“Language is surely too small a vessel to contain these emotions of mind and body that have somehow awakened a response in the spirit.” – Radclyffe Hall
“All things are subject to interpretation whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
“You don’t have to hold a position in order to be a leader.” – Anthony D’Angelo
The doorbell rings at home and you are greeted by two men in police officer uniforms. They ask you if they can come into your house to discuss the recent kidnapping that took place in the neighborhood. You are keen to help the police in their investigation so you let them inside and begin discussing the kidnapping with them. After five minutes discussion, one of the officers sees a necklace on the table and says it is similar to the victim’s necklace on the day of the kidnapping. Shocked, you begin defending yourself by saying where you got the necklace and how long you’ve had it. The officers agree with you and are calm about the situation, but they say the necklace should be verified that it isn’t a part of the crime scene by taking back to the station. They tell you to pick it up tomorrow and give you the address of the police station and the ID number of the necklace for reference purposes.
Would you give them the necklace? If somebody were actually in the situation and experiencing the emotions, I believe most people would actually comply with the officers’ request. “So what?” I hear you ask. Here’s the thing. Who said they were truly police officers? They aren’t police officers. They are con men. If you just gave them your necklace, then I’m sorry to say that you were conned!
The principle of authority states that we are more easily persuaded by those with authority. When a doctor gives you medical advice, you are much more willing to follow the doctor’s advice than if an ordinary person gave you the same advice. If Andre Agassi were to give you tennis lessons, you would follow his advice more thoroughly than if you received advice from a local tennis coach.
You maybe thinking that authority is authoritative power like an overbearing boss. It can be, but that isn’t the type of authority in influence I recommend you begin developing. Author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey, says “Most people think of leadership as a position and therefore don’t see themselves as leaders.” You need to know that you can influence others without any assigned position of power. An overbearing boss will influence you because of the person’s title, but you don’t need to be in an assigned position of power to possess authority. There are symbols of authority you can use to increase your authority and persuasive power.
Symbols of Authority
Most people would be deceived by con men because of symbols of authority. The three typical symbols of authority are title, clothing, and perceivable wealth. Title can be the occupation’s prefix like “doctor” and “professor” or even the occupation’s name like , “officer”, “lawyer”, “surgeon”, “trainer”, “gardener”, and “consultant”. The second symbol of authority is clothing which consists of all the clothing a person is wearing. Lastly, perceivable wealth can consist of the respective person’s car, house, jewelery, business, and any other wealth the person being influenced can see.
In the police example, the con men used clothing as a symbol of authority in deceiving you that they were police officers. When the “officers” knocked on your door, did you stop to ask for proof of their position as police officers? Or did you perceive their clothing as proof of their position as police officers? If you were conned, you would have assumed their wearing of officer uniforms meant they were police officers. Clothing has an enormous amount of authority; maybe as much as the position itself. Mark Twain humorously said, “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”
Manipulating the Symbols of Authority
Con men can manipulate the symbols of authority so it is also possible for you to alter them and for more ethical purposes. Firstly, I’ll discuss clothing. Whatever message you are trying to communicate, make sure your clothes match the message. If you want to communicate wealth and power, then a well-fitted suit will do. If you want to communicate attractiveness, then wear stylish clothes that match you as a person. If you want to communicate freedom, relaxation, or leisure, then wear casual clothes like a plain shirt, shorts, and even sandals.
Next is title. Depending on what qualifications you have, you can search for the appropriate job titles and begin using them more often. If you find there are no titles that you can use, then perhaps consider doing some training to gain the title. Maybe you want to be a “counselor”, “practitioner”, or “trainer”, and to get these titles just involves doing a little extra learning. The knowledge gained from the training won’t do you any harm in increasing your expertise.
Lastly is perceivable wealth. Clothing can communicate wealth, which further emphasizes the need to dress well. However, the most wealthy usually don’t dress the best. They have no need to. You shouldn’t need to dress in the most expensive clothing, but it’s fine to be the most stylish. However, be careful with how much perceivable wealth you have in some situations. When you have excessive perceivable wealth, people can think you are overcompensating for other areas in your life and the tactic could backfire. Be aware of the trade off between overcompensation and influential authority.
