Why Understanding Influence Is Not Just For Sales – Episode 62

LFL 62 | Understanding Influence


Understanding the science of influence is critical to so many areas of our life. Join Patrick Veroneau as he delves into how we could be more effective and will less likely be taken advantage of by understanding influence and how all of us have the ability to develop this skill. He will share the areas and principles of influence that you can use as tools to help you make decisions. He discusses important principles that Robert Cialdini provides in Influence, New and Expanded: The Psychology of Persuasion and gives us essential details like the areas of creation, reinforcement, modifying, or extinguishing. Let us understand the influence and the great impact it could make on our daily lives.

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Why Understanding Influence Is Not Just For Sales

Robert Cialdini Provides The Science In Influence And How Important The Principles Are For Anyone

In this episode, we are going to talk about why understanding how to influence is not just for salespeople. We all need to know how to influence and it’s something that we do every day, whether it’s at home, it’s in the community or it’s in the traditional sense of getting somebody to buy a service or product. Understanding how to influence is critical. That’s what we are going to discuss in this episode and how all of us can develop these skills. Let’s get into it.

As I mentioned, this episode is all about influence, whether I’m a leader, a sales representative or just a regular individual. Influence is one of those things that we all do or we all need to be able to understand how to do it. Oftentimes, we think of influence as a dirty word. That somehow, it’s going to be disingenuous and lack integrity. It doesn’t have to be that way. Certainly, if you are dealing with disingenuous people and lack integrity, then understanding influence and the principles behind influence can save your life. Maybe not save your life but certainly save your wallet or save you from making any decision that is not in your best interest because you understand how influence works.

When we’re trying to extinguish a behavior, we should start by trying to modify somebody's habit first. Click To Tweet

As I mentioned, I want to talk about two things. One is a definition of influence. Secondly, how do we help ourselves to understand how do we influence? What are the principles behind that? I had a great fortune years ago when I was working for a biotech company. They paid for me to go through a program where I was trained by two gentlemen, Dr. Robert Cialdini and his partner, Dr. Greg Neidert. It was in regards to influence. Anybody that is in this space would recognize that Dr. Robert Cialdini is probably one of the world’s experts in influence. He’s written several books. One is called Influence. One of his other books that I have found great value in is called Pre-Suasion. It starts to talk about the setup before you get into influencing. What are the things that you need to do to prepare for that?

First, when we talk about influence, I’m going to use a textbook definition. This was out of a textbook called Persuasion: Social Influence and Compliance Gaining. This is out of the third edition that I have. The gentleman that authored this textbook is Robert H. Gass. The definition he uses for persuasion and influence is one, about involving one or more persons who are engaged in the activity of creating, reinforcing, modifying or extinguishing beliefs, attitudes, intentions, motivations, and/or behaviors within the constraints of a given communication context. Now, I realize that it is a long wordy definition. There’s a much easier way that I think we can look at this. If you would to take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle, what we can look at in regards to influence is two things. One is when we are influencing, we are really doing one of four things. We are either creating, reinforcing, modifying or extinguishing.

If we look down the right side of the paper, what are we doing those four things? We are either doing it to beliefs, attitudes, intentions, motivations or behaviors. If we were to take just one of those, as an example, let’s take behaviors. If I’m going to create a behavior, say I am a leader and I’m working with a group. I’m trying to create a new behavior in this group in regards to what I want them to do. That’s part of influence. Now, this is for a new behavior that I want them to do. Maybe I want them to stick with something like, “This is working for us.” In that case, what I’m doing is I’m reinforcing the behavior. Maybe things have changed. The environment that we work in has changed and I need to have them do things a little differently. In this case, we are going to look to modify that behavior.

Lastly, if what we have been doing, isn’t working anymore, then my job at this point is to influence them in regards to how are we going to extinguish that behavior or stop doing that. We hit on all four of those things, creation, reinforcement, modifying and extinguishing. That can be done for each one of these. If I were to take beliefs, again, am I creating a new belief? Am I reinforcing existing beliefs? Am I modifying a belief or am I asking somebody not to believe that anymore? The same can be done for attitudes, intention and motivation. When we think of where we use this, if I’m interviewing for a job, I’m probably doing one of those things. Which is it? If I’m in sales, certainly I’m doing that.

