Influence 7: Liking

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likingRobert Cialdini’s last principle of persuasion is liking. Well, you probably already knew you were more likely to go along with someone you find congenial, and more likely to resist somebody you don’t take to – just on principle! And this is why Dale Carnegie linked the two ideas of winning friends and influencing people as part of the same process.

So, how do you get your choir to like you? Actually, for a full set of ideas on this, you could do worse than reading the Carnegie book – it’s a classic for a reason. But it’s worth mentioning a few points just for starters.

  1. Use people’s names. Cheap, simple way of making people feel more noticed.
  2. Eating and drinking together. This is a very primal form of social bonding, that probably goes way back to when we were still swinging in the trees. If you don’t want to have a tea break in the middle of your rehearsal, consider going to the pub with your singers afterwards. At the very least, indulge in mince pies and mulled wine with them after the Christmas concert.
  3. Listen while people talk about themselves. As a conductor, you get plenty of opportunity to get your voice heard during rehearsal; give others a turn at other times. It’s a surprisingly easy way to get a reputation as not only a nice person but also as an interesting conversationalist.

So far, so obvious. There are also some behaviours that choral conductors do as a matter of course that we might want to reconsider in this context.

  1. Sarcasm. There’s a certain style of humour that you often hear in rehearsal following fluffed entries, wrong notes or other brain farts on the part of singers. Sometimes it gets a good laugh, though not necessarily from the people who are getting things wrong. Think twice: sarcasm may be counter-productive.
  2. Scolding. Do you shout at your singers? How does that make them feel? You might be justified in having a go, but it might not be the most effective way to inveigle your choir into being as you’d like them to be.
  3. Impatience. Do your singers sometimes take an unreasonable amount of time to master simple bits of music? Do they look at you as if their wits have deserted them? Do you feel tempted, nay, impelled to chivvy them along? Well, again, think twice. If you work with human beings, you have to expect that periodically their brains will fall out. Making them feel bad about it doesn’t help, but it can make them like you less.

I had a colleague once who used to say ‘I don’t care if my students like me, I care if they learn’. At one level, this is absolutely the right attitude: what the people we work with achieve is far more important than their opinions of us. But we also need to recognise that people who feel warmly towards us are going to be easier to lead to that achievement.

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