What’s true for you may not be true for everyone

I’ve been reading Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive by Cialdini (I’ve blogged before about his previous book, Influence), and he gives a great story that warns us not to assume that what works for us will work for everyone.

He gives the example of efforts to try to get hotel guests to help save the environment by re-using their towels.

How would you promote that kind of program?

Well, if you’re like me, you would be motivated by environmental arguments, so you would be inclined to write a sign along the lines of, “You can help save water by re-using your towel.”

But here’s the rub–there will be a lot of hotel guests who don’t care about that message.

So Cialdini and his co-authors decided to test an alternate message that tells guests that “a majority of guests choose to re-use their towels at least once in their stay.”

There are two lessons here:

1. “Social proof” is a powerful way to influence people;

2. Don’t assume that the messages that work for you will work for everyone.

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