Influence Techniques: Commitment Principle
Once a human mind has made a commitment, it tends to remain consistent to that commitment. If such a commitment is made publicly, the person is even more likely to stick to that commitment. Thus, you can increase compliance to your request, if you were to somehow extract a commitment to a cause/idea before making the request. This makes it an important tool of Influence.
According to Cialdini, Steven Sherman carried out an interesting experiment that demonstrates the power of this technique. In the first case (Control Experiment), he randomly approached people for donations to the American Cancer Society.
In the second case, he first called them up and asked the people if they supported the work done by American Cancer Society. Not wanting to sound uncharitable, everyone said yes. Just by answering yes, they built a commitment to the work of American Cancer Society. A week later, when a volunteer from the American Cancer Society approached them for donations, they donated freely. The increase in donations from case I to case II: 700%
Another example: A restaurant had a unique problem; quite a few of its client would reserve a table over the phone and then fail to show up. This no-show without intimation was close to 30% and resulted in a lot of lost business.
Compliance experts observed that the receptionist would close the phone reservation process with “Please intimate us if you are unable to make it”. By changing it to “Will you intimate us if you are unable to make it” the receptionist forced the party at the other end of the phone to respond with a “Yes”. This built a commitment and reduced the no-show without intimation percentage to just 10%.
The next question that arises is how do we build commitment. Research has shown that the best method to build commitment is by getting the other party to write it down and make it public.
In an experiment, three groups of students were shown a line and asked to estimate its length. The first group had to just think of its length in their minds. The second group was supposed to write the length on a slate and erase it immediately without showing it to anyone. The third group was supposed to write the length on a board publicly and sign it.
After this, the groups were given proofs why their estimates were incorrect and allowed to change their estimates. Those who just thought about the length were the quickest to change the length while those who publicly wrote the length stuck to their guns.
Quite a few organizations ask their sales people to write down their targets on a sheet of paper. This signed sheet of paper is then placed on a public notice board. Guess what happens? The salesmen obviously go all out to meet their targets. Similarly as consultant, if your client has agreed to implement a particular process, ask him to document it and mail to all concerned. This simple step will increase the chances of the process getting implemented.