Years ago, I read a fascinating article on the work of Dr. Robert Cialdini. Dr. Cialdini has spent his life conducting extensive research and study on the science of persuasion. Are there actually scientifically proven principles that optimize our ability to persuade another person? Cialdini believes so and he has codified six basic principles of persuasion -
1. Reciprocity - If you do something for me, I'm more likely to do something for you.
2. Scarcity - What's more appealing - a slice of apple pie or the last slice of apple pie?
3. Consistency - Make a public commitment and you'll be compelled to live up to it.
4. Authority - If Dr. Robert Cialdini says so, it's got to be true, right?
5. Consensus - we're like lemmings...or sheep...we like to follow the crowd.
6. Likeability - if you like someone, you inclined to want to agree with them.
I've found it incredibly insightful and I've carried the article around for years.
As I've been reading through Acts, it struck me that Paul engaged the culture in a different way altogether. In Acts 17, while in Athens, he "reasoned in the synagogue...as well as in the marketplace day by day..." In Acts 18, arriving in Ephesus, he "went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews". In Acts 19, returning back to Ephesus, he "entered the synagogue and spoke boldly with them for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God".
I'm absolutely not suggesting that incorporating these principles will lead to conversions (that's a work of God alone), nor am I saying that it will lead to broad Christian influence in our communities. But perhaps, there is some wisdom in Cialdini's work that could apply to how we might engage our world more effectively.
What do you think?