How to Influence Group Behavior in a Practical Manner

As a leader of groups of people, you have the power to shape their behavior. How you use this power to guide the behavior of groups in a positive or negative direction is a moral question that you have to answer for yourself.

However, the methods and techniques that you can use to change the behavior of groups are not inherently good or bad. This article will teach you one simple way to influence the behavior of any group of people.


The Power of Competition

The main idea of this article is that you can use the natural desire of people to compete with each other to influence their behavior. Specifically, this article will focus on how you can use and manipulate the competitiveness of a select few members of a group to influence the rest of the group. In other words, this article can be summarized like this:

Create a clear distinction between a winning and a losing team / subgroup within the larger group that you want to influence to behave in a certain way.

To influence a group in one direction, you need to create a negative identity / subgroup that people in the group do not want to be associated with. For example, in society at large, most people do not want to belong to the lowest economic class. The behavior of society is partly influenced by the fear of becoming poor and miserable.

It is the worst-case scenarios that motivate us to go to school, find jobs, and sometimes restrain our more primal impulses. The technique of creating a losing team becomes more effective when our close ones also reinforce their aversion to being part of the losing group.

For instance, you may be strongly against consumer culture norms and the alleged marketing schemes involved around Valentine’s day. A significant other’s subscription to the belief that not getting a gift on Valentine’s day is a loss of some-sort will encourage you to act against your beliefs and purchase one for them.


Creating an Undesirable Subgroup Within Your Group

When you have a group in front of you to be influenced, ensure you pinpoint what people in that group fear becoming. It seems that the more detailed the undesirable behavior is, the easier it is to draw a clear line between those who act that certain way, and those who don’t.

Advertise the behaviors which you want to put a stop to as leading people into being associated with the subgroup they do not want to become a part of. Ensure the association of their behavior with the negative outcome is direct and clear. You will never force people to do what you explicitly want them to, so the next best thing is to entice, as accurately as possible, their desires to align with yours.

In a sense, your beliefs need to be believable and coherent enough for the group to adopt them. Connecting the undesired behaviors of a group to the subgroup nobody wants to be a part of is already a difficult task. Thereby, if your goals are unrealistic, your results will be underwhelming. If not obvious, your associations between certain behaviors and an undesirable subgroup need to be easy to provide evidence / reason for. 

Utilize this method of changing group behavior when there are group behaviors that can be clearly connected to a specific, undesirable subgroup of people within that group. In essence, you will be steering the behavior of any group you manage by allowing them to explore their own interests (or lack thereof) regarding who they do not want to become.

Think of your role in the process as simply one of educating, not providing guidance, pushing, or suggesting. Ensure you make your group members understand the association between what you deem to be their bad behaviors and who they actually don’t want to become.

Connect behaviors which you want to put a stop to with this undesirable subgroup with strong evidence and reason. Then advertise this connection to enforce understanding across the group as a whole. Place your trust in people’s competitive nature to drive the behavior change of the groups you lead once you’ve done your part in educating. People will compete in order to not become a part of the undesirable minority. They will do whatever it is that breaks their connections / similarities with the people they don’t want to become.



Your behavior whilst being cut-off in traffic may have been influenced by the many media portrayals of out-of-control, angry, and seemingly sad participants of road-rage. We would hate to see ourselves being identified as an angry, red-faced person yelling curse words as loud, and as creatively, as they can manage. When you do experience invitations for road-rage thereby, you may remind yourself to not become one of the many who lose control of their emotions.

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Disclaimer of Opinion: This article is presented only as opinion. It does not make any scientific, factual, or legal claims. Please critically analyze all claims made and independently decide on its validity.