February 27, 2009

How do you convince people?

In The Social Animal Elliot Aronson deals with the question of how people are convinced by others. This turns to be a paradoxical affair because people are most convincing when the listener feels sure that the other person is not trying to convince him. This effect is known as the reactance theory (developed by Jack Brehm, see photo) which can be summarized as follows: When someone notices that another person tries to convince him of something he will try to protect his own freedom. When we fear our freedom is threatened, we'll try to protect it. On her Dutch weblog Gwenda Schlundt Bodien describes the following experiment. In the experiment people were asked by an interviewer to sign a petition. When someone stopped the interviewer began to explain in a friendly way why he found the petition so important.
Another passenger (who belonged to the research team but pretended to be a coincidental passenger) interfered and began to explain in very convincing tone why the person should not sign the petition. What happened? In this situation people became more willing to sign the petition instead of less willing. The friendly interviewer who explained friendly what he believed in was more convincing than the 'convincing' interviewer who gave people urgent advice. People generally don't like to be told what to think or do.
Do you see the link with the solution-focused approach?


  1. Hi Coert,

    Sorry for such a late response...but a response none-the-less. I believe strongly that a not-knowing stance is very significantly associated with SF practices. When a person is provided opportunity to discover their own path they are more likely to have a positive resonance with the idea. When in SF practice we invite answers to questions, the path is created by the client. In some ways, the person is provided opportunity to decide for themselves.
    I know that this is going against what I just wrote but allow me to offer a resource that I discovered that was beneficial to me. It is a paper from "Strategy+Business" by David Rock, it may be of assistance as you draft your chapter. It is located at http://www.strategy-business.com/media/file/sb43_06207.pdf As I write this I recognize that it is likely going against what I have written about not-knowing. On the other hand, I am not being SF at this time.


  2. Hi Kevin, Thank you. I like it a lot when people respond to older posts. I knew the paper by David Rock already but thank you anyway. I agree fully with what you say about the importance of people discovering their own paths. Some time ago I have written a post about it which I hope will interest you: http://tinyurl.com/cjkpaj

    All the best, and thanks again


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