Fear of Missing Out and the Black Friday Madness

Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping day of the year, is just days away. This year, Friday, November 24th, will be the unofficial start of the Christmas season. Throngs of people will make their way to malls all across the country hoping to get some of the best deals on holiday gifts.

It’s not too much of a stretch to say people will act like crazed fans at a football game or soccer match. The news will show us scenes of people fighting over items, shoving each other out of the way to get to the hottest toys and trampling one another the moment stores open.

So much for the season of giving and the spirit of joy!

What causes normal people will do some very abnormal things in hopes of getting the best deal? Why would someone stand in line for hours waiting for a store to open when they could visit that same store any day of the week? And why to people forego sleep, getting up hours earlier than they have to on their day off? Fear of missing out.

Fear of missing out taps into scarcity, the psychological principle of influence that tells us people value things more when they’re rare or appear to be less available. Scarcity can be triggered by time constraints and competition for a limited number of items.

Black Friday naturally taps into time constraints because it only happens one day each year. Forego this shopping day and you might miss the best deals of the season! But then again, you might not have missed out because sales only seem to better as Christmas approaches and retailers look to unload the last of their holiday merchandise.

Nonetheless, over the years the lure of Black Friday has increased dramatically and retailers have taken advantage of the popularity of Black Friday by opening stores earlier and earlier each year. Some stores will open at midnight because Thanksgiving will be over and it will officially be Friday. If you don’t get there at midnight you might just miss out on some time sensitive deals!

When we hear the word “competition” we often think of athletic endeavors but competition isn’t limited to the sports arena. No, when it comes to shopping competition is alive and well, and retailers play on it in a big way.

Here’s how the competition part of scarcity works – no longer is it good enough to just get to a store because if you are not there when the store opens they might run out of the thing you wanted most. Limited availability is different than limited time so while you might have all day Friday to shop, certain items marked “While Supplies Last” or “Limited Availability” might be gone by the time you arrive at 5 AM or 6 AM. Can’t let that happen now, can you?

It’s amazes me that people respond as they do because little Johnny probably doesn’t remember that great toy you got him three years ago. You know, the one you stood in line at the mall at 4 AM to get? And sweet Sally probably can’t tell you which American Girl doll you got her when she was eight years old but it’s a good thing you stood in line for several hours to pay for it.

Here’s another eye opener. People will say, “But I saved $200!” Saving money is great but many of those same people wouldn’t drive across town to save $200 on a car because a $200 savings on a $20,000 car by comparison isn’t worth the extra time and effort.

So, they spend four hours negotiating a car deal, could go across town and maybe spend another four hours to save $200, but they don’t. Sure, it’s an eight-hour investment but many of those same people will spend more than 12 hours at the mall just to save $200.

I’m not telling you not to shop. I know for some people, Black Friday shopping has become as much a holiday tradition as Thanksgiving, getting a Christmas tree or sending holiday cards. But I challenge you to consider if it’s really worth all the hassle – the lost sleep, extra time at the mall, fighting traffic, searching for a parking space, the disappointment when someone bought the last item you wanted, etc. Take a moment to ask yourself, “Would I normally respond this way? Do I want to respond this way?” Then decide what you want to do.

If you know you’re going to give into the madness then I’ll help you save some time by sharing with you the Black Friday web site. Go to this site to get a sneak peek at some of the deals that will be out there. Before all the holiday madness starts I want to wish you and your loved ones a very Happy Thanksgiving and a safe time no matter what you decide to do.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLE. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been view more than 100,000 times! Have you seen it yet? Watch it to learn how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

Think Before You Speak or Write

I read a LinkedIn post from Wharton Professor Adam Grant in response to a Washington Post piece, More companies are buying insurance to cover executives who sexually harass employees. Grant wrote, “Seriously, companies: instead of buying sexual harassment insurance, how about you stop promoting sexual harassers into positions of power?”

Unfortunately, we see it all too often in sports and now it’s coming to light in business in an unprecedented way. It’s almost common place to see sports teams pick up or keep athletes who’ve been involved in things that would cause termination in almost any other business. Why? Because of talent and the impact on the bottom line. Now we’re seeing that many businesses have been doing essentially the same thing for some of their top talent.

