How to Influence Like Marlon Brando

Despite being one of Hollywood’s most popular leading men for numerous decades, Marlon Brando had an uncanny ability to surprise his interviewers – as well as listeners – with his introspective and humble ways of speaking. Living up to, and exceeding, the expectations he carried with him is a difficult thing to do. People idolize and respect Hollywood superstars before they begin speaking and showing their true colors. Being able to live up to those expectations as well as provide substance and perhaps some lessons along the way is an ability that one should study and implement for themselves.

This article will highlight three influential traits which Marlon Brando exhibited in the interviews he conducted. Whether these traits of his were of conscious doing or subconscious habit is unknown. However, we can all take some notes from him in how to influence those around us. In particular, how to live up to expectations by shining a light on traits of ours others did not expect us having.


Downplay Your Importance

On your quest for continuous improvement you’ll find yourself becoming an authority figure within your area(s) of focus. People will listen to you for potential lessons and advice. While wielding authoritative power, it becomes important to downplay the importance that you hold. The act of downplaying your importance will encourage others to question the information that you present and challenge you when you are wrong.

The weakness in holding absolute power in any facet of life is the slowing of your improvement. The people around you will be hesitant to comment on your mistakes and will shy away from voicing their concerns about your work. This not only will limit your personal growth, but will put anything you’re responsible for at risk. Whether it is a country, a company, or your own family, the entities you lead must not be led by wielding power absolutely.

Marlon Brando voices the need for others to criticize, question, and interrupt him in the video below (watch for 1 minute). In this case the conversation is of political nature, however, he has a habit of downplaying his importance even in conversations about the art of acting.

Downplaying your importance in the domains you’ve mastered will force you to stay sharp. It will encourage others to question you when they perceive you to make mistakes and thereby serve to improve your way of presenting information. Though it may be painful for your pride to be corrected by others who know less than yourself about a particular subject, you’ll develop a habit of auditing yourself for accuracy in the truth which you put out.


Speak the Details Others Are Thinking but Aren’t Willing to Say

In order for others to perceive you as interesting, it helps to be detail-oriented. Noticing the details that others miss and presenting those details to them in an educational form will garner you respect as well as liking. We’ve written about how to not seem boring to others, and you should have a look if you are interested in the subject.

Being detail-oriented in all facets of life also helps with disarming confrontational people around you. When in a verbal dispute, the person who can identify and present details in a composed format will give off an impression that they are knowledgeable in the subject about which they’re speaking. 

In the following video (watch in full), Marlon Brando and Dick Cavett engage in a disagreement about whether all humans can be labelled as actors. By the end of the video, Marlon Brando has captured the audience’s approval through “undressing” Dick Cavett’s talk-show host persona. Brando presents his argument by tapping into the details of what’s in front, and using these truths to empower his words.

Being in tune with the details of what’s around you will help you navigate out of the corners which others try to trap you in. Those who are in tune with all the details around them prove to be more influential in their words than those who speak with little substance backing their points. Those who speak the details which others have not yet spoken will be perceived as not only brave but intelligent as well.


Make Your Compliments Detailed and Move On From Them Quickly

Compliments are tricky to get right. They can either serve to increase someone’s liking for you or deter them further away. The secret to compliments is not in the content of the compliment, but rather in it’s method of delivery. To continue with the notion of being detail-oriented from above, your compliments will also benefit from being dressed with detail.

Generic compliments are perceived as lazy and flattering rather than genuine. They give of a perception that you want something in return by voicing them. This perception serves to drive people away from you rather than building up a liking towards you by way of your kind words.

Below is a video (watch for 2 minutes) of Brando complimenting a woman’s tendency to talk out of one side of her mouth. This is a detailed observation to make about somebody who you’ve just met, and somewhat catches her off guard. The woman in question takes the compliment well, and Brando moves on with the conversation quickly.

The act of moving on from the focus of the compliment quickly serves to limit awkwardness. Once you’ve voiced a compliment and it has been heard by the receiver, there is no need to sulk in the reward. You should move on at once and not allow to be misunderstood in your intentions.

Make your compliments detailed and short-lived. This way they will seem person, genuine, and remain memorable.

Disclaimer of Opinion: This article is presented only as opinion. It does not make any scientific, factual, or legal claims in any way.