3. Commitment and Consistency
Generally, once we say “yes” to something, we are much less likely to back out, because keeping our word is a noble quality, and allows us to function well as a society. The need to “save face” and be consistent is deeply ingrained in our culture, and we fear the social shame attached to being known as inconsistent. This is evidenced by the very language we use to describe someone who changes their mind often or won’t readily commit—”wishy-washy,” “flip-flopper,” or “wimp.”
We can use this principle to influence others by getting them to say yes to something small, preferably through a public declaration, then gradually making larger requests. (This is also known as the “foot-in-the-door” technique.) Another way to profit by the use of the commitment and consistency principle is to remind someone who is hesitant to side with you of decisions they’ve made in their past. By highlighting how your request is similar, you indicate that the decision they are currently facing should be consistent with one they’ve made in the past.
Similarly, be careful of these techniques being used on you, and feel free to quote the economist John Maynard Keynes: “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”
It should come as no surprise—particularly if you’ve ever been invited to an Avon sale, Tupperware party, or pyramid scheme offering—that we tend to say “yes” to people we know and like. Hearing our name said over and over—a common sales technique—helps us like the person we are speaking with, especially if they are physically attractive.
Receiving compliments and finding similarities between ourselves and others also helps us be persuaded when we otherwise might not be. While we can use these techniques for our own benefit—so long as they aren’t recognized as such by others—we can also make note of when others might be using them on us.
Want to know more about the power of persuasion? Check this video out below!
Simply put, people respect others who are credible experts in their field. We’re more likely to pay attention to medical advice from “Dr. Oz” than we would be from “Mr. Oz.” Similarly, we are more willing to purchase performance-enhancement products if they are promoted by people with superior physical skill, which is why product endorsements are so lucrative for athletes.
We trust our “dentist-recommended” toothpaste brands, not because we understand the chemistry of toothpaste enough to differentiate between brands, but simply because we believe a dentist has recommended it. Even a well-known spaghetti sauce brand has recently used an interesting display of authority in its television spots to attest the greatness of their sauce: Italian grandmothers.
All of these authoritative individuals, Italian grandmothers, and their sauce-tasting skill included are presumably far more knowledgeable about a specific topic than we are. It saves us time to put our trust in authority; it’s cognitively resourceful and also helps shift the blame if the products we purchase don’t turn out to be as wonderful as we’d been led to believe by the authority.
To employ influence yourself, cite or become a recognized expert about a certain subject and exert influence based on that expertise, whether on your office team or your soccer team. As for protecting yourself from being influenced by seeming authorities, carefully screen through their messages and recognize the advantages they may be receiving from trying to persuade you before you are swayed by a message given on authority alone.