Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, by Robert Cialdini

As martial arts instructors, we are necessarily also salespeople. We not only need to persuade students (and their parents) to enroll in our programs, but when we are on the mat we must persuade our students to follow our instruction and to apply our lessons in their lives outside of the dojahng. Robert Cialdini's classic text is therefore essential reading.

Cialdini sets forth several principles that explain why people respond to persuasion. First, the Principle of Liking: People like those who like them. To connect with our students, then, we should identify ways in which we are similar to them, and we must offer genuine praise for their performance in class.

Second, the Principle of Reciprocity: People are more willing to give when they have received. We use this principle when we offer free uniforms to new students. But it is equally applicable to non-tangible exchanges. If we want to earn our students' trust and respect then we must first demonstrate that we trust and respect them.

Third, the Principle of Social Proof: People follow the lead of others who are similar to them. This is why testimonials are so effective in our marketing. In class, highlighting student examples helps to improve the behavior of the other students.

Fourth, the Principle of Consistency: People align with their clear commitments. As instructors, when we teach our students to put their goals in writing and share them with the class and with their parents, they are more likely to achieve these goals because they are motivated to honor their public commitments. It also helps if they articulate the reasons behind their goals, so they feel that the goals are voluntary and not coerced.

Fifth, the Principle of Authority: People defer to experts. While humility and respect for our juniors is essential, we also should be willing to let our students and their parents know about our training and experience so they have confidence in our advice and instruction.

Sixth, the Principle of Scarcity: People perceive things to be more valuable when they are less available. As instructors, if we set high standards and avoid awarding ranks that are undeserved, our students will be motivated to work hard to achieve their black belts—and when we tie the belt around their waist, they will know they truly have earned it.