Influence is essentially a person’s ability to effect change in another. Ethical influencing is not manipulation. It is effective communication that resonates with others. If you understand the psychology behind influence and persuasion, you can build rapport with anyone and meet your goals in any industry.
Influencers amass hundreds of followers on social media. They win elections. They serve their communities, shape young minds, and build companies. Anyone can act as an influencer. In fact, everyone can benefit from understanding the psychology of influence. The concept dates back to ancient history, and many psychologists, self-help gurus, and businessmen have developed their own tactics from the basic understanding of communication.
At SNI, our understanding of influencing and our program dates back to Aristotle’s teachings in 350 BC. The wise ancient Greek philosopher dissected the psychology of influence into three different elements – ethos (character or credibility), pathos (emotion), and logos (logic). To successfully win over an audience, a person must establish credibility, appeal to the audience’s emotion or perspective, and appeal to the audience’s sense of reason.
The next time you listen to someone deliver a speech, listen out for these elements. Most political candidates and public speakers will address all three elements over the course of the communication. Once established, an influencer may only need to appeal to emotion and logic to effect changes in thoughts, beliefs, and actions.
Today, many professionals sell their own methodologies and understanding of influence. However, every program and book that promises results today originates from the fundamental teachings that Aristotle imparted so long ago.
If you’re looking for ways to strengthen your own ability to appeal to the ethos, pathos, and logos of an audience, consider some of these popularly used techniques and ideas:
- Conversion theory. First posited by psychologist Serge Moscovici, conversion theory states that a consistent, seemingly unbiased, and vocal minority can have an uneven effect on the beliefs and actions of the majority. An example of real world use of conversion theory is women’s suffrage in the early 1900s. The theory teaches us that you don’t need a popular or majority-backed concept to effect change.
- Reciprocity norm. Reciprocity is the societal understanding that we should return favors. If someone offers an appetizer on the house, a diner may reciprocate the gesture and leave a larger tip. If someone buys you a gift for your birthday, you may feel obligated to do the same for that person. These returned niceties are acceptable and often expected behaviors in society and can help influencers create a desired behavior in an individual or an audience.
- Priming. The concept of priming speaks to the subconscious influence we have on one another. Someone can use word associations and representations to encourage another to reach a certain conclusion on his or her own. For example, a clever magician might use this tactic to suggest a certain card or location during a trick setup.
The art of influencing includes many other tactics, but these three represent the range of techniques influencers can use to secure a better dining table, encourage public action, or strengthen a business relationship. With understanding and practice, anyone can learn the art of influencing.