There is a line between the effective ethical persuader and the con man. The con man’s influence efforts are characterised by two things: malice and misinformation. Ethical persuaders take the long view, they work to develop trusting relationships that set the stage for later influence.
While it is not at all clear whether historically Castro’s rise could have been avoided it’s useful to consider that certain targets of influence and certain contexts favour bold risk-taking and potentially destructive leaders.
Awareness of this fact may be useful in helping opponents rally support against such leaders, preventing them from using influence tactics to gain too much power, which they will be likely to abuse.
It’s worth reminding that the world is not often as black and white as we might like it to be. The dark triad exists along a continuum as does the ethicality of any particular influence effort.
Certainly we can agree that using your likability to influence voters to endorse a traffic intersection redesign that saves lives is good and surely agree that using blatant lies drawn from a machiavellian desire to cheat is bad.
Just an omission
What about the sales pitch that involves no overt lie, just an omission of some details to help structure the most compelling argument and get the sale? I recently bought a piece of technology that has three features I like and I actually told the sales rep about each of them and why I wanted them.
The sales rep knew me and he knew what other technology I owned, he knew that one of those features would not work with my technology set up, but he failed to mention that fact. I learned it for myself less than an hour later and here we enter the gray between the black and white.
The salesperson’s omission help get that sale but it has reduced my trust in him and in that store. As we get further into the course I’m not going to dig into the philosophical issues would help us explore the boundaries the good and bad, but I will take a particular stance as it relates to influence and ethics.
I believe there is a line between the effective ethical persuader and the the con man’s influence efforts are characterised by two things: malice and misinformation. This captures both motives, desire to win it others expense and method, an outcome pursued at any cost.
The ethical persuader
The ethical persuader will have both a socially beneficial motive and ethical approach that involves accurate information. She will strive to accomplish goals and benefit from them just herself and do so in a way that’s honest.
Some of the tools that she uses may, in other ways, look the same the con man, but the difference in motive and the willingness to use accurate information must be present for influence to be ethical.
Another important difference between an ethical persuader and a con artist is their perspective: con artists focus on the here and now no and they’ll use any tactic at their disposal to get their way right away.
Ethical persuaders take the long view, they work to develop trusting relationships that set the stage for later influence.