I don’t disagree with Grant’s assertion that businesses should do much more to vet people before moving them into positions of greater power. However, I had a problem with many of the ignorant comments to his post because too many people didn’t know what they were talking about. I’d venture to guess most didn’t even read the article that prompted Grant’s comment.

I’ve been in the insurance industry for more than 30 years so I want to share some insights. Businesses can buy a product called Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) to cover financial losses from things like sexual harassment, discrimination and wrongful termination. Why is the coverage needed? Simple – to protect the business from serious financial consequences or possibly ruin. This includes covering attorney’s fees, even if the allegations are proven false. A side benefit is more compensation available for those who’ve been harmed by someone in the employ of the business.

Imagine this for a moment. You own a small business and an employee does something really dumb – stops a bar on the way home from work while driving a company car. He gets in an accident shortly after leaving the bar and is found to be just over the legal limit for drunk driving. I’m sure you’d be darn glad you had a business auto policy to protect you and your company. He on the other hand might be spending some time in jail and will certainly see his personal insurance premium skyrocket.

Now imagine you own that same business and unbeknownst to you an employee does something (sexually harasses someone or makes an offensive racial comment) that leads to a lawsuit against your company. Depending on the size the lawsuit it could force you into bankruptcy unless you had an insurance policy to help protect you.

Here are some things to think about:

  • Would you want to lose your job if you worked in one of those companies because their doors closed?
  • If you invested in one of those companies wouldn’t you want management to be careful and have protection in place, just in case?
  • If you were a separate organization that depended on the company being sued, wouldn’t your business life be easier if they could keep operating as opposed to shutting down?
  • What if it turns out a court finds the lawsuit was without merit?
  • Here’s the biggest question – if you’re the one who was harmed, wouldn’t you want to know compensation is available?

In each case, there’s a risk that needs to be protected against and insurance companies are willing to offer protection for an appropriate price. Please note: The insurance won’t keep a wrongdoer out of jail if he or she is found guilty of a crime! The insurance is to protect the business.

Many of the comments I saw (nearly 200) in response to Grant’s post were laughable because so many people don’t understand what the insurance is and what it does. Should we do away with auto insurance and simply tell businesses to hire better drivers? There’s already an incentive in place to hire good drivers – lower insurance premiums – but sometimes bad stuff happens. Here are just a handful of comments that show no understanding of the issue as it relates to insurance and protecting a business:

  • “I didn’t even know that such a type of insurance exists. Awful.”
  • “Really? This absolutely stupid!”
  • “We really do live in a profoundly sick society.”
  • “Wow! Can’t believe this even exists.”
  • “You’re kidding. Let’s not solve the problem; let’s just CYA with insurance. This is just wrong.”

Why this post this week? Perhaps to protect you. There’s an old proverbs that says, “Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise.” Today that could also apply to jumping into an online conversation before you have all the facts. Think first, do a little research, or at least read the article being referenced before you offer an opinion because it might help you avoid looking foolish.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLE. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been view more than 100,000 times! Have you seen it yet? If you want to learn how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process then you’ll want to watch it.

Leadership, Authority and Influence are All Intertwined

I’ve spent a lot of time the past six months immersing myself in leadership material from Focus 3 because it’s really good stuff. They’re called Focus 3 because they focus on three things: leadership, culture and behavior. Their overarching view is this: leaders create the culture within an organization which drives the behaviors that lead to results.

Tim Kight, the founder of Focus 3, did a presentation on How Leaders Achieve Great Results and during that talk he said something that resonated with me. He told the audience, “Leadership is not authority based on a position you’ve been given. It is influence based on trust you’ve earned.”

Are you a leader? Leaders have followers. You may have the title and corner office but that’s no guarantee that people will follow you. Even if they follow, are they doing so enthusiastically or begrudgingly? If they’re only following because they have to then they’re not much better than those who don’t follow.

Getting people to follow you is where influence comes in handy. Influence, when used correctly and ethically, can help build relationships and trust as well as motivate people to action.

