Misinformation, Censorship, and Big Tech

Discussions about misinformation, censorship, and big tech social media platforms have been prominent in the news lately. The convergence of the six-month anniversary of the January 6th Capitol insurrection, ongoing debates about the origins of Covid-19 in the Senate, and the Biden administration’s failure to reach the stated goal for national vaccination all play into the discussion about the role and responsibility of big tech’s dissemination of information.

Misinformation and Manipulation

While the government cannot censor your right to free speech private companies can. That’s why the government is leaning heavily on big tech to do so. In other words, the government is indirectly trying to control free speech under the guise of the spread of misinformation and legal action against social media providers. But, let’s pause and consider the government’s role in misinformation from the highest level, our Presidents:

Kennedy and the Bay of Pigs

Johnson and all the misinformation about the Vietnam War

Nixon and everything having to do with Watergate

Reagan and the Iran Contra Affair

Bush Sr. telling voters, “Read my lips. No new taxes.”

Clinton’s denials about Monica Lewinsky

Bush and WMDs in Iraq

Obama saying dozens of times everyone could keep their healthcare

Trump…take your pick

Misinformation and the manipulation of information are not limited to big tech social media platforms, not by a long shot. Plenty of both go on in podcasts, over text, in phone calls, etc. As someone who strives to teach people how to ethically influence people, misinformation and manipulation anger me. But the answer is not to put the government thumb on social media and censor you and me.

Censorship

For most of my life I’ve heard about the ACLU defending the right for Nazi’s to march in different communities under the guise of free speech. I’ve known veterans who’ve said, “I don’t agree with what you said but I’ll die for your right to say it.” Freedom to share our ideas and thoughts is a constitutional right in this country. 

Censorship seldom works because there’s a principle of influence that comes into play – scarcity. Humans naturally value things more when they believe they are rare or possibly going away. There are numerous studies that show this. In one study with mock juries, when told to disregard certain information because it was irrelevant and therefore inadmissible, that jury award was 46% higher than another jury that never heard about the information. Don’t think about elephants – the very command causes you to do exactly that in the moment and likely for some time. 

Censored books and movies usually enjoy a bounce in sales. After all, if someone, some group, or the government, doesn’t want us to know about certain information then many people will assume it must be good, important, relevant or have some element of truth to it. If you’ve raised kids, you’ve seen this. The moment you say they can’t touch it, watch it, listen to it, or play with it that’s all they want to touch, watch, listen to or play with!

What about Truth?

What if the information that’s deemed inappropriate turns out to be true? If the kinds of restrictions being proposed were in place in some form or fashion in the past we’d probably be worse off because we wouldn’t have gotten to the truth in many scandals.

New Administrations

How will you react the next time there’s a shift in power and a new administration deems your viewpoint misinformed and attempts to restrict it? No party will remain in power indefinitely and what goes around comes around. We’ve been seeing this tit for tat more and more with our political parties. Of course, each side justifies it because they always believe they own the moral high ground. The approach of any party to restrict speech will come back to haunt them and will cause more polarization.

What’s the Answer?

I don’t know the answer but I’m not an elected official so it’s not my job to spend countless hours trying to figure it out. Having said that, I feel strongly that I know what the answer is not and that’s some form of censorship. Censorship is not seeing the forest for the trees. Those who censor might get what they want in the short run but I think we will all lose in the long run.

Brian Ahearn

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 385,000 people around the world.

 

 

Even Superheroes Need the Power of Persuasion

When I thought about this week’s blog post I felt I’d run dry. I’ve been writing weekly for more than a dozen years. That’s a long time and it’s not always easy to come up with fresh ideas to write about. 

No matter how much I pondered topics over the weekend, nothing jumped out. Then, as I was sitting in Starbucks on Monday morning it hit me. I was listening to Coldplay’s Something Just Like This and decided to share a post I’d written nearly a decade ago. The beautiful thing is that it ties in with last week’s post, What’s Your Superpower to Change the World? Coldplay’s opening lyrics that jarred me are:

I’ve been reading books of old

The legends and the myths

Achilles and his gold

Hercules and his gifts

Spider-Man’s control

And Batman with his fists

And clearly I don’t see myself upon that list

The Original Post 

As I was watching Spiderman 2 with my daughter on a lazy Sunday afternoon something leaped out at me. No, it wasn’t Peter Parker from the top of a tall building; it was Spiderman’s need for the power of persuasion when his superhero powers couldn’t do the trick.

