The Four Layers of Influence


The biggest disappointment in life is to make an appeal to the highest level of consciousness or values in another individual, and discover non-existence of the same.

The Art of Influencing Others has been celebrated in realms of psychology, and covered enormous reams of paper, to establish theories of leadership, teaching, sales, change management and reforms. Yet, very little has been said about the extent to which the recipient opens up the self, to get influenced. A lot of effort is expended in creating content and plans to influence, without creating receptivity for the same.

1. The Superficial Layer


This is the outermost layer of consciousness, which just reacts at the first touch point. The emotion could be awe, admiration, appreciation, horror or repulsion.

An appeal to this layer can be used to trigger

  • Likes on Instagram and Facebook
  • Impulse buying
  • Immediate Consumption
  • Competitive indulgence
  • Quick show of hands on a controversial issue
  • Quick sign-up

There is no analysis or reflection involved, and the induced behaviour is not sustainable. The individual can withdraw consent, switch sides or change views.

2. The Reflective Layer


This is the level at which the analytical and reflective mind comes into the picture. The individual correlates things with previous experience, compares, juxtaposes and arrives at a conclusion. This behaviour is in alignment with individual likes and dislikes, and is comparatively more sustainable.

The individual continues to be influenced by the external environment. They define themselves in terms of their wealth, social status, professional and business achievements. They carry the influence of their parents, bosses and mentors. The self is not yet identified, and the external environment can be used to manipulate choices.

An appeal to this part of the mind triggers lifestyle and career choices.

  • Choice of travel destinations
  • Choice of clubs
  • Career-enhancing moves, which may involve a change of location or stream.
  • Indulgence in hobbies that enhance the social circle
  • Marriage, rather than dating.
  • Starting a family
  • Owning houses and classy vehicles

3. The Established Identity  Layer


Unfortunately, this layer is discovered after facing disappointment and setbacks in life. The choices made at the first two levels have failed to deliver. The individual looks inwards, and decides that the choices made were not as per his core identity, his real self. He knows who he really is.

At this stage, the person derives pleasure from giving rather than receiving, consuming knowledge rather than material things, aligns his actions to who he wants to be, chooses stuff that is compatible with his core identity. The thoughts and emotions are examined, and changed to suit the needs of his enhanced sense of self.

The choices made are long-lasting, now, as consumption has been internalized. One looks forward to enriching and enhancing the self, not just satisfying an impulse.

Selling to an individual at this stage becomes more and more difficult. They just need to be informed about the various options available, and they make their own choices. The only thing that one can push is information.

4. The Core Individual

This is the spiritual level of existence. One eats only what is needed for a healthy body, spends time in meditation and thinking, and engages in acts of service. The vocation or profession has to be in alignment with these needs. They are closer to the state of being, than active living and changing.

Selling is impossible, as the individual had ceased to be a buyer. The individual will move out of his zone, to find whatever is needed for sustenance or service, and will acquire it at the lowest cost. They will seek out the supplier, not the seller, in times of need.

The products for this segment of the population are sold to the children, healthcare centres, old age havens and NGOs looking after them, rather than directly to the consumer.

The Stages Beyond

Various thinkers and authors have defined 7 to 10 levels of consciousness. But the individual moves more and more towards being a spiritual being, being Energy and being a Giver, rather than being Matter or a Consumer. He is totally beyond the realms of Influence, as the concept is popularly known. They have moved over to being Influencers by Example, and connectivity to the world has moved to a different level altogether.

The four levels of existence, at which an individual can/cannot be influenced,  broadly, superimposes on the Maslow’s hierarchy. This is except for a certain degree of co-existence between the layers now. The figure depicted on the cover, is not a pyramid, not concentric circles, but ellipses that touch each other at a point. They do not have a sharp line that demarcates. The flow of energy from one level to another can create shifts in behaviour patterns. The resultant patterns comprise the exceptional layer, which often characterize the protagonists in literature and other forms of creative fiction.

I often baulk at the efforts a bright and well-trained salesperson, to sell me a product, which is either substandard, not needed or unaffordable. The salesperson has failed to identify the range in which I function, and hence, chooses to waste time on me. Browsing online firmly places the choice at the click of the mouse, and gives me a sense of being in control.

The same applies to a website, blog, book, movie or any other product. Maybe, augmented reality is an effort to enter this zone of user-orientation and user control.

I look forward to the experience.


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