Women in Business Series: Persuasion, Influence and Authenticity – Are Women More Genuine Than Men?

Posted on October 23, 2012


Editor’s Note: The following is a reprint of a post from Roz Usheroff’s The Remarkable Leader blog.  Given your response to my post Gender issues in buyer-seller relationships: does gender matter in purchasing?, I thought that you might find this to be an interesting read.

In his book titled “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” Dr. Robert Cialdini offered six principles you must follow to become a skilled persuader.

The six principles are as follows; Reciprocation, Commitment/Consistency, Authority, Social Validation, Scarcity and Liking/Friendship.

There is no doubt that after more than 40 years of what has been referred to as “rigorous, evidence-based research along with a three-year program of study on what moves people to change behavior,” Dr. Cialdini is as the book claims the seminal expert in the field of influence and persuasion.

But here is the question that immediately came to my mind . . . what about authenticity?

I am not suggesting that any one of the six principles listed by Dr. Cialdini is disingenuous.  In fact, they all reflect important relationship building values.

My point is simply this; attempting to apply these six principles if they do not truly reflect who you are and what you value will ultimately undermine your efforts.

For example, in discussing Dr. Cialdini’s principle of “Authority,” the SellingandPersuasionTechniques.com website had this to say:

“People are more willing to follow the directions or recommendations of a communicator to whom they attribute relevant authority or expertise. One study showed that 3 times as many pedestrians were willing to follow a man into traffic against the red light when he was merely dressed as an authority in a business suit and tie.”

While people followed someone into traffic against a red light merely because the individual wore a suit and tie, the end result is that they would have in following this person ended up getting hit by a car.  This is hardly an outcome that would build sustainable creditability and influence.

I believe that merely learning a few parlor tricks relative to human conditioning does not imply the existence of true influence.  True influence is something that is both built and earned over time through producing consistent results that are beneficial to all stakeholders as opposed to just the individual that can best play the game.

Now I do not want you to think that I am discounting the need to understand how the game is played.  I do believe that politics exist on many different levels within corporations. Becoming more politically savvy is essential in order to survive and thrive in business.  Being politically savvy is a reality of how the world does business.  What I am saying is that being politically savvy or mastering Dr. Cialdini’s six principles in the absence of authenticity of self will eventually come back to hurt you.

This of course leads to another interesting question.  Who is more inclined to apply the six principles in a business setting if it means compromising on their authenticity -a man or a woman?

According to a recent study by Professor Roger Steare, which included 60,000 participants from 200 countries, women are more moral than men.  Steare’s “Moral DNA test” reached many conclusions based on the results that included the assertion that “when it comes to work, men have to grow up, put their ego to one side and show some humility and compassion – qualities they all too often have in their personal lives but put to one side when they walk into the office.”

This last point in particular speaks to the authenticity question.  For some reason, men have qualities they demonstrate in their personal lives but are able to check at the office door.  What is disconcerting is that women feel compelled to do the same.  However, for females, this compartmentalization of character is far more difficult a task.  Women tend to feel torn or even tormented when they believe they can’t express what they are thinking. Perhaps this is why there are only twenty female CEOs that head up a Fortune 500 company.

Does this mean that women have to become more like men when it comes to being true to who they are?

If one is to believe the findings in Hanna Rosin’s newly released book “The End of Men: And the Rise of Women,” the answer is no.  The author’s revelation that a “new state of affairs” in which there is a radical shifting of “the power dynamics between men and women at every level of society” suggests that being authentic and politically savvy is indeed reflective of complimentary attributes.

So what is my advice to you?

To start, remember that if you’re not playing the game, you probably aren’t getting what you want. .  Honor your authenticity but sell your value proposition.  Use some of Cialdini’s teaching  with the purpose of sharing your wisdom.

The above being said I have always believed in Polonius’s last piece of advice to his son Laertes “to thine own self be true!”  And now it appears that the rest of the world is catching up.


Posted in: Ethics