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9 (Friendly) Ways To Make People Security Conscious

By Peter Purton in · Experts · May 3, 2017
In this second of three posts on creating a security minded culture, we look at the principles of successful persuasion and how a friendly approach is best.

Despite investing on an unprecedented scale in technologies designed to prevent cyber crime, organizations are noticing that the incidence of successful data breaches is still growing. The solution to this problem could be to concentrate less on the machine and more on the human.

Humans, however, are notoriously difficult to program, so how do you get them to do the right things? Here are some tips.

1.  Suggest; don’t dictate. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie is one of the first best-selling self-help books ever published. In it he points out that issuing orders (or a list of rules that must be followed) may be the worst way to change behavior for the better. No one likes to take orders. Instead, he recommends offering suggestions. Or even asking the appropriate questions rather than giving orders. This will boost others confidence and allow them to learn quickly from their mistakes.

2.  Avoid embarrassment. Above all, make sure the person you are trying to influence has a route to saving face. Embarrassing someone in public, or undermining their dignity is a sure-fire way of lessening the chances of getting them to do what you want. Human nature does not like to admit fault. When people are criticized or humiliated, they rarely respond well and will often become defensive and resent their critic. To handle people well, never criticize, condemn or complain because it will never result in the behavior we desire.

3.  Rub a few backs. In his highly influential series of books on the psychology of influence Robert Cialdini, professor of psychology at Arizona State University, identifies reciprocity as a key to influencing people. We feel indebted to those who do something for us, he says. Give a positive experience to people and they will want to give you something in return, he says.

So before approaching people you want to influence ask yourself what they want, and how you could help them get it. If you can find something where you can be genuinely helpful to them, they are much more likely to take up your suggestions.

4.  Aim for commitment. Another good idea, says Cialdini is to get people to commit to your idea or goal. People do not like to back out of deals. We are much more likely to follow through on something we have committed to because not doing so would give rise to undesirable negative self images. The commitment can be oral or in writing. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter for the latest in Wi-Fi, IoT, and networking.

5.  Highlight positive examples. Social proof is a key part of human nature, says Cialdini. When people are uncertain about a course of action, they tend to look to those around them. Make colleagues aware of what others are doing to reinforce their belief that they are doing the right thing. Laugh tracks on comedy shows are an example of this kind of technique, he says. 

6.  Know when to back off. Travis Bradberry, author of books on emotional intelligence and leadership, and cofounder of Talentsmart, a company specializing in emotional intelligence testing and training, says one of the keys to successful persuasion is to not be pushy and to know when to step back. Subtlety is what wins people over in the long run, he adds, so he advises focusing on being confident but calm and not being afraid to back off and give time for a new idea or suggestion to sink in.

7.  Prepare. A little preparation goes a long way toward saying what you wanted to say and having a conversation achieve its intended impact, says Bradberry. But don't prepare a speech; develop an understanding of what the focus of a conversation needs to be in order for people to hear the message. Your communication will be more persuasive and on point when you prepare your intent ahead of time. 

8.  Be a listener. Listening is an essential component of good communication, says Bradberry. If you want to influence people, spend more time listening than talking, he recommends. And do not answer questions with questions or finish other people's sentences for them. Above all, do not interrupt.

9.  Communicate with clarity. Finally, as Jason Nazaar, cofounder of Docstoc, a provider of resources to start-ups and small businesses, points out, clarity is king. If you can't explain your concept or point of view to eighth graders, in such a way that such that they could explain it on to an adult, it's too complicated. The art of persuasion lies in simplifying something down to its core, and communicating to others what they really care about.

In the third and final post of the three-part series on creating a security-conscious culture, we will sample more specific expert advice about the best ways to create a security conscious organizational culture.

Peter Purton is a London-based writer and editor, specializing in explaining the impact on business of innovations in information and communication technologies.