!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: Resisting Influence

Friday, May 02, 2008

Resisting Influence

Twenty pointers from Philip Zimbardo, best known for the Stanford Prison Experiment he conducted in 1971, and Cindy X. Wang (somewhat edited):
  1. Do not maintain an illusion of “personal invulnerability.” If succumbing to malign influence can happen to somebody else, it can happen to you.

  2. Be modest in your self-estimates. It is better to perceive yourself as vulnerable and to take necessary precautions to protect yourself from unhealthy influence.

  3. Engage in life as fully as possible, yet be mindful and aware, attuned to the moment, and prepared to disengage and think critically when necessary. People are generally good and trustworthy, but some make their careers as “influence professionals” who try to get you to do what they want.

  4. Be aware of Cialdini’s contexts and principles of compliance; when you sense you are operating on one of the principles, look to the relevant context being manipulated on you and pull back; where the context is obvious, expect the principle to be activated.

  5. Be ready to say the three most difficult phrases in the world: “I was wrong”, “I made a mistake”, and “I’ve changed my mind.” ... Dissonance and consistency go limp in the face of such self-honesty.

  6. Separate your ego from your actions; maintain a sense of positive self-esteem that is independent from your occasional failures and stupid actions. Laugh at yourself once a day. (This is especially important for shy people.)

  7. Separate messenger from message in your mind. Process each systematically, not heuristically. Be aware of being tired, a “cognitive miser,” wanting simple short cuts, giving in to non-verbal tricks. There are no free lunches and no quick and dirty paths to anything worthwhile — sloth and greed breed gullibility.

  8. Insist on a second opinion, e.g., to obtain a delay in signing a contract so you can think about it away from the situation; never immediately sign on the dotted line.

  9. Develop "discrepancy detectors," i.e., alerting mental and intuition systems that stem from vague feelings of something wrong, something in the situation or the story you are being handed that does not stand up to analysis.

  10. Try playing devil’s advocate. Be the deviant in order to assess the reactions against you and your devil's advocate position, when the influence agent says s/he is only doing X for your good.

  11. Avoid "total situations" (e.g., cults) where you lose contact with your social support and informational networks. You do not want all your reinforcers to come from a new source.

  12. In all authority confrontations: be polite, individuate yourself and the other. Describe the problem objectively; do not get emotional. State clearly the remedy sought, and the positive consequences expected. Reserve threats and elaboration of the costs to the other person and/or their organization as a last resort.

  13. When you are being challenged in an encounter with authority, ask for identification, insistently, if necessary. Get the person’s name and write it down, along with all details concerning the encounter.

  14. Never allow yourself to be cut off emotionally from your familiar and trusted reference groups of family, friends, neighbors, co-workers. Do not accept putdowns against them.

  15. Remember that all ideologies are just words — abstractions used for particular political, social, and economic purposes. Be wary of taking actions proposed as necessary to sustain an ideology. Always question if the means justify the ends, and suggest alternatives.

  16. Think hard before putting abstract principles before real people when someone advises you to act in specific ways against what the people in question represent.

  17. Trust your intuition when you sense you are becoming a target of influence. Put up your counter-arguing mentality, and dig down for sources for resistance.

  18. Rules are abstractions for controlling behavior and eliciting compliance and conformity. Challenge them when necessary: Ask, Who made the rule? What purpose does it serve? Who maintains it? Does it make sense in this specific situation? What happens if you violate it? Insist that the rule be made explicit so it cannot be modified and altered over time to suit the influence agent.

  19. When developing causal attributions for unusual behavior — yours or that of others — never rush to the dispositional view ("this person is the type to do this kind of thing"). Always start by considering possible situational forces and variables that are likely the true causal agent, and seek to highlight them and to change them where possible.

  20. Having studied Dr. Zimbardo's principles for resisting undue influence, you can use him as an aid to your conscience, your personal Jiminy Cricket sitting on your shoulder and reminding you, Stay cool, confident, collected.

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