Cooperation is More than Just a Nice to Have

The late Rodney King famously asked, “Can we all get along?” His plea came after video footage of Los Angeles policeman beating him with night sticks surfaced and led to riots. Getting along, or perhaps cooperation, is more than just a nice to have, it strengthens groups and can help you enjoy more success in the moment and in the future.

Robert Cialdini, former Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University, coined the term “liking” for one of his seven principles of influence. The principle of liking tells you something you probably intuitively know – it’s easier for people to say “Yes” to you when they know and like you. The challenge as a persuader is to connect quickly with someone so they begin to like you. Once you’ve done that persuasion becomes much, much easier.

A great way to engage the principle of liking is through cooperation. Studies show when people cooperate and have success, they will like each other more. Perhaps you can relate to this example. You’re put on a project with a small team which includes one person – Kim – who you don’t know. You wouldn’t say you don’t like Kim but you also can’t say you like her either because you don’t know anything about her. As you work on the project you see Kim making significant contributions that lead to a successful conclusion. It’s very likely over that time you’ve come to like her first and foremost because of the cooperate effort you both put forth. It’s also a good bet Kim like you for the same reasons.

On the other hand, there may have been a time at work where someone – Pat – didn’t pull his weight and that was part of the reason for the failure of the project. Odds are, between the lack of cooperation and lack of success you probably don’t like Pat too much and Pat may not like you much either.
According to Will Durant and Ariel Durant, coauthors of The Lessons of History, “Cooperation is real, and increases with social development, but mostly because it is a tool and form of competition; we cooperate in our group—our family, community, club, church, party, “race,” or nation—in order to strengthen our group in its competition with other groups.”

It’s natural to like people who are like you (friends, family, community, etc.) and cooperate with those groups. When you cooperate with people outside a defined group you begin to create a new group. You see this when building sports teams. Cooperative efforts that lead to wins help teammates overcome lots of differences.

Another example comes from the movie The Dirty Dozen. A synopsis of the movie reads like this: “As D-Day approaches, Colonel Breed hands the roguish Major Reisman an important assignment: He must train a team of soldiers to parachute across enemy lines and assassinate German personnel at a French chateau. The soldiers, recruited from murderers, rapists and criminals on death row, are promised commuted sentences. In spite of their history, the 12 men prove a spirited and courageous unit. Led by Major Reisman, they will exact revenge.”

While The Dirty Dozen is only a movie it borrows from real life in that this ragtag bunch of misfits and criminals came together and achieved success that would have been impossible otherwise. That’s art imitating life!

Invoke the principle of liking by looking for ways to cooperate with others. You can do this personally or, if you happen to be a manager, use to build your team. In either case, not only will you be more likely to have success in the moment, you’ll set yourself and your team up for more success down the road.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLE. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed more than 120,000 times! Have you seen it yet? Watch it to learn how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

Persuasion isn’t Magic but it Can Help Influence Outcomes

In recent months I’ve spent a good bit of time listening to podcasts from Focus3, an organization that dives into leadership, culture and behavior as the pathway to elite performance for individuals and organizations. Focus3 is known for the following formula: E + R = O (Event plus Response equals Outcome). It’s not magic but it’s highly effective.

In a nutshell; events in life happen and they’re out of your control. The past is past and you cannot change it. You also cannot control future outcomes but you can influence outcomes based on how you respond to events of life. Here’s the key; do you react in a default, habitual way or do you thoughtfully respond with intention, with a goal of influencing the outcome you want?

The Focus3 view aligns closely with something Steven Covey shared in his classic book and one of the most influential books I’ve ever read, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey wrote, “We faced the reality of current circumstances (Events) and of future projections (Outcomes). But we also faced the reality that we had the power to choose a positive response (Response) to those circumstances and projections.”

While you cannot guarantee an outcome, you can influence the outcome in a favorable direction depending on what you choose to do. This is where understanding the psychology of persuasion (a.k.a. science of influence) comes in handy.

In life, the outcome you hope for quite often entails dealing with people where you have to move them to act in some way. If you know how people think and behave and you’re willing to trust the scientific research on persuasion you can get to a much better response than you’re probably getting today.

You see, while each of us adds our individual touch, flair or artistry to communication, underlying communication are proven principles which, if followed ethically and correctly, can help anyone be more persuasive. This will lead positive impacts on the outcomes they desire.

