Friday, October 11, 2013

The Secret About Influence for An Immigrant

I have been reading a couple books on the subject of influence and unexpectedly I have made an amazing discovery: to be influential may be totally counterintuitive in different cultures. I see that particularly true for Persians living in the America.

Below are the specific examples I have found fascinating.
1) What may be considered being influential in the US, may be considered being nosy and even rude in Iran: asking people to tell you about their personal lives.
In The Art of Influence, there is a story about a bariesta that comes home with more tips in her pocket after a couple weeks of working at a cafe.  When inquired why, she claims that she had figured people out.  That people loved talking about themselves and one must just ask.  She explained that she asked the customers where they worked, how long their commute was, if they were married and had kids.
Well, ask the same string of questions in Iran and you either don't get any answer or get a question in response: why do you ask?
It is nosy and rude to ask people about their lives.  It is hard to trust one with that sort of information.
Amazing contrast!
2) What may be considered a commitment in the US, can be completely meaningless for an Iranian: asking people to provide a positive review on a product.
In the subject of dissonance and how it can be used to make commitment, I was thinking that it may not work in Iran. Iranians usually will tell people what they want to hear, not what is real in their hearts. They even offer it without you asking.  They complement you and your product even if they don't mean it.  It is called 'taarof'. Neither the customer nor the owner necessarily believe the complement.  It is just being "polite" and "nice".  So, I think endorsing a specific brand when asked by the owner doesn't necessarily generate commitment to support the brand in Iran, while it is more likely to do so in the US, especially when performed in written form.

PS: here are the books I read:
1) The Art of Influence by Chris Widener
2) Maximum Influence by Kurt W Mortensen

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