If you had to sum up the Principle of Consistency I suppose you could say this, “People generally want to be consistent in word and deed.” Think about a time you gave your word but did not do what you’d promised. How did you feel? If you’re like most people, you didn’t feel too good and probably try to avoid that feeling next time you give your word.
Knowing other people probably feel the same way, how can you make the consistency principle work for you? Simple; because people are more likely to do something that’s consistent with what they’ve openly professed before, attitudes they already hold or something they’ve done in the past, your odds for success increase significantly if you can get them to commit to you. The easiest way to go about this is to ask a question and wait for a response.
Parents, how often have you gone through this scenario: your child’s room is a mess so you say, “Clean your room!” If your child is like most, you walk by the room later in the day only to find it just as messy…if not worse! When you ask him why the room isn’t clean, typical responses include, “I didn’t hear you” or “I didn’t know you wanted me to do it right away” or “I was going to in a minute!”
Next time try asking this question, “Will you please clean your room?” The key is to then wait for the verbal reply. If you don’t hear a reply, just ask the question again. Will your child always clean the room after saying “yes?” No, but by simply asking a question rather than issuing a command engages the principle of consistency and your odds for success have increased greatly.
In Dr. Cialdini’s book, Influence: Science and Practice, he cites a study in which researchers had someone put a radio on a blanket next to another person, and then left for a brief time. Shortly thereafter, a “thief” came along and took the radio. They repeated this scenario 20 times and only four people intervened in any way.
But, when the experiment was repeated and the person putting the radio down asked the other person “to watch my things,” 19 out of 20 times the strangers intervened when the “thief” came along! The only difference was getting a verbal commitment!
Simply asking questions rather than making statements is the best way to engage the principle of commitment and consistency.