Peer Pressure – None of Us Fully Escapes It

When you were a kid did your parents ever say, “If everyone decided to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge would you?” Okay, perhaps they used something other than the famous bridge as an example but you get my point. They were trying to warn you against mindlessly going along with the crowd. Their concern was even greater when the crowd was doing something potentially harmful.

Call it peer pressure, social proof or consensus, but each describes the same thing; humans are pack animals. As such, we are heavily influenced by others; what they’re thinking, feeling and doing. Each impacts what we think, how we feel, and what we do. Sorry, but there’s no getting around it.

This jumped out a me once again when I read the following from Brian Kight, CEO of Focus 3, in his daily email:

First, you and I are not immune to peer pressure. It doesn’t matter your age, experience, or what group you belong to. Believing you’re above peer pressure only blinds you to how much it drives behavior. Group dynamics don’t decrease as we progress in our careers, they increase. In emotions, complexity, and consequences. Second, peer pressure always pulls you in one of two directions: it propels you forward or it pulls you back. It’s never neutral. Keeping it simple and true accelerates your awareness of how social scenarios affect you.

Brian is right (me and him!). As much as we like to see ourselves as individuals, we bend to the crowd more than we realize on many things. Deep inside us is the sense that “everyone can’t be wrong” and “there’s safety in numbers.” Why? If you go back in history things worked out well more often than not when people followed the crowd.

Now let me acknowledge this; great things usually don’t come from going along with everyone else. Great thinking, amazing inventions and social change usually come about when people choose to break from the pack. But, most people aren’t looking to do such monumental things. Our days are full of many mundane tasks and decisions. Couple that with the fact that a deeper, stronger drive survive and you get a sense of why consensus has such a grip on us. Here are a few examples:

  • You disagree with the strategic direction at work but don’t speak up because everyone else seems to be on board.
  • You’re at an event that’s so boring you can hardly wait for it to end. Despite your boredom, when everyone gives a standing ovation you stand and clap too.
  • A contentious social subject comes up (Trump, abortion, diversity, etc.) and, although you disagree with the majority, you don’t say speak up.

In each case you decided to go along to get along. Oh sure, you’ll rationalize your decision but the fact remains; you went along with the crowd. Going along with the crowd is like swimming in the ocean. You don’t realize how much the current pulls down the beach unless you fix your eyes on a stationary point on shore.


Going along with the crowd the majority of the time isn’t bad. In fact, quite often it’s good because it generally works out well. Indeed, over history those who stayed with the crowd were typically the ones who survived, thrived and passed along their genes.

However, you need to be careful when your gut is telling you otherwise. When you were younger it would not have been good to jump off a bridge just because other kids were doing it. As an adult sometimes you need to speak up, break from the crowd or go against the grain to be true to yourself and for your personal well-being.

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, the most cited living social psychologist on the topic of ethical influence. Brian’s first book – Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical– will be available for pre-sale July 9and live on August 20.

His LinkedIn Learning courses Persuasive SellingPersuasive Coaching and Building a Coaching Culture: Improving Performance through Timely Feedback, have been viewed by nearly 70,000 people! Have you watched them yet? Click a course title to see what you’ve been missing.


Why is it so hard to…

Have you ever wondered why it’s so hard to…do certain things and not do others? It’s a good bet that a lot has to do with psychology and conditioning. Your rational brain might be telling you one thing but something deep inside is prompting you in another direction. For example, why is it so hard to…

…say no to a friend? Imagine for a moment a stranger asks you for your last $10. I’m sure it would be very easy to say no but if a friend asked it would be much tougher to resist their request. That’s because the principle of liking is at work on you. It’s often the case that your willingness, or unwillingness, to do something has more to do with who is asking than what’s being asked. One word of advice; be wary of the person you come to like too quickly, especially if they ask for something shortly after meeting you.

