What Is Negative Infuence? How Can You Protect Yourself From It?

by Dr. Rick Kirschner on March 5, 2012

Insider's Guide To The Art of PersuasionLast week, I wrote about influence, and the idea was that you could use it to get good results with people who trust you.  But there is such a thing as a negative influence, and I suppose you can’t have one without the other.

What is a negative influence?   That’s when you are persuaded or moved to act against your own interests, or you persuade others to act against their interests.  This kind of influence does not require trust.   It does, however, require acceptance and acquiescence, through the surrendering of personal responsibility.

It happens in a variety of ways.  For example, peer pressure creates this kind of influence.  Have you ever noticed how people take on at least some of the characteristics of the people with whom they spend the most time?   Any time you go along with the crowd without considering the consequences, you run the risk of negative influence.  When you try to gain some advantage by spending your time with people who don’t care about you and want to use you for their own ends, you run the risk of negative influence.

Negative influence can also insert itself into your life when you limit the scope of your input.  In this age of information, with radio stations, internet stations, TV stations, specialized magazines, newspapers and websites that promote a single point of view, people marginalize themselves and surrender important options as they watch, listen and read only that which supports their limited, and therefore limiting, views and opinions.  In the dawning years of television and radio, advertisers, hosts and personalities admonished their audience with the classic “DON’T TOUCH THAT DIAL!”

When your mind is set on comfort and agreement without challenge, eventually you become enthralled to your chosen mental environment.   The mind narrows, positions harden, society becomes polarized, and important information goes unnoticed because it exists outside the limited domain.  If your intent is to gain leverage and natural influence, then narrowing your mind is foolish and dangerous.

I tell my students to TOUCH THE DIAL!  Change the station; read, watch or listen to something that you disagree with, and challenge your views in order to gain access to information that exists outside of your comfort zone.  In this way you can expand the scope of your input, and bring into your awareness other options, other interpretations and possibilities that provide you with what you need to better understand your world and give you sufficient information to influence it.

Ever been negatively influenced to act against your own interests?  Tell me about it!  Your comments are welcome.

Be well,


GET THE GUIDE!  The Insider’s Guide to the Art of Persuasion is now available as a digital download of MP3s here. 

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