INTERVIEW: How to leverage influence to win hearts and spark change - with Zoe Chance
Issue 43: An interview with "Influence Is Your Superpower" author Zoe Chance
We are excited to feature an interview with Professor Zoe Chance this week. Zoe teaches the most popular class at Yale’s School of Management, called “Mastering Influence and Persuasion”. Zoe is also the ring-leader of our own group of authors—she brought together a collection of people writing books (most of us for the first time) to share ideas and support each other through the writing and publication process.
Zoe has published an exciting new book, called ‘Influence Is Your Superpower: The Science of Winning Hearts, Sparking Change, and Making Good Things Happen’. She explains that influence doesn’t work the way many people expect and encourages us to move past popular misconceptions—such as the idea that asking for more will make people dislike you. Indeed, it turns out that many of your go-to strategies might actually be making you less influential.
Her book offers advice about how to cultivate charisma, negotiate comfortably and creatively, and spot manipulators before it’s too late. She weaves in great stories about alligators, skydivers, a mind reader in a gorilla costume, Jennifer Lawrence, Genghis Khan, and the man who saved the world by saying no.
Zoe’s book speaks to the importance of social relationships for influence and offers helpful guidance for transforming groups and organizations. We asked her about these elements for our newsletter.
What does your book teach us about group dynamics?
Our feelings about influence are complicated, and this is why we’re not going for it as often as we should be. And why we’re not as successful as we could be at spreading our great ideas.
When people are asked if they’d like to be more influential, they say yes—because influence is power. But when people are asked about influence strategies and influence tactics, they describe them as “manipulative,” “sneaky,” and “coercive.” The whole idea of influence has been corrupted by tacky, greedy people using tacky, greedy tactics to sell used cars, to promote sponsors’ products on social media, and to get us to buy now, while supplies last! Marketers (I’m one of them) refer to customers as “targets,” like a pickup artist or a con artist might. Academic researchers (I’m one of them, too) have called study participants “subjects” and their experiments “manipulations.” Transactional influence treats people like objects.
Transactional tactics might be standard for sales and marketing, but they just don’t work in most everyday situations. They don’t work with your boss, your colleagues, your employees, your friends, or your family. If you want to build a relationship, and maintain one, you can’t use the same tricks you’d use to sell a car. Even business success ultimately depends on long-term relationships in the form of referrals, word of mouth, customer loyalty, and employee retention. You want people to be happy to say yes both today and in the future.
This book teaches practical strategies and tools for influence in healthy relationships: getting what you want without compromising who you are.
What was the most surprising thing you learned as you wrote this book?
The most surprising thing was how hard it is to write a book :-) But an example of a behavioral science surprise is from a survey on negotiations. When I asked people about their feelings about negotiations, they mostly said they hated it—which wasn't a surprise. But when I asked about their most recent negotiation, they said it went well and they felt good about it.
So we have this fear of negotiating, but it's really not that bad. It’s Hollywood who has taught us to fear negotiating, with all the scenes of people bullying each other and trying not to get suckered. That hardly ever happens in real life.
What is the biggest unanswered question in this area going forward?
This book will teach you a lot about how to influence individual human beings, but there’s a long way to go as we try to influence the large groups of people we need to influence to solve our biggest problems, like COVID, the political divide, or the climate crisis. That third one is the existential issue and we need all superpowers of influence we’ve got to avert the climate crisis.
Do you have any practical advice for people who want to apply these ideas?
One simple piece of advice is this: the most powerful force influencing behavior is EASE. Make it as easy as possible for people to do whatever it is you’re asking them to do. In marketing, ease explains one-third of word-of-mouth and customer loyalty. Customers who say it was very hard to do the thing they were trying to do have an 80% chance of spreading negative word of mouth. Customers who say it was very easy will only complain 1% of the time.
But it’s not just in marketing, it’s everywhere. Ease explains so many of the things you do or don’t do. (Damn you, Netflix, for making it so easy to watch another episode!) It’s often hard work to make it easy for the other person, but if it’s an outcome you care about, do it anyway. People tend to take the path of least resistance.
You can get in touch with Zoe Chance via her email firstname.lastname@example.org or learn more about her book, research, and teaching at her website.
News and updates
We are excited to announce that we just published a new paper in 67 countries with nearly 50,000 participants, finding that a sense of national identification was key to predicting support for public health measures during the pandemic. Countries where citizens reported a higher sense of national pride and purpose showed more effective collective responses.
The project itself was a demonstration of collective solidarity as we worked with more than 250 different collaborators around the world to conduct this massive study! Thanks to everyone who helped out.
Jay was on the ‘Unbiased Science Podcast’ this week to talk about the science of cult psychology and how these dynamics seem to be at play in conspiracy theory communities during the pandemic. In many ways, this represents the opposite of a strong sense of national purpose—misinformation is driving a wedge between communities and making it harder to develop a shared sense of reality.
Dominic did an interview with ‘Psychologists off the Clock’, further discussing these cleavages in society, as well as evidence-based strategies to promote a greater sense of social harmony during a time of immense conflict and upheaval.
We also wanted to share this snippet from our book from Matt Johnson, who pointed out that group leadership skills can be developed—even at a very young age. We mentioned the example of Winston Churchill in our leadership chapter in “The Power of Us”.
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Catch up on the last one
And in case you missed our last newsletter, you can read it here…