Make no mistake, understanding the psychology of persuasion is not a magic wand. Despite the claims of books and articles you cannot get anyone to do what you want all the time in eight minutes or less. In fact, you can never say for sure that you can persuade any particular individual to do what you want. However, relying on scientifically proven principles can guarantee that more people will do what you want. There’s more than seven decades of study to back up that claim.

Here’s a personal example. Last year I emailed about 100 people asking for their help with a fundraising endeavor. Ultimately 15 people took me up on the offer. You might think that’s not a huge response but what’s important to know is that it was triple nearly every other request made by other people. How much would it help you personally or professionally if three times more people took you up on an offer versus those you compete with?

I didn’t use a magic to get the higher response rate. No, I simply tapped into what I understood about the psychology of persuasion. That same psychology is available to you as well but like any skill in life getting better takes time, effort and practice. I hope you’ll keep following along to learn more about how you can make this a reality in your personal and professional life.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLE. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed more than 120,000 times! Have you seen it yet? Watch it to learn how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

Slow Down to Speed Up

I used to run marathons and considering the radical shift from bodybuilder to runner I did well. In fact, I did well enough to qualify to run the Boston Marathon. When I ran I either did very well or very poor. My best marathon times were about an hour better than my worst races. Something that made a big difference was learning to slow down in order to speed up.

The human body is amazing. We can run very fast (sprint) and we can run very far (marathons are 26.2 miles) but we can’t run a marathon at a sprinter’s pace. Sprinting, like weightlifting, is an anaerobic activity which means the muscles use very little oxygen and lactic acid builds up quickly. Distance running is aerobic exercise meaning your muscles consume lots of oxygen. If you’ve ever tried to run very far but started off too fast I’m sure you’ve experienced your legs feeling like lead (lactic acid build up) and your lungs feeling as if they’re on fire (can’t get enough oxygen to sustain the pace). You’re quickly reduced to a slow jog, walk or stopping altogether.

To succeed in distance running I learned to slow down to speed up. By slowing my pace per mile just a little bit, perhaps 10-20 seconds per mile early on, I was able to conserve energy and ended up running a much faster marathon time. As I noted earlier, my best times were about an hour faster than worst races.

How does this apply to you in business? In a recent leadership meeting I heard lots of people talking about the pace of work, not enough time to read all the communication that’s flying around, consistent mistakes and other challenges. My marathoning days kept coming to mind and I found myself thinking, “We need to slow down to speed up.”

Just as we’re not built to sprint 26.2 miles we’re not built to work at a frantic pace all the time. Trying to do so leads to a build-up of cortisol, the “stress hormone,” which can, “interfere with learning and memory, lower immune function and bone density, increase weight gain, blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease.” (see Cortisol: Why the “Stress Hormone is Public Enemy No. 1)

What can we (some of this takes buy-in from more than just you) do to combat the problem?

Limit meeting times

Don’t have meetings lasting more than 45 minutes because that’s about how long humans can maintain focused attention. You can go longer but know that science says people will not retain as much as they would if you limited the time and communicated more effectively.

Limiting the time also means meetings won’t be scheduled back to back. Time between meetings give people an opportunity to decompress and regain exposure. It also allows time to get a drink or snack which can improve brain function.

Break up longer meetings

For longer meetings make sure 10-minute breaks are scheduled every hour. The rationale is the same as above. I can’t tell you how many times in my 30-year career I’ve sat in meetings that went 90 minutes, two hours…or longer without a break! After a while people just start getting up to get snacks, use the restroom or just leave the room. For those who stay, they’re not retaining information and they’re not engaged.

Relax, don’t respond

Taking a break doesn’t mean frantically returning calls or reading emails. That’s not giving your brain the break it needs. You’ll handle those things more thoughtfully when you give yourself a dedicated space of time rather than rushing through them as you wander from one meeting to the next.

Stop multi-tasking

Multi-tasking as a fallacy because the human brain doesn’t do two things at once. When we’re trying to do multiple things at the same time our brains are engaged in task switching. When we do this error rates can go as high as 50%! In addition to that, your brain needs to reengage with the task it left and has come back to so everything ends up takes longer.

Do it once and do it right

My old high school football coach said during a leadership presentation that his father used to ask him, “If you don’t have time to do it right, where are you going to find the time to do it again?” In other words, take a bit more time the first go around to do it correctly and you won’t waste time making corrections or doing it all over a second time.

