Jesse Scinto: Commitment and Consistency

Matt and Jesse discuss a chapter from Robert Cialdini’s book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, specifically the human desire to seem logical and consistent, and how we can use this natural human desire to persuade our audiences…

Using commitment and consistency in a presentation:

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Matt: There’s this book, it’s by this guy Robert Cialdini.

Jesse: A classic.

Matt: Yeah so the book is called Influence, it’s a classic and when was that book written? That book was written in the 1980s, wasn’t it?

Jesse: Yeah, I think it was around ’86 or so.

Matt: Yeah, and in one of the chapters, I think it’s chapter three. He talks about commitment and consistency.

Jesse: Yeah.

Matt: What does that mean, commitment and consistency?

Jesse: Great question. Consistency has to do with the fact that by nature, humans feel that it’s necessary to be consistent, because when we’re consistent with our actions they seem to be logical. It’s consistent actions, always choosing the same thing, doing things the same way, and trying not to contradict ourselves. If we contradict ourselves we’ll look to others like we’re being illogical, so we want to be Steady Eddies as we say in the United States. We want to show people that we can be reliable.

The way this comes in in persuasion is that if you can get someone to commit to something, to commit to seeing things your way, then it’s more likely once they’ve made a public commitment, it’s more likely that they’re going to continue to commit to that same behavior or action or attitude, simply because of the fact they’ve already announced to others that they’ve committed to it.

Jesse Scinto is a public speaking expert and Lecturer in the Strategic Communications Department at Columbia University in New York.