IDEA Box #8, November 2020, Influence

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IDEA Box #8: Influence

Welcome to our November 2020 IDEA Box blog where we are discussing ‘Influence’. This month we discovered The Psychology of Persuasion, we found out how to Use Our Brains to influence others and learned How to Win Friends and Influence People.

This month’s article tells us What Great Leaders Need to Know About Influence, the podcast features former Apple chief brand evangelist Guy Kawasaki while the video is a must watch from Derren Brown.


Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion; Robert B. Cialdini

Influence is the classic book on persuasion. Cialdini explains why people say “yes” and how we can apply these understandings professionally and socially.  Here are four takeaways:

  1. The rule of reciprocation: Did you ever wonder why Hare Krishna’s used to give out free flowers at American airports? It was a simple trick to influence people’s decision to make a donation. Humans feel obliged to return favours. This rule allowed our ancestors to share resources safe in the knowledge that they would be reciprocated later. While this principle is still important, the author suggests we should ignore manipulation attempts in disguise. Favours warrant favours in return, tricks do not.
  2. When negotiating start with an outrageous request: If we make a concession when negotiating our counterparty feels obliged to reciprocate. This is known as the “rejection-then-retreat strategy”. While this strategy makes sense, research has shown that there’s a limit to how extreme your opening position can be. If it’s too outrageous you’ll be seen as a bad faith negotiator. I was planning to underscore this point by including a recent example from the world of politics but I am literally spoilt for choice, so please insert your favourite political analogy here.
  3. Social proof: When we are uncertain we look for social proof. Sitcoms include ‘laugh tracks’ to make us laugh longer and more often …. even at the awful jokes. This principle is present in all walks of life from barmen who “seed” the tip jar to companies who claim products are “best sellers”. Furthermore, people who are similar to us can greatly influence our choices. The principle of social proof is, therefore, a crucial consideration when launching new products, services or ideas.
  4. The harder we have to work for something, the more we value it: A story surfaced last year regarding “hazing” rituals in the Trinity College Boat Club. Why do some clubs put new members through these rituals before inducting them into the group? Quite simply, if people go through the pain and effort to attain something they tend to place greater value on it and are more committed to the group. This applies in a wide range of settings …… but I don’t think I’ll try to join the boat club anytime soon.

Cialdini is the seminal expert in the rapidly expanding field of influence and persuasion. This book is very accessible and is a fascinating read for people in client/customer-facing roles. It’s available in all formats.

The Influential Mind: What the Brain Reveals About Our Power to Change Others, Tali Sharot

The Influential Mind explains the phenomenon of influence, how we can change other peoples’ minds, and how to recognize when we are being influenced. Here are four takeaways:

  1. To change others’ minds we need to align ourselves with them: Sharot identifies seven core elements that regulate a person’s thoughts and behavior and states; “an attempt to change someone’s mind will be successful if it aligns with the core elements that govern how we think — (these core elements are) priors (as in prior beliefs), emotion, incentives, agency, curiosity, state of mind, and other people.”
  2. Building common ground is necessary when looking to influence others: Instead of trying to prove others wrong, which will only encourage people to revert to prior beliefs, we should aim to find common ground; “Our instinct is to try to alter people’s beliefs and actions by introducing data to prove that we are right and they are wrong. It often fails. Instead, find arguments that rely on common ground.”
  3. Hope is usually better than fear: By positively framing our views we have a greater chance of success; “If you want someone to act quickly, promising a reward that elicits an anticipation of pleasure may be better than threatening them with a punishment that elicits an anticipation of pain.”
  4. Enhance people’s sense of control over the choices offered: Sharot argues you limit your chance to influence someone when you reduce their sense of control; “Understanding the delicate relationship humans have with control is fundamental for understanding influence. In order to affect another person, we need to overcome our own instinct for control and consider the other’s need for an agency.” I tried to put this into practice this week with my son who kept getting his hand stuck in a water bottle. After the eight attempts, I took it off him. Getting the control: agency balance right is a long and iterative process, it would seem.

