What Does Commitment Have to Do With Consistency?
Last week we looked at Dr. Robert Cialdini’s principle Commitment and Consistency. This can be a powerful tool against or for change.
Are Automatic Decisions in Our Best Interests?
Once we make a decision we have an almost obsessive desire to be and to appear to be consistent. According to Cialdini, “Once we have made a choice or taken a stand, we will encounter personal and interpersonal pressure to behave consistently with that commitment. These pressures will cause us to respond in ways that justify our earlier decision.” Having built in automatic responses are necessary to keep us from going crazy with such busy lives. We do have to be aware, however, that sometimes we must examine why we are taking an automatic action. It may be in our best interests to be consistent most of the time, but it may not always be logical.
How Big Does My Commitment Need to Be for Change to Take Place?
The idea is that once you have made a commitment and taken an action, however small, your brain will work to keep your actions consistent with that decision. Marketers can use this against us by getting us to agree to something small and essentially insignificant such as isn’t this car beautiful in blue. If you agree that it is beautiful, then it is an easy step to agreeing it would be nice to own it, etc.
How Can You Take Advantage of Commitment and Consistency?
A coach can use this to your advantage just as easily. If the coach gets you to agree (commitment) that something is possible and having you simply state so out loud (small action) then your brain is going to work on being consistent in believing that it could be so and support your efforts in achieving that. If you are not using a coach the action might be as simple as writing down your goal, again a small action. If you tell someone else and have them be your accountability partner then you again increase your chances for success.
Why the Prize?
The power of writing things down cannot be underestimated. Often large companies will offer significant prizes for writing down why you like their product and send the answer into a contest. If you are like me you may erroneously have thought this was to collect testimonials from satisfied customers. According to Cialdini, this is actually used to tweak the brain to commitment with this small action. It will now try to get you to act consistently by buying, using and recommending more product.
Is it Really Powerful for Achieving Goals?
I used some of these same principles when I quit smoking. I smoked a little: three packs of cigarettes, two boxes of cigars, and then the pipe every day. I had tried several times to quit but had been unsuccessful. I reframed the quitting to “I am a non-smoker” and told everyone I worked with and was associated with that I was now a non-smoker. Once you have told that many people, you feel committed to carry through in a manner that is consistent with that commitment. What can you change doing this today?
What Are You Committing to This Week?
Take advantage of this powerful principle. What is one thing you could commit to this week? What is that one small action that you can take right now to cement that commitment? How can you get accountability partners to ensure that you stay consistent with that commitment? Why not declare it publicly on this blog?
I Need Your Help
I am in the annual process of updating, modifying and examining new products and services. I want to make sure I am offering the solutions you need. What is the biggest challenge you face right now? What keeps you up at night? If there were one thing you could change in your life right now, what would that be?