V. George Mathew, Ph.D


There are many books available in the market on this and related topics advising you how to win friends and influence people effectively. These books give you considerable insight and also offer many useful suggestions and hints. Above all, they make you think. But these books are written mostly by Western people for Westerners. Westerners tend to be more homogenous in temperament and what is found in these books is true mostly for Westerners. Indians are a more mixed type of people and therefore the principles in these books may not fully hold good for all people here.


According to an ancient Indian theory, the personality or temperament of a person can be understood as a sum of three components: Inertia (Thamas), Activation (Rajas) and Stability (Sathwa). Inertia is fear, inhibition and withdrawal. Activation is characterised by compensatory aggressiveness and competition. Stability is awareness, freedom, and flexibility. Food, climate and many other social and psychological factors influence a person's temperament. In societies where the majority of persons have a temperament characterised by high Inertia, the emphasis will be on sensuous pleasures and friendship gatherings will be centered on eating and merry making as well as defensive ceremonies to relieve fear. In Activated societies the emphasis will be on competition and rivalry and social interaction will be centered on competitions and sports as well as organised solution to practical problems. In Stable societies the main social activity will be centered around fine arts, as well as philosophical discussions.

Personality of the person you are trying to influence

Proper understanding of the temperament of the person you are influencing is very important in selecting the means. What is effective in the case of a high I (Inertia) person may have no effect or it may produce negative effect in the case of persons with a different temperament. Try to understand how much I, A and S the person has. If he has I predominantly he is likely to be influenced by sensous things. Give him lots of cooked food. He may appreciate force feeding also. If on the other hand, you want to influence a person who is highly activated, praise him, thank him profusely for small favours done and do any thing to inflate his ego. While the high I person values presents for their immediate utility, presents are appreciated by the high A person for the self-importance he feels when given a present. A high A person can be influenced by your offer to be on his side, fight along with him and for him, against his rivals. An individual having high S is influenced by genuine sincerity and friendship. As he is very sensitive, he may see through artificial attempts to influence him. All human beings appreciate food as well as enjoy eating in company. But the high S person may not appreciate force feeding of huge quantities of cooked food. He may appreciate fruits and he may value presents not for their utility but as token of your regards for him, unless of course he practices aparigraha (non-acceptance of gifts). A highly stable person is most likely to be influenced by your showing that you are sensitive to his feelings and preferences and act accordingly. An individual with pure high S (I and A being zero or near zero) is often known as a sage.

A story is told about Chattambi Swami, a sage who lived in Kerala at the beginning of the present century. The swami was once invited for lunch at a house. The people of the house, while serving food served a large quantity of a curry prepared from a vegetable which grew abundantly in that area. The swami did not like the curry. He thought he would finish off that curry first and them start enjoying the meal. So he ate the whole of that curry first. The person who was serving misunderstood this as the swami 's liking for the curry and served another helping of the same curry. According Indian tradition, a Bhikshu is not expected to refuse anything that is served. Therefore the swami went on eating the repeated helpings of that curry which he did not like, repeatedly put in his plate till the end of the meal. It is said that after that incident that vegetable ceased growing in that locality. It is supposed that the family elicited a curse instead of a blessing from the swami, because of their inability to understand him. Often a word of caution is made when people go to meet sages that they should be careful not to rub him the wrong way.

Your Personality

Your personality is a limiting factor in this situation. You will be able to easily understand the temperament of another person only if you have at least moderately high S because rating ability is correlated with S. A dog cannot help wagging its tail when it sees a person it likes or licking him . Similarly if you are high I, you are likely to show your friendliness by overfeeding a person with food you like, when you meet a person you like, regardless of his preferences. Similarly if you are high A, you try to influence everybody by offering dogamtaic commitment to his dogma or and identification with his group regardless of whether that person has any such dogmatic identification. Therefore if you want to be effective in influencing people the best way is to develop Stability. Stability is awareness which enables you to diagnose the other person's personality and Stability gives you the flexibility to act differentially in accordance with his needs and preferences.