…not say thanks to unwanted actions? Many years ago, my daughter and I were walking through the mall. Shortly after entering we were accosted by someone from a kiosk asking if we wanted to try Dead Sea Salt facial cream. I simply said, “No,” and immediately felt Abigail elbow me as she said, “Dad, it’s ‘no thank you.’” I asked her why I should say thank him when I didn’t appreciate being interrupted and wasn’t thankful for what he was offering? She advised me it’s considered polite to say, “No, thank you.” That social norm comes about because the principle of reciprocity conditions us to give back to those who first give. Even when someone’s actions are unwanted reciprocity typically prompts a conditioned response from us.

…go against the crowd? We all felt peer pressure growing up. Parents worry about kids caving to the pressure of underage drinking, sex, drugs and other behaviors that could be harmful. The pressure to conform never goes away but as we move past the teenage years we call this phenomenon the principle of consensus or social proof. All you have to do is observe an office setting to see how people look around then naturally begin to conform to what they observe. Whether it’s a new initiative at work, dress code, or some cultural norm, people find it hard to go against the crowd because standing out might reflect negatively on them as Robert Cialdini explains in this video from Big Think.

…dismiss expert advice? Your friend tells you to quit smoking and you pay little attention but your doctor tells you and resisting the advice becomes tougher. That’s because the principle of authority is working on your brain. In one study (Expert Advice Shuts Your Brain Down) brain imaging showed critical thinking almost comes to a halt when a perceived expert is giving advice! But, that same advice from someone with no credentials is easy to ignore.

…change your mind? The pressure to be consistent in what you say and do (principle of consistency) is HUGE. One reason that’s so because changing your mind might mean you have to admit you’ve been wrong. If you’ve held a particular view for a long time then it’s even tougher despite the reality that you’re always learning, growing and evolving in your views. One could make the case that changing one’s mind shows openness, flexibility and perhaps enlightenment but that nagging feeling of having been wrong is very difficult to overcome.

…resist some sales pitches? Buyer’s remorse is all too common. This happens when shortly after a purchase people regret their decision and wonder why they bought what they did. The pressure exerted from the principle of scarcity – fear or losing – is often the driver. There’s a fear that if you don’t buy that smart phone, new car, furniture, or something else, you might not get that good a deal again. Yet, in a moment of clear thinking you’d acknowledge sales are a dime a dozen. But here’s the problem – you’re not thinking clearly when you encounter scarcity. The following quote from the book Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much explains why – “Scarcity captures the mind. Just as the starving subjects had food on their mind, when we experience scarcity of any kind, we become absorbed by it. The mind orients automatically, powerfully, toward unfulfilled needs.”

For the most part our psychology and conditioning is good because both are meant to help you survive and thrive in a constantly changing environment. But, your subconscious can’t tell when the situation is life or death so it responds just as it did tens of thousands of years ago and that’s why it is so hard to…do many things.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC and Learning Director for State Auto Insurance. His Learning course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed nearly 145,000 times! Have you seen it yet? Watch it and you’ll learn how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

Do You Care What Others Think?

I recently watched an interview with Tony Robbins and he was asked how to deal with the fear of failure. He said we all have fears and that everybody – presidents, multi-millionaires, professional athletes – has a place where they get fearful. He went on to say, “Train yourself to say, ‘I can be fearful and I can do it anyway.’” He encouraged listeners to use the energy that comes with fear to overcome the thing they fear.

Tony’s words resonated with me because quite often it’s not fear of failure that controls us, it’s fear of what others think of us that holds us back. Feeling pressured to conform to the expectations of others is called peer pressure when we’re young.

When we get older we like to think we’re above peer pressure but we still care greatly what others think about us. We may not feel the peer pressure that comes with youth (underage drinking, drugs, sex) but we do care what our peers (coworkers, teammates, club members, fans) think of us. In social psychology it’s called consensus or social proof. This principle of influence alerts us to the truth that much of our behavior is dictated by what others are doing or thinking.

Don’t believe me? Let’s consider Wilt Chamberlain. Wilt was the greatest player of his era and is considered by many as the greatest basketball player ever. A few his records include:

  • Most points in a season: 4,029 (almost a thousand more than Michael Jordan’s best season)
  • Highest season average: 50.4 pts./game (Jordan’s best year was 37.1)
  • Most points in a game: 100
  • Most games scoring 50 or more points: 118

Something Chamberlain was terrible at compared to other NBA players was free throw shooting. His career average was just over 51%. Early in his career he was so bad he switched to the two-handed underhand method when he was at the foul line. When I was a kid we called it the “granny shot.” With the change Wilt’s free throw shooting improved! And then he switched back! Why?