There are certainly more things you could do to “slow down” (meditation, exercise, mindfulness, music, etc.) but the point comes back to this: if you want to accomplish more during your days then make the conscious choice to slow down in order to speed up.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLE. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed more than 110,000 times! Have you seen it yet? Watch it to learn how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

 

 

Know the Game You’re Playing

Have you ever watched a tennis match where one player won more games but not enough sets and ended up losing the match? How about a football game where one team dominated the stats, held the lead the entire game but then lost on the last play? Here’s one that’s still fresh; a presidential election where one candidate won the popular vote, but not the delegate count, and lost the election?

In each case the losing side, fans or voters often say, “Yeah, but…” then talk about how their team, player or candidate should have won. The reality is it doesn’t matter how much one side dominates if they end up losing according to the rules. Tennis matches are won in sets, football games on the scoreboard and presidential elections are based on the electoral college vote. Know the game you’re playing!

This came to mind recently when people said President Trump was mentally unstable and unfit for office. If you followed the story did you notice he didn’t try to defend his mental stability or fitness? He went to an extreme, calling himself a “very stable genius” and it was a genius persuasive move. You might be wondering why I’d write that considering I’m not a Trump voter (I didn’t vote for Hillary either). I write that because it was brilliant anchoring on Trump’s part.

Anchoring is a term used in psychology that can be described this way; when you put out something like a number, it acts as an anchor and begins to change people’s minds in reference to that point. For example, if I want to sell something for $1000, when I put out that first offer it’s very likely what I end up getting will be closer to $1000 than if I’d not made that original offer.

In the case of Trump, he ignored the mentally unstable comments. If he would have tried to defend his stability around that singular point he would not have been nearly as successful as he was when he referred to himself as a “very stable genius.” Now you might have argued, as many others did, “I don’t think he’s a genius. In fact, I don’t know anyone who thinks he’s a genius!”  But do you see what happened there? The conversation shifted from mentally unstable to debating whether or not he was a genius. Maybe he’s not a genius, only really smart. Or perhaps he’s just smart. Some might still call him dumb but he shifted the entire conversation away from being mentally unstable and unfit to be president!

Do you recall him using this approach during the election? He boasted he knew more than the generals about ISIS. People knew that wasn’t the case but the debate wasn’t that he knew nothing, it was whether or not he knew as much as the generals.

As I write this his mental stability is no longer an issue in the media. Like him or not, Trump won that round. The media moved from mentally unstable to talking about Fire Fury, the expose on him and his administration. Then it was accusations that he slept with a porn star. Those are out now because we’re debating the government shutdown and DACA. By the time you read this there may be something totally new grabbing our attention. What’s going on?

  1. Controlled chaos. Trump loves controversy and notoriety. Being noticed, even if it’s negative, is better than not being noticed. The more that comes out, the less the last thing sticks with us.
  2. The media is paying into his hand. They keep focusing on the next story and all the other controversies become a memory.
  3. Attention spans are shorter than ever. Most people don’t read much so they get their “news” in sound bites from editorial television shows posing as news shows.

Nobel prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman was right when he wrote in Thinking, Fast and Slow, “Nothing in life is ever as important as you think it is, while you are thinking about it.” We’re not thinking about much except Trump. His controversies are just a footnote in our thoughts because they keep changing but he remains constantly in the news and on our minds.

You might relate to this from your childhood. When I was growing up there were certain kids who got picked on regularly. Those who got angry, yelled back and made a scene played into the bullies’ hands because the bullies got under their skin. The bullies poked to get a reaction and it worked on most kids. In other words, those being picked on didn’t know the game the bullies were playing.

I don’t write this in support of Trump nor do I write it to discredit him. Whoever is president – democrat or republican – I want that person to succeed for the good of our country. I wrote this post because whether it’s Trump or anyone else you need to know the game that’s being played otherwise you’ll get played.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLE. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed more than 110,000 times! Have you seen it yet? Watch it to learn how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

 

Because, Because, Bec-oz…An Easy Way to Get to “Yes”

In The Wizard of Oz Dorothy, her dog Toto and her three friends (Scarecrow, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion) were off to see the wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz. Why were they going to see him? Because, because, because of the wonderful things he does!

The word “because” persuades you and can help you become more persuasive. Believe it or not, your mom and/or dad conditioned you to comply with other people’s requests every time they used the word “because.” It may have gone like this:

Mom or Dad – “Take out the trash.”

You – “Why?”

Mom or Dad – “Because I said so!”

You – Hurried and took out the trash.

