Are Self-Validating People Easier or Harder to Influence?

How do you decide what to do? How do you determine how well you do things?

You either validate yourself or look to get that validation from others. That’s true for everyone. Shelle Rose Charvet applies this knowledge to the workplace and provides guidance on how to persuade both self-validating people and people who are more validated by others.

Read more to learn about this difference in people and how to make the most of it.

Self-Validating or Validated by Others

What Charvet calls the “Source” category refers to how people decide what to do and how they assess if they’re doing it well: They’re either self-validating or validated by others. Self-validating people want to work only if they believe they’re successfully doing something important. People who look to be validated by others like working only if someone like a boss or coworker tells them they’re doing a good job at something important.

Self-validating people make frequent judgments about their work and the work of others: For example, they might say, “My presentation at today’s meeting went well. Although I was a little less organized than Justin, my visual aids got my point across well.” In contrast, people validated by others defer to other people’s opinions when judging someone’s work: “I think I had a good presentation today. Justin told me he was impressed, and I saw Michelle nodding a lot.”

(Shortform note: In The Courage to Be Disliked, Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga argue that validating your own actions rather than deferring to the opinions of others is the key to happiness. They claim that because it’s impossible to perfectly fulfill everyone’s expectations of you, the only way to attain the self-esteem you need to be happy is to decide for yourself that your actions have value. For instance, if you frequently worry about what others will think before speaking up during meetings, you may want to instead make an effort to speak up whenever you have an idea that you think is valuable.)

Charvet notes that, because they’re so self-assured, persuading someone who is self-validating to change their mind can be a challenge. If you’re trying to influence them, make sure to give suggestions rather than instructions. For instance, you could say, “If you want your message to be as clear as possible, you may want to cut each of your presentation slides down to a couple of bullet points.” 

People validated by others are much easier to influence—just strongly assert what you believe to be true or cite the standards of others: “You should keep your slides more concise. Michelle always responds well to a focused presentation.”

Are Self-Validating People Really Harder to Persuade?

In Surrounded by Idiots, Thomas Erikson offers advice that contradicts Charvet’s. When trying to influence confident, self-validating people (what he terms the “Red” personality type), he recommends directly arguing your case and remaining steadfast in your opinion. Self-validating people will more readily respect your advice and consider its validity if they see you’re willing to fight for it.

Additionally, he contends that people who typically defer to the opinions of others (the “Green” type) are often more difficult to persuade if you’re trying to convince them to do something differently since they’re accustomed to gaining the approval of others by acting within an established status quo. Thus, you’ll often need to prepare a thorough logical argument to get them to change their behavior rather than assuming they’ll do whatever you say. If Charvet’s tactics aren’t working, you may want to experiment with Erikson’s instead.
Are Self-Validating People Easier or Harder to Influence?

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, and philosophy. A switch to audiobooks has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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