According to best selling Malcolm Gladwell, Wilt switched back because of peer pressure. More specifically, he thought he looked like a sissy shooting underhanded from the free throw line. Imagine that, the greatest player of his time, perhaps all time, made a choice that hurt his game and team because of the fear of how it made him look!

To put this in perspective, Wilt Chamberlain was the LeBron James of his day. He stood 7’1 tall, weighed 275 lbs., and moved like a gazelle. His athletic prowess was decades ahead of his time. He bragged near the end of his life that he’d slept with over 20,000 women. If there was anyone who was supremely self-confident, it was Wilt Chamberlain. And still he caved to what people thought of him in one area of life that mattered a lot.

Perhaps if Wilt had met Tony Robbins he would have converted his fear into resolve which may have extended some of his records, helped his team win more games, and perhaps led to another championship or two.

Do you care what others think about you? Of course you do. Have you learned to stay true to what is right and best for you? If not, take the advice of Tony Robbins and acknowledge your fear then harness the energy that comes with fear and beat it!

Social Proof in Social Media


Not long ago, as I scanned through my social
media sites one morning, I came across a blog post where someone shared six
reasons why they decided to give up alcohol. Curiosity got the best of me so I
clicked on the link to find out why the author made that choice.
All of his reasons were valid and probably the
best choice for him. What caught my attention more than his reasons were the comments
that ensued. At the time I read the post, all 15 comments were from people who
had also given up alcohol. There wasn’t one person who took the opposing view.
I decided to post a comment about why I choose
to drink alcohol. To every point he shared I could make the opposite case as
long as the drinking was in moderation. Despite the fact that according to a 2012
Gallup Poll 64% of Americans
drink alcohol on occasion, I felt odd posting my comment because I was
definitely in the minority.
It shouldn’t have surprised me that despite
the fact that two out of three Americans drink, all the readers said they
didn’t drink. As I thought about it two reasons came to mind.
The first reason was social proof (aka
consensus or peer pressure). This principle of influence tells us the more
people do something the more inclined others are to join in. In other words, we
get our cues for socially acceptable behavior by looking at how others are
behaving in the same situation.
This was a classic case of social proof in
action because the more people posted about their experience, the more others
felt free to do the same thing.  It’s not
just that other people posted that made the difference, it was that all the
posts were similar. You see, when we notice the behavior of people we view as
similar to us that magnifies the feeling that we should behave in the same way.
For example, if a teen sees a large group of
people doing something do you think they’re more inclined to follow suit if
that large group consists of other teenagers or adults? Teenagers, of course.
Another reason the comments gained traction
was due to liking. We tend to like those we see as similar to ourselves in some
way so readers seeing the author had a similar stance on alcohol made them like
him more and, therefore, made it easier for them to post.
Social media is amazing for so many reasons. At
my age I can easily recall the days before mobile phones, the Internet and
social media. Soon younger people won’t have any recollection of those days and
therefore might not marvel at the technology the way some of us do.
However, despite all the good social media can
do, sometimes it doesn’t change human behavior much. Prior to social media, and
still today, I bet you hang around people who are similar to you. Take politics
for example. My guess is the vast majority of your friends hold essentially the
same political views as you do. Being similar generally makes for less
contentious conversations and better times for the majority of people.
That same trigger applies to those with whom
we connect on social media, the blogs we read, the news stations we watch, and
so on. There’s nothing wrong with this but the more time goes by the more
entrenched we become in our viewpoints. Knowing our point of view isn’t always
correct, isn’t it worth it to stretch ourselves some?
Here’s my advice – make it a point to get
together on occasion with people who are different than you. If you watch Fox
News take a look at CNN sometimes, and if you’re a CNN person, watch Fox News.
Believe me, it won’t kill you. Follow some blogs or people you know who hold
different opinions than you do, if for no other reason than to try to
understand their perspective. You might be surprised at what you learn.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Why 1 in 3 Americans Might be Cheating on their Taxes

This is the second time in recent months I’ve found myself riding the coattails of Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational, The Upside of Irrationality and most recently, The Honest Truth about Dishonesty.

