Several years ago, after giving a presentation I had lunch with my daughter Abigail. It had been years since she’d seen me in front of an audience, so I was curious to hear her thoughts. After sharing some insights about the presentation, she asked a question that was near and dear to her heart as well as mine. The question she asked was, “Where is God in all of this?”
If you’ve followed me for any length of time, then you know my faith is the most important part of my life. I’ll share what I told Abigail about how I see the principles of influence tying into my faith. I hope it encourages you.
In most corporate settings it’s not acceptable to talk about God but I think the principles of influence can be used in ways that align with many biblical tenets. For example, when I use the principle of liking I can come pretty close to love. That is, when I do all I can to like the person I’m with, I will enjoy them more and work harder for them as a result. This is true even if they don’t feel as strongly towards me. Don’t you feel you work harder for people you know and like?
The more I come to know and like people it all but removes manipulation. I wouldn’t manipulate my friends and I’m confident you wouldn’t either. When people believe that you genuinely like them, they’re more open to whatever you might ask of them.
I believe tapping into liking from the onset creates a virtuous cycle and properly focuses your intentions when using the other principles of influence.
Jesus had a couple of things to say about giving which taps into reciprocity. He encourages people with this truth; it’s better to give than receive. When we help people that we like we feel even better about our giving. With this approach we’re not giving to get. Instead, we’re giving to genuinely help. Authentic giving is received much differently than giving when the other person thinks you just want something in return.
He also encourages you to give to others as you would have them given to you. Think about what you’d want someone to do for you then try doing the same for them. When you’re the first to give, and do so out of a generous spirit, people are more likely to give back when you need something.
When you invoke social proof, showing what other people are doing, you’re taking this approach because you genuinely want to help the other person see the merits of whatever it is that you’re asking or offering. Following the lead of others usually works out well, especially if they are similar to you.
When you tap into authority, sharing expertise or citing sources, it’s not perceived as you simply trying to convince someone you’re right. When someone knows that you like and care for them, they sense you’re genuinely sharing information that would be beneficial in their decision making.
People usually feel better about themselves when they follow through on their word. Asking instead of telling it’s a great way to use the principle of consistency. You’re not doing this to steer someone down a path that they don’t want to go. Rather, you’re doing your best to show the benefits of what you’re offering. By gaining a commitment early on and having someone follow through you’re allowing them to feel better about themselves. A win for both people!
Using the principle of scarcity, if done incorrectly, can feel manipulative. No one likes to feel threatened or scared into doing something. That approach creates resentment and resistance. However, when your basis is friendship, a true desire to help another person, then employing scarcity is simply using psychology to help them make the best decision possible.
The final principle – unity – is something that Robert Cialdini introduced just over five years ago. This principle is about having a shared identity. When you’re deeply bonded with someone, helping them in a very real sense helps you. The same is true when they help you, they get a great sense of satisfaction because it’s almost as if they’re helping themselves.
I equate unity to love. As I’ve surveyed people, I’ve come to realize quite often they’ll do things for people they’re deeply connected with, things they may not do for people that they simply like. For example, if you had a relative who needed a kidney or large sum of money, you might be very likely to help them simply because you’re family. I think that’s the essence of love, doing something for another person regardless of how you feel or what it may cost you.
Let’s bring this full circle. When I think about loving God, I’m told to do so with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love my neighbor (everyone) as myself. Here’s how I envision engaging the principles of influence to fulfill those commands.
- Heart. The principles of liking and reciprocity tap into our heart, our core, because they’re foundational for relationships.
- Mind. Authority and social proof are principles that engage the mind, causing us to think deeply about what other people are doing or what experts have to say.
- Strength. When it comes to strength and how we feel, consistency and scarcity seem to fit the bill. We hate the feeling of losing something, scarcity, and we hate the feeling of letting others down, consistency. The feelings that arise are strong drivers to take action.
- Soul. Our soul encompasses all of who we are, our identity, and that’s why I believe unity comes into play here.
I’m still working all of this out in my mind, but I hope sharing it gives you pause to think about how best to interact with people when you’re trying to influence their behavior. For me, it starts with knowing, liking, and caring. That’s the foundation and everything else builds from there.
Brian Ahearn is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE. An author, TEDx speaker, international trainer, coach, and consultant, he’s one of only a dozen 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 first book, Influence PEOPLE, was named one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by BookAuthority. His follow-up, Persuasive Selling for Relationship Driven Insurance Agents, was an Amazon new release bestseller. His new book, The Influencer: Secrets to Success and Happiness, is a business parable.
Brian’s LinkedIn courses on persuasive selling and coaching have been viewed by more than 500,000 people around the world!