My wife, Jane, is an awesome golfer! But, that wasn’t always the case. About 15 years ago she said, “I’m tired of people saying I have a nice swing. I want to get good scores! All I want for my birthday is money for golf lessons.”
Being the dutiful husband that I am, I gave her cash for that birthday. I also told the rest of the family that’s what she wanted.
Jane started taking lessons and practicing like a fiend! Over the years her scores dropped from the 100 to 110 range, down to the upper 70s and low 80s. In July this year she broke par for the first time. She birdied the 18th hole, the number one handicap hole on the course, to shoot a one under 71. Proud moment for her, proud moment for me.
Here’s the Story
I share that history to set up this story. Many, many years ago, I came home from a sales training event and during dinner I told her about a golf example I used in the training. I thought she’d appreciate that and it would make good conversation.
Several weeks went by and Jane was reading a book about golf. She turned to me and said, “Listen to what Corey Pavin says,” then went on to read a paragraph. What she read had to do with mindset and was almost exactly what I told her weeks before. Knowing that, I replied, “I told you that.”
She had no recollection of me sharing the golf example a few weeks earlier no matter how detailed I got about the training event or dinner conversation. Finally, I gave up and said, “Oh, if Corey Pavin says it then it’s true but when I say it, it’s not?”
Here’s the deal; Corey Pavin was a pro golfer who won 15 PGA events, including the U.S. Open in 1995, and was the #2 ranked golfer in the world at one time. So, who would you believe when it comes to golf advice; Corey Pavin, U.S. Open winner, or Brian Ahearn, bogey (double bogey!) golfer? That’s a no brainer, right? You’ll go with Corey Pavin every time.
Here’s the Thing
But here’s the thing; what I shared with Jane was every bit as true as what Corey Pavin wrote on the pages of that book. Sometimes it’s not what’s being said, it’s all about who’s saying it. The principle of authority alerts us to this reality; people will naturally believe the expert more than a non-expert.
What does this mean for you? If you want to be persuasive you need to invoke your expertise or borrow expertise whenever possible. In my case, Jane might have believed me more if I’d reminded her that I learned to play golf at Muirfield Village Golf Course, Jack Nicklaus’s course that hosts The Memorial Tournament. In other words, I learned from some pretty good pros.
My other option would have been to tell her about pros, like Corey Pavin, who use the mindset approach I shared. Knowing that right off the bat would have given more validity to my words.
Either approach would have taken what I said out of the realm of opinion and made me more influential. Next time you’re trying to influence people keep this in mind because it might be the difference between belief and disbelief.
PS To commemorate her under par round, I gave Jane a coffee mug that says, “71 and Fabulous.” I told her, “Every morning when you drink from it I want you to think, ‘I am capable.'” I may not be Corey Pavin but I do know a thing or two about mindset.
Brian Ahearn is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, TEDx speaker, international trainer, coach, and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the science of ethical influence.
Brian’s first book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was named one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by BookAuthority. His second book, Persuasive Selling for Relationship Driven Insurance Agents, was an Amazon new release bestseller in several categories.
Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses on persuasive selling and coaching have been viewed by more than 390,000 people around the world.