With the approach of April 17, the last day to file taxes  in the United States, Ariely wrote a blog post on Taxes and Cheating. There’s an old saying from Ben Franklin, “There are only two certainties in life, death and taxes,” and apparently people would like to “cheat” both.
Cheating on taxes was in the headlines several years ago because Tim Geithner, Treasury Secretary for the United States, was questioned by Congress for failing to pay about $40,000 in taxes while he worked for the International Monetary Fund. On the surface it’s easy to conclude if people see someone cheating on their taxes they’re more likely to do so as well but is that supported by hard evidence? This question prompted Ariely and colleagues to conduct a little experiment to see if more people would cheat when they saw others cheating.
I’ll leave to you to read Ariely’s blog post on the subject if you want details on the experiment but for our purposes I’ll simply note the results – people cheated more when they saw others cheat. And, there was more likelihood of cheating when the cheaters were similar in some way (i.e., went to the same college) to those who observed them cheating.
If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, Ariely’s conclusion should not surprise you because it’s simply an application of Robert Cialdini’s principle of consensus, otherwise known as social proof or peer pressure. This principle of influence tells us we are influenced by the actions of others. The more people that are involved, the more we are influenced or the more similar we see those others to ourselves, the more we are influenced by their behavior.
For example, kids will be influenced to smoke when they see other people smoke, such as their parents. However, when teens have two or three friends who smoke, the odds that they’ll take up the bad habit are astronomically higher than the example set by parents. Why? Because they take their cues on how to act far more from their peers because they want to fit into that social group. Thus we get the term “peer pressure.”
Here’s another experiment to convince you. Trick-or-treaters in Seattle were observed on Halloween. When a single child came up to the door, he or she was told to only take one piece of candy; then the parent walked away. The child now has a dilemma; he knows what to do but also knows he could get away with taking more than one piece and no one will be the wiser. Only 7.5% broke the parent’s rule and took more than one piece of candy. Not bad.
It gets interesting when the kids came to the door in groups. With the same set of instructions, more than 20% of kids took extra candy! Why did the number almost triple? Simple; when that small percentage of kids who would take extra even if alone were observed by their friends, the friends decided they too should get more candy. This is a classic example of peer pressure that parents are always warning kids about.
It’s no coincidence that I posted this the day before Americans are supposed to have their taxes filed and paid this year. In 2001 it was estimated 30%-40% of Americans cheated on their taxes shortchanging the government about $345 billion and more recent estimates are still in that range! With record deficits we need every penny to pay down our debt but how can the government expect the average citizen to be honest if the person running the U.S. Treasury is either dishonest or too inept to understand the tax code? You and I can’t solve that one but at least we can be more cognizant of consensus in both how to ethically use it, and avoid its potential negative impact on us.
This wasn’t as taxing to write as you might think.
If you’re viewing this by email and want to listen to the audio version click here. If you want to leave a comment click here.

