Most people who want to increase their influence naturally want to do so in a big way. Then it is a bit disappointing when it becomes clear that the standard approach to increase influence only produces a small amount of influence. Yet that is what the existing practice is. That’s why courses on influence are about how to gain more insight rather than how to gain more influence. Because the better you understand how someone works, the better you can influence that person, it seems,
In short, the meta-strategy of the standard approach is:
become like the other
This is reflected, for example, in the seven principles of Cialdini, one of the best-known teaching materials about influence:
- Commitment and consistency. You need to commit to becoming like the other and do it consistently. Because if the other person ever finds out you’re different from him, the magic stops working and Cinderella’s carriage turns back into a pumpkin.
- Reciprocity. You get something from me that you want and I get something from you that I want. Because in the end we all want the same thing! Again you become like the other.
- Sympathy. Sympathy literally means feeling together. We feel the same. We have the same emotions.
- Social proof. Other people who are just like you show that I am just like you as well!
- Authority. The people of the group to which we both belong recognize my authority.
- Scarcity. Since I am the same as you and you are me and we belong to a very large group, it is clear that there is not enough for everyone.
- Unity. You want to belong to the group I already belong to. When you do what I want, I make sure that you can also join the group.
As you may have noticed, I am not a fan of the standard approach. The reason is very simple:
With the standard approach, there is no question of you influencing the other, but rather the other influencing you!
You will achieve your goal and if it is all about profit maximization, you will also make the most money, but you will only achieve this by sacrificing yourself. That is not a problem if you attach little value to it or if money is more important to you. But it also blocks the possibility of coming up with something fundamentally new. If you really want to do something new, then the standard approach will fail you. Then you have no use for just insight and becoming like the other. Then you need to learn how to break through old associations and create new ones. How to reduce unwanted behavior and promote desired behavior.
People often mistakenly think they have come up with something unique. Reality is different. Many other people have had that same plan or idea before. Then they also tried to promote this new one with the standard approach to increase influence among a large group of people. But unfortunately that turned out to work badly because it was too new and too different. What has happened is that the new initiative died before it was viable. Therefore, if your idea seems unique, it probably isn’t and the standard approach to influencing people won’t help you. Yet, in fact they are only hopeless ideas if one does not learn how to make big changes.