If you read this post it’s guaranteed you’ll get everything you want every time, all the time. Of course that’s not true but it’s what some people would like you to believe because people love the easy way out. Let me read a book, read a blog post and I’m good.
Understanding the science of influence is no guarantee that you’ll always get what you want any more than understanding how to live healthy ensures you’ll never get sick.
But, knowing how to ethically influence others will increase the odds that you’ll get what you want more often, just like living a healthy lifestyle will increase your chance to live longer and in better health. Neither is guaranteed but smart people would do well to listen to science in both cases and do their best to employ it.
This came to mind recently when I wrote about Southwest Airlines and how I didn’t get what I wanted. A reader emailed me and wrote, “I thought you were an expert on persuasion? How come you couldn’t use your ability, knowledge and experience to persuade the airline otherwise? Not a very good advert for you talents I’d suggest.”
I replied and in his follow-up email he apologized saying his email was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. We had a good exchange but it got me thinking about this issue of failure.
Failure isn’t always bad because sometimes it can be used to your advantage. The principle of authority is based on two factors – credibility and expertise. You have to be an expert to leverage the principle but you also have to be credible. Did you know your credibility could be enhanced when you admit weakness? That’s so because you gain trust.
Here’s the reality – no person gets what they want all the time. As I noted in the opening, there are books, blogs and speakers who will tell you that you can, but don’t fall for it!
Consider this; Dr. Robert Cialdini, author of Influence Science and Practice, the most cited living social psychologist in the world on the topic of persuasion, sometimes doesn’t get what he wants. On one of his CDs he shared a story where he failed to persuade someone working at the gym he belonged to to allow him to use the phone after he’d locked his keys in his car. Sounds simple enough to persuade a guy folding towels for such a small favor but Cialdini couldn’t do so on that particular day.
If the recognized authority on influence can fail on occasion then I don’t feel so bad for not being able to persuade Southwest Airlines to bend their rules for me. And trust me, you will fail too!
Two people can go to the same physician, trainer, or life coach and do everything the same but get different results. However, I would venture to guess both people would be better off following the sound advice.
The science of influence is based on nearly 70 years of research, not someone’s good advice. If you learn what the science says, then look for opportunities to ethically and correctly approach situations using that science, you will be more persuasive most of the time. You can take that to the bank.
As for me, I did fail in my attempt to persuade Southwest. However, I turned lemons into lemonade because I got not one but two blog posts from the experience. On top of that, I learned a few things and I hope you did as well.