21/11/2011

By By Gavin Meikle, Head of Learning and Founder of inter-activ

We are all looking for ways to increase our ability to influence others and there have been many books written on the subject. One of my favourites is “Influence, Science and Practice”, by Prof Robert Cialdini.

Professor Cialdini has spent more than 20 years research influence and he has identified 6 key principles that we can all learn from. I’d like to draw your attention to just one in this article.

It’s the principle of social proof, and in a nutshell it means that if we see or hear about someone like us doing something, we are more likely to do the same thing. In fact the more people like us they are; the more likely we are to follow their lead. I sometimes call it “the sheep principle”. Here’s a little example that should bring it to life:

You are driving along the road one day and you see a petrol station. You don’t really need petrol yet but you have previously heard on a rumour that there is going to be a fuel shortage.

As you approach the garage you see that there is a longer than normal queue of cars waiting to fill up. As a result you decide to pull in and fill up now, just in case there really is going to be a shortage.

The key things to remember about this principle are:

- The more people you see endorsing the action, the more likely you are to do it too.

- The more like you those people are, the more you will follow their lead.

So where might you harness this power in business?

- Testimonials from satisfied clients who are similar to the type of clients that you want to attract

- “Like” endorsements on your Facebook page

- Recommendations for you or your services on your LinkedIn profile

I’ll bet you can think of lots of other ways you could use the principle of social proof to improve your ability to influence. I’d love you to share them with me in an email.


Gavin Meikle is the owner of inter-activ learning and development, a Southampton based consultancy specialising in effective face to face interpersonal communication and presentations. He can be contacted at gmeikle@inter-activ.co.uk or by phone on 07810 645309.


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