Whatever your job, chances are that you deal with different people every day: colleagues, customers, clients or supervisors. Then it is nice if you get the others along with your plans. Mirjam Wiersma, speaker and author of A great day every working day, know how to increase your influence. Today: consistency.
Think back to a big decision you made recently? Maybe you have bought a house, you are going to start a bed and breakfast in New Zealand, you have ended your relationship or you are just getting married.
Do you regret that decision?
I often ask this question when I give a workshop. I’m just asking for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. You don’t have to announce your decision in front of your colleagues. In fact, you don’t have to tell us anything about your decision. This way you can easily acknowledge that you could have made a different decision. And yet no one in my workshops ever admitted to making the wrong decision.
We see the consistency principle at work here: once we have made a choice, we stick to it. Why? We think we come across as trustworthy. That is also the reason that when we make a statement, we do not like to go back on it. It’s only when it’s undeniable that something is wrong that we’re willing to seriously consider that maybe our decision wasn’t the right one.
You can use the consistency principle by having people say certain things aloud. For example, positive feedback. Just finished a project that everyone is excited about? Try to get others to say that they appreciate your positive contribution. Now that they’ve spoken, they won’t change their minds anytime soon. Handy to do just before an assessment by your supervisor or in contacts with people with whom you regularly work.
Let us choose the date
You can also use the principle to make someone keep their word. In practice, steer on a concrete commitment. Imagine that you want your colleague ‘Bram’ to do something for you. If you say ‘Bram, will you pick it up?’, he nods, but then you don’t know when you’re going to do that. You might see from his not-so-enthusiastic body language that it’s going to take a long time for him to spring into action.
So ask: ‘When can I expect your input?’ Bram will have to pronounce a day or date and thanks to the consistency principle he also feels bound to that date. After all, he chose it himself and pronounced it in front of you and everyone around you.
The ‘no shows’ at a dentist already decreased by three percent when patients are asked to verbally repeat the date and time of the appointment
Do you work with clients or patients but do they always cancel appointments? In their book Small large authors Cialdini, Martin and Goldstein describe a way to ensure that they do show up: the ‘no shows’ at a dentist already decreased by three percent when patients were asked to verbally repeat the date and time of the appointment.
Fill in your own appointment card
Writing is in this case more powerful than speaking. If patients were also asked to fill in the date of their appointment on their appointment card, the number of ‘no shows’ fell by no less than 18 percent. If you want someone to make a promise, it is therefore useful not to address them at the coffee machine, but to ask them via email – so that they have to write down their answer.
Does that really make such a difference, you might think. A well-known experiment by author and psychologist Cialdini confirms how eager we are to keep our commitments:
Suppose you are sitting on the beach, and one and a half meters away from you someone sits down who is alone. He spreads out his towel, puts his bag down and his stereo on his towel. He goes for a walk. You see someone steal the stereo. Are you doing something? Four out of twenty people appear to take action in an experiment. But when the neighbor first asks if you want to keep an eye on his belongings before his walk, 19 out of 20 people suddenly turn into a guard.
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