How do you build relationships?

Engage the principles of liking and reciprocity and you’ll find it a bit easier because when people like you they’ll be more inclined to do what you ask. But the key isn’t to try to get them to like you. Rather, you should make every effort to come to like them. Pay attention to others and look to connect on what you have in common.

Your other opportunity is to have the mindset that you want to catch them doing what’s right. When you do so and pay the person a genuine compliment it also works on your mindset. After all, don’t you generally think more highly of people you compliment?

As a leader, do you actively look to help your people grow and develop?

The second way to build relationship is by engaging the principle of reciprocity. When you coach them, provide resources and help them achieve their goals they’ll appreciate you and naturally look to repay the favor. When your team knows you have their best interest at heart it builds relationships.

Are you an expert and do you use it to help others?

It’s one thing to be good at what you do but it’s quite another to use your competency to help others get better too. The other half of the equation is trust. It does little good to be some kind of expert if people don’t trust you. Much of your trust comes from your character. Do you do what you say you’ll do? That’s why Aristotle said, “Character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion.”

Finally, a leader needs to get people to take action.

The most effective way is by using the principle of consistency. Instead of telling people what to do (this doesn’t engage the principle) try asking. The big reason this is so effective is because once someone has agreed to do something they feel internal psychological pressure and external social pressure to follow through on their commitment. This is why I always encourage audiences to stop telling, start asking.

Becoming an effective leader isn’t rocket science but there is a science to it. When ethically looking for opportunities to engage the science of influence you’ll build relationships, gain trust and move people to take the actions necessary to ensure success.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLE. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been view more than 100,000 times! Have you seen it yet? Watch it to learn how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

Hurry Before It Goes Back Into The Disney Vault!

I just returned from Orlando where I spent two and a half days at Coronado Springs, a Disney resort hotel. I was there with more than 1800 learning professionals from around the globe to attend Elliott Masie’s Learning 2017 conference. It was an awesome experience! As I sat in the airport I thought about Disney’s phenomenal brand success.

There are many reason Disney appeals to young and old alike but one that stands out in my mind is the Disney Vault. The mental picture of a vault compels us to buy certain products because it taps into scarcity. This principle of influence teaches us we want things more when we believe they’re rare or going away. With that in mind, let’s analyze the concept of the vault.

The imagery of the vault conveys a secure place where precious item are stored. We use vaults for safekeeping jewelry, money, cash, passports and other valuables. We don’t store everyday items in vaults and neither does Disney.

Disney reserves the vault for its most valuable items – it’s feature length films. Every generation has its favorites such as Cinderella, Snow White, and my daughter’s all-time favorite, Beauty and the Beast. I bet you have a favorite Disney movie that conjures up strong emotions and brings to memory magical times.

When a movie goes into the vault the door is closed, the lock is spun and you can no longer get the movie because you don’t know the combination. Only Disney knows that and only Disney knows when they’ll unlock the vault next.

When items finally come out of the vault Disney does two significant things. First, whatever is brought out is only available for a limited time. After that it goes back in for an undisclosed amount of time. In other words, if you don’t act quickly you might miss out on your opportunity.

Second, when something comes out of the vault it’s not the same as when it went it. Something magical always happens. The movie that comes out might be digitally remastered in Blue-Ray with never before seen extended scenes! Your mind screams, “Holy cow!” You think to yourself, “I have the movie but how much better will it be in this new, digital version? And those scenes, what they are?”

As you ponder these thoughts you can bet your bottom dollar others are ordering so now consensus is at work on you. When we know lots of others are doing something we consider doing it even more. That wisdom of the crowd gives some validation that the new movie version must be worth it.

Between consensus and FOMO (fear of missing out) you psyche is taking a pounding! Maybe that’s not enough to get you to order…this time but it’s undeniable that this Disney approach works like a charm. I write that because marketers are savvy. They test different approaches and measure everything. If the concept of the Disney Vault didn’t work they’d have abandoned it long ago. The fact that you keep seeing it, no matter how ridiculous it might seem to you now, is proof enough about its validity.