We really enjoyed reading Sharot’s book this month which provides an excellent research-based study into how we influence those around us. We also enjoyed her Ted Talks. Here’s one on the optimism bias which is worth a look. The book is available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook.

How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie.

How to Win Friends and Influence People is probably the most widely read text on the topic of influence. More than 30 million copies have been sold since the book’s initial publication in 1936. Here are four learnings:

  1. Become genuinely interested in other people: According to the author, we all love a good listener, especially one that encourages us to talk about ourselves. Most people are preoccupied with what they themselves want to say and so barely listen to the other person. True listening means making a conscious effort to give the other person your full attention.
  2. Arguments cannot be won: Arguing makes no sense. If you lose, you lose the argument. If you win, the other person will resent you for having hurt their pride, so you will not have truly won them over. Often they may become more entrenched in their position. Instead, we should try to understand the other person’s position and focus on areas of mutual agreement.
  3. Don’t criticize, condemn or complain: According to the author; “Any fool can criticize, condemn or complain, and most fools do.” Carnegie believed it takes character and self-control to be forgiving and that this discipline pays significant dividends in our relationships with people.
  4. Be generous with praise Charles Schwab, an American steel magnate is referenced at several points in the text. He is quoted as having said; “I have yet to find the person, however great or exalted in their station who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than they would ever do under a spirit of criticism.”

This New Yorker article by Jessica Weisberg is worth a read if you are interested in how Carnegie’s lessons can be applied today. How to Win Friends and Influence People is available in all formats.


What Great Leaders Need to Know About Influence, Rebecca Newton, Forbes, 27th July 2016

The author states; “It’s easy to think that some people are naturally very influential when in reality influence is about skills.” Here are two takeaways:

  1. It’s not about charm: Influence is not about charm it’s about adaptability. Successful influencers adopt a range of different styles and techniques to suit the situation at hand. They are versatile and adaptable.
  2. It’s also not ONLY about rational persuasion: According to Newton;Logic and sound arguments go a long way in influencing others towards the thinking and actions you would like them to adopt. But we can over-rely on rational persuasion in business. We need more than just to convince others of the business case for doing something. People need to want to work with us personally”

You can check out the article here.

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The Art of Influence: Guy Kawaski

Guy Kawasaki is a world-renowned thought leader who has focuses on capturing the hearts and minds of consumers. He is the former chief brand evangelist at Apple and the current chief brand evangelist at Canva. This podcast discusses the keys to influencing others and evangelizing products, causes, and yourself. Here are two takeaways:

  1. “Enchant” people: win over hearts and minds and convert people into believers of your product or idea. To do this “evangelists” must be; trustworthy, credible and the product they offer must be credible.
  2. Communication in a Covid age: Good communication is the bedrock of influence. To communicate effectively over virtual channels Guy recommends the following; look directly at the camera rather than the screen, set the camera higher than your face, and using an external microphone.

This is an interesting podcast from a highly regarded author and business leader. Listen to it here.

For Your

Derren Brown Tricks Advertisers with Subliminal Messaging

“Psychological illusionist” Derren Brown employs the tools of persuasion to masterful effect in this short video. Subliminal messaging, misdirection and behavioral psychology are combined to create an almost supernatural display. If we included two takeaways it would spoil the video. It’s only 5 minutes long. Check it out here.

And Finally…
For Something

The Real Deal & Focus Ireland

In October 2020 Fitzgerald Power, Renatus, and Bank of Ireland hosted The Real Deal. Matt Cooper spoke to Pat McCann and while the circumstances were different the themes of resilience and positivity were consistent with previous years. You can view the highlights here.

Following the event, Fitzgerald Power and our Real Deal partners took part in the Focus Ireland Shine a Light Campaign to raise much-needed funds and awareness for people impacted by homelessness. It’s a great cause and if you would like to support it you can do so here.

Thank you for reading our blog. Next month we will be discussing Negotiation.

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