Grateful to be Back

Last week was my first time on stage to give an in-person keynote in 15 months! To say that I was grateful to be back would be an understatement!! Despite how awful air travel can be sometimes, there was a weird sense of comfort navigating different airports. Sleeping at hotels is never as nice as at home but it felt wonderful to walk into a Ritz Carlton and enjoy all that goes with it. Putting on a suit and tie used to be a hassle but this time it felt great. 

We’re all experiencing moments like I just described as we emerge from the pandemic. It’s a good bet most of us are vowing to never take any of it for granted again…but we will. 

States of Being are Relative

Here’s the thing about gratitude, happiness, love, and most other states of being; they’re relative experiences.  

Next time I step on stage I’ll be grateful but probably not to the same degree as last week. The more I travel the more I will get bothered by airports and planes again. The next hotel may not be as ritzy as the Ritz. Wearing a suit after a while will become old hat.  

You experience this too. You probably don’t get the same excitement over things that you did initially like a first kiss, first taste of your favorite food or drink, new job, or any number of other firsts. 

It’s How We’re Wired

What I just described isn’t good or bad, it’s just the way we’re wired. We make comparisons in relative, not absolute measures. We see this all the time when we shop. For me the classic example comes from a survey I did with blog readers many years ago. Here’s the excerpt I wrote about in my book Influence PEOPLE:

Question 5 on Survey A focused on saving money: You are at a store considering buying a high-end electronic item for $879. While there you learn you can drive across town and get the same item for $859. Will you make the trip (approx. 30 minutes)? An overwhelming majority said they would not make the drive to save the money. In fact, only 13% said they would go to the other store.

On Survey B question 5 also focused on saving money: You are at a store considering buying an electronic item for $79. While there you learn you can drive across town and get the same item for $59. Will you make the trip (approx. 30 minutes)? This was almost an even split, with 49% saying they would make the drive.

Here’s the point: Look at both questions again and you see the savings is exactly the same, $20. Yet, half will make the drive to save $20 on a $79 purchase, but nearly nine in 10 would not when considering the same savings, but on a big-ticket item. Saving $20, whether on an expensive item or lower priced item, is still a $20 savings! Most people reading this would probably drive across town if they heard someone was giving away $20 bills for free (limit one per person), which is really the same as saving $20 on a purchase, no matter how large or small. But, as you can see, much of the response is dictated by what the $20 was compared to. 

Let’s face it, saving $20 on a big purchase doesn’t feel as good as saving it on a smaller purchase or getting a $20 bill for free. Shopping is one of many experiences we have daily that fall prey to this human condition. It’s an emotional reaction just as are gratitude, love, happiness and most other states of being. 

What’s the Cure?

Fighting this phenomenon is like fighting aging. There’s no cure to stop the aging process, but we can mitigate it some by instilling good habits around living a healthy lifestyle; emotionally, mentally, and physically.

We can’t change the reality that we won’t always be as grateful, loving, or happy because it’s how our brains naturally work. However, you can create habits that will slow the slide. Here are a few things I try to do with regularity.

Music. I have a playlist on my iPhone for Jane and one for Abigail. Each contains songs that remind me of them and elicit good feelings. Listening to those songs puts me in a better mood when I’m getting ready to spend time with them.

Mission Statement. I wrote a personal mission statement nearly 30 years ago. I listen to it each morning as I get my coffee. There are many parts, including a section on family, that serve as reminders to appreciate what I have in life.

Morning Walk. Each morning I walk a few miles shortly after I wake up, before I start my morning workout. The walk is a time to think, pray and give thanks.

These may not be for you but hopefully they stimulate some ideas on what you might do to proactively change your state. Whatever you choose to do, ingrain habits and view them as small investments that will pay big dividends. You’ll be grateful you did.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, 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 a new release bestseller in several Amazon categories.  

Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses on the application of persuasion in sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 350,000 people around the world.

 

Einstein was Right!

