Influence PEOPLE: the book – Ethical

In August my first book will be available in eBook and paperback online at, Barnes & Noble and other outlets. Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical was written to give you practical, real-world ideas on how to use the science of influence. The goal is to help you enjoy more success at the office and happiness at home. I hope you’ll consider getting a copy.

This week’s blog post is an excerpt from the book on what it means too be ethical when it comes to persuasion.


“A man is truly ethical only when he obeys the compulsion to help all life which he is able to assist.”

Albert Schweitzer, theologian, philosopher, humanitarian

Do you know the difference between ethical persuasion and manipulation? Manipulators lookout only for themselves, unconcerned about the impact on others. It doesn’t matter to them if they stretch the truth – or outright lie – to get what they want. They don’t care if they disingenuously use their knowledge of psychology to twist your arm because they only care about how things work out for themselves.

This is why a good bit of advertising, particularly political ads, turn off so many people – because it’s apparent many companies and politicians distort the truth just to sell more products and win elections.

When it comes to ethics I like the following quote from The Art of Woo by G. Richards Shell and Mario Moussa; “An earnest and sincere lover buys flowers and candy for the object of his affections. So does the cad who seeks to take advantage of another’s heart. But when the cad succeeds we don’t blame the flowers and candy. We rightly question his character.” 

Are flowers and candy good or bad? They’re neither good nor bad. They’re neutral objects that acquire meaning based on how we use them.

The same is true of the principles of influence. They’re neither good nor bad, they describe how people typically think and behave. How you use your knowledge of influence will reveal your character. Will you use your new knowledge of influence in a mutually beneficial way, looking for the proverbial “win-win”? Will you be truthful? Will you employ principles natural to the situation you find yourself in? If you know you are telling the truth, using principles natural for the situation, and what you ask will benefit the other person in some way, then you can feel confident moving ahead with your ethical request. 

Using the principles of influence ethically cannot be overstated. Use them ethically and you can build strong, lasting relationships in your personal life and in business. However, if people feel you’re manipulating them, not only will they sever the relationship, they’re likely to spread the word and damage your reputation. We’d all do well to remember what Aristotle said; “Character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion.” As your use of ethical persuasion skills grows, so does your influence.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An international speaker, coach and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses Persuasive SellingPersuasive Coaching and Building a Coaching Culture: Improving Performance through Timely Feedback, have been viewed by more than 70,000 people! Keep an eye out for Advanced Persuasive Selling: Persuading Different Personalitiesthis fall.


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