What’s an unsuspecting shopper to do? First, remember almost everything is available on Amazon or EBay. If you miss your opportunity someone somewhere is selling the latest Disney stuff. And if your patient enough the Disney vault will open again and the same item – only enhanced and better – will come out for a brief time.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLE. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been view more than 100,000 times! Have you seen it yet? It will teach you how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

What the FOMO are You Doing?

Last month I was in Arizona where I had the good fortune to combine business and pleasure. Pleasure was seeing family and attending an excellent Scotch tasting event at Total Wine. Business was a keynote presentation, sales calls with a good friend and coworker Dan and a trip to Flagstaff. One afternoon Dan and I stopped by Total Wine and during check out the person in front of us began telling us about a bourbon the store had just gotten in, Weller 12 year. He proceeded to tell us it was from the same distributor as Pappy Van Winkle, a rare and expensive bourbon. He let us know the store didn’t have many bottles and they’d probably sell out within the hour. Fear of missing out (FOMO) was enough for Dan to grab a bottle…even though he’s not much of a bourbon guy.

Dan’s decision to buy was heavily influenced by the principle of scarcity. This psychological concept alerts us to the reality that we value things more when we believe they’re rare or diminishing. FOMO is another way to describe scarcity. Most people hate missing out on what might be golden opportunities. If you think back on life most of what you regret probably centers around what you didn’t do (missed out on) rather than what you actually did.

Even though Dan isn’t much of a bourbon drinker, knowing Pappy Van Winkle has an excellent reputation and finding out this particular bottle would probably fly off the shelves was enough for him to make an unusual decision. Had that customer not mentioned how seldom the store got that specific bourbon and how fast it would sell I’m positive Dan wouldn’t have bought a bottle.

FOMO is constantly at work when it comes to sales.

  • Coupons that are about to expire get used more than those that still have time to use them. We may procrastinate but don’t want to miss out on that potentially great deal so we take action before opportunity passes!
  • The last day of a big sale gets us into the store even if we don’t have something in particular we’re looking for. You tell yourself you just want to see what deals are going on but once you’re in the store you’re far more likely to buy than if you don’t go at all.
  • Black Friday will be here before you know it and people will stand in line all night just so they don’t miss out on some of the best deals of the year.

Responding to FOMO isn’t all bad. After all, saving hundreds, or possibly thousands of dollars on something you’ve wanted for quite some time (new computer, flat screen television, a car) feels good and can be a prudent decision. Where you need to be careful is when you’re only responding to the deal but not necessarily a need. For example, many people are buying 4K televisions right now even though they don’t need them. Why? Because the prices have dropped recently and the deals seem too good to pass up. But remember, there will be another FOMO deal once the one you’re considering has passed.

Sure, not getting in on Apple or Amazon stock when they were first issued left a lot of people with regret. Perhaps that first love that got away gnaws at you because you think, “What if?” But keep in mind, as we enter the holiday shopping season the deals that will tempt you will be there during the after-Christmas sales, President’s Day sales and all the other traditional selling holidays. Make sure you’re responding not only to FOMO but what you really need and you’ll be a little happier in the long run.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLE. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been view more than 100,000 times! Have you seen it yet? It will teach you how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

Do You Love What You Do?

You’ve probably heard the old saying; if you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life. This came to mind as I took an Uber to the airport last week and told the driver I love what I do. He said it’s really rare when he hears someone say that and he’s done nearly 400 Uber trips.

Do you love what you do? I love what I do but it’s still work. Some days are tougher than others and sometimes it’s hard to get going early in the morning. I certainly love my wife Jane more than work but marriage takes a lot of work and isn’t always fun either.

Having said that, I do believe if you love doing something it’s far easier to do it and to do it with passion. Love and passion both give you better odds for success. I first learned this through athletics. For example, when I was in college I ran the weightlifting club for three years. During that time, I competed in powerlifting and after college competed in bodybuilding for three years. I loved weight training and dieting so competition served as motivation to do what I loved with more energy and intensity. It made the hard work fun!

Start with Why

Most of this starts with the mind. Simon Sinek would ask what’s your why? That’s the first step. When I started lifting weights I didn’t love it right off the bat. I was doing it because I wanted to get bigger and stronger for football. It was hard and I was sore an awful lot but I kept focusing on the next football season.

