Simple Doesn’t Mean Easy

Albert Einstein is reported to have said, “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Einstein’s theory of relativity was obviously not a simple concept but he was able to simplify it so even people who were not scientists could understand it and some of its implications. The same could be said of persuasion.

When Robert Cialdini wrote Influence Science and Practice more than 30 years ago he simplified the act of persuasion in such a way that the average person with no background in social psychology could understand it.

When I speak to audiences about the psychology of persuasion I let them know early on that they’ll “get it.” After all, what I share is nothing more than human behavior so it’s easy for people to recall times where they:

  1. Were impacted by a specific principle of influence and took action, or
  2. Used a principle of influence causing someone to respond positively and take action.

In either case, whether or not they could articulate what happened, the light bulb comes on as I explain the principles. It’s at that moment they clearly understand the why behind their behavior or another person’s. However, knowing and doing are two different things! Just because you understand something doesn’t necessarily mean you can easily do it. Here are two simple illustrations.

  1. You can probably watch a pro golfer swing a club and break down the swing. You may know a good golf swing means keeping your head down, left arm straight, turn your hips, rotate your wrists at impact to name just a few of the mechanics. But doing all of those can be really hard!
  2. You probably know how to live a healthy life style. At the core it entails eating less, eating better, and exercising more. Easy to know, harder to do.

When it comes to implementing persuasion ethically and correctly it’s harder than you might think. I see this every time I lead the Principles of Persuasion Workshop. During the afternoon of day two I have participants work in teams with the following goal: use all they’ve learned about persuasion to build a case to get a boy named Jimmy back into school after being expelled.

Everyone understand the principles. They can define them, tell me what causes them to begin operating and how to make them more effective. But putting all that knowledge to good use can be challenging. In fact, I use the two illustrations below to drive home that point. One plus one is a simple formula.

But, when you throw in the complexities that come with different people and unique situations the formula can look a little more complicated than one plus one.

It’s not the knowing that counts, it’s the doing. There are lots of people who “know” things but they’re no better off than those who don’t “know” things IF they don’t put their knowledge to use. My goal with this blog is to help you gain the knowledge then get to the business of doing. Tune in next week as I start a series on persuasive business coaching.

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Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer at influencePEOPLE
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is a sales trainer, coach and consultant whose specialty is applying persuasion and influence in sales and customer service situations. He is one of 20 individuals in the world who currently hold the CMCT designation. Brian’s blog, Influence PEOPLE, is followed by people in 200 countries and made the Online Psychology Degree Guide Top 30 Psychology Blogs in 2012.
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