As the movie concludes, Spiderman battles Dr. Otto Octavius who had become the evil Dr. Octopus. Spiderman momentarily bests the evil doctor and pulls off his mask to reveal his true identity. Dr. Octavius recognizes Peter Parker, a former student. The following exchange ensues as Peter tries to convince the doctor to shut down the octopus-like machine he’s created.

Spiderman: You once spoke to me about intelligence; that it was a gift to be used for the good of mankind.

Dr. Octavius:  Privilege.

Spiderman:  These things have turned you into something you’re not.

Dr. Octavius:  It was my dream.

Spiderman:  Sometimes we have to give up the thing we want the most.

Dr. Octavius:  You’re right.

At that point the doctor, having regained his old notion of right and wrong, proceeds to help Spiderman defeat the tentacle monster.

Despite his “spidey” superpowers our superhero decided the better course of action was to tap into a different superpower; the power of the principle of consistency. This principle of influence tells us people feel the psychological need to be consistent in word and deed. This need arises from the fact that most people feel bad about themselves when they say one thing and then go back on their word. This principle is so powerful that sometimes we even find ourselves doing things we don’t really want to do just because we said we would.

A Real World Encounter

An example of this might be the appliance salesman noticing you looking at a particular refrigerator model. Knowing full well there’s plenty in stock he might say, “I think we just sold the last one earlier today.” This taps into scarcity and makes you want it all the more. Then he taps into consistency, “I could go in the back and take a look if you like. If we have one left do you want it?” Feeling the tug that it might be the last one, then giving your word that you do want it, might lead you to make a purchase you might not have otherwise. After all, it will be hard to back out when he returns and tells you, “Great news, I was wrong. We do have one left. Let’s go get the paperwork started.”

Fortunately, Spiderman didn’t rely on stretching the truth like the salesman might have. During that final exchange between Peter Parker and his former professor, Peter simply reminded Dr. Octavius he told students his goal was to use artificial intelligence for the good of mankind. The doctor acknowledged it was indeed a privilege and this was the turning point where the foe became a friend and the two worked together to defeat the evil machine.

Tapping into the power of consistency is available to us more often than you think. We can do so by asking questions or learning about the other person in advance of the conversation where you need to be persuasive.

Conclusion 

So, here’s my persuasion advice: next time you want to persuade someone do your homework first. Can you find out something about the other person’s values and beliefs? Can you learn their stated position on things or uncover some of their prior actions? If you can and you figure out how to align your request with them, the odds of them saying “Yes” to you will go up rather dramatically. You might not be in a battle for the supremacy of good versus evil or trying to save a city from a mad man but nonetheless, I’m sure your request is important to you.

Brian Ahearn

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 385,000 people around the world.

What’s Your Superpower to Change the World?

I’ve been a guest on more than 100 podcast episodes over the last few years. I enjoy podcasts for several reasons. First, they are a great opportunity to reach new audiences around the world. Second, the conversations give me a chance to work on my speaking skills and messaging. Last but not least, I’ve met many wonderful podcast hosts. As the world slowly reopens, I hope to meet as many of them as possible during my travels. 

Having been on so many shows, it’s pretty rare when I’m asked a question I’ve not heard before. That wasn’t the case when Jason Cooper invited me on The Global Sales Leader Podcast earlier this year. Jason hails from Dublin, Ireland, so I hope to share a pint of Guinness or some Irish Whiskey with him someday. You can watch the episode on YouTube. 

Jason asked me a question I’d not encountered on any other show, and I thought it would be worth sharing with you. He asked, “If you had a magic pill to become a superhero, or had a magic power for 10 minutes, what would you use it for and how would you use it.”

After a long pause I replied, “I want to have a platform where the entire world can hear me. I want an opportunity to share something that might impact millions, or perhaps billions of people’s thinking for just a moment to get them to act more decently and civilly towards each other.”

