Networking: Section 9 - Exerting Influence and Gaining Compliance Part 2

It’s easier to believe the experts 

We cannot know everything. In an increasingly complicated world, it is increasingly necessary to accept the judgment of strong authorities for guidance. Actually, even weak authorities will often do. 

  Most people will not have the interest or resources to do their own searches in the scientific literature. In fact, many people will simply ask a friend or neighbor where they buy their auto insurance rather than to do their own comparison shopping. I’m not being entirely critical here; the tendency to take this kind of shortcut is a hardwired default in our brains.  

Some “authoritarian” cultures are particularly strong on listening exclusively to the “trusted authorities” of their own group. In other cultures, each person is expected to more- personally own the things they believe.  

I don’t have any strong suggestions or judgments for you here; I just thought it should be included for your consideration. 

Evaluating relative differences 

When I bought a home several years ago, the real estate agent, right away, showed us several homes she knew we couldn’t afford. When she showed us homes closer to our price range, they suddenly seemed more affordable. 

 We may be reluctant to make a large commitment at first, but be willing to make additional smaller commitments. Try this experiment. Fill three buckets; one each with tolerable hot, cold and room-temperature water. Put one hand in the hot and one hand in the cold and wait a few minutes to get used to the extremes. Now put both hands in the room-temperature water. You’ll be surprised at how differently your hands interpret the same water. 

Salesmen use the same principle when they sell the most expensive part of a wardrobe or program first. After investing heavily, a customer is more willing to pay for accessories. When my family took a multi-day tour, we were reluctant to sign-up ahead of time for side-trips. We were easier to convince later, during the trip, when the extra seemed so much less, in contrast to the cost of the full tour. 

When a restaurant asks, “would you like fries with that” they are using the same principal. You will probably end up encouraging distributors to increase their activity to the next threshold, which offers additional benefits. It often works. 

We feel obliged to return the favor 

When someone does you a favor, you feel the urge to return the favor. That is why, when you ask a favor, after having done something for someone, it is very hard for them to refuse.  

Have you ever been in a public place and had someone press a flower, card or gift into your hand and then request a small donation? Even if you refused, I’ll bet it took an effort to suppress the reaction to comply. Not only do we feel social obligations to give generously and repay gifts, we also feel an obligation to receive whatever gift is offered, especially when we are surprised.  

In the same way, free samples trigger the urge to buy whatever you’ve tried. We frequently return from the grocery store with packages of foods that we agreed to sample while shopping. If your organization makes samples available, they can be surprisingly effective. Remember to follow up by directly asking for an order. 


We often feel the need to make concessions to others who make concessions to us. This is the core of the negotiating advice, “Always ask for more than you want.” People will feel more inclined to meet your request after you have agreed to “compromise.”  

Once you have agreed to do something (such as volunteer work) you are more likely to agree to do it again. Not only that, but you will feel some responsibility to do it again and feel satisfied with the arrangement! Of course, if the initial demand is too extreme, the bargaining is not in good faith and the tactic will backfire. 

As with everything else in this book, these comments are meant to be food for thought. For instance, a little additional effort will reveal complete books on negotiating. When you are ready, you can dive in deeper. 

 We feel committed to our choices 

Once we make a choice, we have a strong desire to appear consistent with that choice. Even very small concessions can lead to progressively large commitments. We will do everything possible to justify our choice. No one wants to be seen as indecisive, scatterbrained or weak-willed. So, sticking to a choice helps us avoid having to re-evaluating that choice. 

 As an example, if you gave to a charity, you would be more likely to agree to collect for that charity on your block. This is the core of the “foot in the door” principle. Once you agree to a trivial request or make an initial purchase, your need to be consistent will influence you to agree to larger requests or to buy more-expensive related items. When our boys were young, they asked for, and we bought them, a small box of Lego® building blocks. From that point on, we found it almost impossible to say no to a request for more Lego® sets. We even took pride in seeking out the latest variations. Good work, guys. 

 Consistency is not inherently bad. People quote Ralph Waldo Emerson as saying “Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” What he actually said was “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Keep doing something that is working well or experiment with something else. It’s your call. 

 We value what we have to fight for 

Active public commitments such as offering testimonials or signing a pledge are some of the strongest motivators. For instance, if you write down a goal you are more likely to pursue it. If you show people your written goal you are even more likely to achieve it. 

 The more effort you put into a commitment, the more power it has. This is why initiation rituals (such as armed forces boot camps) are so effective at generating loyalty to organizations. If you have to fight for something you will value it more highly. I have a ratty old sweater that my wife keeps trying to throw out. I never wear it but I’ve made such an issue of keeping it that, now, I just can’t bear to let it go. 

 The strongest commitments are those we make on our own by taking inner responsibility. The key is believing that we want to because of our own convictions, rather than because of outside pressure. 

 If everybody is doing it, it must be right 

We feel a social responsibility to conform to group standards. It’s hard to stand out as different. When there is a group present and you are uncertain, you will look to others for behavioral clues. 

 As an example, when I first started promoting my herb business I discovered a traffic location where cars backed up for a quarter mile on weekends. I printed a pile of flyers and went there to hand them out. Usually everything went well as my smile and I strode confidently from one driver to the next.  

Drivers could watch me working my way up to them. People in the next car would usually roll their window down, accept my flyer and smile back. When I reached a fearful or grumpy driver, however, I discovered that the next driver was much less likely to take my flyer. It was time to turn around, walk back and wait for that group of cars to drive past the light. 

 We are very vulnerable to the influence of those we associate with. Children who are afraid of dogs lose their fear when shown films where variety of other children are having fun with dogs. On the other hand, “bad associations spoil useful habits.” Children become more aggressive when they watch films of people intentionally harming others. The powers of peer pressure on people of all ages are well known. 

Many people will sing silly songs, stand on chairs, or donate cash if everybody else is doing it.