Albert Einstein is known for his contributions to science, most notably the Theory of Relativity and E=MC2, but he also taught us well when it came to communication. His sage advice was this; “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” And no, he wasn’t talking about memes.

Simplifying complex ideas takes effort on the part of the person who is communicating. Mark Twain said as much when he wrote, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter so I wrote a long one instead.” Knowing something well enough to break it down to its essence and then communicate it so more people understand it is hard work for the communicator and immensely helpful for the learner. 

Simplify for Understanding

An example of simplifying for understanding would be explaining what it means that a star is 100 light years away. It’s factually correct to say it is approximately 600 trillion miles from the earth but that’s awfully hard to comprehend. What frame of reference does the average person have for a trillion, let alone 600 trillion, miles? 

Simplifying 100 light years would be telling someone; if you could travel at the speed of light, it would take you 100 years to reach that distant star. While someone may not fully grasp the distance or the speed of light, it’s much easier to imagine with this simplified explanation.  

Steve Jobs had a brilliant explanation for the first home computers. He called them bicycles for the mind. Anyone who’s ridden a bike knows they can get where they want to go faster and with less effort than running. Computers help us do more and do it all faster.

But Don’t Oversimplify

The “10,000 Hour Rule” gained popularity when Malcom Gladwell mentioned it in his book Outliers. He pointed out how Anders Erickson studied world class performers and found that generally great performers put in around 10,000 hours of practice to attain elite status. 

What was missing from Gladwell’s explanation was the concept of deep practice. It would be a misnomer to think simply doing something for a long time makes you an expert. The average American works approximately 100,000 hours by the time they retire but that doesn’t make the average American an expert in their chosen field. 

Learn to Spot Misinformation

An oversimplification that’s led to the spread of misinformation is Dr. Albert Merhabian’s work around communication. You may have heard in face-to-face communication 55% of the message received is through body language, 38% is based on tone of voice and only 7% is the actual words used. That’s incorrect. 

Merhabian’s work centered around miscommunication. When the person receiving the message perceives the messenger and message are not in alignment (i.e., the messenger doesn’t seem to believe what they’re saying or perhaps they are lying) then people default more to body language and tone of voice to assess truthfulness. 

And Now for the Rest of the Story

Famed radio personality Paul Harvey was famous for his storytelling. He would tease out some tale, get you to the edge of your seat…then go to a commercial break. Upon returning he would say, “And now for the rest of the story,” and give listeners what they needed to know.

There’s always more to the story than the complex idea made simple. Much of the time we don’t need to know more than the simple idea. I won’t be traveling 100,000 light years away and I don’t need to know the inner workings of my computer. 

However, we can avoid disappointment by knowing more about what something means (10,000 hours AND deep practice) and we’d do well to steer clear of misinformation that might harm our efforts. 

Remember, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, 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 a new release bestseller in several Amazon categories.  

Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses on the application of persuasion in sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 350,000 people around the world.

 

 

How Bernie Madoff with Our Money

Last week the infamous Bernie Madoff passed away in prison. He’d served a little over a decade of his 150 year sentence for perpetrating the biggest Ponzi scheme in American history. I wrote about this in my book Influence PEOPLE. I thought it would be appropriate to share that chapter from the book because, although Madoff will eventually fad from our memories, his tactics to manipulate people will go on. Smart, successful people were fooled so none of us is immune. The more we understand, the more we can be on the alert and potentially save ourselves and loved ones from a lot of heartache,

How Bernie Madoff with Our Money

We all know the name Bernie Madoff, perpetrator of the biggest Ponzi scheme ever in American business. It’s estimated $65 billion was invested with Madoff’s firm and the vast majority is still missing. Ponzi schemes are when the perpetrator uses new money from new investors to mollify old investors – as well as an array of accounting frauds.

I was invited to Cleveland to speak to the local chapter of the Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters (CPCU). I was asked to talk about ethics so I devised a unique approach: taking a look at how the principles of influence were unethically used by Bernie Madoff to bilk people out of their money. The title was a play on words: How Bernie Madoff with our Money. When I talk about the principles of influence I usually emphasize ethical influence and persuasion; so talking about the unethical use was quite a twist.