I told Jason, “There was a meme on the internet a while ago that was attributed to the rapper Eminem. It said, ‘I don’t care if you’re black or white, male or female, gay or straight, if you treat me with respect, I’ll treat you with respect.’ People online applauded it, some saying that was their religion.”

Then I went on, “If you stop and think about it, what he’s saying is, I’m waiting for you to treat me with respect, and when you do, then I’ll treat you with respect. In other words, he’s turned away waiting and the other person is turned away, waiting.”

“I think the right approach is, ‘I don’t care if you’re black or white, male or female, gay or straight, I will treat you with respect, and I hope you’ll treat me with respect in return.’ In other words, I’m going to extend the very thing I want from you, and I hope you’re generous and reciprocate by giving it to me.”

I concluded, “When I tell people this they look as if the wheels are turning in their minds, as if they’re thinking, ‘You’re right that’s what makes sense. I should be extending forgiveness, kindness, respect, and grace. I need to extend those, and most people will reciprocate. That will get the ball rolling.’”

My approach isn’t new. Jesus encouraged us to be the first to give (the Golden Rule) and to treat people as we’d want to be treated. Gandhi told his followers to be the change they wanted to see in the world. Although what I shared isn’t new, I’ve come to see that it’s often the case that people can use different words to say the same thing. Sometimes the slightly different approach is what makes the lightbulb come on for people. I hope this sheds some new light on an old subject for you. Extend kindness, generosity, caring, and other good qualities and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how they come back around to you.  

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 385,000 people around the world.

Quarterly Newsletter

In my last quarterly newsletter I wrote, “If all goes well we might feel like life is closing in on ‘normal’ by summer.” Thankfully that seems to be the case in nearly all parts of the country.

I hope the second quarter was good for you on a professional and personal level. That was certainly the case for me. I was pleasantly surprised at the opportunities that started popping. I’ve used the video studio I set up in my home extensively with current and prospective clients. 

What’s caught my notice more than anything are the in-person speaking and training opportunities that have opened up for Q3 and Q4. No one is talking about contingency plans which leads me to believe businesses have faith that the vaccine is working, and the pandemic is largely in the rearview mirror. I hope things are looking up for you with each passing day.

Sincerely,

Brian

What’s Influence PEOPLE all about?

  •       Why – Help you enjoy more professional success and personal happiness.
  •       How – Teach you the science of ethical influence.
  •       What – Speak, write, train, coach, and consult.
  •       Who – Clients include leaders, salespeople, business coaches, insurance professionals, and attorneys.

Here’s What’s New

Blog Posts

Last quarter was a blogging milestone. My first post came out 12 years ago and every week since that time I’ve posted an article. That’s more than 600 posts! It’s not always easy to come up with something to share and some weeks I feel dry. However, it’s often the case when I come up with ideas just before my deadline that the articles resonate the most. I started the blog simply to share something I thought could help people on a professional and personal level. I hope you’ve gotten a few ideas that help you at the office and home.

Podcasts

Podcasts continue to be a cornerstone of my outreach to new markets. There are 108 listed on my website, several upcoming recordings on the calendar, and more than half a dozen ready for publication. Beyond the business aspect, I’ve met some truly good people, folks I hope to see in person as the country opens up and I hit the road. A few shows I encourage you to check out include: 

Writing

I’m happy to say both Influence People: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical and Persuasive Selling for Relationship Driven Insurance Agents continue to do well and get excellent reviews. Persuasive Selling also serves as the basis for my one-day workshop for insurance companies and insurance agents. Reach out to me if you’d like to learn more about that.

I’ve finished writing my third book, The Influencer: Secrets to Success and Happiness, and it’s in the hands of a few dozen reviewers. One early reviewer wrote, “This is a book for anyone in a position of influence! You will be a better teacher, coach, manager, leader, salesperson, or elected official when you learn how to use the scientifically proven methods of persuasion Brian shares throughout the book.”

The book follows a young man, John Andrews, as he learns about the impact influence can have on his professional success and personal happiness. I chose a story format to engage a new audience, people who might not pick up a psychology or sales book. Writing The Influencer has been the most fun I’ve ever had writing! Keep an eye out for it later this year.

Best of…

Warren Buffett said, “The best investment you can make, is an investment in yourself. The more you learn, the more you’ll earn.” Being one of the richest people who ever lived, let’s heed Buffett’s words! Below are books, podcasts, and shows that will help grow your greatest investment.

