Influencers from Around the World: The Reality of Lord Voldermort and the Gift of Global Friends

This month’s Influencers from Around the World article is from Cathrine Moestue. Cathrine is writing this month about the recent tragedy in Norway where more than 70 young people were murdered. I know you’ll find her insights on this tragedy enlightening. I encourage you to reach out to Cathrine on Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter. Brian, CMCT
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.The Reality of Lord Voldermort and the Gift of Global Friends

As a citizen of Oslo I would like to thank all of you great influencers out there for reaching out with your support after the attacks on July 22. My friends from the United States, Canada, and Europe were the first to email and phone me before I even had spoken to my closest family. I was very touched by this and it demonstrated to me the power of global friends and how small acts of kindness can make a huge difference. I have never felt more a part of our global community; never have I felt so clearly that we share the same problems, and never has it been more self-evident to me that we are here to help each other. We are here to help each other, not only to get through hard times, but also to understand and protect ourselves against unethical influencers. We need to share our knowledge of influence, good or bad. Here is my influence tip: keep giving those small but relevant, unexpected and personal gifts to people you care about because they work. The principle of reciprocity tells us that we give back to others who have given to us. And this is what I want to give back – some personal reflection on how we as a global community best can defend ourselves against people who try to unethically influence. I hope you find it useful. Not a single day has gone by since the massacre and bombing in Oslo, that my friends and I, and perhaps the rest of Norway, haven’t mourned and discussed different aspects of this tragedy. Just like in the movie Harry Potter, where Lord Voldemort is the name that cannot be spoken, we seem to be unable to mention the perpetrators name in our conversations. Your calls reached me around 17.00 (5 p.m. EST) that Friday afternoon while I was in a mountain cabin far from Oslo. This was just after the bomb had exploded, at a time when everyone thought international terrorism had reached Norway because of our involvement in Afghanistan or Libya. Our minds were filled with images of those who had hijacked the airplanes on another terrible day, that of 9/11, but when the news broke about the massacre at Utoya, our perceptions changed. As it turned out, the terrorist was Norwegian, a 32-year-old male who grew up where I did. He even went to the same schools as I did! His image in the newspaper, a blond Scandinavian, lone killer, stands in sharp contrast to what was initially on everyone’s mind. The horrific events that took place have not changed but our understanding of these events has completely changed. And thus it gives us an important lesson on influence. There is a principle in human perception, the contrast phenomenon, which affects the way we see the difference between things that are presented one after the other. Simply put, if the second item is fairly different from the first, we tend to see it as more different than it actually is. As shocking as it was, the news of the perpetrator was a relief to many. Before it was known, some young Muslims in Oslo were attacked on that Friday but left alone on Saturday. Drawing up the wrong contrast can literally be deadly. Luckily none of them actually died but it was a close call. Influence tip: The same is true for us when we seek to influence others, if we fail to detect and correct our audience’s stereotypes, then they will compare what you say to the wrong contrast and your message will be dead. To be both an ethical and effective influence agent, we must take a mental step back from the situation and make sure that we have given our message all the available evidence. Never forget to ask yourself this question: Compared to what? In the aftermath of events like these we want to make sure that our analysis includes understanding of the contrast phenomenon, so that we all can learn how we might protect ourselves in the future. By now, we’ve all been exposed to varied analyses of the highly publicized attacks on Oslo, which Anders Behring Breivik is charged with orchestrating. Some analysts have focused on certain aspects of the killings such as how many he managed to kill in how little time and drawing the conclusion that he is one of the world’s worst mass murderers with a hand held gun; even publishing some kind of ranking list! Others have focused on the content of his manifesto, comparing him to the Unabomber and calling for surveillance of right-wing extremist movements. Still others again speak out about the danger of playing computer games. I’ve been concerned by another feature: the level of systematic manipulation and deception that the perpetrator was capable of. Reading his manifesto we learn that he has been deceiving his friends and family for years about who he is and what he is doing. That he thinks of himself as some kind of “God,” hero, and martyr. It is also evident that he had an apocalyptic view of the world. At Utoya he put on a fake police uniform and lured young children into his trappings, shooting them in cold blood. Even his manifesto is a lie because he has stolen most of the writings from others, among them the Unabomber. Therefore it’s easy to find similarities to the Unabomber but I fear that we might miss the point if we only compare him to one person. It is like telling people only to be careful of red cars. I find his mindset and level of deception a more interesting point for comparisons because it shows us both how easily we get fooled and how little we know about our human vulnerabilities. It also shows us that we are not up against some unique monster that is difficult to understand, but that these kinds of crimes happen everywhere in the world and are in fact rather common. Only when we take this into account, that we don’t have to be fools to get fooled, can we truly learn to protect ourselves and understand the realities in which we live. To give another example, I’d like to quote Woody Allen from the movie Hannah and Her Sisters. The elderly professor, played by Max von Sydow, is discussing the Nazis crimes with Hannah and he says, “Everyone asks why these terrible crimes happen? But this is the wrong question. The right question is why doesn’t it happen more often, given what some human beings are? And of course it does happen, only in more subtle forms.” What if we compare Breivik to others who lie and deceive and use people as the means to their end? What if we compare him to those individuals who have the same kind of deceptive and unethical approach, thinking of themselves as God? Those who have no empathy or remorse for what they have done? Do you know any? I can think of a few but one sticks out in my mind, and that is Jim Jones, who is responsible for 900 deaths in just a few hours. He did this in the name of socialism, and while he didn’t shoot them himself, he caused their deaths by his deception, apocalyptic thinking, and believing himself to be God. A comparison like that would at least take Breivik down from the odd pedestal that media creates of him being the biggest or the worst the world has ever seen. Those stereotypes are only useful for the perpetrator not for us. It would also allow for a comparison with people like Bernard Madoff who didn’t kill anyone directly but his deception caused havoc to his victims in the aftermath. An even more familiar example to some, would be the Narcissistic Manager. True, not every liar or manipulator can or will become killers but before they cause destruction we better learn to understand their game. Because understanding the similarities between individuals that systematically lie and deceive, and how we get fooled by them, would open up our minds to the real issue. Then we could get together and discuss what to do about it. My first suggestion is to start with reading Dr. Robert Cialdini’s excellent book, Influence Science and Practice, if you haven’t already done so. The second suggestion is making sure we are ethical ourselves when we influence others. My final thought is to help all shy and isolated children with socialization. If you see one on your way in life, reach out and do your best to integrate them in your social world. I know there are no guarantees but it is worth a try. Greetings from Oslo

1 reply
  1. Yee Hong
    Yee Hong says:

    You might want to re-size your fonts and use more white spaces. Your website and newsletters are exceedingly hard to read because huge words are cramped together.


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