With influence my why was sales. I was involved in sales training and when I came across Robert Cialdini’s principles of persuasion the light bulb came on. I remember thinking, “This explains all the sales techniques we teach. It’s the psychology that makes the techniques work.” With that understanding I was hooked!

Small Wins

You can’t expect success overnight so look for the small wins. These milestones can keep you excited and eventually enough wins show real progress. Another of my outside activities was taekwondo with my daughter Abigail. The small wins for us was the progression from white belt to black belt. Each time you reached a new plateau the new belt was a visible reminder of the progress we were making.

With my influence training the small wins come each time I do a keynote or workshop. I usually get evaluation feedback from attendees so I can see comments and scores that have improved over the years. Feedback from others is valuable in case I have blind spots but the real evaluation is self-evaluation. There are often little things I keep refining, things people in the audience might not consciously think about but add to making the event great for them.

Enjoy Success

We all like things more when we believe we’re having success. Unfortunately, some people never let themselves enjoy success. Taking time to enjoy what you’ve accomplished is a critical component of loving what you do.

Another physical activity I did for many years was run marathons and half marathons. In several I did really well for my size (an over 200 lbs. runner) and I made sure I allowed myself to enjoy my performance. I’ve heard some people who do nothing but belittle their accomplishments saying things like:

“The competition wasn’t very good.” That’s not what everyone who finished behind you said!

“There were not many people in my category.” You had the guts to enter the competition and others didn’t.

“It wasn’t as good as I did last time.” But you did it and that’s worth something even if you didn’t perform your best.

I just wrote about small wins in the form of feedback. Before I dive into the feedback after a presentation and begin to figure out what to do next I let myself enjoy the moment. If I feel like I gave a great presentation I’ll tell people “I killed it” and relish it for a while. One organization said they’d not gotten feedback as high as mine except for the time Colin Powell spoke! I’m proud of that and still let myself enjoy that moment.

Only after I’ve enjoyed success for a while do I jump in and start strategizing about what needs to change next time so I can do even better.

Let’s recap. If you know why you do what you do, you’re continually seeing small wins, and you allow yourself to enjoy your success that’s a sure-fire way to enjoy, perhaps start loving, what you do. Don’t just meander through life, apply this three-step approach to whatever you’re doing and you will enjoy it more.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLE. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been view more than 100,000 times! Have you seen it yet? It will teach you how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

Build Your Persuasive Skill

To excel at anything in life you need skill but that’s not enough. You need to work on whatever skill is most important for your potential success. A golfer works on his or her swing, putting, chipping and a host of other things. Athletes work on speed, agility and flexibility to name a few. Businesspeople work on skills such as listening, writing, and public speaking. Did you know persuasion is a skill? That’s right, persuasion is something you can learn, work on, improve upon and build. Persuasion is a multiplier because if you don’t know how to ethically and effectively persuade then skills like writing and speaking will never be as effective as they could be.

What does it take to work on your persuasive skills? There are six essentials: learn, practice, stretch, observe, communicate and feedback. Let’s look at how you can use each to improve.

Learn

Most people think they know what persuasion is but in my experience, they don’t. When I ask audiences what it means to persuade the definition I hear most often is, “to change someone’s thinking.” That may be a start but it’s usually not enough. Typically, when we try to persuade someone it’s to get them to do something.

I think Aristotle has the best definition of persuasion I’ve come across. He said it was the art of getting someone to do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do if you didn’t ask. Ultimately persuasion is about changing behavior. And here’s the good news – there’s more information available for you to learn from than you can imagine. That’s because there’s more than seven decades of research from behavioral economists and social psychologist into this area of study.

You’re reading this blog so that’s a start but I would encourage you to go further. Pick up Robert Cialdini’s book Influence Science and Practice. Pre-suasion, his latest work, is another excellent book.

Practice

Perfect practice makes perfect. Just like an athlete, you cannot expect to get better without reps. Once you’ve learned something you need to put it into practice repeatedly. If you don’t then you’re like someone who attends a seminar on healthy living but never uses what they learn to live a healthier lifestyle.

