Which restaurant to choose in Boston or anywhere else

About a month ago, Jane, Abigail and I enjoyed
a long weekend in Boston. Boston has been one of my favorite cities ever since
I ran the Boston Marathon in 2004 and 2005. If you’ve never been there I highly
encourage you to go! The mixture of old and new architecture, interesting pubs
and restaurants, Boston Commons, Cheers, and the Freedom Trail are just a
handful of cool things to do.
We spent a good bit of time at Faneuil Hall, a
well-know market where there are street performers, historic sites, interesting
shops and lots of restaurants to occupy your time. While we were enjoying an
unusually cool, beautiful summer afternoon walking through the market, I
overheard a young man say to his girlfriend, “When you see a restaurant without
a line and the others are crowded you don’t want to go there. There’s a reason
it’s not crowded.”
I doubt someone had to teach him the
psychology of persuasion for him to understand the reality that crowds usually
signal a good place to eat whereas empty tables typically mean the food and/or
service must not be so hot. What he described was the principle of consensus in real time – we
look to others when trying to decide on the best course of action. We can be
influenced by what many others are doing or smaller groups who may be similar
to us. Either way, to a great degree, we base our actions on the observation of
others. And this is only heightened when we’re unsure what to do.
It’s not uncommon at all for us to make quick
decisions based on the principles of influence just like that young man. That
shows how easily, and quite often unconsciously, we’re influenced by the
principles. Here’s another example. Several weeks ago I wrote about a study by
the University of California. Homeowners were given energy saving ideas and one
group was told if they implemented the recommendations they would save about
$180 on their electric bill in the coming year. Another group was told they
would lose $180 over the next 12 months if they didn’t adopt the
recommendations because they would overpay on their electric bill.
Whenever I share that study and then ask
people which group they think was more likely to implement the energy saving
ideas, everyone says the group that was told they’d lose the $180. And they’re
correct! The “lose group” had 150% more people take action than the “save
group.”
Again, like the young man in Boston they intuitively
got it. Yet time and time again we see people highlighting the benefits of some
change rather than pointing out what people might lose if they don’t go along
with what’s being asked or recommended. They’re bungling away an opportunity to
effectively persuade using the principle of scarcity!
I’m guessing you’re reading this blog because
you want to be more effective when it comes to persuasion. So the real question
for you is how you will use your knowledge of the principles. It’s not enough
to understand the principles (head knowledge); you have to put them into action
ethically and correctly.
For example, some people respond to “thanks” by
saying, “That’s how we treat all of our customers.” That’s a major bungle
because that’s not effective use of consensus. Telling someone you’re treating him
or her just like everyone else after you’ve done something to help him or her
only diminishes the special feeling we all want. Better to say, “We were happy
to do that. We appreciate your business.”
Back to our young couple. If they were like
most people milling around Faneuil Hall they were probably tourists and in the
absence of a recommendation from a local they didn’t know the best spots to go
for dinner. I don’t know where they ended up dining that night but odds are, if
they were willing to wait for a seat at one of the more crowded restaurants
they probably had a better experience. And that goes not only for Boston but
anywhere you’re looking for a good spot to eat.

P.S. Dr. Cialdini has a new book coming out that he’s coauthored with Steve Martin and Noah Goldstein, Ph.D. The book is called The Small Big and can be pre-ordered here.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
influencePEOPLE 
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

 

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