And thus began your conditioning after hearing “because.” You learned to “fall in line” because of “because” but it can also help you get to the front of the line.

In Yes: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive (Cialdini, Goldstein, Martin) a study is mention about the power of “because” in persuasion. Ellen Langer, a behavioral scientist, conducted the study in which people standing in line at a copier machine were approached by a stranger who asked, “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?” Nearly two out of three people (60%) graciously let the person to go in front of them. Later the person conducting the experiment approached the copier line and asked, “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush.” Hearing the person was in a rush, nearly everyone, 94%, allowed the person to get in front of them.

Of course, if someone is in a rush we might be more generous but the real question is this; was it due to being “in a rush” or could it have been something else that caused those people to comply with the request? To answer the question, one more variation was tried. This time the person would ask, “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make copies?” You might assume people would deny the bogus request because everyone was in line to make copies. Despite the reason being irrelevant, 93% of the people let the person go to the front! There was virtually no difference in response between a valid and bogus reason when “because” was used.

Social psychologists theorize we don’t pay attention to the reason given because we’re so conditioned by the word “because” that we hardly pay attention to the reason that comes next. Again, think about the response you heard from your parents when you questioned them about why you had to do something. Every time I ask a group that question I hear, “Because I said so!”

How can this understanding help you? Two ways come right to mind. First, it can help you protect yourself. Don’t mindlessly comply with a request without giving thought to the reason you’re being asked to do something. If you don’t you may just find yourself doing something you wished you hadn’t done.

The second way you can use “because” is to be more persuasive. When my daughter Abigail was younger she used to ask me what I did at work. I’d share things I thought she’d find interesting and things I felt would really help her someday. During one conversation I told her about the copier study. I encouraged her, “Abigail, whenever you ask someone to do something, always say ‘because’ and give them a reason. If you do that more people will say ‘Yes’ to you.”

Here’s the really cool thing. Long after that conversation, Abigail and I were watching American Idol and the latest American Idol CD was about to hit stores. Ryan Seacrest was promoting the CD outside a music store where there was a long line of people. Smart producers were using the principle of consensus to get you to believe everyone wanted to buy the new CD. As Seacrest was talking about the CD he’d try to make his way into the line but each time people denied him. Eventually he was at the back of the line with a disappointed look on his face. Out of nowhere Abigail blurted out, “He should have said ‘because.’” I looked surprised and said, “What?” She went on, “Dad, don’t you remember the copier story?”

I was stunned but glad because that’s a life skill that will serve her well. It will serve you well too, if you look for ways to use your new understanding of “because.”

Takeaway: Next time you ask someone to do something, take one more breath, use the word “because” and give them a legitimate reason. You’ll be pleasantly surprised because science says you’ll have more people saying yes to you.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLE. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed more than 110,000 times! Have you seen it yet? Watch it to learn how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

3 Things are Extremely Hard…

Ben Franklin famously said, “Three things are extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.” Now you might be thinking you know yourself well because you can describe your likes, dislikes, hobbies, career, family roles, etc. What Ben Franklin was talking about was understanding at a deeper level. Understanding why you do what you do gives insight into who you really are.

Why is it so hard to know yourself? Below are five psychological reasons that stand out to me. As you read, think about yourself in relation to each one.

Habits

If you’ve ever walked on a naturally worn path in the woods that’s a good example of habits. The more people walk on the dirt path the more other people will walk on that path even though there might be hundreds of ways to zig zag through the woods and get to the same end point. A well-worn path is easy to follow.

Habits are like paths that are often formed before you realize it. They make life easier because they save you time and energy. And that’s also what makes habits hard to change. Habits usually serve a purpose and therefore have to be replaced with new, better habits.

If you were in the woods it wouldn’t be enough to tell yourself you’re not going to walk on the path (an attempt to break the habit) you’d have to navigate a new path and that’s never easy.

Cognitive Dissonance 

Cognitive dissonance is the human tendency to rationalize what we believe or do so we can avoid feeling hypocritical. For example, you might acknowledge you could eat better BUT you’ll self-generate reasons to confirm why what you’re currently do is acceptable. Your rationalization might include the following: healthy food is over-priced, you’re on the go all the time, or your job has you eating out several nights a week.

There’s a saying in sales – people buy based on emotion and justify with logic. That justification is how people rationalize buying things they don’t need and can’t afford (The deal was too good!) so they don’t feel bad about themselves. Likewise, with many things in life people simply create reasons – true or not – to explain their behavior in ways that allow them to feel better about themselves.