Books

Maverick: A Biography of Thomas Sowell by Jason L. Riley. Sowell is one of the great economic thinkers of the last 60 years and one of the most prolific writers having authored more than 30 books. Sowell grew up in Harlem in the 1930s and 40s, served in the military, then became an avowed Marxist. It wasn’t until he saw government inefficiency in action that he began to rethink many of his positions on governments and the economy. Whether or not you agree with his positions you cannot dispute his brilliance. 

Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy by Thomas Sowell. I read this book nearly a decade ago but was inspired to pick it up again after reading Maverick. Without getting overly technical, resorting to endless charts, or boring the reader with stats, Sowell lays out what the study of economics is and is not, and how it explains daily life. Reading this book will give you an appreciation for why so many government solutions fail to solve some of our biggest problems (Hint: there’s a difference between political and economic solutions). The more I read the more convinced I became that more much of our freedom is due to our ability to prosper in a free market society.

Podcasts

Armchair Expert is co-hosted by Dax Shepard and Monica Padman. I was turned on to this show by my wife Jane. Dax and Monica have interesting guests including Barack Obama, Quentin Tarantino, Amy Poehler and many others. What I enjoy about the show is how down to earth, fun and funny the conversations are.

WorkLife is the brainchild of Adam Grant. Grant is a social psychology professor at Wharton and has authored numerous books. His goal is admirable – to make work not suck. I guarantee he will challenge your thinking so get ready to say, “I don’t agree,” or “Hmmm,” or “I never looked at it that way before.”

Watch

Thomas Sowell: Common Sense in a Senseless World is an hour-long exploration of the life and work of one of America’s great economists. No need to go into detail here since I mentioned Sowell in the books section. This might be a good way to dip your toe in the water before picking up Maverick or Basic Economics.

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 a dozen 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 380,000 people around the world.

Was it Good Fortune, an Opportunity Seized, or Both?

If you’ve followed my blog for very long or have read Influence PEOPLE or Persuasive Selling then no doubt you’ve seen my use of this quote, “Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.” For most of my life I attributed the saying to my high school football coach Todd Alles. A few years ago, a friend told me it was Seneca, the Roman philosopher, who first came up with the saying. I’m thankful that Coach was well read! 

Last week I listened to a podcast episode from The Jordan Harbinger Show where Jordan interviewed Robert Frank about The Myth of Meritocracy. The gist of the show was simply this – much more of anyone’s success has to do with luck than they’re willing to admit.

This notion offends some people. I think that’s especially true in America because of our “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality. Frank wasn’t saying success is just luck, but it plays a bigger role than we realize. Many people who never make it big work extremely hard, perhaps harder than some who do make it. The problem is, we don’t know those stories. Books aren’t written and movies are not made about the people who toiled throughout life and didn’t achieve notoriety. That would be too common of a story.  

Whatever you want to call it – good fortune, dumb luck, pure chance or golden opportunities – much of my success has been outside my sphere of control. Here are three that stand out for me because they were life changing. 

My First Job

As I was about to graduate college, I’d accepted a job in Akron, Ohio with a department store. The final week of school I got a letter from The Travelers Insurance Company. I knew nothing about the company or insurance but decided to go to the interview because the job was in Columbus, my hometown. If I got the job I reasoned I’d stay close to the girl I was dating, friends, and family. My first day on the job I met Jane. Within weeks I was no longer dating the other girl and Jane and I have now been married for more than 33 years. Oh yea, and insurance, the industry I knew nothing about, led to a great career!

Our Home

Jane and I have lived in the same home for more than 30 years. Believe it or not, it was the first home we ever looked at. The confluence of events leading to that decision was when a coworker who lived in the neighborhood mentioned to Jane that the home was for sale. The house was unique for the area, a Parade of Homes home in 1968. We didn’t have a realtor and Jim, the man showing the house, just happened to live in the same home – the only other one in the neighborhood – which led to instant trust. 

