What’s the difference between ethical persuasion and manipulation?
That was the primary topic of my conversation this week with Brian Ahearn. And it’s an important difference that any salesperson, marketer, or leader (all of whom influence people for a living) needs to be keenly aware of so they can stay on the right side of that divide.
Brian is the author of Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical which is what most of our conversation centered on as we discussed ethical influence.
We talked about the three criteria he uses to define ethical persuasion. That it:
- Is good for the person you’re influencing, not just good for you.
- Contains honest communication, and nothing important is left out.
- Uses psychology that’s natural and appropriate for the situation
That last one was the most interesting and informative for me. For example, one of the persuasion techniques (#6 below) is Scarcity. People are more willing to buy something if they know there’s not much of it. That leads to statements like these: “Get this while supplies last” or “This offer is good for today only”. And those are fine, as long as they’re true. But if you’re not really close to running out of supply, or you know good and well that you’d offer the same price tomorrow if they called you back, then those techniques are not fair.
But mostly we talked about his 7 Principles for Ethical Persuasion, which I’ll summarize here:
- Principle #1 – Reciprocity – Give something of value then trust you’ll get it in return
- Principle #2 – Liking – Ask yourself, “How can I like them?” Once you do, they’re more likely to like. Plus, you’ll be less inclined to manipulate a friend
- Principle #3 – Authority – Be an expert on what you sell
- Principle #4 – Consensus – Social proof, other people like you are buying this
- Principle #5 – Consistency – Between what you say and do. Do what you say.
- Principle #6 – Scarcity – Rare sells. “While supplies last.” But legitimate scarcity. Reframe as a loss, not a gain.
- Principle #7 – Unity – We say yes to people who are similar to us. People with shared experiences and a shared sense of identity
Okay, that’s just a quick summary. Brian explains more in our conversation here. But you can read more about all this principles in his book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical.
And if you send him an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, you’ll get a link to a free 15-minute training video not covered in the book.
Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author.
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