Tip #741: Unity as a Principle of Influence

“There is a certain type of unity-of identity- that … leads to more acceptance, cooperation, liking, help, trust, and, consequently, assent.” Robert Cialdini

In Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence, he identified six universal principles that generate instant influence:  reciprocation, liking, social proof, authority, scarcity and consistency. If someone does something for us, we naturally want to return the favor (reciprocation). If we like someone, we are more likely to do what they ask (liking). We’ll happily follow what a respected group does or tells us to do (social proof). We are easily influenced by experts or other authority figures (authority). If something is scarce, we perceive it has higher value and want it more (scarcity). And, if we make even a minor commitment, we feel obligated to act in accordance with it (consistency).

In his latest book, Pre-Suasion, Cialdini identifies a seventh universal principle of influence that he labels “unity.” He notes that “relationships not only intensify a willingness to help but also cause it.”

The experience of unity is not about simple similarities…It’s about shared identities. It’s about the categories that individuals use to define themselves and their groups, such as race, ethnicity, nationality, and family, as well as political and religious affiliations. A key characteristic of these categories is that their members tend to feel at one with, merged with, the others. They are the categories in which the conduct of one member influences the self-esteem of other members. Put simply, we is the shared me.”

This happens because both the concept of self and the concept of close others emerge from the same brain circuitry.

There are two categories of factors that lead to a sense of we-ness: those involving particular ways of being together and particular ways of acting together.

A sense of being together can result from a feeling of kinship, a shared place, (such as home or locality), or the same geographical region. To make this point, Cialdini tells a story that explains why Japan, a full-fledged wartime conspirator with Adolf Hitler who had to protect its alliance with this “virulent anti-Semite,” refused to annihilate the Jews in the country. The Japanese High Command asked two representatives from the Jewish community: “Why do our allies the Nazis hate you so much? And why should we take your side against them?”

Rabbi Shimon Kalisch’s brief but brilliant answer, ”Because we are Asian, like you.”

Cialdini explains: This assertion “shifted the Japanese officer’s reigning in-group identity from one based in a temporary wartime alliance to one based in a regional, genetically related mutuality. It do so by implicating the Nazis’ own racial claim that the ‘superior’ Aryan master race was innately different from the peoples of Asia. Within a single penetrating observation, it was the Jews who were aligned with the Japanese and the Nazis who (self-proclaimedly) were not.”

Because of this, the Japanese assured the Jews that “we will provide for their safety and peace. You have nothing to fear while in Japanese territory.” And this was true.

Isn’t that amazing?

The other factor has to do with acting together, either synchronously or collaboratively.

…The archeological and anthropological records are clear on this point: all human societies have developed ways to respond together, in unison or synchrony, inside songs, marches, rituals, chants, prayers, and dances… When people act in unitary ways, they become unitized…The effects are similar to those of kinship: feelings of we-ness, merger and the confusion of self and other.”

There are two consequences from acting together that can be accomplished pre-suasively to lay fertile groundwork for agreement: liking and support.

When people act in unison, they “not only see themselves as more alike, they evaluate one another more positively afterward. Their elevated likeness turns into elevated liking.”

Research shows that simply having people walk together in step resulted in 50% of them forgoing the chance to increase their own financial gain in an economic game to ensure that their teammates would do well financially. A follow up study helped explain why: preliminary-response synchrony led to a feeling of unity, which led to a greater wiliness to sacrifice personal gain to support the group’s greater good.

In summary, being together and acting together create a sense of unity that predisposes people to help each other. That’s a powerful principle of influence.

May your learning be sweet.



Related Posts