, ,

We are known by the company we keep: to be associated with another may raise or lower the opinions of others. Therefore, one important means of persuading others is to be aware of, and manage our connections to others

At the height of his wealth and success, the financier Baron de Rothschild was petition for a loan by an acquaintance. Reputedly the great man replied, “I won’t give you a loan myself; but I will walk arm-in-arm with you across the floor the Stock Exchange, and you will soon have willing lenders to spare.” Apparently the baron was wise in more than matter of finance. He understood and intriguing fact with the psychology of impression management: It is possible to influence how we are viewed by managing information about the people and things to whihc we are merely connected.

Robert B. Cialdini, “Beyond Basking: Indirect Techniques of Image Management,” in Impression Management in the Organization, ed. Robert A. Giacalone and Paul Rosenfeld (Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., 1989), 45.

Cialdini then proceeds to offer 8 variations on this theme. First, we may wish to establish either a connection or distance from the “other”.  In these four instance, our connection is ambiguous, and thus we are seeking to making the connection — or lack thereof — clear. He labels these mechanisms as

Boasting: Proclaiming a Positive Link to a Favorable Other

Burying: Disclaiming a Positive Link to a Favorable Other

Blaring: Proclaiming a Negative Link to an Unfavorable Other

Blurring: Disclaiming a Negative Link to a Favorable Other

What of circumstances where we are unquestionably united to another, such as a business partner or family member? In these instances, we are not seeking to establish our tie to that person, but rather to effect the way the audience thinks about that person. These techniques he labels as

Burnishing: Enhancing the Favorable Features of a Positively Linked Other

(Our firm is the best!)

Boosting: Minimizing the Unfavorable Features of an Positively Linked Other
(my brother’s not that bad)

Blasting: Exaggerating the Unfavorable Features of Negatively Linked Other
(Yes, he doesn’t like me — but he’s a jerk.)

Belittling: Minimizing the Favorable Features of a Negatively Linked Other
(Sure, he doesn’t like me, but he’s not really that important)