Influence through Social Proof

by on
in Career Management

Need to persuade a co-worker to embrace a new policy? Want buy-in from your supervisor to pay for your association fee? People are more likely to be persuaded when you share examples, references or testimonials from others they feel are just like them. It’s called Social Proof because we look to others in similar positions to decide how to act.

For example, if I was trying to secure a speaking engagement for in-house admin training, I might mention that I’ve opened for powerhouse Suze Orman. But by mentioning that I shared the stage with Orman, I would have blown a powerful opportunity to influence. Why? These two events are dramatically different in their size, scope, purpose and goals. I would have much greater success from sharing testimonial letters from other admin teams in the same industry as my prospective client.

Often, we believe that if we share our biggest win, or name drop, we’ll increase our ability to persuade and engage others. But too often our listener thinks, “That sounds great, but it’s not our situation.”

Regarding the co-worker who needs to embrace a new policy, you may consider finding another colleague she looks up to or someone who shares a similar position and has implemented the changes. Consider asking how it’s increased her productivity or how she successfully managed her way through the change. Relate this information to your co-worker and you’ve upped your odds for buy-in.

Perhaps your supervisor has an interest in a competitive company, and you know that his counterpart’s assistant gets her association fee reimbursed since the company places value on her continued learning and networking. When asking your supervisor for this benefit, share an example of how this assistant leverages her association meetings to build good PR and awareness of her firm.

Still not convinced? The research supporting this influencing strategy originally came from psychologist Robert Cialdini’s work. One noteworthy study showed how tweaking the wording on a towel reuse sign in a hotel room to say, “The majority of guests in this room have reused their towels” increased participation by 33% over the more general message. Apply the strategy of Social Proof next time you need to engage, persuade or influence another.

Leave a Comment