Dr. Robert Cialdini has written many best-sellers, including Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Yes!: 50 Scientifically proven Ways to Be Persuasive, and Influence: Science and Practice. His purpose is to conduct and translate proven scientific research into ethical business applications.
On his Influence at Work website, some interesting new findings on the level of an “expert’s” level of influence were recently revealed.
In The Unexpected Influence of an Uncertain Expert, author Steve Martin (CMCT), writes about the universal discomfort of uncertainty, which leads people to look to other sources of information for help in making the best decisions.
Those other sources of information most commonly include the input of an “expert.”
Martin explains, however, that our information-saturated world is chock full of people who call themselves experts. And, oftentimes, these experts are convincing and influential simply because they answer questions with such certainty and confidence.
The latest persuasion research provides some remarkable answers. Studies conducted by Stanford Business School suggest that the most influential, compelling persuader is not the person who simply calls himself an expert and speaks with authority; rather it is the person who reveals their own uncertainty.
Martin writes: “Their series of studies found that an experts’ influence over others increases when that expert expresses minor doubts about their advice and opinions. They found that this effect was particularly acute when an expert’s advice concerned subjects or situations where there was no one single clear or obvious answer.”
Researchers pointed out that people generally expect experts to be certain of their opinions. When that expert signals potential uncertainties about their message, people become more intrigued and drawn in to what they are saying. In effect the “incongruity between the source’s expertise and their level of uncertainty makes his or her message appear more intriguing. As a result, assuming that the arguments in a message are reasonably strong, this drawing in of an audience leads to more effective persuasion.”
How does this apply to your personal brand?
Martin explains, “When it comes to persuading others about the merits and benefits of the products and proposals we have to offer, assuming our case is a strong one, it would seem sensible that rather than hide or cover up minor drawbacks and weaknesses in our case, we instead embrace them in the knowledge that they can actually make us more persuasive.”