brain a lot of effort but it can also lead to trouble if the authority figures are frauds or incorrect. Cialdini cautions us to review claims made by authorities more carefully.


Finally, there is scarcity. The rule of scarcity means we find things that are less available or more competitive to obtain as more desirable. We’re typically afraid of losing and missing out on opportunities. As a tool of influence, you can make an object more desirable by communicating scarcity, even if none exists. Companies often do this by saying things like limited time offer or while supplies last to increase your desire. If something seems scarce, Cialdini warns us to consider if it’s something we really want – or if we’re purely chasing it because it’s in low supply.

Other considerations:

Cialdini spends a fair amount of the book talking about how to protect yourself from these factors of influence. With all the talk of going on the defensive, one of his final points may slip under the radar – these influences are only considered unethical if used fraudulently. For example – made up statistics. Otherwise, they are valuable and reasonable ways to persuade someone. If you’re not doing so already, you may want to consider how leveraging these influences can benefit your life in addition to combating unethical uses against you.

One other consideration – these influences are everywhere. It’s an unrealistic goal to continuously identify all these factors, instead it’s valuable to know how most individuals are wired as they make decisions. A more realistic goal, then, is to understand how these biases influence important decisions and how you can use them to help yourself or others make decisions which will create more happiness.

Answer the exercise in the comments:

Go through each influence and think about a time it changed your decision outcome. Were this instances beneficial or hurtful to you?

Come up with one way you want to improve your life. How can you use these influence tactics to keep yourself on track?

Come up with one way you want to help others. How can you use these influence tactics to help improve their lives?

I encourage you to participate and build our community! If you have any questions or topics you’d like me to cover, please let me know. I’d be happy to look in to them for you.

Reflect, Take Action, and Enjoy Life

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