The principles of influence tap powerfully into human behavior – what causes someone to say Yes to a request? Social scientists and behavioral economists have studied human compliance and decision making for more than seven decades, so there is plenty of data to back up the effectiveness of principles of influence. Con men may not know the detailed science, but through trial and error they quickly figure out how to use this psychology to their advantage. It is crucial people understand the principles not only to become more adept at ethically influencing others, but also to avoid being manipulated by con men such as Bernie Madoff.

Let’s go through how Madoff used each principle to continually bring in new investors – for decades! After all, Ponzi schemes depend on a continued inflow of investors and money or else they quickly collapse, so landing new clients was of the utmost importance for Madoff.

Reciprocity – We feel obligated to give back to those who first give to us. When someone does us a favor we want to return the favor in some way and silly as it may sound, Bernie made it seem like he was doing his clients a favor by letting them invest with him. After all, his clientele were the rich and famous, he’d been a glowing success for decades and was well respected. For most it was a privilege to let him handle their money. The favor was returned as people told other wealthy investors about Madoff so new clients continually came by way of referral.

Liking – People like to do business with people they like, especially those who are similar to them. Madoff tapped into this principle based on similarities with many of his clients. For starters, he recruited from his country club. That’s not out of the ordinary at all because men gauge one another’s character a lot based on what they have in common, like a love of golf. 

Unity – Unity says it’s easier for us to say Yes to people who are of us; those with whom we have a shared identity. In addition to liking, Madoff tapped into unity through his Jewish heritage. Many of his victims were Jewish and trusted him more based on this shared identity.

Consensus – We feel more comfortable doing what everyone else is doing or doing whatever people just like us are doing. If you’re rich then it’s very likely you hang out with people who are also rich. Inevitably conversation turns to business so undoubtedly Madoff’s name was passed around like the offering plate at church. If you know many of your most successful friends invest with someone, that’s going to give you comfort to consider the same investment advisor.

Authority – People tend to trust those who are viewed as experts and Bernie had this one down! He’d been investing successfully (theoretically!) since the early 1960s. Even more impressive: Bernie helped start the NASDAQ. His trustworthiness seemed impeccable because he also served as board chair for the National Association of Security Dealers. Why wouldn’t you automatically trust him with those credentials on his side?

Consistency – We like to be consistent in what we say and do. When you do something you typically do it because you believe it’s the right thing to do. If someone asks who you invest with you’ll probably talk glowingly about your advisor. Being the con man he was, I’m sure Madoff occasionally asked his biggest clients for referrals and recommendations, which they were probably all too willing to give. After all, it would be inconsistent not to.

Scarcity – People want more of what they cannot have or something that’s hard to come by. Not just anyone could pick up the phone and call Madoff. The supposed size (billions and billions) made it appear to be a very exclusive club. However, the more exclusive its appearance, the more people wanted in. How would you feel if you knew a business only took on a limited number of new clients each year, and you were one of the few they were considering? People jumped at the chance!

That’s a quick overview of the psychology Bernie used to gain investors and facilitate massive theft. Hindsight is 20/20 so maybe we think we’d never be fooled in such a way. However, the kinds of people who invested with him – the rich and famous – were smart, successful and well educated. The reality is we’re all susceptible because we’re human, and the same unethical tricks he played may have worked with us. 

How can you DEFEND yourself against unethical influence tricks? Here’s my advice: continue to learn about influence, keep your eyes and ears open, and most of all, learn to trust your gut because when something seems too good to be true, it usually is.

 

Free Livestream Presentation 
⭐️ ⭐️  How to Become Listening STARS  ⭐️ ⭐️

Friday, May 7, from 12pm to 1pm Eastern, I will give a livestream “TIGER Talk” on listening skills for Innovate New Albany, an incubator for tech startups, entrepreneurs, and small businesses. Click here to register for this one time event.

