Influencers from Around the World – Italians and the Principle of Liking

Marco Germani is our guest blogger for this month’s “Influencers from Around the World” post. Marco lives in Italy, just outside of Rome. He’s not only been a guest blogger in the past, he wrote a book on influence in Italian. Marco is married and has two young boys. He gets real world influence application in his various business pursuits. Readers have always enjoyed Marco’s perspective on influence and I’m sure that will be the case this month.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.
Italians and the Principle of Liking

I recently read about a survey conducted by Citibank, a corporation with employees across the globe. The object was to identify how the different persuasion principles would apply to different cultures around the world. The question asked of employees was: If someone within your organization came to ask you for help on a project, and this project would take you away from your own duties, under what circumstances you would be mostly obligated to help?

The results displayed that in the U.S., the principle mostly taken into account to answer this question was reciprocity. What has this person done for me? Do I feel obliged to render him a favor? That would determine whether the help is granted or not.

In Hong Kong, the most important principle was authority: is this person connected to my small group and in particular, is he a senior member of this group?

In Germany, authority was considered but under a different light: according to the rules and regulations, am I supposed to say yes? In this case, I am obliged.

Finally, in Italy, yet another persuasion principle was mainly taken into account: the one of liking. Is this person connected to my friends? I am loyal to my friends so, therefore, I must help him or her.

Being an Italian I can confirm this is true most of the time. I then started to think about the reason this principle is so important for Italians and I came up with my own theory. It goes back to my country’s history. Contrary to what happened in other European countries, like

France and Germany, Italy started to exist as a single centralized unit only quite recently (250 years ago, which for Europe is a really short time). For thousands of years, the regions eventually forming Italy existed as isolated kingdoms (Kingdom of Naples, Kingdom of the two Sicilies, etc.) and often fought bitterly against each other.

When Italy became a nation it was hard, for a central government, back then based in Piedmont in northern Italy, to maintain control while being politically and physically present in the whole country.

This was especially true in southern regions like Calabria or Sicilia. The formation of small clans of people, which eventually led to the creation of the most (unfortunately) famous criminal organization in the world, the Mafia, became a necessity of survival.

Where the hand of the government couldn’t reach, there you had a small group of “friends” ready to kill for each other in order to keep order and peace and fight against the “bad guys.” If you wanted protection, you must become their friend too. If not, bad things could happen to you. Assuming this theory has some part of truth, it must be eradicated in our DNA a sense of loyalty to our group of friends, not anymore for survival, but to have some kind of advantage in our daily lives, according also to the principle of reciprocity.

This can be observed also when two or more Italians meet abroad. We tend to establish as soon as possible a sort of connection, because we know that we could, as a small team (or clan) be more effective in overcoming problems and finding solutions. Of course this happens without any criminal or illegal intention nowadays. On the other hand, in a business setting, this is a universal rule, which transcends cultures: always try to build a relationship with your customer or business partner before talking shop. With us Italians, it is even more important and it is an aspect which should never be underestimated by any serious negotiator or influencer.



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