Practice is important because it’s not likely you’ll try something new when there’s a lot on the line because you won’t have confidence. People who just play golf, no matter how often, only get marginally better without practice. However, those who practice and play are the ones who see their handicap steadily go down.

Stretch

This is a subset of practice but deserves mentioning by itself because of its importance. Go beyond what you know you can do. Again, that’s how athletes grow. If you don’t stretch yourself you’ll be limited to what you currently know and can currently do.

Stretching has an element of risk and reward. When you stretch yourself you do so in order to get better results. Having said that, until you perfect a skill you might fail from time to time and that’s okay. It’s all part of learning and growing.

Observe

In order to excel at persuasion, you need to hone your observation skills. This means you have to be excellent at listening and watching. What you learn with your eyes and ears opens opportunities for you to be a more effective influencer. For example, let’s say someone mentions they went to the same college that you attended, or you see a diploma on the wall. What would you do? Hopefully, you’d mention you want to the same school to engage the principle of liking. This is important because you know that principle alerts you to the fact that people say yes more often to those they know and like.

Communicate

It’s not enough to know the six principles of persuasion or to glean information through your observation skills if you cannot use that information to communicate. This is where verbal and written skills can me magnified.

For example, if your product costs less than a similar product you could lure prospective customers by mentioning how much they might save. That works but the skilled persuader knows there’s a better way. The skilled persuader knows people are more motivated by what they might lose so he or she will talk about how much a prospective customer is currently overpaying.

Feedback

The final consideration for building your persuasive muscle is feedback. From time to time you need to get feedback from respected sources. Getting third party advice on what you’re doing well and what you could be doing better can be massively helpful. Sometimes that feedback is from an individual but sometimes the feedback can be metrics.  Simple A-B testing can do the trick by comparing the traditional way of doing things to a potential new way.

Nothing worth anything in life comes easy, especially success. If it was easy everyone would be successful but everyone isn’t. Take time to build your persuasive muscle and you’ll have a much better chance of achieving professional success and personal happiness. The research guarantees it.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLE. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, will teach you how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

Overcome Mistakes, Mend Fences, Restore Trust

In life mistakes happen. In fact, they happen all the time because we’re imperfect humans. Quite often that means we need to mend fences if we want to overcome mistakes and restore trust. If you look up the phrase “fence-mending” one definition you’ll see comes from Dictionary.com; “the practice of reestablishing or strengthening personal, business, or political contacts and relationships by conciliation or negotiation, as after a dispute, disagreement, or period of inactivity.” Because mistakes are inevitable we need to know how to overcome the negative impact they can have on relationships. Let’s take a look at a simple three step process.

Apologize

Step one is to apologize. The good news is apologizing isn’t a skill you don’t possess. Apologizing is a choice any of us can make. It might feel awkward and uncomfortable but we can all choose to apologize if we can let go of our fear and negative emotions.

Ask for Forgiveness

It’s always good to know whether or not your apology was accepted. Simply ask, “Do you forgive me?” I’ve had people say that’s awkward in business so another approach might be asking, “Are we good?” There are two possible outcomes: you’re forgiven or you’re not.

If you’ve been forgiven that’s cool so leave it alone. In sales there’s something called “selling past the close,” and it can be fatal to making the sale. If someone says they want to buy then it’s time to shut up because talking more might cause them to change their mind! By the same token, when someone forgives you it’s time to shut up because your continued talking might reopen the wound you want to heal.

Let’s say the other person doesn’t acknowledge your request for forgiveness or says they don’t forgive you. Take the high road. You might say, “I’m sorry you feel that way. I can’t change the past so all I can do is apologize and try to do better going forward.” If nothing else you can leave the situation knowing you did the right thing. And maybe, just maybe the other person will forgive you in that moment or sometime down the road.

