Why People Will Listen to You

If you speak to me even somewhat regularly, you know that Hidden Brain is my favorite podcast, and I typically cannot have a single conversation without referencing the show. I love how it’s both mindless and incredibly mindful at the same time. It really makes you think—but in a fun way! (Nerd alert.)

Anyway, I’m currently listening to an episode from a few months ago on influence. There have been numerous glamorized research studies done over the years on influence (like the Milgram Shock Experiment of 1963 or the 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment, which was made into a movie in 2015). The Hidden Brain episode brings into view the feelings of the person doing the asking vs. solely the people doing the answering. What’s evident is that anxiety plays a larger role than anyone thought in both asker and answerer. Those answering to authority are worried that if they say “no,” they’ll be perceived as a jerk, unreliable, weak, etc., depending on the ask. Those actually doing the asking are worried that they’ll be rejected and often do not actually see themselves as the authority, and vastly underestimate the influence they have on others. This can have positive consequences (like people helping them out when they’re in need), but it can also obviously have negative consequences (like someone doing something they know is wrong just because a person of “authority” told them to do it).

To avoid going too much further into this dark wormhole of thought, I simply want to point out that you, as a voice of authority in your particular industry/subject matter, have influence. Do not underestimate it. Use that influence to spread your knowledge to those who are relying on you for guidance. When I go to the doctor, I don’t want her to ask me what I want to do. I want her to tell me what to do.

Tell your audience what to do (with nothing but good and humble intentions, of course), and they will thank you for it.

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