The Negotiator Magazine

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One way we decide what is correct is to find out what others think is correct. Why do you think television producers use canned laughter to invite our laughter? We tend to assume an action is more right if others are doing it. (What parent of a teenager has not heard social proof as a persuasive tactic?) Social proof is most effective with people who feel uncertain in a given situation or who lack self- confidence.

Persuasive Actions

When attempting to persuade, you may wish to interject accounts of others' positive reactions to the suggested action. This is especially effective if the people cited are those that the person perceives as similar to self in some way.

In addition, you can use the power of positive people on your team to help you influence others to choose helpful and constructive behavior.


Research data suggest that people will go to almost any lengths on the command of a perceived authority. In the classic Milgram study, for instance, normally kind people continued to give electric shocks to (purported) victims, on the instructions of the authority figure, the researcher. (Just illustrative, not recommended!)

Cohen and Davis further documented this phenomenon in their book: "Medication Errors: Causes and Prevention." They cited a Harvard University study that found that 10 percent of all cardiac arrests in hospital are because of medication errors. They suggested that this problem is largely caused from reluctance of other healthcare givers to challenge the "boss" (the doctor).

I was amused by the case of the "rectal earache" that Cohen and Davis described. A physician had ordered ear drops for an infection in a patient's right ear. He abbreviated "right ear" as "place in R ear." Though the rectal treatment of an earache made no sense, the duty nurse promptly put the prescribed number of drops into the patient's bottom. (Also not recommended.)

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