Copyblogger, Brian Clark, tells this story about authority and then applies it to people seeking to build an online business:
A television reporter dresses up in a security guard’s uniform and sets up in front of a Las Vegas bank. He sticks a sign on the ATM embellished with a big gold badge and the following message:
“OUT OF ORDER — GIVE DEPOSITS TO GUARD ON DUTY.”
Bank customers start showing up. Each time, the fake guard smiles and asks if the customer wants to make a deposit or withdrawal.
This whole scenario is ridiculous, right? No bank would conduct business this way.
And yet, customer after customer handed over cash, checks, Social Security numbers, credit cards, account numbers, PIN codes… you name it. Out of 10 people, only one hesitated, but even he complied seconds later.
When the reporter revealed the deception and asked the flabbergasted victims why they handed him money and private information, they all gave pretty much the same answer:
“Because of the uniform. Because of the sign.”
In other words, they complied because he was perceived as authoritative and therefore, trustworthy.
Neuroscience reveals the somewhat frightening answer. Brain scans show that the decision-making parts of our brains often shut down when we encounter authoritative advice or direction.
That’s part of what makes authority so powerful. And why authority carries great responsibility.
When you’re looking to influence people and build a powerful business online, authority is the way to go. People respect other people who have authority, expertise, and impressive credentials just like they respect people in lab coats and police uniforms.
And they respect authority even more when you demonstrate it rather than simply claim it. More on that in a minute.
Simply put, authority makes you more important in the eyes of others… someone who should be listened to and treated better. And it’s not just people who operate this way.
Popular Copyblogger, Brian Clark, has created a new web site entitled Authority Rules for all his posts on this theme and they are also available on a PDF document from the same site.
Dr Geoff Pound
Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at)gmail.com on Facebook and Twitter.
Image: “Because of the uniform.”