 

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, 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, was named one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by BookAuthority. His second book, Persuasive Selling, was a new release bestseller in several Amazon categories.

Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses on the application of persuasion in sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 350,000 people around the world.

My Mind Has A Mind of Its Own…And So Does Yours

I’ve often written about the subconscious and how it’s a driver of most of our behavior. In his book Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior American physicist Leonard Mlodinow contends as much as 95% of your behavior is happening because of drivers you’re unaware of! This came to mind recently because of two separate instances. 

Story #1

The first was a guest podcast appearance. Before taping the show I’d quickly reviewed the host’s LinkedIn profile. I saw he worked for a short time at Kodak. 

My first, and only thought about Kodak in that moment, was whether or not he was there when a business acquaintance was running Kodak’s marketing. I resolved to ask him about it. But, just as quickly as I learned about that fact, I forgot about it.

As the podcast episode progressed the host asked me about my first book, Influence PEOPLE. I shared a little about the book and when I mentioned there were several case studies he inquired further. That’s when I mentioned the chapter I called “The Saddest Kodak Moment.” As I shared some persuasive insights on Kodak’s downfall, he told me he worked at Kodak and that I was right on the money about some of their business issues around their bankruptcy. 

When he mentioned he’d worked at Kodak it suddenly hit me that I’d seen that fact no more than an hour ago. I can say with all honesty, I never thought I needed to share the Kodak chapter because of his time with the company. My subconscious however, decided to do that for me. It was if my mind had a mind of its own. 

Story #2

In the opening I mentioned two incidents. The other occurred over the weekend when Jane got her first Covid shot. I drove her to the appointment and waited in the car. Almost immediately upon entering the building she texted me to ask if I could take a picture of our insurance card. She’d forgotten hers so of course, I obliged.

Seeing the name on the insurance card, Medi-Share, suddenly made me realize something I’d not consciously thought about. I’m working on a third book to teach influence, The Influencer: Secrets to Success and Happiness. Unlike my first two books, this one is a story format. It follows the life of a young man, John Andrews, as he learns about the psychology of persuasion in college then on the job through training, mentors, and clients. The company he works for is MediTech Supplies. It never crossed my mind about my health care provider when I named the company in this fictitious story. 

How Could I Miss Those?

Jane once pulled the wool over my eyes (She’s probably done it more than once but that’s for another post). I asked her if the coat she was wearing was new. She said something like, “This? I got it last year.” It wasn’t until sometime later that she confessed that it was new. Apparently, I’d asked the question in January and she bought the coat in December. New? Yes! Bought it last year…also true. 

She joked later saying, “You teach this stuff, and you didn’t catch that?” My reply was something along the lines of, “My radar isn’t always up with my loved ones but well played.”

Conclusion

Okay, some cute stories to drive home the point that our (yours and mine) subconscious is driving more of your thinking, decision making, and behavior than we realize. If I teach people and have blind spots, then how many blind spots do people have who are unaware of how their minds work. We’re not the economic, weigh all the options before making a decision, beings we like to believe we are. It’s always good to explore why you do what you do.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, 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, was named one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by BookAuthority. His second book, Persuasive Selling, was a new release bestseller in several Amazon categories. 

Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses on the application of persuasion in sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 350,000 people around the world.

Becoming Listening STARS – Free Livestream Event

No blog post this week because I want to let you know about a free, one-time, livestream presentation I’m giving next month.

On Friday, May 7 (12pm – 1pm Eastern) I’m giving “TIGER Talk” presentation on listening skills. I’m doing this for my friend Neil Collins who runs Innovate New Albany, an incubator for tech startups, entrepreneurs, and small businesses.

It’s no secret that the best communicators enjoy the most success! There’s a premium put on developing excellent speaking and writing skills, but, for many of us, listening is the most underdeveloped of our communication skills. That’s because most people have never been trained on how to be better listeners and far too many mistake “hearing” for “listening.”