Meeting Robert Cialdini

My association with Robert Cialdini was completely by chance. After watching a video that a coworker shared, I was drawn to his work because of its application to sales, the research basis and his emphasis on ethics. When Stanford University advertised the video using the word “manipulation” I called them on it. In addition to his clear emphasis on ethical influence, my email to Stanford reminded them that nobody wants to be manipulated and no one (at least that I know) is looking to become a good manipulator. My emphasis was using the word manipulation cannot be helping sales of the video but it was probably hurting sales.

As a result of that email, Stanford changed the marketing of Cialdini’s video. And, to my good fortune, they told him about my email. He had one of his representatives call me to thank me on his behalf. That phone call led to him speaking at my former company and what turned into a nearly 20-year relationship.

Preparation + Opportunity

I do believe we have a hand in creating some of our luck. In each case I’ve noted there were decisions along that way that, if I’d decided differently, I would not have been in the position to positively interact with the opportunities that were presented.

I had to do well enough in school to be considered by The Travelers and I made the decision to take the job even though it paid less than the department store job.

With the house Jane and I had been working good paying jobs for a few years and saved some money. 

With Cialdini I had to trust my moral compass and make the decision to address the situation with Stanford. 

Don’t Forget Gratitude

At the end of the podcast Jordan and Robert Frank discuss the concept of gratitude. If you’re reading this, you should be grateful that you’re alive at this point in time. There’s never been a safer, more prosperous time on this planet than the age we’re living in. If you ponder other aspects of your life and consider some of the things that were outside your control that have helped you, express gratitude. I hope you take some time to check out the podcast episode because I think you’ll get a lot out of the discussion. 

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 a dozen 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 380,000 people around the world.

7 Power Phrases for Influence

What you say and how you say it can make all the difference between hearing yes or no, building or destroying relationships, gaining buy-in or making people feel forced to do something. This week I want to share 7 power phrases that, when used at the right time, can help you be more influential. 

Yes, and…

Kelly Leonard, a 25+ year veteran of the world famous Second City improv group, wrote a book called Yes, and… Improv comedy is built around the idea of “yes, and..” which means accepting whatever comes your way then adding to it. 

According to Kelly, all too often we’re quick to dismiss ideas out of hand in business. That’s unfortunate because those same ideas, if accepted and built on, could lead to innovative solutions. It’s about having an open mind and seeing possibilities instead of problems and roadblocks. 

No, but…

Jim Carrey played Carl Allen in the movie Yes Man, where he had to say yes to everything that came his way. It was a feel good, funny movie, but we know it’s not reality to say yes to everyone who makes a request of us. However, when you have to tell someone no then follow with “but”, you can segue into potentially acceptable solutions. That’s because this phrase takes the focus off of the unacceptable option and focuses more on actual possibilities. Remember, people usually forget what comes before but so strategically using this approach can be a pathway to an acceptable solution. 

Thanks, because…

I heard Kelly Leonard talk about “thanks, because…” recently on the Behavioral Grooves podcast. If someone shares something you disagree with or cannot do, look for the good in what was presented. Whatever positives you find, thank the person for sharing their point of view, say “because” then tell them what you learned or why you appreciate what they shared.

This approach is a strong relationship builder because you’ve not dismissed the person and acknowledged common ground.

Sure, as soon as…

Many years ago I read about this phrase in the Toastmasters magazine. Here’s a very typical scenario between a child and parent. 

Child, “Can I go to the movies?”

Parent, “No, you haven’t finished your homework.”

This approach comes across negatively. How about using this positive response instead, “Sure, as soon as you finish your homework.” In this scenario you’re giving permission but with a condition that needs to be met first. Use this approach and you’ll be able to tell your kids, “I always say yes to you.” 

How am I supposed to do that?

Chris Voss is the author of Never Split the Difference and one of the leading negotiation experts in the world. He used to negotiate hostage situations for the FBI and always got the hostages back safely. As you might imagine, hostage takers often make extreme demands and sometimes business negotiators make outrageous demands too. Voss suggests tossing the ball back in their court by asking how you’re supposed to meet that extreme demand. This approach often gets the other person to moderate their position and/or begin to collaborate on how you can work together to find an acceptable solution. 

I’m going to ask you something and if you’re not comfortable answering I’ll understand.

