Monday, May 30, 2005


Rob and his readers have been discussing “changing minds“ and “influence” at Dime Store Guru for about a week now. It has been a good discussion, but I feel the part of the discussion about “influence” has raised many more issues. My post today will be based on the last comment I left for Rob and his readers and I will add to it in the next few days.

“Influence” is not the same as “persuasion”. Minds are changed as a result of persuasive arguments and persuasive people. Minds can also be changed as a result of positive and/or negative experiences. However, for someone to be influential, a person needs to be able to change the behavior of others, not just the thinking of others.

Some people are influential without being very persuasive. President Bush can deliver an inspirational speech, but he doesn’t seem to be very persuasive when he articulates or fails to articulate his rationale for a government policy. However, President Bush has a record of influence because of the way he attained and wielded his political power. Rush Limbaugh doesn’t seem to be particularly persuasive to me, but he has influence as a result of the power he has acquired that is derived from the size of his radio audience. Our bosses and our spouses wield influence over our lives whether or not they are persuasive in their reasoning and arguments. Neither Madonna nor Tom Cruise are the least bit persuasive, but both of them have been influential as a result of their celebrity status.

Other people are persuasive without being very influential. Alan Keyes is extremely persuasive. I would challenge anyone to attend one of his speeches without being persuaded to a different way of thinking. However, Alan Keyes does not have a record of influence beyond a small sphere because he has never attained a position or the status necessary to wield influential power.

Therefore, I would describe “power” as the ability to change behavior without necessarily changing minds, “persuasion” as the ability to change minds without necessarily changing behavior, and “influence” somewhere in-between the “power” that doesn’t change minds and the “persuasion” that doesn‘t change behavior.


Teresa said...

Very interesting way of looking at it.

Teresa said...

Hey David, I am posting, sort of in response to your "political, influence" thing. I'm linking directly to your post.

pete porter said...

I see a flaw in your reasoning. "As a man thinketh, so is he". If a man changes his mind he also changes in behavior. Wouldn't you call that infulence? This how-ever doesn't make him more charsmatic, or infulencial with other people. For that it would take passion about what one now believes as a result of the changed mind. hmm.
Be Blessed,

David M. Smith said...

Hi Pete,

That’s fair. I agree with you. Most of the time, changed thinking will change behavior. I have more to say, so I thought an initial post that clarified a few terms was in order before I moved on. It is also fair to say that all the power in the world can not make a determined adversary change their behavior.

Phil Dillon, Prairie Apologist said...


Thanks for your kind comments on the essay I posted today.

I also believe, like you, that there is a real difference between persuasion and influence. At first blush it may seem a subtle difference, but I think it's the difference between willing to intellectualize ideas vs. being willing to live and act according to ideas and principles.

A really good post.

I'll be back.

David M. Smith said...

Hi Phil,

Thanks for visiting and leaving a good comment.

In the spirit of this contrarian site, you have countered my main point. I have been trying to say that persuasion is better than influence, because persuasion is not manipulative. Sometimes influence accomplishes what pure persuasion can’t accomplish, but my main concern is the way people allow others to manipulate their thoughts and their actions, even when it is done for good purposes.

I love to be challenged, especially from someone as thoughtful as you.