Brian, CMCT
Helping You Learn to Hear

Influencers from Around the World – Anti-Social Proof

This month’s Influencers from Around the World post is from Yago De Marta. If you’ve followed along in this series then you know Yago hails from Spain and travels quite often to Latin America. He is a public speaking coach and media trainer with much of his work centering on politicians and businessmen. You can connect with Yago on Facebook and LinkedIn.Brian, CMCT
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.
Anti-Social ProofEvery single day we see examples of the power of influence of social proof. As we are surrounded by people it is logical to think social proof is the principle of influence that occurs more often, widely and systematically in society. We strive to dress differently and end up dressing just like everyone else. We try to be independent and then just listen to the same music that millions of others do. We look for reasons to justify our support for our football team or our political party, but in the end, in all these activities lies the power of social proof in a persistent and powerful way.No matter how high we build the buildings; no matter how beautiful our musical compositions are and no matter if one day we are able to unravel the mysteries of the atom we are animals. Remember that – we are animals. So we learn something while we watch a group of monkeys or the organization of ants. In this sense it is worth noting the work of a Mexican that has been going on for more than ten years in California. There Cesar Millan rehabilitates dogs with problems. To look beyond their training sessions is a lesson of the continued use of Reciprocity, Consistency, Liking, Scarcity, and Authority. But what catches my attention most is the therapeutic use of Social Proof.
All of this reminds me of the examples shown in Robert Cialdini’s book Influence Science and Practice about the process of overcoming phobias. In the case of Cesar Millan, he uses the pack (the group) to rehabilitate dogs. It’s curious to see it especially with the more contentious dogs. Cesar introduces a dog to the pack and the new dog gradually learns the correct behavior with the strength of the group. The process is more than observation and learning. The process is more like entering into a large wave that pushes you and your attempts to resist beyond.We know from Millan’s pack example that social proof is powerful, but what is its limit? If we define a perfect environment to implement this principle it would not be unusual to choose the following:

– Number: The number of people determines the power of influence.- Time: The more exposure the greater the influence of the group.- Context: When the group is joined by the historical time and perfect place the greater the influence.- Authority: When group has an Authority reference the influence is increased.

Let’s shift gears now and look at probably the most important example of “Anti-Social Proof” in history. This is a tribute to all who have ever been able to resist and get out of the wave. These are the people who write our history!August Landmesser was a worker in Blohm und Voss shipyard in Hamburg, Germany. In 1931 he had joined the NSDAP (National Socialist German Workers Party) hoping to get a job through their membership of the party. In 1938 he was taken prisoner by the Gestapo, who condemned him for “Rassenschande.” Article 2 of the Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor. That article prohibits the extra-marital sexual relations between Jews and Germans. In 1935, his request for marriage to a woman was rejected due to the Jewish origin of the future wife of August. After several trials, Landmesser was finally sentenced to two and half years of hard labor in the concentration camp Börgermoor. August Landmesser became known in history because of a photograph in which he is seen with his arms crossed. It was at the christening of the boat (now a school) of the German navy Horst Wessel in 1936. That day, the Fuehrer Adolf Hitler was present at Hamburg, when August refused to greet him as the thousands of comrades who worked in the shipyards did.
In early 1941 August was forced to work in factory that produced cars for the army. After that he was forced to join the I Battalion “999.” From the end of that year forward there was never any news about him. Maybe he died in one of the battles in which the battalion participated.The lesson we get is this: Maybe we are surrounded by thousands of people; maybe we are supposed to act like the rest; maybe we are inside the perfect wave (the perfect backdrop) but we always have the ability to choose our behavior, we always have the last autonomous capacity to decide and break against the wave instead of riding along with it.August took his decision at the time of history where Social Proof and Authority were not known as Principles of Influence. They were the law and he could find the force among the thousands of people around him.
However, it is worth reflecting on the importance of the number of people. With so many people around, he felt protected as it was difficult to notice him. That is, it is assumed that if there had been a dozen or so people around him he would have raised his harm. If you are interested in learning more about this story visit these sites: Yago

One Small Step for a Supervisor, One Giant Leap for the Company

Many of you reading this have probably heard Neil Armstrong’s famous words when he stepped on the moon, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Several weeks ago at work I saw one small step for a supervisor and possibly one giant leap for our company.

If you’re in a position of leadership then you know you have to rely on others to accomplish your objectives. Increasingly we have to rely on others for their expertise because there’s simply too much to know and understand as man’s collective intelligence increases exponentially.

Quite often the seemingly little things are what end up making the difference. My boss likes to say, “Most companies don’t make million dollar mistakes, they make a million one dollar mistakes.” Not printing on both sides of the paper, not making the choice to email files rather than printing them, and wasting small amounts of money here and there can add up to millions of dollars over the long haul. When it comes to influence, small changes can make big differences too.Several weeks ago a coworker named Jim emailed a number of people asking us to make a technical change to some websites we were responsible for. For various reasons there was a delay getting this taken care of immediately so I knew Jim was anxious to wrap it up when he contacted us a second time. When I got around to doing my part, I hit Reply All and emailed back, “Done. That was easy.” I know many of you detest people who hit Reply All but allow me to explain why I did this.