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias happens when you only seek or respond to information that confirms your current beliefs. Confirming what you already believe is easier and less time consuming than challenging your beliefs and ways of doing things. This is one more reason it’s hard for you to change.

We seldom state what we believe, acknowledge we could be wrong, then seek to honestly challenge our beliefs by looking at opposing data. Instead we take the easy road without realizing we’re doing it because it helps us avoid feeling hypocritical. This is why most people lock into one media source (MSNBC, Fox, CNN) for their news.

Confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance together create a powerful one-two punch to keep you mindlessly doing what you’ve always done.

Impact of Influence

Over the past 15 years I’ve immersed myself to learn about influence. Something I’ve seen consistently with people is a resistance to the idea that attempts at influence impact them. They’ll readily admit influence techniques impact others, but not them because they’re too smart.

I’ll let you in on a secret…even though I teach influence sometimes I’m persuaded by things I’m unaware of. I pretty much view the world through the lens of influence and if it can impact me at times without notice then how much more with untrained people? Most influence operates at the subconscious level and that’s why you’re unaware when it’s impacting you. And that leads me to my last area of impact…

Our Subconscious

Most neuroscientists estimate 85%-95% of what we do in a given day is driven by our subconscious. In other words, the vast majority of the time we act without consciously thinking about what we’re doing or saying!

Imagine your subconscious is an umbrella over your habits, cognitive dissonance, confirmation bias and influence. Each of those primarily operates without your awareness because they impact you at the subconscious level.

This unconscious behavior is a huge reason why it’s so hard for us to know ourselves and understand why we do what we do. If you’re not aware of what’s going on in your mind how can you really know why you do what you?

Think about the Wizard of Oz for a moment. At the end of the movie the curtain was pulled back to reveal the great and mighty Oz was actually just a little old man with a megaphone pulling some strings. Pull the curtain back in your life and you’ll begin to see the reasons for why you do what you do. But beware, doing so will take time, energy and courage and that’s why Ben Franklin was so right when he said, “Three things are hard: steel, a diamond and to know one’s self.”

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLE. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed more than 110,000 times! Have you seen it yet? Watch it to learn how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

 

Persuasive Coaching: To Lead Learn How to Follow

Over Christmas my wife and I got into Game of Thrones. We’re a little late to the game but managed to plow through nearly four seasons of the show! One scene in particular caught my attention. Jeor Mormont, the old, gruff commander of the men of the Nights Watch, said to Jon Crow, the impetuous bastard son of nobleman Ed Stark, “You want to lead one day, then learn how to follow!”

The reason this caught my attention was because of the coaching we do at State Auto Insurance. We developed a 2-hour workshop for all employees called Coaching U and Your Career. During our time together we focus on why the company moved from performance management to a coaching culture, how to be coachable and what coaching can do for an employee’s personal and professional goals.

Something we emphasize during the training is this: when you learn to be coachable you’re also learning many of the same skills it takes to be a good coach.

For a moment think about great coaches you’ve had, whether in sports, business or some other area of life. What qualities did they display? If you’re like people who attend our workshops many of these words might have come to mind: patient, good listener, teacher, trust, care, friend, team player, expertise, knowledgeable, communicator.

Now consider this. If you were a manager charged with coaching your team, what qualities would you want people to display? These are the words we hear quite often: trust, vulnerable, listen, team player, eager, care, patient, confidence, open-minded, communicator.

Do you see the overlap in traits? About half of the words – trust, listen, team player, care, patient and communicator – appear on both lists. When you’re coachable you’re learning what it takes to coach.

Here’s the good news – each of these traits is a skill which means with concentration and practice you can get better at each. Work on being more coachable and you’re laying the foundation to be a coach.

In business, everyone needs to be coachable because, depending on the environment, we all experience times when we’re in subordinate positions. Even CEOs report to the board of trustees in the organizations they lead so they need to be coachable too.

In much the same way that Jeor Mormont admonished Jon Crow, “You want to lead one day, then learn how to follow,” if you want to coach one day then learn how to be coachable.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLE. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed more than 110,000 times! Have you seen it yet? Watch it to learn how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

The Big Bang Theory of Reciprocity

Across much of the world, it’s the holiday season and for most people the biggest holiday of them all is Christmas. Some celebrate Christmas as the season of joy and peace. For others, it’s the season of love and for many more it’s the celebration of the birth of Jesus.

