My Chance Encounter with Robert Cialdini

A few weeks ago, a Facebook friend Michael Halbfish, wrote during an exchange, “I am guessing there is a good story to how you wound up with your current career and working with Cialdini.” Michael is correct and I promised him I would share that story, a chance encounter with Robert Cialdini, in a blog post.

Back in 2002, Nancy Edwards, a former coworker at State Auto, stopped by my office to share a video with me and my boss John Petrucci. Nancy had just watched the video in an MBA class at The Ohio State University and thought John and I would appreciate it. How right she was!

The video was of a 2001 Breakfast Briefing presentation Robert Cialdini, PhD., gave at Stanford University. His topic was ethical influence – how to get people to do what you want without resorting to manipulation.

As John and I watched the video a light bulb came on and we could clearly see how the psychology Dr. Cialdini shared made the sales techniques so effective. We acquired a copy of the video for our own use and I began showing it to employees and talking about ways to incorporate the principles of persuasion into everyday things we were doing at work.

Around the same time I signed up for Stanford’s video catalog. In 2003, I received a catalog and noticed the headline for Dr. Cialdini’s video:

Call it Influence, Persuasion

Or Even Manipulation

I was shocked because he was so clear about non-manipulative ways to persuade people. I was so bothered by Stanford’s marketing that I sent them an email. I told them I didn’t know anyone who wanted to be manipulated nor did I know anyone who wanted to be known as a good manipulator. I concluded the email telling Stanford that one word – manipulation – couldn’t help their sales but it sure could be hurting sales.

I never heard from Stanford but some time later my phone rang and it was Chris Cibbarelli, a representative from Robert Cialdini’s organization INFLUENCE AT WORK (IAW). She said she was calling to thank me. Apparently Stanford was changing the marketing of Dr. Cialdini’s video because of my email!

During that call, Chris asked if State Auto ever had guest speakers and let me know Dr. Cialdini traveled the world to talk about ethical influence. I told her we did have speakers for agency events. As fate would have it, the event planner was in my department so I transferred Chris to Robyn Harper. One thing led to another and in the summer of 2004 Dr. Cialdini was a guest speaker at several agency conferences we hosted.

That same summer John and I traveled to Arizona to attend Dr. Cialdini’s two-day Principles of Persuasion Workshop. After that I persisted with John for more than three years to allow me to get certified on behalf of Dr. Cialdini so I could teach the workshop.

In January 2008, I spent a week in Arizona with Dr. Cialdini and the staff at IAW going through the certification process. The process culminated in March 2008 when Gregory Neidert, PhD., a partner at IAW, came to Columbus to audit my first workshop.

That’s the story of my chance encounter with Robert Cialdini. Here we are nearly 10 years later and I’ve hosted more than 50 workshops, have been blogging for more than seven years and have been using Influence PEOPLE to help people attain more professional success and personal happiness using the principles of influence.

As Paul Harvey used to say, “And that’s the rest of the story.”

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