IP#20 Lessons from North Korea and Cialdini’s 7th Principle of Influence – 19th Sep

Lessons from North Korea and Cialdini’s 7th Principle of Influence​

Reading time: 7 minutes 21 seconds

There was not a singular crease on the military uniform that the lady was wearing. On her lapel, the flag of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) was presented proudly. All of her colleagues were dressed equally sharp. As she pointed to the fortified DMZ line a hundred yards behind her, she smiled as she began to explain the history of the Korean war.

I learned how the Korean war was started when the ‘puppet government of the south’ and the American Imperialists invaded the North and tried to conquer the entire land of Korea until they were bravely fought back by the brave soldiers led by the ‘Great Leader’ Kim II Sung.

In 2011, I visited North Korea to understand all I could about the use of propaganda in the country. Tour guides such as this one provided me with a glimpse as to the vast difference in terms of stories that they have been told and we, in the west, have been told. As part of my history degree, I learned a very different recollection about how the war started.

Two stories. Two very different realities.


So often, I’ve found when translating historical events, there are usually two different perspectives on the event.

It happened versus it didn’t happen.

Group A were the goodies versus Group B were the goodies.

Freedom fighters versus terrorists.

Regime versus government.

Information versus propaganda.

It seems that we always need to divide things into two perspectives. Black and white is preferred even when the world is usually gray.​


The ‘Godfather of Influence’ Robert Cialdini, author of ‘Influence’ and ‘Presuasion’ is one of the most well-known social psychologists out there today. Cialdini’s first book outlined his research on identifying the six principles of persuasion in the 1980’s. These six principles are:

Reciprocity: When someone gives us something, we feel obliged to give something back to them.

Commitment and Consistency: When we say yes to something small, that commitment will make us more likely to say yes to something bigger later on so we can remain consistent with our commitments.

Liking: The more people like you, the more they will believe you

Authority: The more people perceive you as an authority, the more they will believe you.

Social Proof: When everyone else like us rates something or is doing something, it’s valuable and worth doing.

Scarcity: The harder something is to get, the more valuable it is.


For many years, Cialdini was asked if there was ever a seventh and around five years ago he finally start discussing what he believed was his seventh principle of influence. Initially discussed in his book ‘Presuasion’, when Robert updated his ‘Influence’ book, he included a whole new section with painstaking research on this seventh principle as well. The principle is known as ‘Unity’.

Unity: When we are part of a group with someone, we are more likely to be persuaded by them.

Now, let’s dive into unity so I can explain why I believe it is so critical, especially now. Unity is the basic idea that we can become more persuasive when we get people to see us as in a group just like them.

Upon learning that, I recalled the notion of similarity which he had also discussed in the six principles. When discussing liking, he explains that similarity can be helpful in making you more likable to others.


In my podcast interview with Bob Cialdini I asked him about the difference between similarity and unity. He explained that there is a difference between liking someone because they have something in common with you and actually being part of a group with someone. When you get them thinking in terms of your shared group identity, you activate Unity.

This idea is backed up by what is known as ‘in-group bias’. This is our tendency to overvalue the opinions of our fellow group members and undervalue opinions of those outside of our group.

To me, the reason this is so critical today is because we find ourselves through the internet and social media, in echo chambers that help reinforce our own beliefs. As human beings, we are subject to a phenomenon known as ‘confirmation bias’. This means that we look for evidence that proves we are correct and we dismiss evidence that contradicts us.

Online, where all too often we look for such evidence, we have choices as to where we can go. We often migrate to the people that share our beliefs. We reinforce what we want to believe by speaking to people we agree with, reading their posts, watching their videos or listening to their podcasts. We convince ourselves with this.

Furthermore, we are living in an increasingly polarized society. In the US, this often shows up as left versus right. Both sides are vilified by the other. If you’re in the middle, each side will push you to the other side. If you’re not with us, you’re against us. This is the easiest way for people to make sense of the world even though it’s not the smartest. Besides, from a political perspective, you only really get two options.

