Principle #2: Consistency
When you make a promise to someone, you pre-commit to hold up your end of the promise. When you say, “I promise I’ll do this,” you would be inconsistent with yourself if you then went back on what you said. When you make a commitment to do something and other people see that commitment, it’s more uncomfortable to break your promise and look like an inconsistent, babbling buffoon than to keep hold of that promise and follow up as you intended to.
The “Social Rule”: People prefer not to contradict themselves. Once committed, they follow through.
The Principle of Influence: You can gain compliance by creating opportunities to be consistent.
We find it really uncomfortable to be inconsistent, and as influencers, we can use that to our advantage through the consistency principle. By creating situations in which the person would appear inconsistent if he or she does not comply with your request, you can maximize your influence.
A classic case of the consistency principle is the famous theory of cognitive dissonance. The crux of cognitive dissonance is the same notion that being inconsistent is uncomfortable. When we do something that conflicts with what we believe or what we value, it creates a state of discomfort. Lots of research on dissonance shows that we’ll even change what we believe so that it’s consistent with our actions.
Another case of inconsistency is hypocrisy, which is when you say one thing but you do another. For example, if you publicly proclaim that you are a vegetarian, but in actuality you ate a chicken salad sandwich for lunch, that’s hypocrisy. The research on hypocrisy shows that when you put people in a situation where they publicly advocate for one idea but then they remember times when they themselves did not live up to their advocacy, they then change their behavior more so that they can live a life that’s consistent with what they’re publicly proclaiming.
All of this comes back to the idea that being inconsistent is uncomfortable, and we’re motivated to live consistently and to have beliefs, ideas, and behaviors that are all consistent with one another. As influencers, we can use that in several persuasion influence techniques. These two techniques are the ones that we’re going to explore in this email course. The first is called the “Foot-in-the-Door” technique. It’s one of my favorites because it is so perfectly consistent with the consistency principle. The second is the “Lowball” technique, which also invokes the social rule of consistency. So we’ll get right into that tomorrow!
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