Trust-Building is the Key to Positive Influence

by Dr. Rick Kirschner on May 24, 2010

All the flexibility and direction in the world won’t help your persuasion efforts if you lack trust.  But if a person has enough trust in you, they may quickly let go of their personal reality in favor of the one you offer.  Building trust is essential.  And how do you do that?  By blending.

All the other skills and strategies of positive persuasion depend on blending to be effective. And the good news is, you already know how to blend.  But if you don’t know how to do it on purpose, it’s likely to be the last thing you think of when you most need to do it!

I realize that saying you already know how to do it is a huge assumption.  So here’s a test.  Do you have at least one friend?  If you do, you know how to blend.  If you don’t, you’re about to find out what’s been missing in your life.

Since blending is such a powerful persuader, let us define terms.  Blending is the means by which you reduce differences between yourself and others.  Said another way, blending means that you send signals of similarity.  It’s what you do automatically with your friends when you share experiences.  It’s what happens when people share a vision or agree to a mission.  You’ve heard of it this way.  ‘Birds of a feather flock together.’   Fact is, we the people like people who are, in some way, like us (this is the affinity signal, mentioned elsewhere on this blog and in my books as one of the seven signals of persuasion that engage people emotionally).

Basic Rule

The irony of conflict is that everybody has more in common with everyone else than they have differences.  But instead of emphasizing the similarities in policies, plans and relations, the differences get all the attention.  The result is that everybody who fixates on differences winds up in the rejection zone, and nobody walks away happy.  Oh well.

Seek to persuade?  There’s a choice to be made here, and blending is the choice.  The basic rule of persuasion is this:  Nobody cooperates with anybody who seems to be against them.  You don’t.  I don’t.  That’s a good thing too, because it makes no sense to empower someone who doesn’t have your best interests at heart or in mind.

The key words in this rule of persuasion are ‘seems to be.’   You don’t have to be against someone for them to think that you are.  But in human relationships, though we might wish it were otherwise, there is simply no middle ground.  In every moment of every interaction, every person, and that includes you and me, first and foremost, looks and listens for an answer to one question.  “Are you with me or not?”  And if you’re not with them, or if you’re neutral, or if you are more focused on yourself than you are on them, or if you simply fail to send the signals of blending, you run the risk of coming across as against them.  That invokes the rule and your persuasion efforts are lost.

So learn this rule and learn it well.  Say it with me now: Nobody cooperates with anybody who seems to be against them.  Get it?  Got it?  Good!

How do we send signals of similarity to let people know we are on their side?  We find it through shared values, similar interests, and other evidence of commonality.  But telling people you’re with them is not enough. The signals of similarity get sent and responded to unconsciously through body posture, animation, facial expressions, voice volume and tempo, need-style, and lastly, through our words.

Are you with me?  You can let me know by commenting on this post!

Be well,


Previous post:

Next post: