In part four of this series on how to influence, I want to turn from Patterson and friends’ book Influencer to another classic: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini. Another great read.
This principle was one I didn’t understand when I was a young seminary grad seeking to influence a congregation. I thought people would listen to me because of my position and the strength of my good ideas, not because of how well people liked or didn’t like me. Arrogant soul that I was, it never occurred to me that people wouldn’t like me. It’s me, after all. What’s not to like?
The research is in: the better people like you, the more likely they are to be influenced by you. People rarely willingly follow people they don’t like.
I have known people who were very dedicated, very knowledgeable, very spiritual, loved God very deeply and were almost worthless to the kingdom of God because no one like them.
And what does it take to be liked? This has been researched as well. Consider six qualities.
All things being equal, people like people like themselves. It is one of the ways I struggle a bit in my current position as pastor. I pastor a very small church way out in the country. These are country folks–great folks. I am kind of a city boy. I am a bit of a geek; they are not. Not only do they not have broad band, you can’t get broadband at the the church nor at the homes of many of my members. (They don’t miss it.) You can’t used Facebook to connect.
But there are other ways. Life is complicated and multi-faceted. My job is to lean into the things we have in common. Wise leaders find common ground. I didn’t grow up on a farm, but my mom did. I talk a lot about my mom and the farm and my grandparents and anything else I can think of to find common ground.
People like pretty people. We like attractive people. And, while most of us will never be Brad Pitt or Julia Roberts, we can do our best to work with what we have.
I will never forget seeing one host just before a conference was about to start. He had a dress shirt on that was untucked. This was not a cool shirt that was untucked in a hip kind of way. It was a regular short sleeve dress shirt that just looked dorky. He was about to go on stage to introduce me. I am saying to myself, “What are you thinking?” Fortunately his wife caught him and straightened him out before he made it to the stage. We all need our wives; some more than others!
In an ideal world, this kind of thing wouldn’t matter. We would all be judged by the strength of our character and the value of our ideas rather than on whether our shirt is tucked in. In the real world, it does matter. Everything matters. Nice looking people get more promotions, get less jail time when on trial, and get elected more often. There are some aspects of your attractiveness you can’t do anything about. Do what you can about the things you can.
If is often in the little things–like tucking in your shirt. Like carrying breath mints. We are rarely influenced by people who consistently have really bad breath. Think about it. Look in the mirror. Do what you can.
Find a way to sincerely compliment everyone you see and you will never lack a following.
People don’t like grumpy people. (With the possible exception that grumpy people might like grumpy people because of the principle of rapport.) People are more likely to follow winsome, upbeat, smiling people.
If you want people to follow you, smile more and laugh more. Don’t be so grumpy.
At the end of the day, it is just Christian obedience. The Bible says to rejoice in the Lord always.
Almost anything can be over done. In your effort to smile more and laugh more, don’t over do it. There is something to be said for being real. Authentic people are attractive. Fake people are repulsive, even when they smile a lot.
All things being equal, we like people who are more familiar to us. We are suspicious of strangers.
My son was invited to an all-night party at Peter Piper Pizza. My wife was hesitant for him to go because she didn’t know the person who was hosting the party. Had she sat down and had a thirty minute lunch with the person, she would likely feel better about it. It is not really logical, but it is no less true. We tend to feel better about people we are familiar with.
If you would influence the leaders in your church, spend time with them. Take them to lunch. Have them in your home. Do things with them. Walk slowly through the crowd. Hug the babies.
Jesus was the master at this. He influenced people by spending lots of time with them. Was he well-liked? Not universally; he did have those who hated him enough to put him on the cross. But he was certainly well-liked. Everywhere he went crowds followed.
One of my favorite kinds of questions I use when I write Good Questions Have Groups Talking is what I call a jump ball question. It is a question that can legitimately answered either way. It is a question that gets groups talking. Here is one of my favorite jump-ball questions: Should a Christian try to be popular?
No, we should not try to please men. I can quote you verses on that.
However, I am thinking now of one of the most dedicated, knowledgeable, committed, Christians I knew. She was there every time the doors were open. She volunteered. She served. She gave. She sacrificed. And she was almost worthless to the kingdom because people didn’t like her.
Your circle of influence will be no bigger than the circle of people who like you. People are rarely influenced to follow someone they do not like.