Jim’s a good guy who is as nice as they come and always helpful to me. Despite his good qualities I know when an IT guy asks non-IT folks to do something the non-IT people tend to drag their feet. Usually they do so because what they’re being asked to do is not a high priority for them and they might be unsure about exactly what to do. I hit the Reply All button to help Jim.

Jim replied directly to me to say thanks. I called him and asked if everyone had done their part and he said no, there was still one person he was waiting on. He said the email was probably buried in Joe’s inbox. I told Jim I had replied to everyone so he could take advantage of consensus, the principle of influence that tells us people look to many others, or similar others, when deciding what to do. This principle is sometimes called social proof. When talking to our kids we call it peer pressure and for students in college it might be known as beer pressure on the weekends.

You see, I had a hunch if someone who’d not done their part saw most others had completed their work they’d feel the pull of the group and do so as well. My advice to Jim was to reply back to my email, including all of us, to say thanks to all those who had done their part. He took the advice and here’s what he wrote:
“Thanks again! I have heard from everyone but Joe. Joe, do you know when you can complete this update? I would like to wrap up this project by the end of the day.” Within seven minutes Joe replied to let us all know he could be numbered among those who’d completed the task! This may not be a big deal to you but it sure was for Jim because that’s one more item he can put to bed allowing him to move on to the next task. And I bet if it was you, you’d be pretty happy too.

Will this be the difference between growth or no growth for my company? Nope. The
difference between profit or unprofitability? Nope. But, imagine every supervisor and manager taking this subtle approach every day, five days a week, 52 weeks a year. That’s a lot of days cut off of projects; and more projects completed giving time for new initiatives to begin.

And this might be the best news for you business owners or those in charge of budgets – it cost nothing! All this took was an understanding of the principles of influence, eyes open to opportunities (they’re everywhere!) and a little creative application to a very routine way of communicating.

So here’s my challenge for readers this week; look at what you do and pause for just a moment to consider how you might ethically employ the power of the crowd, consensus, to move people to do what needs to be done. A few days here, a few days there, and it’s one more project off your list for the week which could add up to good things for you and your company. Brian
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

What’s Your Worldview?

I’ve been thinking about my “worldview” lately so I’ll pose this question to you, “What’s your worldview?” When I think of the term “worldview,” I think about how people try to make sense of what they observe others doing. I’m a pretty religious person and I have a worldview that first and foremost centers around my Christian faith. My faith colors perception of the here and now as well as the afterlife. But I also view things through another lens – influence.

Let me explain a bit further. I’m curious about why people do the things they do. I’m also interested in getting people to go along with my ideas and suggestions. Just like you, I want to hear people say “Yes” when I ask them to do something. That person could be my wife, my daughter, a coworker, vendor or the checkout person at the store.

I was working with someone today and we covered material on influence. I told this person about the science behind influence. I didn’t want her to think it was just grandma’s good advice (not that grandma’s advice was bad; she seems to have been right most of the time!) because it was grounded in real life scientific studies. Those studies don’t give me the ability to predict what you or any other person will do in particular situations because we are complex beings with a lifetime of experiences that shape us and our behaviors. But, I can say with certainty that I communicate with confidence and take certain actions because I know my influence approaches will make me more successful on the whole.

There’s more than 60 years of social science to back up my last statement. If you pick up Influence Science and Practice, Yes: 50 Ways Proven Ways to be Persuasive, Maximum Influence or any number of other books on influence and persuasion you’ll see the studies. For example, one restaurant owner saw no shows dropped from 30% to 10% because of two simple words. In another study nearly twice as many people completed a survey because of something they were asked immediately prior to the survey request. Or how about the person who saw a 610% increase in sales because he instructed his salespeople to include some truthful, relevant information!