Prove Yourself

If you get the opportunity to prove yourself take it! I also encourage you to make sure the other person knows about your change. Let’s say you got a report in late and that negatively impacted a teammate at work. The next time you have to turn something in look to get in to your coworker a day or two in advance of when they asked for it. When you give it to them you might say, “I know I blew it last time but I wasn’t going to let that happen again so I wanted to get you this as quickly as I could.” Actions speak louder than words but words can be used to highlight your actions and bring them to consciousness for the other person.

Silver Linings

There are a couple of silver linings with mistakes. First, sometimes when you work to correct mistakes relationships can actually improve. For example, some studies show people rate the service higher at restaurants and hotels when there was some mix up but it was corrected to the satisfaction of the customer. Why is that? When you go out of your way to make things right you engage reciprocity. Most people see that extra effort and feel obligated to give a better tip, rating or satisfaction score.

Another silver lining is this; admitting a mistake can make you more trustworthy and enhance your authority with others. Authority is the principle of influence that tells us people defer to those with superior wisdom, knowledge or expertise. Authority rests on two things – credibility (you know what you’re doing) and trustworthiness (you can be counted on). The net positive with enhancing trust is increased authority which means people are more likely to follow your lead or advice down the road.

To Do

This week I encourage you to actively look for your mistakes that impact others. When you see them, don’t wait for someone else to discover them, own up to them immediately. This taps into Dale Carnegie’s advice, “When you’re wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.” Doing so will allow you to practice a much-needed skill for interpersonal relationships and make it easier to do when the stakes are higher.

Why Don’t We Just Listen for a Change

I was inspired to write this week’s post after watching an enlightening Ted Talk from Theo E.J. Wilson called A Black Man Goes Undercover in the Alt-Right. Don’t worry, this post is not to advocate for any particular position on the political and social spectrum. Rather it’s about the lost art of listening and communicating to understand one another. Theo rightly points out things that prevent us from understanding each other and I have added some of the principles of influence that make it easy to happen:

Online Algorithms

These algorithms begin to filter information to us that we already view and believe, an application of the principle of consistency. It’s no different than the Amazon recommendations that pop up based on prior purchase decisions and sites you’ve viewed. Isn’t it someone freaky how you can start to type in a Google search and the choices that appear almost always contain the exact search you need? It’s as if Google read your mind! This curating of information is constantly going on behind the scenes and may be limiting your worldview.

Media Outlets

We make active choices that narrow our worldview such as only watching Fox News or CNN to the exclusion of all other media outlets. We do so because other large groups of people like us – the principle of consensus – hold the same views. I try to watch MSNBC and Fox in equal amounts because it’s like viewing the world from the North Pole and South Pole. Doing so gives me a better view of the entire planet. Make no mistake, news outlets are run by human beings and have their own bias points of view so be wary.

Our Associations

We tend to hang out with like-minded people. This is a natural phenomenon – the liking principle – because we like people who are similar to us and it’s less taxing mentally to have conversations with people who think like we do.

Social Media

Online “conversations” aren’t really conversations at all. They’ve become forums to espouse views then vehemently defend them. This is one way the principle of consistency can lead us astray. For more on this I will refer you to a post I wrote years ago called Why Facebook Doesn’t Change Anyone’s Opinion.

I’m sure you can think of more things that limit our ability to understand each other. Here are some ideas to perhaps change this. By change I don’t necessarily mean your views have to change but, if you come to understand another person, their point of view, and can maintain respect for them, then isn’t that a good thing?

When was the last time you had a conversation with someone who was different than you, not to convince them of your point of view, but to simply get to know them and their point of view better? I find it’s best to do this in person, over coffee, a drink, or a meal, where there can be dialog instead of monologue.

Have you ever asked someone what it’s like to be them? Two conversations I’ll never forget happened with a couple of African-Americans; a coworker and my best friend. With my coworker, I asked her on a flight from Nashville to Columbus what it was like to be an African-American working at my company. She talked non-stop the entire flight and I had a new, enlightened point of view.

The other conversation was with my best friend after Barak Obama won the presidential election in 2008. You cannot imagine the pride he expressed at something he never thought he would see in his lifetime. I don’t believe in either case the conversations would have happened if I had not opened the door with questions. Give a safe place for people to express themselves and you’ll be surprised at what you hear.