Follow the Leader
What happens if you have a successful leader at work, sport, or in the family? You follow the leader. The person’s influence isn’t once off or temperamental. The leader is able to influence others on an ongoing basis. You continue to follow the leader. The law of good continuation is a principle of Gestalt laws of perceptual organization and states objects are perceived to be smooth because of a pattern. (My communication secrets program has four other Gestalt laws of perceptual organization plus an entire chapter on perception because it is the filter that determines how we interact with the world.) When we are presented with patterns of consistency, we assume the same consistency will exist into the future.
The law of good continuation in leadership means followers of a leader will “blindly” accept the leader’s decisions because of past successes. Followers fail to critically think and question the leader’s actions because the leader has proven himself in the past to make good decisions. The great Albert Einstein said, “Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.” It is a common and fair enough mistake to make.
The law of good continuation tells us that you will meet less resistance by most followers you are influencing once you get into the position of influence. However, should you get yourself into such a position of authority, don’t be afraid to encourage those following you to continually question your actions, because in the end the outcome will fall back on you.
Size and Status
In the animal world, size is often a way to communicate status. Kangaroos stand on their tails to appear taller as they enter a fight, Puffer Fish fill their stomachs with water to enlarge their body and scare off predators, and Bearded Dragons can straighten the skin on their head to appear larger and fend off threats. Prior to a fight, many animals have this natural mechanism of sizing each other up to gain an understanding of how powerful their competitors are. If an animal is intimated by the size of its competitor, then the fight may not take place. It is nature’s way of discerning the healthy alpha males from the less healthy and weak males without the specie making itself extinct by constantly fighting.
In the human world, we have a very similar natural selection process. This selection process is far more sophisticated and expands into areas beyond fights. However, in terms of size and status, we aren’t at all very different. Taller people and those who are more muscularly defined, are seen to possess more status in our society. From what I know, there isn’t much you can do about height, but you should workout at the gym to improve your strength and pack on muscle.
What the animal world doesn’t have which the human world has, is a vice-a-versa relationship between size and status. While size relates to status for animals and humans, status influences size for humans. By improving your status, people will perceive you as being bigger than you really are. This in turn can increase your ability to influence people.
I was once listening to a DVD by David DeAngelo and a guest speaker, Dr. Georges Sabongui, was talking about the relationship between size and status. Dr. Sabongui was once a commander in the Canadian Navy where he learned how to project a presence. It was absolutely necessary for him to project a powerful presence because anyone in the room he was in had to know he was in charge. He is five foot six, but people often mistook him for being six foot tall because of his powerful non-verbal communication. You can project a presence and more authority through powerful body language.
To increase people’s perception of your size and at the same time increase your influential authority among many other benefits, there are some simple body language tips you can start using. These body language tips will further help you to project a powerful presence. Firstly, behave “as if”. Act out the body language you would have in a room if you were the person in authority. Secondly, look people in the eye. Thirdly, take up more space. Spread your legs, lean, and have movement in your gestures. A powerful President doesn’t look like he is constricted to a cage. This tip applies more so for men than it does for women. Lastly, have a confident posture. Lift your chest up and this will bring your neck, back, and head perfectly into place.
Remember that all principles of influence get the person to comply with the request on their own terms. They come to the solution “themselves”. Using the advice given in this principle to increase your influential authority will make others comply with your requests and have people liking you more; unlike a bureaucratic boss that employees resent. By implementing the four body language tips and combining them with the three symbols of authority, you will greatly increase your authority and influential power.
Links in this Course: The 6 Principles of Influencing People
- Introduction to Influencing People
- 1. Commitment and Consistency
- 2. Reciprocation
- 3. Scarcity
- 4. Authority
- 5. Liking
- 6. Social Proof
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