“Consistency, thou art a jewel,” Shakespeare

“Consistency, thou art a jewel,” is a well known quote sometimes ascribed to William Shakespeare. Whether or not it originated with him isn’t nearly as important as the reality that consistency can be a jewel when it comes to your ability to persuade people.

As a principal of influence consistency tells us people want to be seen as consistent in what they say and what they do because generally people feel better about themselves when their words and deeds match. That simple understanding gives you a great opportunity to persuade people because if you can align what you are asking for with something someone has previously said or done then the odds of hearing “Yes!” increase dramatically.

When I teach the 2-day Principles of Persuasion workshop it’s not uncommon for people to misapply the use of consistency during the learning process. This happens when they think about their own consistent behavior and try to use that as a lever to get someone to say “Yes!” You consistently doing good work, good deeds, being on time, etc., are great attributes, but that’s really not the application of consistency as a principle of influence. Going back to our definition, the principle tells us that other people want to be seen as consistent in what they say and what they do. Therefore we need to align our requests to match their prior words or deeds to increase our odds for success.

When you’re consistent in the things you say and do that builds credibility for you in the eye of others. It enhances your personal authority and becomes a reason someone might ask for your assistance. For example, if you’re a consistently high performer at work people come to depend on you. Or, if you’re always meeting deadlines people see you as a go to person when they need something done right away. Those can help your career immensely but that’s not applying the principle of consistency because in neither situation are you trying to persuade the other person.

However, when you need to make a request of someone else, tapping into their prior actions can be a powerful way to get them to do what you want. As an example, if a customer talks about how much they like your company, or a particular product, those would be perfect to incorporate into your request to get them to try a new product. Consider the following: “Sally, I really appreciate you sharing all the things you liked about our Bass-O-Matic. It makes me feel great to hear how happy you are with it. Since you’ve enjoyed it so much I naturally thought you’d want to be one of the first to try the Bass-O-Matic 2.” While Sally might try the new product without you referring to her prior words you’d have a much better chance of making the sale by reminding her of how satisfied she was with the prior purchase.

So maybe you’re thinking, “This sounds good but I don’t know if it will really work.” Influence People relies on science rather than good advice so here’s a study that was done that shows how potentially powerful consistency can be.

On a beach in the New York City area some social psychologists arranged to have a person lay down a blanket near a stranger then set a radio on the blanket. Next the person got up to take a walk on the beach and soon after they left, someone associated with experiment came along and “stole” the radio. The experimenters wanted to see how often the unsuspecting person would say or do anything about the robbery they were witnessing. On day one only four out of 20 people said or did anything about the theft in progress.

The experiment was repeated on day two, doing everything exactly the same except for one thing. On the second day, just before the person was to head off for a walk, the person turned to the stranger near them and asked if they would, “watch my things.” Naturally everyone agree to this simple request. Now, when the thief came along 19 out of 20 people intervened and a few people even tried to physically restrain the would-be thief!

Think about this for a moment; the only difference between day one and day two was a simple question. How would you feel if the person came back, saw their radio gone and asked, “What happened to my radio?” and you had to tell them someone stole it. “But you told me you keep an eye on it?” If you’re like most people you’d feel pretty bad and that’s the motivator because no one wants to feel bad when they can avoid it.

This is one simple application of this principle of influence. If you keep reading Influence People you’ll learn how to tap into this principle. Do so and consistency will truly become a jewel for you because it will help you hear “Yes!” far more often when you make requests other people.

Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

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