I’ve used this approach for years when it comes to difficult conversations around sensitive topics. My first recollection was with a former coworker. She was a black female who was a manager in a different division of the company, so we were only slightly acquainted. We bumped into each other at the airport and decided to sit next to each other on the flight once we realized we were heading to the same place. Shortly after takeoff I said, “I’m going to ask you a question and, if you’re not comfortable, you don’t have to answer. What’s it like to be a black woman working for our company?” She didn’t stop talking the whole flight and I gained a new perspective on race and gender. 

An opening like this gives people the freedom as to whether or not to answer. Never underestimate how much people want to retain their personal freedom! Using this approach, I’ve never had someone say, “Thanks, but I’d prefer not to talk.”

If you can’t do it, I’ll understand.

I read about this approach in Bob Burg’s book The Art of Persuasion then heard him mention it on the Negotiate Anything podcast. Bob’s phrase is similar to the opening I just described in the last section. 

Sometimes you interact with people who have the power to do, or not do, what you want. Acknowledging that and giving them the freedom to choose will work in favor of you far more than it will fail.

Conclusion

I hope you give some of the aforementioned approaches a try because I think you’ll find them highly effective, just as I have. Use them correctly and ethically to up your influence game. 

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 380,000 people around the world.

Are You Comfortable In Your Own Skin?

Last week I had lunch with a close friend who made an observation that made me think deeply. It’s not a stretch to say Dennis knows me better than anyone in the world other than Jane. That’s because he helped me through some rough times. He knows the good, the bad, and the ugly.

We’d not seen each other for quite some time because of the pandemic so, as you might imagine, it was good to shake hands, share a hug, and enjoy a meal together. As we talked about what transpired professionally and personally, he said, “You seem very comfortable in your own skin.” I don’t know about you but that wasn’t always the case with me. I hope that sharing this helps some readers get more comfortable.

Enjoyment, Not Perfectionism

When I was in middle school I came home with a pretty good report card; 6 As and one C. My dad’s response was, “What happened in English?” While I understand that what’s different usually catches our attention, and that he didn’t mean anything negative by the comment, it set in motion perfectionism in me. What made it tougher was that the comment came from a Marine who had very high standards. 

If you’re a perfectionist you never fully enjoy anything because of the focus on what went wrong. It leads to a gnawing sense that no matter how good whatever you did was, it could have been better. Imagine a golfer who shoots a 64, but only talks about the missed birdie opportunity on one hole. The focus is, “But I could have shot a 63 if I hadn’t missed that darn putt!” when it could have been, “I played the best round of my life!” Which mindset do you think leads to joy?

Content, Not Complacent

I told Dennis, when I’m finished with a presentation or training event at this point in my career it’s rare if I don’t feel like it was the best I’ve ever given. Now I allow myself to enjoy the moment and I don’t downplay any compliments I might get. Instead, I embrace them, thank people, and let them know it means a lot because I work hard on my craft. I’m content but it doesn’t end there.

Usually after a brief period I get back to work. I ask myself what I could do better next time. But the focus of that question isn’t obsessive. Now I get joy as I continue working hard at something I love and that I believe helps others. The difference is comparable to the person who compulsively works out and diets to look a certain way versus the person who eats well and exercises because they enjoy both and the healthy feeling that results. Who do you think enjoys life more?

Trust, Not Control 

I’ve also learned the difference between trust and control. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time then you’ve probably seen this quote before, “Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.” When you put in the work good things happen and quite often those good things aren’t even opportunities you were pursuing. Two instances come to mind.

My target market is insurance. I spent more than 30 years working for different insurance companies. I understand all facets of the industry from the company and agency sides. I spend my time going after that market and yet some of my biggest clients are not insurance related and they found me. When those opportunities present themselves, I’m either ready to help or trust enough to say, “I don’t think I’m the right person for what you need but I know people who can help.” 

The second instance had to do with a Ted Talk I was supposed to give last year. Five days out it was canceled because of Covid. I was disappointed but quickly reoriented my thoughts knowing all my practice and preparation would pay dividends in time. I’m starting to see that as that talk has become the basis for keynotes and breakout sessions for clients.

Conclusion

I’m thankful for Dennis’s observation because I’d not thought deeply about this. Nearly 30 years ago I wrote a personal mission statement, and in one section I wrote, “I want to like who God created me to be.” Am I perfect? Hardly, and I no longer care. There’s no one I’d rather be than me because I know I’m loved and accepted just as I am by the people who matter most in my life. I hope that’s the case for you too. 

