The Principle of Authority

“If an expert says it, then it must be true,” is the basis of the Authority Principle.

Why is it so often the case that we believe the perceived experts? We live in a time when more information than ever is available at our finger tips because of the Internet, and that’s good. Unfortunately, we’re so overloaded with information and so busy with our lives that most of us simply don’t have enough time to digest it all. So, we look for shortcuts. One shortcut is to look to see what the experts have to say about our question.

Studies show that people are more likely to comply with a request when it comes from an expert. That means you’re more likely to make a change in your eating habits, or begin an exercise program, if a doctor tells you to make the change, than if a friend or even a nurse makes the suggestion.

Another example would be Consumer Reports. Many of you reading this may be regular subscribers to Consumer Reports because it’s a trusted “expert.”

Consumer Reports takes vast amounts of information on various products and pares it down so you can make quick, easy decisions as to which products to purchase. If Consumer Reports gives a poor rating to a product, most likely it won’t be a big seller.

Knowing this, how can you make authority work for you? People are typically seen as experts because of their knowledge and trustworthiness.

You can increase your trustworthiness, and thus authority, by admitting a weakness early on. But, be sure to share your strength afterwards so they remember the strength more than the weakness.

A weakness can be as simple as, “I’m not sure about the answer to that question. Would you mind if I did a little research and called you back?”

After you’ve done your homework, and call back with the answer, cite your resources (hopefully experts) and your chances for success have just gone up significantly.

Speaking of resources, you can also establish your authority by citing other experts.

How many times has it been the case that you shared information and forgot to share the source of the information? If you don’t cite the resource, what you share may be seen as your opinion and nothing more.

You may not realize it but you are influenced by things like:

  • Dress – People in uniforms or those who are well dressed tend to get their way more often.
  • Titles – If someone has credentials (CPCU, CPA, Dr., etc.) we tend to listen to them more.
  • Trappings – Even things like fine jewelry or the car you drive do make a difference.
  • Experience – The longer someone has been at something, the more we defer to their expertise.

So there you have it, a quick overview of authority.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT® on FacebookBrian Ahearn, CMCT® on GoogleBrian Ahearn, CMCT® on LinkedinBrian Ahearn, CMCT® on TwitterBrian Ahearn, CMCT® on Youtube
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer at influencePEOPLE
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is a sales trainer, coach and consultant whose specialty is applying persuasion and influence in sales and customer service situations. He is one of 20 individuals in the world who currently hold the CMCT designation. Brian’s blog, Influence PEOPLE, is followed by people in 200 countries and made the Online Psychology Degree Guide Top 30 Psychology Blogs in 2012.
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  1. […] is an example of the principle of authority where you leverage the authority of successful people to make yourself appear more […]

  2. […] is an example of the principle of authority where you leverage the authority of successful people to make yourself appear more […]

  3. […] is an example of the principle of authority where you leverage the authority of successful people to make yourself appear more […]

  4. […] is an example of the principle of authority where you leverage the authority of successful people to make yourself appear more […]

  5. […] actions go to the heart of the principle of authority – we rely on those with superior knowledge, wisdom or expertise, when making decisions. And the […]

  6. […] And finally, look for what Stephen Covey called “win-win” situations. Your product, your price, your idea, whatever you may be trying to persuade someone about will not be right for everyone. Sometimes honestly pointing that out will get you recommendations because people will trust you – authority! […]

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