Children use consistency to cajole their parents.

Yet why is it so important to influencing?

Here red10s Sarah Barber explores why consistency matters to us, and how to use it at work.

Consistency and Fairness

According to Professor Robert Cialdini in his book “Influence: The Power of Persuasion”, consistency is one of the ways in which humans-beings are hard-wired to respond to persuasive arguments.

You can read about the other Cialdini’s rules here.

The consistency rule is:-

We are more likely to say “yes” when it would be consistent with previous decisions.

Why is an appeal to consistency so effective?

Perhaps because it is so closely related to the idea of fairness. The neuroscientist  David Rock has proposed a SCARF model which identifies 5 key domains that influence our behaviour in social situations because they activate visceral threat and reward responses. Fairness is one of these domains.

Perceived unfairness activates the insular cortex which is a region of the brain linked to emotions like disgust. We have seen these kinds of visceral responses from people in organisations when reward and promotion processes are seen as unfair. People feel hurt and angry which has a negative impact on both motivation and retention.

Idea #1 to help consistency work for you – Team Norms

We encourage teams to agree a set of good behavioural norms early in their journey towards high performance.

People are more likely to control their behaviour in order to be consistent with a norm that they have put in place up front. Norms also guard against unfairness as a set of rules allow teams to avoid treating people differently.

Idea #2 to help consistency work for you – Pilots

Anyone who has been involved in a change management programme will know how powerful it can be to first set up a pilot.

The pilot is easier to agree to than a full programme. Assuming the pilot is successful, the organisation is much more ready to accept the full programme because it is consistent with what they agreed to when the pilot was set up.

Idea #3 to help consistency work for you – Shorten Change Journeys

Whether you seek to change someone’s mind or change ways of working, you can increase your chance of success if you can shorten the change journey.

One way to do this is to introduce new ideas using familiar channels or platforms.

For example, we can reduce cognitive load by being consistent in our choice of virtual platform, allowing people to focus on the change rather than operating the technology.

Another way is to present the change journey as having already begun.

Nunes and Drèze describe this as the “endowed progress” effect. In one experiment, they presented one group with a car wash loyalty card which needed 8 stamps to win a free car wash. A second group were presented with a car wash loyalty card needing 10 stamps, but with 2 already stamped.

This reframed a task requiring eight steps into a task requiring 10 steps but with two steps already complete. They found that this increased the likelihood of task completion and decreased completion time.

In other words, if you are already on the path, it’s easier to move forward than to start something new.

Over to you…

Why not rediscover the consistency rule that you have known since childhood and increase your ability to influence successfully? We would love to hear how you get on.