I spoke to you about leadership but it could be a negotiation that I’m working with that I’m using one of those four areas, creation, reinforcement, modifying or extinguishing to impact one of those five things on the other end for action. Now we could look and say, smoking is an area that we are trying to extinguish a behavior or maybe to start, we are trying to modify somebody’s habit in regards to smoking. I know to extinguish it too much to ask but maybe I can find ways that we can at least modify and lower it.

As part of getting somebody to stop smoking, I’m trying to reinforce good behaviors. The things that they are doing right. Also, in conjunction with trying to extinguish their smoking. I’m also trying to create a new behavior in that individual that helps them to replace smoking with something else. Maybe it’s exercise or whatever it is. Maybe it’s a stress reliever for them in regards to smoking or I’m trying to find other behaviors that we can create that will take that space. Whichever one those are, that’s what we are doing.

Some of you might be listening to this and thinking, “Influencing is really not that difficult or important for what I do.” What I always enjoy when I hear those types of comments is I think back to a quote by Dr. Cialdini in one of his books called Yes! and I think it speaks exactly to the difficulty that many people have when they think about what it means to develop the skill of influencing. He went on to say that, “Unlike the fields of economics, which require learning from outsiders to achieve even a minimal level of confidence, people believe they already possess an intuitive understanding, simply by living life and interacting with others. This overconfidence inevitably leads people to miss golden opportunities for psychologically informed social influence or worse, still to misuse psychological principles to the detriment of themselves and others.”

LFL 62 | Understanding Influence

Understanding Influence: Understanding how to influence is not just for salespeople. We all need to know how to influence, and there are so many resources available to learn that.


What it says is, oftentimes we think just because we live in this world that we understand how people operate. Oftentimes that works to our disadvantage. Look at how many people get taken advantage of because of that. Bernie Madoff, I think is a perfect example of that. When we look at the people, he was able to mislead, these were for the most part, probably not unintelligent people. They probably were very bright and successful individuals. Honestly, maybe that worked to their disadvantage because they felt like they were too smart for this. They wouldn’t have the wool pulled over their eyes and in fact, they did. Bernie Madoff simply used the principles of influence for unethical means. That’s all he did but they are still principles.

When we talk about the principles that Cialdini identified, there were six. One was liking that when we activate that in other people, we get them to feel comfortable with who we are. We can create an environment of influence. Another is around social proof when we are able to make people feel comfortable based on other people. Making similar decisions that it’s okay for them to make that same decision as well. We play on that one. Another is an authority in terms of a principle. We look to people that either have titles or what they might be wearing or driving. We use that as a reason to follow where they are going, to believe them or to let them influence us.

Another one that we would run into would be around scarcity. We are more motivated to avoid a loss and gain. We see this all the time, depending on where you live, for us in the North East, if there’s a snowstorm and you go to the grocery store the night before, the bread aisle and the milk coolers are empty. It’s interesting because if you don’t drink three gallons of milk on a regular night or eat three loaves of bread on one night, why would you do it when a snowstorm happens? There’s something about everybody going to that island taking one more that creates an environment where people feel like, “I need to get mine too.” There’s scarcity involved there.

The next principle that might come up is around consistency. We don’t like to be seen as inconsistent with what we are going to do. That oftentimes will bind us into decisions that we might make, that we feel the need to follow through on that. Lastly, the principle of reciprocity becomes a very strong influence tool. If somebody does something for me, the natural wiring in me is oftentimes to want to reciprocate, to want to pay that back. We see this all the time in terms of things that are given away for free but there’s an ask after. That’s all that is doing. It’s creating that environment for influence. We can use each of those. Those are certainly the principles of influence. There probably are some others we haven’t talked about. There are also resistors that we run into. There’s a model that I use called GREAT. I believe that we have to get through no, to get to yes. What that means is, when we are asked to do something, our first inclination might be to try and resist this. Those are five resistors that we run into called GREAT.