I can’t tell you how many people will attend your next meeting and I certainly can’t tell you which specific people will say “Yes.” However, I can tell you things to do, and things to avoid, so you’ll know you have the best chance of maximizing attendance. I can’t tell you if you say or do one particular thing that your child will clean her room or your boss will give you a raise. But I can tell you things you can do that will increase the odds of both.

Because I’ve seen the studies and experienced the results personally, I’m a believer! My worldview helps me explain an awful lot of why people do what they do. Not everything can be explained by reciprocity, liking, consensus, authority, consistency and scarcity but I’m amazed by how much can!

Earlier I wrote that a worldview was in essence the lens through which I view much of the world. I remember when I was a teenager getting glasses. I didn’t realize my eyesight was poor until I went to the optometrist. I simply figured everyone saw things the way I did. When I got that first set of glasses – WOW! All of a sudden I could see blades of grass, leaves on trees and so much other detail. I didn’t realize what I was missing. That’s what the lens of influence has done for me. I’m not interested in doing research; I’m interested in understanding it so I can make sense of the world around me and the actions of others. I also enjoy taking the concepts and applying them to different situations to see if they can make me or my coworkers more successful. Now, because of this blog I get an opportunity to go beyond those boundaries. Thanks to Google Analytics, I can see people in nearly 40 countries follow this blog. That excites me!

So I guess this week’s post wasn’t so much about persuasion tips as it was insight into my mind, my worldview. I would like to take this time to say thanks to all of you who read, who’ve commented and who’ve emailed me with questions or to just say how much you’ve enjoyed reading. That means a lot to me and without a doubt makes my day. Keep looking for posts every Monday at 5:30 p.m.

Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”

Are You a Twitter Snob?

I’m still a total novice, a geek you might say, when it comes to Twitter. I signed up at the advice of a friend and have mostly tried to use it as a tool to promote this blog. Facebook continues to be the place where I get more personal.

Because I just didn’t feel I was getting the hang of Twitter I bought Twitter Power by Joel Comm. For my wife and daughter, the fact that I would buy and read a book like that confirms them that I am indeed a geek, a twit, a tweet.

As I type this I’m half way through the book and have learned several good pointers. But, this post isn’t about the book; rather it’s about what I’m observing about Twitter from a social influence standpoint.

First I must confess, I’ve become a Twitter snob. Are you? You might discover you’re one too and didn’t know it. Why do I say I’m I a snob? Well, for the simple reason that I don’t “follow” everyone who follows me. Kind of rude isn’t it? In my defense there’s a psychological force at work on me. It’s called consensus, also known as social proof.

Consensus is the psychological principle whereby people look to others for clues on how to act. That gets heightened when we are not sure what to do. So I’m new to Twitter, fumbling around not knowing what to do and I look to see what others are doing. I’ve received notification that people or organizations are following me so I pop over to their Twitter home page to see what’s up. Here’s where consensus comes into play which leads me to a question for you. If you saw “Following 1,567” and “Followers 138” would you be like me and wonder, “Why are so few people following this person?”

It’s not that 138 is a small number; after all, we all have to start somewhere. The problem is that 138 is a small number compared to 1,567. We naturally compare and contrast to gauge things. It’s no different than looking inside a small restaurant, seeing a large crowd, people waiting and all the tables filled. I don’t know about you but when I see that I naturally assume it must be a good place. By contrast, when you pop your head into a large place and see more empty tables than full ones it’s easy to conclude something must be wrong with the food, service or something else. In reality there may be more people in the big restaurant but you don’t really notice that. In both cases we’re influenced by groups, or lack of, and that is heightened when comparing it to the number of tables.

At first I felt bad not following someone who followed me. My feeling bad goes to another principle of influence, reciprocity, which tells us we should respond in kind when someone does something for us. Someone smiles at us and we smile back or they do something for us and we feel obligated to return the favor. So naturally, when someone follows us on Twitter we feel somewhat obligated to follow them back.

