4.4.3 Persuading Others to Behave Acceptably

Persuading others to behave acceptably is sometimes necessary, because peaceful pluralism depends upon people not offending each other.

Socially acceptable behaviour, as described in the previous section (4.4.2), evolves naturally as people interact:

●  People unconsciously affect each other’s behaviour by example, as described in a Psychology Today article on conformity:

“Conformity is the tendency for an individual to align their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors with those of the people around them. Conformity can take the form of overt social pressure or subtler, unconscious influence. Regardless of its form, it can be a powerful force—able to change how large groups behave, to start or end conflicts, and much more.”

●  It might be constructive to point out to someone else how one is affected by their behaviour.

●  A person can intervene, to ask someone to behave differently. This isn’t always easy, as numerous Internet posts on the subject point out.  For example, a Harvard Business Review article, How to Persuade People to Change Their Behavior, makes some suggestions:

“Directives have been a standard approach to changing public behavior for decades. But they often fail because people hate being told what to do. There are three ways to overcome this obstacle. First, highlight a gap between their thoughts and action, or the advice they would give others and what they do themselves; they will want to reconcile the two. Second, pose questions, rather than making statements; when you force them to figure out their own feelings or opinions on the issue, it is more likely to drive action. Finally, ask for less; start with small requests and ramp up to big ones.”

●  Social groups strongly influence the behaviour of their members (4.3.2).

●  If people discuss what is and is not socially acceptable, they can agree to adjust their expectations of each other.

These interpersonal influences constitute a form of governance.  With goodwill, it is self-sustaining without calling upon any other form of authority.

Some complications in persuading others to behave acceptably are reviewed in the following sub-sections:

●  In some circumstances people will resist requests from their fellow citizens ( Peer pressure within a close-knit group can be effective, but with strangers it is necessary to be very careful.

●  A justification is needed if one ethnic group is asking another to modify its behaviour ( Groups are sensitive about their customs, so negotiations need to take care not to be confrontational.



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This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/443b.htm