Consistency vs. Authority: Which to Use and When

Last month I conducted a couple of POP (Principles of Persuasion) workshops. One was for insurance agents and the other was for managers and supervisors at State Auto. Actually, I’ve done more than a dozen POPs in the past three years and I’ve seen a common thread with participants – confusing when to use the principle of consistency and when to use the principle of authority.

The principle of consistency tells us people want to be consistent in word and deed. Once a person takes a stand on an issue, be it through word or action, they feel internal psychological pressure to be consistent with what they’ve said, done or believe. Therefore, understanding what someone believes, values, and has said or done can be a powerful tool for persuasion if you can align your request appropriately.Authority, on the other hand, has to do with expertise and trustworthiness. If you can bring expert opinion into your request you significantly increase the odds that the other person will say “Yes” because people typically look to experts for advice. We do this because we simply don’t have the time or energy to research every decision. The good news is, things generally work out for the best when we rely on trustworthy experts. For example, accountants can prepare our taxes faster, more accurately and save people more money than the average citizen so many of us turn to accountants to prepare our taxes.No one I’ve ever trained has had a problem understanding either principle I’ve just described. The problem isn’t with the knowing, it’s with the doing, the application.
When you think about trying to persuade someone using the principle of consistency you need to think about them, not you. Quite often I’ll hear workshop participants say something like, “In order to persuade them I’m going to talk about how I consistently…” Your personal consistency can be an important tool in persuading another but it’s not using the principle of consistency as I’ve defined it above.When you try to persuade someone and you consider the principle of consistency as a means to do so you need to think about the other person. What have they said in the past? What have they done in the past? What are their personal beliefs? If you know the answer to one or more of those questions and can align your request with those answers you stand a much better chance of hearing them say “Yes!”Here’s an example. In sales we talk about an “up front close” as a way of making more sales. As a salesperson, if I do a good job asking questions and listening then it’s very likely a prospective customer will tell me exactly what I need to do to earn their business. But it’s not enough to just hear them because I need to use this new understanding in conjunction with the principle of consistency to increase my chances of earning their business. To do this I might say something like, “If we can get the car in the color you want, with the DVD player and matching floor mats at the price we’ve been discussing, will you buy the car from us?” If the customer has told you exactly what they want and the price they need, and you can meet all the criteria then it’s only logical that they would answer your question saying, “If you can do all that I’ll buy the car from you.” But the key is asking them because once someone says they’ll do something they feel their own internal pressure to live up to their word.I usually ask people how they feel when they give their word and have to break it. To a person, they tell me they feel bad even when their reason is perfectly legitimate. I’ve had people tell me they felt bad missing weddings because a close relative went into the hospital. I’m sure the bride and groom understood and yet the person still felt bad. That’s the power of consistency!Let me come back now to your personal consistency because I said earlier that it is
importance when it comes to influencing another person even though it’s not using the principle of consistency. When you are consistent – always return calls promptly, hit deadlines consistently, perform to a high level all the time – that increases your trustworthiness and thus your authority. If you always do what you say people come to rely on you and that opens lots of doors. However, please take note of the difference between this and consistency as outlined above because it’s important.Using the principles will only help you be more persuasive if you use them ethically and correctly. If you don’t then you’re likely to fail and abandon your attempt to use them in the future. Bad idea because these are scientifically proven ways that can help you be more persuasive.Brian, CMCT
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.


0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.