We live in an environment dense with influence attempts. A large portion of the population makes a living simply getting others to comply with their requests. Conservative estimates suggest that a person will receive up to 400 persuasive appeals from marketers alone in the course of a single day. Whether a manager encouraging productivity, a policeman directing traffic, a salesperson closing a sale, or a president telling us we need to spend more money on social programs-- each of us is subjected to an uncountable number of influence attempts each day.
Don't believe me yet? OK, let's focus on just the mass media, a major contender for your attention, time, and most profitably, your inevitable compliance. Each year, the average American spends 1550 hours of TV, listens to 1160 hours of radio, and spends 290 hours reading newspapers and magazines. If you watch the normal amount of TV, each day you'll have seen 100 TV ads.
If your job were to simply do the average amount of watching, listening, and reading of the mass media, you'd be at it 8 hours a day, 7 days a week, 375 days a year! (No, that's not a misprint--you couldn't get it done in a year at this pace. You'd have to work overtime.)
And that doesn't even include the time you spend interfacing with people at work. It has been estimated, for instance, that general managers spend upward of 80% of their time in verbal communication--most of it attempting to cajole or persuade fellow employees. Don't forget your spouse, your children, your neighbors, strangers, and countless others you meet in the course of an average day-- all of whom want you to do something and are going to try to get you to do it. (Do you feel exhausted?)
From my vantage point, society is a massive group of people influencing, persuading, requesting, demanding, cajoling, exhorting, inveigling, and otherwise manipulating each other to further their ends.
We call it society because we persuade instead of physically coerce. Imagine if each influence attempt were replaced with coercion--the store owner whacking you across the knees if you didn't purchase that shirt, your boss punching you in the stomach to make you work harder, the policeman simply shooting you in the back for doing 45 mph in a 35 mph zone. After the typical day, you'd be a physical wreck. Persuasion, on the other hand, makes society work smoothly--while physical coercion grinds it to a halt. Successful persuasion makes physical coercion unnecessary--interpersonally and internationally. Thus society benefits from persuasion.
And those who know how to persuade, benefit the most from society.
The performer? Frank Sinatra!
The above examples demonstrate a few situations in which a knowledge of social influence can make the difference between success and failure.
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