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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.

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.

Sometimes it’s Not “Why?” but “What?”

Last week I went for a four-mile run and after the first mile I wondered why the run was so slow compare to previous runs that week. As I started to ponder that a thought hit me – if I look for reasons why I’m running slow I’ll find them and I’ll keep running slow. Or instead, I could choose to focus on what I needed to do so I could run faster.

Why was I running slow? Here are some reasons that came to mind after I finished my run:

  • It was 26 degrees and it’s hard to run in the cold.
  • I started at quarter to six in the morning and early runs are tough.
  • I’d run eight miles each of previous three days and my legs were tired.
  • I’m 53 years old so it’s inevitable that I’ll slow down with age.

If I had focused on those thoughts in the moment they would have been justification for running slow. I also believe they would have put my mind in a state where it would have been hard to try to run any faster.

Rather than allowing my mind to gravitate to why I was running slow I decided to focus on what I needed to do in order to run faster. Here are the thoughts I began to focus on:

  • Relax and lengthen my stride.
  • Focus more on my breathing.
  • Take advantage of the downhill portions of the run.
  • Think about how much I enjoy running on cold, dark mornings.

One mile later my pace was 40 seconds faster and I easily maintained that pace for the next three miles!

As I pondered this it occurred to me that quite often we get stuck on “why” to the detriment of “what.” Our brains are constantly trying to make sense of the world around us and they do so by creating narratives. Before we realize it, we’re creating stories to make sense of things going on around us. The stories may or may not be accurate but we feel better having tried to make sense of the situation.

Sometimes we need to understand why something occurred in order to make the proper correction. In doing so we might just avoid a bad situation again. However, there are other times when the why is not nearly as important as the what – what am I going to do about this situation?

For example, at work you may never really know why someone reacted the way they did to your proposal. You can spend a lot of time ruminating over that question or you can simply focus on what you need to do going forward.

Another example might have to do with time. If you have the luxury of time and can determine why the situation you’re in exists that’s great. But, in the hustle and bustle world we live in we often face time constraints. You may not have time to delve into why things are the way they are because time is pressing and you need to decide what you’re going to do next.

Here are a couple of things for you to consider this week:

  1. If you have to construct a why for the situation you’re in try to temper the negative thoughts. Think about my run as an example. If I’d have focused on why I was running slow it’s not likely anything would have changed for the positive.
  2. Practice setting aside your desire to understand why and give more thought to what you can do in order to accomplish your goal. Again, think of my run as an example. When I focused on what I needed to do to run faster I accomplished my goal.

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 and you’ll learn how to can ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

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 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.

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 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.

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 viewed 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 viewed 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.

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.