Mark Blasini


Four laws of influence


In my last post, I talked about the difference between influence and manipulation. Manipulation tends to be short-sighted; influence, on the other hand, is strategic. The more influence one has, the easier it is to get people to listen to you, to be open to your ideas.

Since strategy typically involves influencing people, turning them in the direction you'd like to go, it's important to understand how influence works. At the risk of grossly oversimplifying the subject of influence, I introduce you to four simple laws of influence. These laws are based on human nature and work in practically any situation.

  1. Accreditation. The first law of influence is what I call the law of accreditation. This law states that people are most influenced by an idea when they believe the idea came from them. If a person thinks a certain idea or direction comes from someone else, they are more likely to resist that idea. Therefore, as an influencer, you want to give the impression as much as possible that for whatever idea you want someone to consider, that person has to feel it came from them.
  2. Repeat exposure.The second law of influence is the law of repeat exposure. This law states that the more a person is exposed to an idea, or person, or general stimulus, the more they will tend to like that idea, person, or stimulus - granted, of course, that their first experience wasn't negative. This is because people like to be lulled into comfort. They like routine. The more they are exposed to something, the more they become used to it. As an influencer, therefore, don't expect that a one-time encounter will make people like your idea. You want to make sure to expose your ideas in multiple contexts.
  3. Similarity.The law of similarity states that the more similarities you share with someone, the more that person will like you. This could be a similar background (education, upbringing, experiences), similar values, similar hobbies. Likewise, the more your idea agrees with a person's own ideas or values, the more that person will like that idea. As an influencer, when presenting your ideas, you always want to highlight any similarities between your ideas and the person's own ideas, values, or experiences.
  4. Dissonance. The last law is the law of dissonance. This law states that what makes people act in the direction you'd like is when they face dissonance - a state of tension in which a certain action must be taken in order to be at peace. Dissonance could be an itch, a portrait on a wall that is uneven, something that bothers or frustrates you. People may like or agree with your idea, but they won't act on your idea unless it is clearly demonstrated how your idea will solve a pressing problem they know they have. As an influencer, you can't simply communicate an idea; you have to show how your idea fits into the person's life. What problems do they face? How will your idea help relieve tension in their lives?

These four laws, when combined together, are extremely powerful in building your influence. The more you think through using them, the greater your ability to influence others.