What was refreshing in the Ted Talk was hearing Theo acknowledge that many people who held views completely opposite from his were still people just like him. He saw pictures of kids and families. He saw people who enjoyed activities and liked to have fun. They were humans who viewed the world differently. When we lose sight of other people’s humanity we’re in big trouble because we treat them as things to be opposed. We need not look any further than Nazi Germany and the Holocaust to see what people can do to those they consider less than human.

It was also refreshing to hear Theo acknowledge flaws in the thinking of people he more closely aligned himself with. Every side has flaws because they’re made up of human beings, all of whom are flawed.

Someone asked me recently if I thought our country was more divided than ever. My response was no because there was a time we were so divided we plummeted into civil war. We have an opportunity to turn much of our negativity and opposition into something better. In order to do that I believe we need to stop opposing each other, stop shouting each other down and start having real, person to person conversations. Steven Covey encouraged us to “seek first to understand, then be understood.” That would be a great starting place.  I encourage you this week, reach out to someone who is different than you and start a dialogue.

Principles vs. Techniques, Laws and Other Burdensome Rules

When I lead The Principles of Persuasion Workshop for salespeople I tell attendees that a sales technique is good unless you find yourself in a situation where the technique doesn’t apply. If all you know is a technique or pithy response but not the why behind it you’ll probably find yourself a loss. However, understanding principles let you know why those sale techniques work which opens up many more options and gives you quite a bit of freedom. I was reminded of this thought as I read the blog post “Burn Your Rule Book and Unlock the Power of Principles” by Eric J. McNulty. He wrote:

“Principles, unlike rules, give people something unshakable to hold onto yet also the freedom to take independent decisions and actions to move toward a shared objective. Principles are directional, whereas rules are directive. A simple example of a rule: ‘All merchandise returns must be made within 30 days.’ Contrast this with Nordstrom’s principle-based approach: ‘Use your best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.’ The former shows no trust in either the sales associate or the customer. The latter is exactly the opposite and encourages the frontline worker to build a relationship with the customer.”

What does “the return must be within 30 days” rule signal? It could be that the company doesn’t trust its customers. They feel they will be taken advantage of so they have to limit the chance of that happening. A fundamental distrust of people might say more about the organization than the customers.

The rule could also signal that the company don’t trust their employees to make good decisions. Perhaps they need to do a better job hiring the right people and then training them on how to make good decisions that benefit the customer and the company.

As I considered principles and rules I thought about how Jane and I raise our daughter Abigail. We’ve always spent a lot of time talking with Abigail from the time she was very little. We didn’t want to just teach her right and wrong, good and bad. Rather, we wanted her to understand why we believed some things were good and some bad, and what made something right or wrong. Granted, these concepts are very subjective but we all possess subjective values and we pass our values along because we believe they’re good to live by.

My verification that we were on the right track came as Abigail approached her 16th birthday. My mom told me she was having a conversation with Abigail about getting her license and her curfew. Abigail told my mom that she didn’t have a curfew to which my mom responded, “Oh you better believe you do.” Abigail told her again that she didn’t have a curfew and again, my mom insisted she did, along with other rules. Then Abigail said, “No grandma, I really don’t have any rules but I wouldn’t do anything to break my parents trust.” Wow! That’s exactly what Jane and I would have hoped for. She wasn’t focused on the minutia of following rules but simply wanted to maintain a good relationship with us.

We’re not as involved in church as we used to be and I know church gets a bad rap quite often for reasons too numerous to list here. Church can seem like a rule based life to define good and bad but that’s not how I see it. When it comes to living right I believe this passage from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians, “For the whole law is fulfilled on one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” That’s pretty simple just like not breaking parent’s trust and just like using your best judgement. If something goes wrong following these simple principles then you have a coaching opportunity with your child or employee.

I encourage you to give thought to this idea this week. If you’re a parent, manager or run a company are you loading people down with rules or helping them understand why you want them to do what you’ve asked them to do?  George Patton once said, “If you tell people where to go, but not how to get there, you’ll be amazed at the result.” Tell your kids and employees where you want them to go, give a few guiding principles and they might just surprise you.