In our series about the six principles of influence we’ll discuss the principle of consistency.
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Consistency - The desire to be consistent with what we have done or said as to be congruent with our internal values and with what we have said we are going to do.
What do you call someone, who changes his mind every day? Someone, who tells you that he is going to start a diet, but only next week. And he’s done so for the past 3 years? Chances are, you won’t have the best perception of them.
On the opposite end of the spectrum what do you think about people telling you that they will run the Comrades Marathon next year, albeit being a couch potato so far, and from that day on you see them exercising and working towards their goal every single day? You might describe these people as dedicated and role models.
Related: The ins and outs of influencer marketing
Why we like consistency
What’s the difference? In the first situation there is a lack of consistency: The person tells you A, but changes his mind or does not follow through. We want consistency, because it makes our life so much easier.
In studies people were asked to support a “drive safe” campaign in their neighbourhood. Some were asked to put a huge sign into their lawn. And only 17% accepted this.
Another group was first asked to put a little sticker that read “Be a Safe Driver” onto one of their car windows. They had no problem in doing that. But they did not know the impact this would have. By putting the sticker into the window, they publicly declared themselves as supporters of this initiative for driving safe. Which is a good thing. But now consistency comes into play.
A few weeks later those participants were asked, if they would be willing to put a massive sign on their front lawn. And 76% of them were happy to do so.
Consistency leads to conversion
If you publicly show your support, consistency will lead you towards voting for that person as well. Even if nobody can check for whom you voted, you would always know, if you were true to yourself or not. And as a human being we want to be true to ourselves.
Related: Increase your influence today through reciprocity
The lesson is similar to reciprocity: If you are asked for a small favour which you accept, you need to be very careful if you get asked about a bigger favour later. Always take one step back and ask yourself: “If I would have been asked only about this bigger favour and we had no history together, would I do it or not?” If the answer is, that you would not, but you feel obliged to agree, consistency is in place.