Winning Others To Your Way of Thinking
Estimated Lesson Time: 5 minutes
Back in the 1930’s, to the detriment of mankind, a man named Adolf Hitler was able to convince millions of people that his conduct was “in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator.” Several years earlier, a man called Mahatma Gandhi helped free the Indian people from British rule through nonviolent resistance. What did these two men on complete opposite sides of the moral spectrum have in common? They were both masters of winning others to their way of thinking.
There are five general methods to win others to your way of thinking: influence, persuasion, mental conditioning, manipulation, and brainwashing. All are equally powerful, but the last two are negative and can have serious repercussions. It is important to our success that we learn how to influence and persuade effectively, but it is equally important to our well-being that we learn how to recognize manipulation and brainwashing. Mental conditioning is considered neutral and can be positive or negative, depending on how it is used.
- Influence. To influence another is to sway or affect based on prestige, wealth, ability, knowledge or position. This is a skill possessed by all leaders and successful individuals in all walks of life. There are dozens of key techniques that are used to positively influence others, many of which are contained within this course. Positive influence is characterized by the intent to create a win-win situation. For example, “Her polite and friendly way with people made her a very positive influence on her children.”
- Persuasion. To persuade another is to induce a person to undertake a course of action or embrace a point of view by means of argument, reasoning, or entreaty. Persuasion is more assertive than influence but may prove more effective at times. Despite persuasion’s definition, argumentation should be avoided when persuading. Clear reasoning is the most effective form of persuasion for getting your points across. Open-minded individuals often will often say “convince me,” in which they are basically asking to be presented with facts and reasoning so that they too can share your belief.
- Mental conditioning. Mental conditioning is a technique one often uses on oneself to change a belief or create a feeling using repetition. Some common examples of this are prayer, mantras, and affirmations. Mental conditioning can also be used on others. The best-known example of this is advertising. Advertisers use mental conditioning to associate a positive feeling with their product. Through repeated exposure, our minds are conditioned to accept the association. Only through awareness can we resist this type of conditioning, but for the most part it is harmless. Do we really care if we feel excited about toilet paper? It is the positive associations with potentially destructive products that we must be careful of accepting.
- Manipulation. To manipulate another is to use shrewd or devious management, especially for one’s own advantage. Simply put, the main difference between influencing another and manipulating them is intent. Those who use manipulation do so only thinking about what they want, not about the wants of those they manipulate. It is not easy to detect when you are being manipulated. Once again, we must rely on our common sense to help us distinguish between influence and manipulation.
- Brainwashing. The dictionary defines brainwashing as “process of systematically, forcibly and intensively, indoctrinating a person to destroy or weaken his beliefs and ideas so that he becomes willing to accept different or opposite beliefs or ideas.” The key element to brainwashing is the creation of an environment where questioning, doubt, reason, creativity, thinking for oneself and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
There are other methods of winning others to your way of thinking that are not listed above like physical force (which only appears to work), hypnotism (which the other person has to be a willing participant), and the Jedi mind trick (which to my knowledge, has only been used a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away).
The ability to win others to your way of thinking is a key element of both leadership and success. There are just as many ways to do it wrong as there are to do it right. As a successful leader, use positive influence often and gentle persuasion when necessary. Use mental conditioning on yourself to abolish limiting beliefs or to instill empowering beliefs. Never use manipulation or brainwashing in an attempt to win others to your way of thinking and be aware when others attempt to use these techniques on you. Follow these suggestions, and you will possess the valuable skill of winning others to your way of thinking.
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Some discussion questions (some may not apply to this lesson):
- Have you implemented this idea in your life? How has it been working for you?
- Do you have any interesting stories related to this lesson? Do tell!
- What do you admire most about this person? (success biography days)