Monday, July 14, 2008

Influence vs Persuasion and the 9 laws

I suppose there are a number of ways to look at the subtle difference between these two verbs, but I am looking at them like this: persuasion is something that occurs between just two people, is generally unidirectional, and deals more with emotion than reason. Influence is something that occurs between groups larger than just two people, can be multi directional, and deals more with reason than emotion.

Persuasion is very much related to the state of the relationship between two people. Influence is more related to the difference in power between two entities. So persuasion is affected far more by what you think of me than influence is, although what you think of me is important in both cases.

To contrast the two, let's say I wanted to change the way we view our Customer Service organization, transforming it from a cost center to a profit center. I would need to exercise influence to change a general mindset. It would involve a bit of reasoning and the rationale or even the objective could likely change by the group as we do our fact-finding. The change would rely on my making a case and assuring that we have identified and possess the necessary skills as well as explaining how it will be worth it for us to go through the transformation.

If, however, I simply wanted to get funding to increase the Customer Service organization's size, I would likely have to persuade a boss or two to do it. I would prepare a credible "pitch" and present it to someone that liked me and could make a decision.

I would use the 9 laws of persuasion in a one-on-one, but I would use interpersonal problem solving skills (critical thinking and argumentation) to influence a broad change.

(these are from , and are included in a great book by author Kevin Hogan. For more from Kevin, go to )

Persuasion Law #1: The Law of Scarcity

The law of scarcity states that when a person perceives that something or someone they want is in limited quantity, then the perceived value of that which they desire is greater than if it were overly abundant.

Example: If I went to a party with my girlfriend and she picked up an interest in talking to other guys there instead of me, then my interest and perceived value in my girlfriend would increase dramatically because of the implied scarcity that I have attached to her.

Persuasion Law #2: The Law of Reciprocity

The law of reciprocity states that if a persons gives another person something or performs a service of perceived value, then that other person will be so inclined as to give something back of equal value.

Example: If my neighbors invited me over to their house for dinner, then I would be inclined to return the favor by inviting them out to dinner at a later time.

Persuasion Law #3: The Law of Association

The law of association states that people are more likely to accept, try, purchase, or like things which are endorsed by other people we like or have respect for.

Example: Commercial producers always want to use high profile celebrities to endorse their products or services because the majority of the public will associate the celebrity's popularity with that product and boost sales.

Persuasion Law #4: The Law of Contrast

The law of contrast states that when two items or people are different from each other, we tend to see them as even more different if they are place close together.

Example: I was at a major electronics retailer recently and was purchasing a laptop for $1000. After I committed myself to the purchase, the salesperson offered me an insurance policy for an additional $150 dollars. Afterall, $150 is a small amount compared to the $1000 that I just put down. Fast food restaurants use the same tactic of contrast when they ask you if you want to "super size" your meal for only a buck extra.

Persuasion Law #5: The Law of Expectancy

The law of expectancy states that when a person whom you respect expects you to produce a certain result, then you will tend to work towards fulfilling that expectation, whether the end result is positive or negative.

Example: There was a case that I remember in a hospital where an outpatient was being treated for a minor, non-life threatening ailment, and somehow the patient charts were switched on the poor guy. The doctor came in and looked at the charts and told the otherwise healthy patient that at best he only had a day to live. That guy died the next day.

Persuasion Law #6: The Law of Consistency

The law of consistency states that when an individual announces, either verbally or in writing, that they are taking a position on an issue, then that person will strongly defend that position regardless of its validity or even in the face of overwhelming evidence against it.

Example: When former President Clinton denied that he had "sexual relations" with white house intern Monica Lewinsky, he aggressively defended it despite the fact that the majority of Americans were convinced he had cheated on the first lady and should just own up to it.

Persuasion Law #7: The Law of Power

People who are perceived to have greater strength, fame, expertise, or authority have power over other people who accept this perception of that person.

Example: A doctor has a great amount of perceived power over a patient because of their extensive training. Their word is usually gospel.

Persuasion Law #8: The Law of Friends

The law of friends states that when someone you trust or like asks you to do something, you are strongly motivated to fulfill that request.

Example: If an attractive girl asked a single and available guy for a favor, then that guy would be strongly motivated to fulfill her request.

Persuasion Law #9: The Law of Conformity

The law of conformity states that an individual is more likely to agree to proposals that are well received by the majority of other people in their group.

Example: At a company meeting the CEO asks for a show of hands who likes the new idea. Approximately 85% of the meeting participants raise their hands. John Doe also raises his hand, not because he liked the idea, but because he felt the pressure to conform with the majority of the group.

author Kevin Hogan, Copyright 1996, 2008

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