Posts

Consensus or Authority? Fad or Fact Might be the Difference

Ever since Abigail was little we’ve had a tradition of going to Panera Bread for some good food, drink and father-daughter talk. We usually each get sesame seed bagels with butter but she likes her bagel warmed up in the microwave whereas I prefer mine toasted. She’s my kid but we are a little different.

A few weeks ago we stopped by Panera for lunch before Abigail headed to watch her high school play. As we ate and talked she was telling me about a book she was reading for her youth group, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teenagers. I was interested to hear what she had to say because The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is one the most impacting books I’ve ever read. She informed me that adults who write books for teens just don’t get it. I asked why and she went on to say, “If kids did all the things adults told us to do we wouldn’t be kids, we’d just be little adults.” You can imagine the interesting conversation ensued.

Our time together got me thinking about motivating people to change their behavior, and in particular I was thinking about teens. I suspect every person reading this is familiar with the phrase “peer pressure.” It’s just a different term for what is known more commonly as consensus or social proof in psychology. Whatever you call it here’s what it describes; to varying degrees we all look to others to find our cues on how to behave. In other words, we are influence by the power of the crowd. And when people are unsure of what to do consensus becomes an even more powerful tool to persuade others with.

Another principle of influence that comes into play when there’s uncertainty is the principle of authority. When we’re not sure what to do quite often we look for the advice of those who are more knowledgeable than we are. More often than not following the lead of experts helps our decision making.

What Abigail seemed to be saying in a roundabout way was teens don’t necessarily look to adults – authorities – on how to live and act. She’s right, teens take most of their cues from each other and that’s why when we were young mom or dad would ask us, “If everyone else was [fill in the blank] would you?” And we all knew the right answer, “No mom, I wouldn’t [fill in the blank] just because everyone else is.”

Quite often people ask me, “If consensus and authority both apply when there’s uncertainty is one better than the other when it comes to persuasion?” My answer is a firm, “Yes, but it depends.”

In general, if there are facts and stats from experts that apply to the situation you’re facing then bringing authority to bear is probably the right call because it’s hard to argue with empirical data. However, if the situation is more a question of taste or preference then you’d do well to look for ways to bring consensus into the conversation because people feel more comfortable doing what others are doing.

For example, when it comes to investing your money you’re probably better off asking what financial advisors have to say rather than what the neighbors are doing. Consensus will still be a motivator but not nearly as strong for most people as is the word of an authority.

Another example might be fashion. When it comes to fads what everyone else is doing or wearing will be more persuasive for most people as opposed to talking about what a particular fashion designer or magazine has to say. Again, it’s not that those authorities won’t impact decision making. They certainly could but they’re not likely to be as motivating as consensus.

Back to Abigail and books for teens; what should authors do? Why not collaborate with teens to produce something for teens? The authority could give some guidance but by and large the material would come from peers. As adults we were all teens and our desire is good – we want to help teens avoid some of the mistakes we made. The problem is kids think we don’t understand them because, “You were a teenager like a million years ago!”

Here’s my advice – don’t fight the wave, look for ways to ride it safely to shore. That comes with understanding who you’re trying to persuade and which principles will be most effective. Start looking for ways to do that and it’s a good bet you’ll enjoy more success than you currently do.

Brian, CMCT
influencepeople
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

The Value of a Personal Mission Statement

Last week I concluded with a teaser about my personal mission statement so this week I’m going to address the topic and share with you my personal mission statement, or life plan, as some call it.

Back in the early ’90s, I read Steven Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and it really resonated with me. I often tell people, after The Bible the most impacting book I’ve ever read is The 7 Habits. I’m not saying it’s the best book – I’ve read others I enjoyed more – only that it was the most impacting. The impact came because I took the step to write a personal mission statement. Now, each day a part of my mission statement pops up in a task in my daily planner, Microsoft Outlook. Having read it now for 15 plus years, I’ve reinforced who I am, who I’m trying to become and what’s most important in my life.

If you’ve not written your own mission statement I cannot encourage you enough to do so. I’ll go so far as to say it could be one of the most important things you ever do because it’s something that will serve as a guide throughout your life. The mission statement idea is presented in Covey’s book in a chapter entitled, “Begin with the End in Mind.” I’ll leave it to you to read the book, or at least that chapter, so you can write your own plan.

I think a mission statement can help you be more influential in several ways:

  • Writing something down like this will help you stay accountable to what you say is most important and that accountability is ramped up if you share your mission statement with others. When you’re consistent, people come to rely on you which adds to your credibility, a component of authority.
  • Most people I interview never write down their goals let alone have a plan for their life. If you’re ever interviewing for a job and you hand the interviewer a personal mission statement you’ll certainly impress them. I think sharing mine helped me land the job I have today.
  • If you happen to share it with someone who has similar goals or world view then you’re likely to befriend that person because you’ve touched on the principle of liking.

Below is my life plan. It’s not for everyone so yours could look totally different and that’s okay because we’re all different.

My Chief Aim in Life: When I leave this earth and stand in the presence of the Lord, I hope to hear, “Well done good and faithful servant: you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master” (Matt 25:21).

In order to make this a reality I will focus on four main areas of my life. Each area, while distinctly different, overlaps with the other areas. I want to focus on my spiritual life, my family, myself as an individual and my career.

Spiritual: I want to have a close intimate relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ and I want this relationship to be the priority in my life. I want to live a life that’s consistent with Biblical principles. I will seek to do this by striving for Christ-like qualities, knowing that while I cannot completely achieve them because I am human, I will be rewarded. I want to be a good listener. Finally, I want to reach out to others sharing Biblical love and truth.

Family: I want to make my family my priority second only to my relationship with God. I want to love and honor my wife Jane, building her up so she can become the spiritual being God intends for her to be. I want to meet her needs to the best of my ability and help her live a happy and fulfilled life. I want to strive to give unconditional love to Jane and Abigail, as well as other members of my extended family. I want to create a home environment where each person in my family can come to me in times of need and develop to their fullest potential. I want to earn my family’s respect and be the kind of husband and father they can be proud of.

Personal: I want to like who God created me to be; respect myself; maintain a balance between my mental and physical health; live my life with integrity, not compromising myself but standing firm on my beliefs as outlined in my personal mission statement; be open to change and accept when I’m wrong; continue to develop in the areas of loving, learning and relationships; smile, laugh and show my emotions more; I do not want to be controlled by anyone or anything other than God and need to remember I always have free will and therefore a choice in all matters; I want strive first to understand others, then seek to be understood; to be a leader and role model for others.

Career: I want Christ to be the centerpiece for all that I do at work; I want to give my best effort to whatever task is laid before me; be remembered for making my workplace better for having been there in both a productive and personal sense; obtain satisfaction from my chosen career; be fair and honest while remaining firm and decisive; remember the people involved; earn the trust, respect and confidence of those I work with; continue to develop personally and seek new challenges. Last, I need to remember that I work to live — I don’t live to work. Therefore, I will never sacrifice my spiritual, personal or my family’s well being at the expense of my career.

So there you have it. You now know more about me than you may have cared to know. I encourage you to take a similar step in your own life. Trust me, you will be glad you did.

Brian
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”