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 380,000 people around the world.

Is Engaging Reciprocity a Hustle?

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about The 4-Step Reciprocity Loop for Better Relationships. The gist of the post was that some people don’t allow others to do for them in return. I pointed out why it might seem gracious for the giver to say, “You don’t need to do anything in return, your thanks is enough,” but in reality, this approach causes an imbalance in the relationship. Like it or not, right or wrong, people don’t like feeling under obligation. Even when you don’t expect anything in return, most people want to, or feel the need to, reciprocate. Reject their offers to reciprocate one too many times and people will start rejecting your sincere offers.

Another aspect of reciprocity came to my attention over the weekend when a friend forwarded a recent Seth Godin blog post called, The Reciprocity Hustle. The gist of Godin’s post was, don’t be insincere in your attempts to help or give because people see through that self-serving approach.

No disagreement with Godin on that point. I routinely get emails offering compliments, “Hey, I love your website…” or “Your last article was great…” Giving compliments is a way to engage liking and, because it’s also a form of giving, it engages reciprocity. Those emails filter through my brain this way, “I just gave you a compliment, so I hope you’ll do something for me in return.” Excuse me for a moment while I stick my finger down my throat and gag. I hate such blatantly manipulative approaches.

Those are the insincere attempts Godin was referring to. Reciprocity should not be viewed as “give to get.” I like to put it as follows; Don’t give to get but if you don’t give, you’ll never get. It’s about the right motive, a sincere desire to help. Anything else should be reframed as a tactic the other person is using just to get what they want. 

Godin ended his post with, “Simply show up with good intent to do work that you’re proud of. If we do this with consistency and care, sooner or later, it comes back around. Not because we hustled, but precisely because we didn’t.”

I agree with Godin about doing good work and trusting it will come back around…but don’t leave it there, simply hoping it will come back to you in time. I encourage you; if you’ve genuinely helped people, you should never be hesitant or feel awkward about asking for help when you need it. 

Most of the people you’ve helped along the journey of life and business will want to help you if given the opportunity. The problem is, they don’t wake up every day thinking about you and how they can help you. They have their own troubles to deal with, goals they’re striving for, and other issues that occupy their limited attention. That’s not to say they are ungrateful, they’re just busy. A tap on the proverbial shoulder might be all they need to learn what you need and say yes. 

Give without expectation because it’s the right way, the best way to do life. Imagine how much better life would be if everyone took that approach! And, when you need something from people you’ve genuinely helped along the way, feel free to reach out and ask for what you need. Most will be more willing to help than you might imagine and they’ll feel good about helping you as I outlined in The 4-Step Reciprocity Loop for Better Relationships.

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 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. Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses on persuasive selling and coaching have been viewed by over 375,000 people around the world.

What Charges and Drains Your Emotional Battery?

What activities give you emotional energy, charging your battery and make you feel like you could go all day long? On the flip side, what drains your battery, zapping your emotional energy and leave you feeling exhausted? My wife and I made a discovery around energy not long ago that’s been helpful for our relationship. I thought sharing the insight might help your relationships too. 

Here’s the backstory: Jane is extremely social, a total extrovert. I’m not so perhaps opposites do attract. I love her outgoing nature and enjoy introducing her to people. I often tell people who’ve not met her, “I know you like me, but you’ll love my wife.” And they do! She’s fun to be around, has a great sense of humor, is easy to talk to, and I marvel at how easily she relates to just about anyone. Emotionally she’ll go wherever you go. She will laugh and have fun with you but she’s also willing to feel your pain and cry with you if need be. Our daughter Abigail takes after Jane in this regard. They get energy from being with people and could float around a room talking to everyone without regard to time.

I’m the opposite. When I go to a social event, I prefer meeting just a few people and going deep in conversation. Trying to talk with lots of people takes conscious effort on my part and leaves me feeling exhausted. This surprises people because of how much I network and my public persona. I am relational but in a different way from my wife and daughter.

