Utilizing the Science of Influence – For Advocates and Professional Lobbyists
There are scores of tools in the influence toolbox, and the savvy agent knows how to use the right tool for a particular client and situation. That said, we’ve noticed that there are some tools that work particularly well for political advocacy across a range of situations. Among them are trust building, proximity, metaphor, and narrative.
Trust building is the essential ingredient in credibility, but it’s a skill that’s often overlooked while attempting to demonstrate expertise. The social sciences have identified several tactics that can establish trustworthiness rapidly. We focus on trust building skills with authority figures, such as doctors, scientists, senior organization leaders and business owners.
Proximity is a humble tool whose power is often underestimated, particularly in an age of mass communications and push–button correspondence. Over and over again, the research literature – and experience – demonstrates the power of face–to–face communication. This is why it’s critical to facilitate your advocate’s consistent face–to–face interaction with their legislators, beyond fly–ins and fund–raisers.
Metaphor is a fast–track route to influence, and requires remarkably little thought on the part of the prospect. An appropriate metaphor will cause a new topic to be perceived as similar to a previous topic, and when this match occurs, the prospect self–persuades.
Finally, narrative—telling a story—is a rich and profoundly powerful way to persuade. We believe that narrative is a “stealth” tactic because its persuadability is largely unnoticed, while being both pleasurable and engaging to hear. This is exactly the tactic we taught to the hospitality industry. The naturally non–confrontational advocates were more comfortable with telling their personal stories than reciting facts and statistics.
Our advocates are high–altitude people. They are competent at brokering the deal, making the sale, and persuading recalcitrant subordinates. We are wasting their strengths, and hampering our legislative agendas, when we don’t truly equip them to make a difference.