A huge part of celebrating Christmas is Santa Claus, Christmas trees and holiday music. In some stores Christmas music started around Halloween! Of course, the holiday season represents the bulk of sales for many retail stores, sometimes accounting for as much as 70% of their annual sales!  A successful holiday season is a matter of economic survival for many stores.

All of this leads to another Christmas tradition – gift giving. The television show The Big Bang Theory had an excellent skit on the exchange of gifts, where Sheldon feels pressure because Penny got him a Christmas present. Here’s some of their exchange.

  • Sheldon: You bought me a present?
  • Penny: Yes.
  • Sheldon: Why would you do such a thing?
  • Penny: I don’t know, because it’s Christmas.
  • Sheldon: No Penny, I know you’re thinking you’re being generous but the foundation of gift giving is reciprocity. You haven’t given me a gift, you’ve given me an obligation.
  • Penny: Honey, it’s okay, you don’t have to give me anything in return.
  • Sheldon: Of course I do. The essence of the custom is that I now have to out and purchase for you a gift of commensurate value and representing the same perceived level of friendship as the gift you’ve given me. Gosh, no wonder suicide rates skyrocket this time of year.

It’s a very funny scene so if you’d like to watch the clip click here. The skit does hit the rule of reciprocity fairly well. This principle of influence tells us people feel obligated to give back to those who have first given to us. We also feel we should respond in kind so Sheldon was responding to a lifetime of conditioning when he felt like he had to match Penny’s gift.

We also see reciprocity at work in another of the Christmas traditions – exchanging holiday cards. Have you ever gotten a Christmas card in the mail from someone not on your list? How did you feel? I bet the majority of you reading this would respond in one of two ways:

  1. Get a card in the mail to the other person right away, or
  2. Add the person to your mailing list for next year.

Why do we respond this way? Because we’d feel socially awkward around the other person if we didn’t get them a card or gift and they took note of that.

We are so conditioned by reciprocity that we even respond when we don’t really want to. Here are some examples:

  • You’re at the mall and someone shoves something in your face and begins asking you questions. You respond – even though you’re rather they not do that – saying, “No thanks” when in reality you’re not thankful.
  • You get mailing labels in the mail and you respond to these “gifts” by sending the charitable organization money.
  • You’re out for drinks with friends and have had enough and are ready to go home but you stick around to buy one more round of drinks because you don’t want to be seen as having several drinks and not paying for a round yourself.

But there’s good news in all this. Sheldon wasn’t 100% accurate in the skit. He said suicide rates skyrocket this time of year and that’s not true. According the NYU Lagone Medical Center, “The media often links suicides during this time of year to the ‘holiday blues.’ However, various studies have shown no relationship between depression and suicide, and the holiday season. In fact, researchers found that depression rates and suicides actually drop during the winter months and peak in the spring.”

So, while it may be the season to reciprocate, don’t buy gifts and send cards this time of year under penalty of death. However, beware, you might feel awkward around some people if you break the rule of reciprocity but that feeling will pass eventually.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLE. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed 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.

My Golden Circle

Simon Sinek popularized the concept of the Golden Circle. He believes initially people are much more concerned with Why you do what you do as opposed to How you do it or the details of What you do. How and What are just as important as Why but the order in which you talk about them matters, especially when you engage people early on.

The Golden Circle has Why at the center because it’s where you should start conversations. Once people understand your Why they’ll be more open to hear How you go about fulfilling your Why. That’s the next layer in the Golden Circle. Finally comes the outer circle because once they know Why and How, they’ll be more apt to listen to What you actually do.

Sinek’s thought process resonates with me so I thought I’d let you know my Golden Circle. Using Sinek’s model my Golden Circle looks like this:

  • Why – Help people enjoy more professional success and personal happiness
  • How – Teach people the science of ethical influence
  • What – Speak, write, train, coach and consult

Why

I think it’s safe to say most people would like to enjoy more success at work. Quite often success comes about when someone says yes to your new product idea, sales proposal or management change to name just a few. Getting to yes can be tough…unless you understand how to ethically influence others.

Likewise, I believe everyone would like to enjoy more peace and happiness at home. After nearly 30 years of marriage and raising a daughter I can tell you from firsthand experience that life at home is much more peaceful and happy when my wife and daughter willingly say yes to me. I think they’d tell you there’s more peace and happiness when I willingly say yes to them too.

