Okay, I’m not really blaming your Mother. But when I talk to my classes on Sales and Integrated Marketing Communications strategy about how people are persuaded I always mention her. Well, not her specifically, but Mothers in general.
One of the lessons my Mother taught me—and I’m guessing yours did as well—is that we should stick to our word. If you tell someone you are going to do something, you should do it. Great advice if you want to be thought of as a truthful, reliable person. You can overdo it, however, when you internalize that rule. The result can be behavior and thinking that are too constrained by our past words and actions.
In his great book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, behavioral psychologist Robert Cialdini identifies and labels six “Weapons of Influence.” Among them is one he calls “Commitment and Consistency.” Cialdini says the essence of commitment and consistency is, “Once we have made a choice or taken a stand, we will encounter personal and interpersonal pressure to behave consistently with that commitment. Those pressures will cause us to behave in ways that justify our earlier decision.”
Cialdini offers some additional and more nuanced reasons as to how and why commitment and consistency works, but I use the shorthand: Cause my mother told me to keep my word. Of course, she also told me, “Don’t be stupid,” and that’s just what we are doing if we let our past actions be inappropriate constraint on how we approach the future. – Barrett Sydnor