So what’s a person to do if they find themselves in a follower deficit? Again, I’m no Twitter expert but here are a few things that come to mind:

  • Friends and Family – Use the AT&T strategy and try connecting with people you know so they’ll follow you and you can build up that number.
  • Sympathy – Start sending messages to some of those you follow to tell them you made a mistake and ask them to start following you.
  • Slow Down Cowboy – As people do start following you, don’t be so quick to follow back for a time so you can even out your “following” and “follow” numbers.
  • Last Resort – If all else fails, set up a new Twitter account and be more careful as you build up your followers. This might seem like a hassle but it will be worse to go months, maybe years and never see many followers.

Again, I don’t claim to be an authority on Twitter, that’s why I needed a book! However, I know enough about social influence to realize when people are shooting themselves in the foot. By the way, feel free to follow me on Twitter or become my friend on Facebook. Links to both are on the side of the Web site.Brian
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”

Coming to Terms

I thought it would be good time to review some influence and persuasion terms with you. A few of these you’ve seen in some past blogs and others you will certainly see in future posts.

Understanding and ethically applying these psychological principles doesn’t guarantee everybody will do what you want. After all, they don’t represent some kind of magic wand. However, I can say with certainty; if you employee these more strategically and regularly you will hear more people say “Yes!” to your requests.

As you read through these you might think, “That doesn’t apply to me” or “I don’t fall for that.” That assessment may be true quite often but certainly not all the time. To get you to critically think it through I’ve added a question after each principle to give you cause to pause and think. While you may have seen right through some manipulative person’s attempts to persuade you, I’m willing to bet there are other times where you were influenced into action without even knowing it.

Reciprocity – Some might describe reciprocity as the “good old give and take principle” or “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” This principle describes the internal pressure we all feel to return the favor. At its most extreme it might be the person trying to think of a way to repay someone who saved their life. For most of us it’s as simple as picking up the tab at a restaurant because our friend got it last time. Have you ever sent someone a Christmas card because they sent you one first? If so, it’s because of reciprocity.

Liking – In business there’s a saying, “People like to do business with people they like.” Jeffrey
Gitomer, sales trainer and author, likes to say, “All things being equal, people want to do business with their friends. All things being not so equal, people still want to do business with their friends.” We like to be around people we like and they naturally have more influence on us than those we don’t know or don’t like. In turn, the more likable we are the more persuasive we’ll be. Have you ever bought something because a good friend recommended the product or service?

Consensus – A farmer would say we’re like cattle because we like to “mooove” with the crowd. When we see lots of people taking action, or people just like us, quite often that’s enough to get us to go along with the crowd. You’ll also hear consensus referred to as “social proof.” Be honest now; have you ever stood up during a standing ovation when truthfully, you didn’t think the performance deserved it? If so, it’s because you were moved along by the actions of others.

Authority – We don’t have enough time to weigh all the decisions that come our way so quite often we defer to people we view as authorities, or experts. In fact we do so with such regularity that studies show our brain activity actually slows down when experts tell us what to do! In other words, critical reasoning can go right out the door! Experts need not be actual people either. Have you bought something, perhaps a car or major appliance, primarily because Consumer Reports rated the vehicle high?

Consistency – We all feel an internal pressure to live up to our promises. We feel good about ourselves when our words and deeds match, when we’ve done what we said we would. Have you ever found yourself doing something, not because you really wanted to (i.e., help someone move), but because you gave your word?

Scarcity – When we sense something is becoming less available or diminishing in some way, there’s something in us that all of a sudden wants the thing even more. When was the last time you rushed out to the store because you suddenly remembered, “Sale Ends Sunday!”? If that was you it’s because you were motivated by the potential loss of an opportunity.

Compare and Contrast – Did you know two things can appear more different than they really are depending on how they are presented? Considered for a moment how that might impact your decision making. For example, you go to the store to buy something and you’re not sure what that item might cost. When you arrive you see a sign that states, “Normally $150, now only $99!” By comparison $99 appears to be a very good deal. I’ve hear people justify purchases like that because “it was too good a deal to pass up.”

So there you have it, the layman’s overview of several psychological principles than affect us all to one degree or another every day. Most of the time these principles impact us in such subtle ways that we’re not aware of it and yet they’re major factors in our decision making. As we continue our journey together I think your eyes will be opened to how politicians, marketers, salesmen and so many others try to persuade you to do what they want.

Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”