It is seen by some as manipulating people but I believe you can make a distinction.
I regard influencing as an ethical use of skills with a positive intent.
Manipulative behaviour is that described in my post “Leadership – the Dark Side” or as offered by some NLP practitioners training gullible people ie men, in sure-fire dating skills!
Robert Cialdini is one of the most respected experts in this field – and, as suggested by the title of his book; “Influence – The Psychology of Persuasion”, he does see it as a science with evidence to back up his theories.
He believes there are 6 universal principles of social influence. These are:
- Reciprocation – we feel obliged to return favours
- Authority – we look to experts to lead the way
- Commitment/consistency – people want to act in alignment with their values
- Scarcity – the less available something is the more we want it
- Liking – the more we like people the more we want to say yes to them
- Social proof – we prefer to behave in the same way as others
Cialdini and his co-authors set out techniques based on these principles in; “YES! 50 secrets from the science of persuasion”. If you want to know why charities send you small gifts, how hotels can persuade guests to recycle towels, or how waiters can improve their tips, read this book. You can also watch a Youtube presentation here.
So you don’t have to be a mentalist or a master of the black arts of NLP to be a more effective influencer, just try these evidence-based techniques to make a difference in an ethical way.
Updated from original post June 2010