Advanced Business Writing
Influence and Persuasion
At work and at home, we all use decision shortcuts. We have to. The pace and complexity of modern life make it impossible to become an expert on every subject we encounter for every decision we need to make. Because of this, we use shortcuts to make our decisions. Two of the most common are:
• social proof
• deferring to authority
Psychologists describe this decision shortcut as follows: "In a given situation, we view a behavior as being correct to the degree that we see others similar to us performing that same behavior." They also explain why this is so with the statement: "We prefer to not be pointed out as being wrong or different."
To put it bluntly: if everybody else is doing it, it's okay for me to do it; I should go along with the crowd; how could so many people be wrong?
Obviously, this is simplistic thinking. But it is also efficient. And many times, it's true. We do it all the time. How often do we look at the customer satisfaction ratings on a website before we buy? For most people it's very often, which clearly demonstrates the trust we have in this decision shortcut.
Consider a few examples:
Our proposal has been seen by many people in the company, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
A new manufacturing method has been proposed, and the entire engineering team is behind it.
This smartphone is the best choice for us. Everyone I talked to about it has agreed.
Deferring to authority
Psychologists describe this decision shortcut as follows: "Information from a recognized authority can provide us a valuable shortcut for deciding how to act in a situation."
This we learn when we are young, starting with parents and then teachers, who knew more than we did. They had information as well as power for rewards and punishments. As adults, it's natural to assume that employers and leaders also have greater access to information and power.
Psychologists add: "It makes sense to comply with the wishes of properly constituted authorities, to accept the convenience of automatic obedience."
It might seem lazy, but it is efficient and often appropriate. It can even work, though not as powerfully, with a reference to someone who merely has the appearance of authority. But it works best when the authority is known to be both credible and trustworthy.
Consider a few examples:
Our proposal has been seen by many in the company. Yesterday, the Vice President of Marketing read it and said she thinks it's a good one.
This manufacturing method is well known to be effective. I believe Dr. Deming would have approved of it.
This is the smartphone we should purchase. After all, David Beckham uses it.
Lesson: Trusted Acceptance
Module: Influence and Persuasion
Course: Advanced Business Writing