PODCAST: The steps to ethically influence others

By Jessica Salerno, OSCPA senior content manager 

A crucial part of working with others is the ability to persuade people, and it can mean a positive impact on your career development. 

“Persuasion is all about influencing people,” said Brian Ahearn, chief influence officer at Influence PEOPLE. “It's about changing people's behavior.” 

Man in suit smiling for camera.

Ahearn joined the State of Business podcast to discuss what it means to influence others ethically, how to apply it at work and much more. He’s one of only 20 individuals in the world who currently holds the Cialdini Method Certified Trainer designation and said these principles can be applied to everyday work situations. 

Sometimes influence and manipulation are grouped together, but Ahearn said manipulation is never the goal, and there are three criteria to fulfill to be an ethical influencer: 

  1. Tell the truth. “And not only do you tell the truth, you don't hide the truth,” Ahearn said. Don’t hide facts or information you know will impact someone’s decision making.
  2. Use psychology natural to the situation. Ahearn said to avoid using psychology that doesn’t fit the situation just because it might impact someone’s thinking. “By that I mean, if something's not truly scarce, you don't say that it is. If everybody's not doing something, which is another principle of influence, then you don't claim that lots of people are doing something.”
  3. The proposal is good for both parties. Simply put, whatever you’re proposing also needs to be good for the person you’re trying to persuade. 

“If I am being honest in my communication, and I am using psychology that's natural to the situation, I can feel good about the fact that I am trying to influence your behavior and I'm not manipulating you,” Ahearn said. 

A person doesn’t need to have a certain personality type to excel at persuasion, he said; what matters more is the personality of the person you’re working with. If someone has a “driver” personality, such as Steve Jobs, that person cares less about the principle of liking and more about what can be done to help them. 

“Because at the office most people would agree it is critical for your success that you're able to get people to say yes to your initiatives,” Ahearn said. “You could have the best ideas in the world and if you cannot get people to say yes to those, it's for nothing. So, you've got to be able to take those things that you think are going to truly benefit your organization and communicate in a way that gets people to say yes.” 

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