Ethical Influence

There is little use in being ethical if you are unable to influence the thoughts and actions of others. It is one thing to know right from wrong and quite another to act effectively on this knowledge. To put your ethics to work, you have to be able to influence others to do the right thing. Ethics is not a warm, fuzzy feeling that makes you feel good about yourself. It is a commitment to doing your best to make the right thing happen. When you are trying to convince others to follow an ethical path, you cannot use the tools of trickery so often taught in courses on influence. You have to be both effective and ethical in how you get others to agree on an ethical course of action. Here are some powerful tools of ethical influence.

Act First.

Don’t wait for others to show they are committed to doing the right things to make your own commitment clear. One company to which I consult adopted a strict but much ignored policy prohibiting gifts from vendors. One day, the COO of the company received a package from a vendor that contained a gold plaited St. Andrew’s putter built specifically for him. He really wanted to keep it. But he handed it to his administrative assistant with instructions to return the putter to the vendor along with a note about the company’s gift policy. News of his action moved through the company like wildfire, and the gift policy was suddenly real.

Find Common Ground.

When you are trying to convince others to act ethically, appeal to their principles before appealing to your own. When you are trying to convince someone to take an ethical course of action, there is a natural tendency on the part of others to see you as trying to force your principles on them. But if you explain why you want to take the course of action in terms of their ethical principles, you start out from a position of respect “I know you believe in giving everyone a fair chance so can we agree …” There is often surprisingly little disagreement at the level of basic ethical principles, so reasoning from the principles of others is often fairly easy.