My father is a Marine. He served from 1962-1967, having done a couple of tours in Vietnam. You might be thinking, “No, he was a Marine,” but you’d be wrong. If you’ve ever met anyone who served in that branch they always say, “I am,” not, “I was,” because they’re Marines for life.
Something I’ve always noticed about my father is this; when he meets another Marine, particularly one who has seen combat, you’d think he was closer to them than me, his own flesh and blood. My father wrote about his Marine experience and opened with this:
“Once while with friends, I was asked the most significant thing I had ever done in my life. My answer was quick and to the point, ‘Being a Marine and leading men in combat!’ My wife Jo, whom I dearly love, looked sad. I then said, ‘Marrying you was the second best.’”
His experience is a perfect example of Robert Cialdini’s seventh principle of influence – unity. Unity, a recent addition to Cialdini’s long-standing six principles of influence, goes well beyond the principle of liking.
Liking tells us it’s easier for us to say yes to people we know and like. One way to engage liking is by referring to what you have in common with another person. Commonalities could include having the same hobbies, growing up in the same town, attending the same college, or cheering for the same sports team to name just a few.
Unity goes beyond liking because it taps into having a shared identity with another person, which is much deeper than simply having something in common. Cialdini puts it this way, “The relationships that lead people to favor another most effectively are not those that allow them to say, ‘Oh, that person is like us.’ They are ones that allow people to say, ‘Oh, that person is of us.’”
I would imagine people who attended the same college and played the same sport, even if they played at different times, feel a very strong sense of unity too. For example, in Columbus, Ohio, there’s nothing bigger than Ohio State football. If someone played ball for the Buckeyes they’re part of a lifelong brotherhood. I’m sure former players at Notre Dame, USC, Alabama and other programs feel the same way.
Other examples might include:
- Being part of a fraternity or sorority.
- Connecting with distant relatives.
- Growing up in the same neighborhood.
- Winning the same award (Grammy, Oscar, Nobel Prize).
In a sense, each of these makes you part of a certain club or class that sets you apart. When you engage another person on the level of unity it’s as if you’ve connected on liking but on steroids. It’s much more powerful because, as Cialdini writes, “We is the shared me.”
Don’t worry, you don’t need to be a jock, Marine, frat boy or award winning actor/actress to connect on unity. In Pre-suasion Cialdini sites some activities that can lead to a sense of unity and that’s what we will explore next week.