Authority is persuasive. Get over it.

Persuasion is getting people to say “yes,” and if somebody tells you to “get out of your car with your hands up,” are you more likely to listen to a police officer or a bank teller?

As progressives, we may not like this power of authority, but it’s a reality,  as Robert Cialdini explains in “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.”

Thankfully, there are many sources of authority. The police officer has one type, but there’s also moral authority, like that exhibited by religious leaders and humanitarians. There’s knowledge authority, which is seen in scientists and researchers.

Our job is to recognize what types of authority are available to us and how we can use them with integrity.

Integrity and effectiveness.

Cialdini tells us that titles, clothes, and trappings are three cues that help people recognize and respond to authority. The title “doctor.” The priests’ robe and collar. The attourney’s Brooks Brothers suit. These are all cues that we use to identify people in positions of authority.

What does this mean? If we’re using the moral authority of a pastor, she should wear her collar or other vestments. We should call her “reverend.” We should bring out all the cues that will let our audience know “hey, here’s someone with authority. Listen to her.”

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