making decisions
There are no small decisions, influence and Cialdini in practice

There are no small decisions

You meet some interesting people at airports. I was talking with Susan who told me about her Bone Marrow Trust team in America. The perennial problem they faced was a lack of donors and this is largely because they are often signed off work and on sick leave for some two weeks after donating marrow. This recovery period is often required because the procedure involves the use of a sizeable needle to remove around a litre of bone marrow, usually from your hip bone under general anaesthetic. The procedure is low risk, but the area where the needle is inserted can be painful afterwards. Naturally, once you know about this, you are going to want to take a little extra time to think about it.

Creating a moment of change

Modelling a method she found in the book ‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini PhD, Susan and her team decided to change their approach from asking people outright to become a donor to building their commitment with small but progressive stages.

The team started with the smallest, non-threatening commitment and then followed with gentle steps of a progressive process of actions:

They initially asked people to wear a pin-badge in support of the Bone Marrow Trust. Now most people are generally very supportive of deserving causes and are keen to help. A whopping 70% said yes.

NLP decisions

A couple of days later, they asked the remaining group of people if they would be prepared to read a leaflet about the Bone Morrow Trust. A significant 65% said yes (although admittedly there was no easy way of knowing who would read the leaflet).

About a week later, they asked this remaining group if they would be willing to donate $2 towards the Bone Morrow Trust Fund. A sizeable 60% said yes.

This is where it gets interesting. The next day they asked the diminishing group if they would be willing to come down to the hospital and see the work they did for themselves. They knew this was a big ask, but at this point they discovered they had influenced the groups’ thinking to such an extent that they were beginning to think along the lines: “I’m the type of person who wears a pin-badge in support of the Bone Morrow Trust; I read about it, this is my charity because I donate to them, I would love to see where my money is going”. An impressive 50-55% agreed to come down to the hospital, but realistically about 30% actually turned up.

Guess what they asked next to that final group? Yes, you may have spotted the pattern here; they asked “Would you be happy to become a Bone Marrow donor?” The result was a resounding 300% increase of donors who came forward. Most importantly, this had the effect of saving an extra 42 lives over the next 12-month period.

Your identity is built one thought at a time

So you can see, can’t you, that a simple stepped process of this kind can be applied in areas of our lives and have a similar profound effect. When you decide to change your identity, it all starts with an initial small commitment. This then sends the brain in a particular direction and the key then is to build on this through action.

The steps:

Decide on a new identity you would like, g. healthy eating
Break it down into small steps, g. eat a piece of fruit every day
Follow through on the smallest step, g. even eat an apple at 11:59pm to keep within that day
Build in the next step

I learnt a lot from my conversation with Susan and naturally she saw me as a potential donor. True to her word, she asked me if I would like to see the pin-badge they use and gave me one as a gift. Many of you will know that I am always impressed by people who show commitment and follow through on what they say they will do. However, little did Susan know that I am already signed up as a bone marrow donor in the UK. (If you wish to become a donor in the UK please use this link: )

Next Steps:

What new or improved identity would you like to build for yourself or to help build for someone else? Discover more about this together with more advanced techniques of change by booking onto our NLP training programmes and please do sign up for our weekly NLP Podcast. When now would be a good time to do this?

Similar Posts


    1. HI Tony,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment. I will have a look at the linked video as soon as I got though this pile of work. It not all dancing you understand

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.