When it comes to standing in front of a group and presenting, I LOVE that! I get excited by the anticipation and enjoy preparing for events. Jane and Abigail dread being in the spotlight. For them anticipating being in the spotlight is nerve wracking, which makes it emotionally draining, but I draw energy from it.

Think about how the same activities have opposite effects on us. How did this insight help my marriage? Jane used to get upset with me at times because she thought I was being a stick in the mud. I on the other hand, would get upset with her because she wouldn’t stop talking to people. It was especially bothersome when I was ready to leave. I thought standing by the door with our coats in hand was a good signal. She and Abigail joke about me and tell people, “We always know when he’s ready to go because he just stops talking.” True!

After Jane and I came to the realization that socializing has the opposite impact on us we got along better and had more grace for each other during those times that used to frustrate us. I know her floating and talking makes her happy because it’s effortless. She knows my lack of engagement at times isn’t boredom, it’s just fatigue from consciously trying so hard. 

I encourage you to have a conversation about energy with people who are close with you. You’ll probably learn a few things, better understand that person and have more patience in situations that used to frustrate you.  

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 new 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 370,000 people around the world.

The 4-Step Reciprocity Loop for Better Relationships

Recently I overheard a conversation where an individual mentioned the kindness of a friend. She said whenever she goes to her friend’s business that friend never charges her for whatever services she provides. While the woman said she appreciates the friend’s generosity, she has a strong desire to do something in return for her friend in recognition of the kindness. The problem is that her friend usually refuses any return gesture. This refusal to receive creates an awkward imbalance in the relationship.

Reciprocity

Social scientists agree that all human societies raise their people according to the rule of reciprocity. Reciprocity describes that natural feeling of obligation you have to give back to those who have first given to you. 

In most societies the conditioning for reciprocation starts in early childhood. It’s a good bet when you were young, and someone did something nice for you, your mother or father looked at you and said, “What do you say?” At that point you turned to the other person and responded with, “Thank you.” 

Although not formally told, “You have to do something in return for people after they do something for you,” you quickly picked up the subtlety of what your parents were teaching you. When someone does something for you there’s an expectation that you’ll recognize their kindness by doing something kind in return. It might be as simple as saying, “Thank you,” or it could be more significant depending on the generosity of their act.

Giving

Sometimes giving occurs outside of any relationship. For example, someone might give you a free sample at a grocery store. At a minimum you thank the person. Sometimes that little free sample causes you to buy when you might not have otherwise.

Quite often giving occurs within a defined relationship.  When that’s the case, and the recipient isn’t afforded an opportunity to reciprocate, it creates an imbalance. If you’re like many people you may think, “Someone doesn’t have to repay me for my kindness.” With genuine kindness that’s true, you’re not doing it to get something in return. 

Here’s the catch; you need to consider how the other person is feeling about the relationship. Remember, there’s a societal expectation to return the favor. More importantly, if it’s true that “It’s better to give than receive,” then not allowing someone to reciprocate deprives them of an opportunity to do something that makes them feel good in much the same way that you felt when you first gave to them.

Receiving

I’ve noticed for whatever reason; some givers are not comfortable receiving. Something prevents them from receiving and graciously saying, “Thank you so much.” If you’re that person, pause to consider for a moment the people you interact with. You give to those people because it feels good and you see it creates happiness for them. 

Understanding this; doesn’t it make sense that their giving back to you would allow them to feel good and create a little happiness for you at the same time? Don’t deprive people of this opportunity because the good feelings we have about other people is part of building strong relationships.

The 4-Step Loop

With good reciprocal relationships there’s a willingness to give and receive from both parties that follows this pattern: 

  1.     A sincere willingness to give,
  2.     The willingness to receive on the part of the other person,
  3.     A desire to reciprocate, and
  4.     Your willingness to receive.

That’s the behavior loop that allows everyone to feel good as opposed to indebted. The next time you do something kind or generous for someone, and you sense they want to go beyond a mere thank you, allow them to do so. In some ways it will be another act of kindness on your part because you will allow them to get out from under the feeling of obligation, they’ll feel good about their giving, and they’ll get to see the joy on your face when you receive their kindness.

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 new book, Persuasive Selling for Relationship Driven Insurance Agents, was an Amazon new release bestseller.  

Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses on persuasive selling and coaching have been viewed by more than 370,000 people around the world.