With the echo chambers and polarization, we find ourselves in two groups. Us versus them. This speaks back to how we evolved in tribes. The tribal mentality is still alive in the 21st century. Before we listen to what is being said, we listen to WHO is saying it. Are they on our side? Should we believe them? COVID hoax believers won’t listen to anything Fauci says. Trump haters won’t believe a word that comes out of his mouth even if it happens to be true every now and then. Even reading this article, you might find yourself wondering ‘Which side is Owen on? Should I listen to him?’

We have stopped listening first to what people say and we start with whether or not we will believe them. While not problematic by itself, the way we do this is problematic. We believe people if they are on our ‘team’.


Research conducted on the brain exploring empathy shows that not only are chemicals such as oxytocin increased in your brain for people that are part of your group, but they decrease for people outside of your group. This makes sense evolutionarily speaking. You needed to be part of a tribe for protection. You needed to be wary of other tribes to stay safe. You needed to know who to trust. Being part of a tribe made it easier to figure out who to trust. Are they an ‘us’? If so, empathy increases and we trust them. If not, empathy decreases and we keep our distance.

While unity has always been important, the polarized attack on truth has meant that the real currency in the world today is belief. To succeed in such a world, we need to become better at cultivating belief. Unfortunately, to get people to believe us and listen to us, they often have to see us as a part of their group.

Now, onto the practical part of this. What are the strategies we can use to create a sense of unity in the people we communicate with? Here are five key ideas:


There are five ways we can leverage unity effectively.

Establish the group connection

The first key is to understand what group you both are a part of. This means exploring and understanding the other person and identifying what group of which you are both a member. Are you of the same nationality, speakers of the same language, frequenters of the same vacation or holiday destinations, both mothers, Celtic supporters, foodies, antivaxers etc. etc.? If there is no obvious group, are you both trying to achieve the same outcome or working on the same team?

Define the ingroup and outgroup

Next, understand and clarify the shared viewpoint, belief, norms and behaviors you have with the other person as a member of the same team or tribe. Once you have done that define the others that aren’t in your group. Who is your ‘THEM’? What differences do you have with them? How are they wrong? How is your group right?

Sell the ingroup

Once you are clear as to who the US and THEM is, you next want to reinforce why being US is better. This means finding some aspect of exclusivity you both share by being a member of the same team. It means exploring how being a part of this team makes you better than those that are not. You celebrate your shared group identity.

Connect deeper

Once you have buy-in, you next want to connect deeper with them. How is this group like a family? How can you speak to them in a shared language, using shared vocabulary and a shared jargon? What you want is to speak to them in a way that makes them feel you’re all on the same page and that anyone who doesn’t speak this language isn‘t in your group.

Work together

Finally, you want to establish the common working collaboration that you are engaging in with them. We feel unity with people we work with towards the same goal or against a common enemy. When we create together we form a deeper bond and influence each other more effectively. What outcomes are you trying to achieve together? What problems are you tackling as a team?


These same strategies can be used to elevate the impact you are making and win over supporters and advocates. However, the same strategies have been used in history for good and for evil. The most important thing is to recognize the power of this principle and learn how you can leverage it for good.

When I returned from North Korea, I was asked on many occasions what it was like to experience a country where propaganda is used so brazenly to brainwash the audience. My response is always the same.

The same propaganda can be seen in the US. The only difference is that while North Korea only has one message, the US has two.

I wonder if, one day, Korea will be united again. I also wonder if, one day, the US will be as well.



P.S. In you are interested in listening or watching the podcast interview I did with the legendary Robert Cialdini on influence, you can. You can check it out here.

You may also like

Inner Propaganda Podcast - Owen Fitzpatrick

Your information is protected, and I never spam, ever. You can view my privacy policy here.


Almost every single personal development approach I’ve studied over 30 years comes down to this solitary principle which I call the 4 and 2 principle. In this FREE PDF, I break down exactly what it is and how you can use it to transform your life.

Success! Check your email for details


You have the expertise but how do you put it together in such a way you can turn it into a business? For years now, I’ve been asked many times to reveal what I would do today if I was building my expert business from scratch. In this video training, I break it down step-by-step, in order, and walk you through exactly what I would do today if I was to start from the beginning.

Success! Check your email for details


This life changing video training explains the 8 steps that you need to take if you want to conquer adversity, handle change, manage your emotions and be at your best. I will explain some of the most important lessons I have learned from working with many thousands of people in more than 30 countries.

Success! Check your email for details