How You Influence Others Shows Them How You Think

Last month I introduced the idea of iceberg thought versus pyramid thinking to help leaders understand how to reduce stress and use open-mindedness.

They tap into their neurotic tendencies to act out of distress. They are very concerned about how others perceive them, and they often work out of despair, fear, shame, or dysregulation.

Pyramid thinkers are open-minded. They focus on opportunities and insights. They don’t seem to be a negative person. Instead, they are open to new experiences and are mindful of their impact on others. Pyramid thinkers are creative leaders who outperform those who seek to control.

Opower, a company that relies on the research of Robert Cialdini (a retired Arizona State University professor) to help people reduce their energy consumption, was where I worked for a short time a decade ago. Opower is now part of Oracle. Cialdini has outlined six principles in his book Influence: Science and Practice. These principles can be used to influence other people’s behavior. Three are iceberg motivations, which aim to control others: social proof, authority, and scarcity. Three pyramid motivators aim to empower others, and they are commitment and consistency as well as liking and autonomy.

Consider how you will help your team in 2022. Let’s look at these differences and decide how to influence our team.

Iceberg Influencers


The first and most obvious approach to influence (and the most obvious) is authorized. We do as they tell us when we believe we have power over others. Another way to describe it? Bullying. The authority we are given restricts our autonomy. This creates stress and can lead to dysregulation in large numbers of people. It’s like being asked to do something in a boss’s office and not knowing how, so you become scared and attempt to figure it out yourself. This means that when pressure is applied to us by someone in authority, it adds stress to our system. So now, our brains are working on two projects to regulate our bodies and minds and ensure our ability to complete the tasks we have been given. We forget to re-regulate our bodies and focus on the .job instead. This can lead us to panicked results. Fear is what I associate with authority.

Social proof

Social norms are what define shame and tell us how we should conform. As demonstrated by Bob Cialdini’s work and that of his colleague Professor Wes Schultz (both advisors to Opower during the time I was there), they are very influential. Shultz conducted door hanger research that found that shaming people (by telling them people like them use less energy than them) is more effective in reducing energy consumption than messages about financial savings or environmental concerns. This approach is effective in the short term, but consumers tend to disregard the activities of their neighbors as they age and new electronics become available that use more power.


We want what is not available. Scarce information means information that is kept secret or compartmentalized, so it is not available to people who may benefit. It uses fear and sometimes sabotages to prevent others from doing the right thing. It can also manifest as gossip when there isn’t enough information. Fear (including FOMO, or the fear of missing information) can hinder efficiency, collaboration, and growth.

The icebergs that include social proof, authority, scarcity, and scarcity are not different from the ones I introduced last week.

Pyramid Influencers

Let’s now get to the good news. Three influencers use the same principles of the pyramid to reach the same goals in a more positive, productive manner.


Simply put, do the things you promise. Because it allows empowerment, it is the antithesis of authority. Instead of telling team members what they should do, servant leaders help them decide (often in a group). It is their commitment to the team. Their commitment to this objective and their willingness to work hard will help them achieve it. Through consistency and dedication, we can gain new insights. The individual is responsible for their performance and development. Leaders must engage their followers in a way that challenges them and supports them to achieve their goals.


A person is referred to as a “liking” when they do something because they like it and not because of social proof or conformity. Because I want him, I will get a coffee for my friend while getting one for me. I don’t give my friend a coffee because it’s socially acceptable (like interns or secretaries used to do) or because I expect him (reciprocity) to do so. Actual liking, much like Dale Carnegie might put it, comes from being kind and supportive, seeing and hearing one another, and collaborating. It increases trust and reduces stress by releasing oxytocin. The neurochemical that promotes bonding also helps to boost confidence. You will experience improved communication and performance. You catch more insects with honey than vinegar, as the old saying goes.


Reciprocity involves equity. It is about recognizing the give-and-take. Reciprocity is about sharing and balance. It’s the antithesis of scarcity. Information is kept private. Exchange leads to transparency. Transparency builds trust in leaders. Trust builds respect. An organization that values reciprocity encourages team members to share their work and help one another. This is similar to Agile development principles, which are very popular in today’s corporate world. This is how the team can become more independent and have the wisdom and courage to achieve their goals.

The Power of the Pyramid

To be a pyramid thinker, you must change how you lead. Try to build people instead of keeping them down. It means using your strengths and not trying to control others. If you accept the power of the pyramid, your stress levels will drop, and productivity will increase. Isn’t this what all of you are seeking these days?ff

- Advertisement -
Avatar photo
Samatha Vale
Samatha a senior writer for HC's entertainment team. She is an entreprenuer, mother and an excellent writer. She's also an avid reader, music enthusiast and all around inquisitive person - which is just a nice way of saying she's nosy.

Latest articles

Related articles