Edward Brown, M.S.
The ability to influence the thoughts and behavior of others is singularly the most important skill a leader can possess. Dutton (2011) developed five strategies for changing people’s minds, which include:
• Keeping your message, short, sharp, and simple to convince the person it’s true
• Focusing on the benefits to an individual
• Surprising a person by providing an alternative to his or her way of thinking
• Speaking with confidence and assurance
• Putting yourself in the other person’s shoes
Dutton’s framework is an excellent synopsis to changing someone’s mind or at least getting people to consider another point of view. In this vein, charismatic leaders use these techniques, but add a few more layers to changing not only a person’s mind, but encouraging groups of individuals to consider a leader’s perspective. Some of the strategies charismatic leaders use to change the minds of others are:
- Describing current conditions compared to the ideal. Charismatic leaders fully understand that people act in their self-interest and will generally change behavior when conditions are severely uncomfortable. However, this discomfort has to resonate with an adverse situation that individuals fear. An example would be a real estate agent that shows a prospective buyer a run-down house in a questionable neighborhood. When the real estate agent shows the prospective buyer other houses in more desirable surroundings, the buyer is more inclined to consider the latter houses for purchase, because the buyer fears investing in a house where his or her quality of life will be harmed. If you want to change the minds of others, exaggerate current conditions as being abysmal and describe how accepting your recommendations would be transformational.
- Communicating to both regions of the brain. Charismatic leaders embrace Dutton’s idea of speaking with confidence and assurance, but go one-step further. These leaders speak with passion and commitment that serves as a means of rattling the minds of others. Have you ever thought something to be true, but began questioning its validity once someone provided contrary facts and spoke with extreme passion? It was not just an issue of not holding steadfast to your belief; it was the feeling of uncertainty that came about through someone showing more enthusiasm in conveying the idea. By demonstrating steel determination, passion, and confidence, you become more influential and persuasive.
- Encouraging others to do small acts. Dr. Robert B. Cialdini is his book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion discussed the impact of getting people to commit to small acts as a means of influencing behavior. The basis of Cialdini's concept stems from the notion that if people begin acting on behalf of another person through small acts, the need to be seen as consistent encourages a level of commitment on people's part. As charismatic leaders assign tasks to would-be converts and through small acts, the casual observer becomes a full-fledged zealot to the mission of the leader. To change the minds of others, create opportunities for participation. There is an old adage that people support what they help create.
It is often said that the most challenging thing to change is a made-up mind. By using the strategies of charismatic leaders, not only can you change minds, but lead innovation within your police department.
Excerpts from The A-Team: How to Be a Top Police Department in Recruiting, Training & Retaining Employees.
To read more on positively influencing your police department, visit: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HFZO2V6
Dutton, K. (2011). Split-second persuasion: The ancient art and new science of changing minds. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.