How

How do you get others to say yes to you more often? Science. Did you know there’s more than 70 years of research into the psychology of persuasion? That’s right, more than seven decades of studies from behavioral economists and social psychologist into this field of study.

One of the most prominent researchers is Robert Cialdini, PhD., the most cited living social psychologist in the world when it comes to the science of ethical influence. As one of only a few dozen people in the world certified to train on his behalf I can share insights with you that will significantly increase the odds of achieving that professional success and personal happiness you’d like to enjoy.

What

So, what is it that I do to help people? Most obvious, because you’re reading this, is blogging. I’ve been writing weekly on this topic for almost 10 years. Like clockwork, every Monday at 5:30 PM a new blog post goes live. If you’re enjoying more professional success and personal happiness because of what I write then why not share the blog to help others?

When it comes to speaking I do lots of keynote presentations. I believe keynotes should be fun, entertaining and most importantly actionable. If you’ve attended one of my talks then you know you’ll hear interesting stories, learn some fascinating science and most importantly you’ll get application ideas. After leaving a presentation you’ll have at least a handful of things you can immediately use to be more persuasive.

I separate training from speaking because the training I do is typically one or two full days as opposed to 60-90 minutes. This allows for deep learning when it comes to the principles of influence. More important that the learning (head knowledge), participants get to apply their learning in class. Being persuasive is a skill that needs to be practiced if it’s something you want to excel at.

Coaching is the best way to get better at almost anything skill related. That’s why we see the best athletes in the world continually working with coaches. A coach will push you, encourage you, hold you accountable and share insights you might not otherwise get. Coaching sessions are usually 30 minutes and are tailored to an individual’s particular needs.

Last but not least is consulting. Sometimes there’s a need that has to be addressed immediately. There may not be time for a workshop or coaching because a problem needs to be solved now. Immediate needs aside, some people don’t have time to attend a workshop or know they wouldn’t have the discipline to put into practice what they learn. That’s okay because we can talk about your specific situation and work together to make sure they’re addressed.

Want to learn more? Just reach out to me to start the conversation.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLE. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed more than 110,000 times! Have you seen it yet? Watch it to learn how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

 

Yin and Yang or Everything in Moderation

Goal setting is good but some say it can be bad. Yes, a few studies show the act of setting a goal convinces some people they’ve achieved their goal and don’t need to do any more. Having set the goal set them back.

Aerobic exercise, like running a marathon, can be very good but some say it’s potentially bad. One article warns that distance running can be bad for your heath.

Let’s circle back. I don’t think most people are failing to actually reach their goals because they’re setting goals. No, I’d bet most people would do much, much better if they knew how to set good goals and then did so.

Likewise, I’ve rarely met people who felt running hurt them. Yes, too many marathons can take a toll on the joints and ligaments, especially if you don’t listen to your body and adapt as necessary with age. But, on the whole most people suffer from a lack of aerobic activity, not too much.

I’m sure there are many more things I could list that have an upside and downside but the real question is this: does the potential upside outweigh the potential downside?

This has come to mind because it seems like so much downside caution has come across my social media in recent months. When I read it, I wondered how many people won’t do something that could be potentially very good for them because of the small downside.

The principle of influence known as scarcity tells us we place more emphasis on potential downside than we do upside. Daniel Kahneman won a Nobel Prize for his work in this area. He and his late partner Amos Tversky statistically proved human beings feel the pain of loss anywhere from 2.0-2.5 times more than the joy of gaining the same thing. In simple terms; you feel much worse about losing $100 than you would feel good about finding $100.

This is important for you to understand when it comes to your personal improvement. Don’t let comparatively small downsides get in the way of potentially big upsides!

My advice is set goals! In fact, set some you think you might not reach – stretch goals – because you’ll probably be surprised at what you do accomplish as you challenge yourself.

Take up a running program if your doctor says you’re fit enough to do so. There are plenty of stories of people who were woefully out of shape and finally did something about it and now are the epitome of health.

And here’s some extra good news – most of the time doing something like running a 10K, half marathon or marathon has spillover effects. Once you achieve something you never thought possible you get a sense of confidence to tackle challenges in unrelated areas.

This advice is timely as we wind down another year and prepare for a new one. I challenge you to find one thing that will stretch you. Next, set a goal then go for it. What you might just find is the journey is the real challenge and more fun than actually reaching your goal. Do this and 2018 might just be one of the best years of your life!

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLE. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed 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.