Leadership

3 ways Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger can convince anyone to listen to them

Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.
CNBC | Getty Images
Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.

When Warren Buffett speaks, people listen.

The second-richest man in the world is worth $73 billion and holds tremendous influence over his employees and admirers. The same goes for Buffett's longtime business partner, Charlie Munger. A whopping 30,000 people recently attended the Berkshire Hathaway 2017 Annual Shareholders Meeting to listen to the two men speak.

But the key to the pair's success isn't just their business acumen. As noted by Yahoo Finance's Julia La Roche, both Buffett and Munger employ the technique of "pre-suasion," which primes recipients to be susceptible to a message before they've even heard it.

This concept is outlined in Dr. Robert Cialdini's book, "Pre-Suasian: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade."

"It's the ability to cause people to have something at the top of their consciousness that makes them receptive to your message that's yet to come," Cialdini explains in an interview with PBS.

According to Cialdini, Buffett uses pre-suasion in a number of ways.

They speak conversationally

Buffett opens his 2015 shareholder letter, which marked 50 years since he had taken over the company, by saying, "I will tell you what I would say to my family today," before delving into his plans for Berkshire's future. This lets shareholders — or anyone reading this letter — feel like they're included in an intimate conversation.

"I can say that, as a Berkshire Hathaway stockholder, I have never since thought of selling any shares," Cialdini writes in the L.A. Times. "After all, Buffett had given me the same recommendation he first declared he'd give to a family member."

Berkshire Hathaway chairman and CEO Warren Buffett enjoys an ice cream treat from Dairy Queen before the company's annual meeting.
Rick Wilking | Reuters
Berkshire Hathaway chairman and CEO Warren Buffett enjoys an ice cream treat from Dairy Queen before the company's annual meeting.

They acknowledge mistakes

Buffett may be wildly successful, but he isn't perfect — and he's not afraid to admit that. By recognizing and owning up to his mistakes, he establishes credibility and builds good faith.

They aren't afraid to be the butt of the joke

Being able to laugh at themselves endears Buffett and Munger to their audience, making them seem approachable and trustworthy.

Cialdini gives the example of the light-hearted videos played at Berkshire's annual shareholder meetings that poke fun at the investors. "They make fun of Warren and Charlie, so they humanize them and make them seem like they're not arrogant, know-it-all types, but very much in keeping with the image of who they are as honest, straight-talking people who will reveal their foibles if those foibles exist," Cialdini tells Yahoo Finance.

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