The first of those is around Goodwill. I might be asking myself, “Is that what you are asking me to do in my best interest or your best interest?” If I believe it’s in your best interest but you haven’t thought about mine, I’m going to resist. The next one of that GREAT model, is the R, which is around Reactants. It says I might resist just because of the way you have approached me. There is something in the way that you have approached me. Maybe you have come on too strong or you have asked too many times that I naturally want to resist.

The next one is around Expertise or Experience. Are you qualified to even tell me or ask me to make this decision? If I don’t demonstrate that, I have that through maybe a principle of authority, you are naturally going to resist me. The next one out of the GREAT model is around Apathy. That’s the A. That says, “Things are fine now. I don’t need to make a change.” We see this all the time, whether it’s in business or at home. “I don’t need to make a change now. I like the way my life is now. Why do I want to change?” We have been doing it this way for five years, this procedure and it seemed to have worked fine. Why do we need to make a change now?

The last of the GREAT model is around Trust, the T. It says, “Can I trust you on what you are saying?” When we think about this again, from an influence standpoint, it hits on each of those create, reinforce, modify or extinguish. I might say, “You are asking me to create a new behavior but is it just so that you can get what you want?” If that’s the case, I’m probably going to resist. I’m not going to want to go where you want to go. When we look at this from a standpoint again, whether it’s at home and we are getting somebody in our house to make a certain decision or in the community. Maybe it’s a board we are trying to get a decision made on that I’m a part of or it’s at work and maybe I’m on a team or maybe I’m a leader of this group. I’m trying to get people to go where I’m asking them to go, to say yes to my requests. All of those things require my ability to understand how influence works.

I would encourage you if you haven’t taken any time to understand what it means to influence or what is involved in influence, that you google it. Take some time maybe to watch a short video on what influence is and how it can impact you. To me, when you understand, this is not about trying to pull the wool over somebody’s eyes or acting unethically. I look at this from a standpoint that it’s a way to protect myself as well but I don’t do like people probably did with Bernie Madoff. They thought they were too smart to be taken advantage of. We know that that’s not the case. We very much will justify decisions that we make with logic but they are made emotionally for the most part. It’s important to understand the process because I see it over and over again.

As an example that I ran into. I was making a reservation on a flight with an online booking. As soon as I finished putting in all of my information, it asked me if I wanted insurance and I clicked no and hit next. Before it went on to the next one, it said, “Are you sure you want to risk losing your money by not getting on this flight?” Basically, that’s what it said. Not in those exact words. Here’s somebody I know what was going on. It was playing on scarcity. It was playing on that principle of scarcity to get me to decide to buy the insurance. I will tell you, each time I go on and book flights, I still find myself challenged of questioning, “Do I really want that insurance? Should I get it?” That’s how powerful this stuff is. That’s why I think it’s important, whether you think it’s about understanding influence so that you can get people to do what you want, it’s also about understanding influence to protect yourself from being misled by somebody that understands these principles.

Whether it's at home or it's in the community, or it's in the traditional sense of getting somebody to buy a service or product, understanding how to influence is critical. Click To Tweet

Whether it’s at home or it’s in the community, or it’s in the traditional sense of getting somebody to buy a service or product, understanding how to influence is critical.

I hope you found this episode interesting. I hope it provides some encouragement for you to look into influence on how you increase your own influence. There are so many resources out there. There are two that I find very helpful. One is Robert Cialdini’s book called Influence and the other is a book that’s called Influencer. It was written by five different authors who also wrote the book, Crucial Conversations. If there’s somebody you know you think would benefit from this episode, I would ask that, please forward it to them. If you haven’t subscribed, please subscribe. Certainly, it would mean the world to me if you would go and leave a rating or a comment on this episode or any other because that’s how this message continues to get out there. This is part of influence. Until our next episode, I hope you can go out there and rise above your best.

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