INCOGNITO INFLUENCE: Apply the new science of persuasion to your writing at work

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Whether it is the newspaper, magazine, or trashy romance novel; reading often will keep your brain in the best writing shape. Writing is definitely a use it or lose it skill. When you don't practice writing, you can lose some of your ability to tie together ideas and thoughts. If you really want to improve writing, you have to write often--even if it is simply copying a poem or a passage into your journal. You don't always have to be coming up with new ideas to write a new story or book, as that is sometimes impossible thus the term "writer's block.

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But you should definitely be practicing and honing your skills as much as possible so that your skills don't get rusty and so you constantly keep improving. You may think you have the best story or the best idea. But when you tell somebody else about your idea, you may get a flat response. While everybody doesn't have to like your ideas, it is important that there is some sort of appreciative audience for what you are writing.

Get as much feedback as possible so that you know if you are writing what people want to read. If you are writing a science fiction short story, be sure to ask people who know and appreciate science fiction what they think of your idea so you know if you are on the right track.

Knowing what your audience wants by getting plenty of feedback will keep you from fading into oblivion. This isn't always easy. Nobody likes criticism, but if it is seriously designed to help improve writing, then you should certainly consider whether or not there are valid points in the criticism. This is particularly important if it is coming from an editor or an agent.

They aren't trying to hurt your feelings, and know that it is almost never personal. These people, however, know the business and know what they are talking about, so it is wise to at least consider their suggestions seriously. You can do with it what you will, but when you can accept constructive criticism without getting defensive, you can get a lot further with your work.

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More info on how to deal with criticism here. If you want to improve writing, there are some simple steps to make your work more readable and enjoyable.

While not everybody will be able to deliver a great masterpiece of literature, you can certainly take some quick and easy steps to improve your writing and maybe even get your work noticed. Your writing will be taken far more seriously if you avoid spelling and grammar errors. The prin- ciples—consistency, reciprocation, social proof, authority, liking, and scarcity—are each discussed in terms of their function in the society and in terms of how their enormous force can be commissioned by a compliance professional who deftly incorporates them into requests for purchases, donations, concessions, votes, assent, etc.

It is worthy of note that I have not included among the six principles the simple rule of material self-interest—that people want to get the most and pay the least for their choices. This omission does not stem from any perception on my part that the desire to maximize benefits and minimize costs is unimportant in driving our decisions. Nor does it come from any evidence I have that compliance professionals ignore the power of this rule.

I choose not to treat the material self- interest rule separately in this book because I see it as a motivational given, as a goes-without-saying factor that deserves acknowledgment but not extensive description. Finally, each principle is examined as to its ability to produce a distinct kind of automatic, mindless compliance from people, that is, a willing- ness to say yes without thinking first.

The evidence suggests that the ever-accelerating pace and informational crush of modern life will make this particular form of unthinking compliance more and more prevalent in the future. It will be increasingly important for the society, therefore, to understand the how and why of automatic influence. It has been some time since the first edition of Influence was published. First, we now know more about the influence process than before. The study of persuasion, compliance, and change has advanced, and the pages that follow have been adapted to reflect that progress.


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In addition to an overall update of the material, I have included a new feature that was stimulated by the responses of prior readers. That new feature highlights the experiences of individuals who have read Influence, recognized how one of the principles worked on or for them in a particular instance, and wrote to me describing the event. Nail, Alan J.

In addition, I would like to invite new readers to submit similar reports for possible publication in a future edition. Something fascinating had just happened, and she thought that, as a psychologist, I might be able to explain it to her. The story involved a certain allotment of turquoise jewelry she had been having trouble selling. It was the peak of the tourist season, the store was unusually full of customers, the turquoise pieces were of good quality for the prices she was asking; yet they had not sold.

My friend had attempted a couple of standard sales tricks to get them moving. She tried calling attention to them by shifting their location to a more central display area; no luck.

INCOGNITO INFLUENCE: Apply the new science of persuasion to your writing at work

When she returned a few days later, she was not sur- prised to find that every article had been sold. I thought I knew what had happened but told her that, if I were to explain things properly, she would have to listen to a story of mine. Turkey mothers are good mothers—loving, watchful, and protective. They spend much of their time tending, warming, cleaning, and huddling the young beneath them.

1. The Social Animal

But there is something odd about their method. Other identifying features of the chicks, such as their smell, touch, or appearance, seem to play minor roles in the mothering process. The extreme reliance of maternal turkeys upon this one sound was dramatically illustrated by animal behaviorist M. Fox in his descrip- tion of an experiment involving a mother turkey and a stuffed polecat.

Indeed, the exper- imenters found that even a stuffed model of a polecat, when drawn by a string toward a mother turkey, received an immediate and furious attack. When the machine was turned off, the polecat model again drew a vicious attack. She looks like an automaton whose maternal instincts are under the automatic control of that single sound. The ethologists tell us that this sort of thing is far from unique to the turkey. They have begun to identify regular, blindly mechanical patterns of action in a wide variety of species.

Called fixed-action patterns, they can involve intricate sequences of behavior, such as entire courtship or mating rituals. A fundamental characteristic of these patterns is that the behaviors that compose them occur in virtually the same fashion and in the same order every time. It is almost as if the patterns were recorded on tapes within the animals. Click and the appropriate tape is activated; whirr and out rolls the standard sequence of behaviors. The most interesting thing about all this is the way the tapes are ac- tivated.

When a male animal acts to defend his territory, for instance, it is the intrusion of another male of the same species that cues the ter- ritorial-defense tape of rigid vigilance, threat, and, if need be, combat behaviors. But there is a quirk in the system. It is not the rival male as a whole that is the trigger; it is some specific feature of him, the trigger feature. Often the trigger feature will be just one tiny aspect of the totality that is the approaching intruder.

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Sometimes a shade of color is the trigger feature. The experiments of ethologists have shown, for instance, that a male robin, acting as if a rival robin had entered its territory, will vigorously attack nothing more than a clump of robin-redbreast feathers placed there. At the same time, it will virtually ignore a perfect stuffed replica of a male robin without red breast feathers; similar results have been found in another species of bird, the bluethroat, where it appears that the trigger for territorial defense is a specific shade of blue breast feathers.

How To Instantly Persuade People

First, the automatic, fixed- action patterns of these animals work very well the great majority of the time. By reacting to just that one stimulus, the average mother turkey will nearly always behave correctly. It takes a trickster like a scientist to make her tapelike response seem silly. The second important thing to understand is that we, too, have our preprogrammed tapes; and, although they usually work to our advantage, the trigger features that activate them can be used to dupe us into playing them at the wrong times.

A well- known principle of human behavior says that when we ask someone to do us a favor we will be more successful if we provide a reason. People simply like to have reasons for what they do. Langer demon- strated this unsurprising fact by asking a small favor of people waiting in line to use a library copying machine: Excuse me, I have five pages.


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