The Small BIGs of Successful Social Influence

(Suggested length 60 minutes)

Since publishing multiple books on the topic, Dr. Robert Cialdini has been frequently asked to speak to audiences about the principles of persuasion that scientific research indicates are most likely to spur others to change. In those presentations, something has emerged that invariably captures audience attention to a remarkable degree: If, while describing one or another of these psychological principles, Dr. Cialdini says, “Now, I’m going to give you something really small that you can do to make this principle work in your behalf,” the room changes immediately. Bodies incline forward, faces lift to the stage, and pens hover above notepads.

It’s understandable. Audience members are responding to an attractive return-on-investment proposition. It’s one that’s likely to be of enormous value in their increasingly time-challenged, busy lives—a minor investment of time or energy that will lead to disproportionate returns in all sorts of daily arenas. After all, to achieve most professional and personal goals, people need to be influential in their interactions with others; and reliable shortcuts in that pursuit are like found gold. In addition, these “small BIGs” are attractive because they require little expense or effort to implement—often involving nothing more than the change of a word or two in a communication—which makes them more likely (than big procedural changes) to be actually performed.

In this new presentation, Dr. Cialdini focuses on a set of small alterations that individuals can make to their persuasive attempts that research shows are likely to produce significant increases in their persuasive success. In the process, he illustrates the four forms that “small BIGs” can take: small adjustments to (1) words, (2) actions, (3) images, and (4) environments that can all produce outsized persuasive impact. Finally, he stresses how individuals can employ such adjustments not only effectively but ethically as well to ensure the cultivation and enhancement of long-term, mutually beneficial relationships.

Robert Cialdini, Ph.D.

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