Thinking Is Some Of The Hardest Work There Is

Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company,
once said, “Thinking is some of the hardest work there is, which is probably
why so few people engage in it.” Thinking may not be like manual labor but for
those of you who engage in deep thought you know it’s tiring! But why is that
the case? Here are a couple of reasons:
“The brain represents only about 2% of most
people’s body weight, yet it accounts for about 20% of the body’s total energy
use.” – from Brain Rules by John
“The brain consumes 300% more caloric intake
when engaged in cognitive evaluation and logical thinking than when in the
automatic mode.” – from The 7 Triggers to
by Russ Granger
Bottom line – that small piece of grey matter
in our skulls requires a lot of energy and when used to capacity it leaves us
quite tired. We do what we can to avoid working harder than we have to so Henry
Ford might have been correct about our aversion to the hard work of thinking.
Or perhaps our ability to reduce our thinking and save energy is a survival
Whether it’s laziness or survival, one thing
is for sure, when we can think less and conserve energy we usually do it. This
is important to understand if you want to become a better persuader. In March
2009, ABC News featured an article titled Expert Advice Shuts Your Brain
. Here’s my Cliff’s Notes version of the article:
Two dozen Emory University students are given
complicated financial problems to solve. They’re hooked to brain imaging
equipment so their neural activity can be observed. As they try to figure out
answers to the problems their brains are hard at work! Eventually a professor
from Emory University is introduced to the class, and it’s made known he’s also
an advisor to the U.S. Federal Reserve. In other words, he’s a very smart financial
guy. As he begins to give the students advice, even advice he knows is bad,
their brains “flat lined” because they stopped critically thinking.
So what went on there? From the perspective of
the psychology of persuasion, the principle of authority was engaged. This
principle of influence tells us people defer to those with superior knowledge
or wisdom when making decisions.
I like to share the ABC account because it
illustrates an important fact about persuasion – it’s not pop psychology or
some fad. When a principle like authority is engaged correctly it causes
physiological changes in the brain and that’s part of the reason the principles
of influence can be so effective when it comes to persuading others.
Consider the Emory University students. Left
on their own, they had to work hard to come up with answers. However, when a
credentialed individual who is viewed as much smarter than they are comes into
the equation everything changes. They can cease from the hard work of thinking!
Each of us does this at different times. This
is why we pay accountants to do our taxes, lawyers to defend us in court or
stockbrokers to invest for us. We don’t want to do the heavy lifting associated
with each of those mental activities.
How does this understanding help you be a more
effective persuader? Two ways.
First, the more someone understands your
expertise the less critical they will be of your ideas and recommendations.
That’s not to say everyone will do what you want nor am I advocating trying to
get people “brain dead” in order to persuade them. However, when they
understand your expertise they will more readily accept your position just as
the Emory University students did with the professor.
You can establish your credentials on your
business card (title and designations earned), through letters of reference and
introduction, speaker bios, years in business, how you dress, the car you
drive, etc. Each of these can indicate success which usually carries with it
the assumption of some expertise.
The second way to engage this is using outside
sources. You may be an expert or maybe you’ve not established expertise yet.
Either way, when you bring outside sources – other experts, graphs, charts,
stats, etc., into the persuasion equation, you begin to bring authority into
the mix and people will more readily accept what you’re sharing.
How will you apply this concept? Next time you
go into a situation where you need to be persuasive make sure people know your
credentials up front. Doing so after
the fact does little good because the person you’re attempting to persuade
might have already made up his or her mind. If you go this route, do so by
engaging someone to introduce you either in person or by email. When you do
this, make sure the person making the introduction knows the most important
credentials you have.
The other thing you want to do is look for
valid stats, charts, quotes or other references that show you’ve done your
homework and there’s respected support for what you propose.
Here’s an example of putting this into
practice. I’m in the insurance industry and work for an insurance company.
Quite often insurance agents will call their underwriter for more in-depth
understanding of coverages or insurance provisions. An underwriter might answer
the agent’s question off the cuff because they know the answer. However, if
it’s not what the agent wants to hear the agent might contend with the
underwriter. It’s a good bet the underwriter’s knowledge came from continuing
education so why not cite the source of knowledge? Here’s how I would advise an
underwriter to answer:
“That’s a great question. I remember when I
was studying for my CPCU…”
Now the answer is not just opinion because
it’s backed by the authority of the CPCU Institute.
Sometimes seemingly simple things like citing
a source or establishing credentials up front can make all the difference in
turning a no into a yes.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.
Cialdini “Influence”
 Would you like to learn more about
influence from the experts? Check out the Cialdini “Influence” Series featuring Cialdini
Method Certified Trainers from around the world.


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