The Psychology of influence
The ability to engage and influence others is crucial when you want to make a positive change in your professional or personal life. Understanding how experts influence change can increase your understanding of the process involved and provide you with a toolkit to influence others.
In his bestseller, ‘Influence’, psychologist, Robert Cialdini, explains that there are six potent ‘weapons of influence’ that we can all use to influence others. According to Cialdini, the ‘weapons of influence’ are incredibly effective because we are programmed to respond predictably (by complying automatically) when confronted with these triggers. Cialdini is famous for his six principles of influence, they are:
2. Commitment and Consistency
3. Social Proof
The fourth weapon of influence we’ll take a look at in this series of blogs on the psychology of influence is the principle of liking.
The principle of Liking
Put simply, we prefer to say yes to someone that we know and like. This seems obvious but less obvious is why we like some people more than others. Psychologists identify a number of factors that reliably cause liking, they are:
- physical attractiveness
- contact and cooperation
- conditioning and association.
1.Physical attractiveness comes under the heading of what social scientists call ‘ the halo effect’, an effect that’s demonstrated when one characteristic of a person dominates the way that person is viewed by others. Foe example, we automatically assign positive personality traits such as kindness and trustworthiness to people who are physically attractive even though we are unaware of the process and have no evidence to substantiate such assumptions about qualities.
2. Similarity. When we want to be liked, it pays to appear similar to others in a range of ways, by dressing in the same way or expressing similar interests or a shared background. An examination of insurance sales records led researchers to find that people are more likely to buy insurance from someone who is like them in terms of age, religion, political beliefs and other habits such as smoking.
3. Compliments when well pitched, can increase our liking of a person, maybe this sounds too obvious but we’re all vulnerable to flattery. The research of psychologist Drachman & his team has shown just how susceptible we are to flattery. The men in Drachman’s study received comments from someone who required a favour. Some of the men only received positive comments, others received a mix of positive and negative comments and some only received negative comments. The study revealed some interesting findings. Firstly, the person who provided only positive comments was liked best by the men in the study. Secondly, this was even the case when the men realized that the person providing the flattery hoped to gain from liking them. Thirdly, the praise did not have to be truthful to work, unlike the other two types of comment, accuracy was not important. The men were just as likely to like the flatterer when the flattery was false as much as when it was true.
4. Contact and cooperation describes how we like things that are familiar to us. Familiarity based on contact usually leads to greater liking of a person unless it is contact that carries with it a negative experience. Compliance is also a strong factor in liking someone, for example a car sales person who ‘advocates’ on our behalf to secure us a better deal.
5. Conditioning and association reflects that as a general principle an association with either positive or negative things which may be out of our control, can influence how others feel about us. An example of this being the ancient Persian tradition of treating messengers who conveyed good news as heroes but slaying the bearers of bad news.
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