Listening is a 24x7x365 skill, something that can be taught, learned, and perfected. Improving this skill will help you enjoy more success at the office and enrich your personal relationships. In this presentation I’ll introduce you to five pointers for becoming Listening STARS!

 

 

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An authorTEDx 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 a new release bestseller in several Amazon categories.

Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses on the application of persuasion in sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 350,000 people around the world.

Quarterly Newsletter

My last quarterly newsletter came out on January 4th and I opened with, “2020 is hindsight and I think we’re all happy it’s in the rearview mirror!” Then two days later we saw an attempted insurrection at the U.S. Capitol! Can we catch a break? Perhaps. It looks like we might have reason for hope with the accelerated rollout of vaccines. If all goes well we might feel like life is closing in on “normal” by summer.

I hope the first quarter was good for you on a professional and personal level. A couple of big things happened for me. First, I was excited to release my second book. Persuasive Selling for Relationship Driven Insurance Agents came out in late January and was an Amazon new release bestseller in several categories.

My other big news was that I set up a recording studio in my house. The goal is to give much more engaging online presentations than just a face on Zoom. Current clients have loved it and prospective clients are wowed when I show them what I’m doing. Watch this short clip and you’ll get a sense of what my interaction with audiences looks like.

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

My series on Influence Secrets to Expand Your Online Network was one of my most popular in a long time. There are a few simple things you can do to up your odds of building your network and connecting with the right people. If you want to check out any or all of the articles click here.

Another post that garnered lots of attention, especially on LinkedIn was around cancel culture. Click here to read it.

Podcasts

With the new book I continued to do quite a few podcasts. In fact, I’ve been on more than 100 shows! One that was particularly fun was Heath Shearon’s Insurance Town Podcast. Between his opening music and good ‘ol boy approach you can’t help but have fun as you listen. Click here and check out the show.

Writing

As noted earlier, my second book, Persuasive Selling for Relationship Driven Insurance Agents, came out in late January. The book doubles as the basis for my one-day workshop for insurance companies and insurance agents. If you’re interested in learning more about the workshop reach out to me.

I occupied a lot of my time during the pandemic writing. I’m more than halfway done with book #3.  The Influencer: Secrets to Success and Happiness follows a young man, John Andrews, as he learns what it takes to enjoy professional success and personal happiness. I know some people won’t pick up a psychology or sales books so I thought I’d give a shot at using a story format to teach influence. It’s been the most fun I’ve ever had writing!

Best of…

Each quarter I share interesting content with readers. Pandemic or no pandemic, you’ll  never go wrong when you invest in yourself. Sharpening your skills is a great investment. Below are books to read, podcasts to listen to, and shows to watch that can help grow the investment in yourself.

Books

Caste: The Origins of our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson. This book was recommended by a good friend. I was really surprised at the impact it had on his thinking about race relations in the United States. It’s an eye opening read! We think we know history until we learn about it from the perspective of others. Learning about how commonplace lynchings were, and the spectacle in so many cases, was profoundly sad. As I read and connected the dots with conversations I regularly have with black friends it’s undeniable Jim Crow laws, redlining and other aspects of our racist history still have lingering affects today. I strongly encourage you to pick up this book.

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. If you’ve read my blog for any length of time then no doubt you’ve seen mention of this book. I list it as one of the top five books that have impacted my life. It’s an account of life in the Nazi concentration camps from the perspective of a psychologist. For me, this was the biggest take away from this great book:“everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Frankl realized in the midst of the horrors of the concentration camp he was always free to think whatever he wanted.

Podcasts

How to be Awesome at Your Job is hosted by Pete Mockaitis. With more than 650 episodes and 14 million downloads, Pete is doing something right with this show! I’ve had the pleasure of being his guest on three different occasions so I can tell you firsthand, he does an awesome job. But of course he would…that’s what the podcast is all about. Seriously, take time to listen to a few episodes because you’ll hear interesting guests and get great tips for improvement.

The Speaking Podcast is hosted by Roy Coughlan. The ability to share your thoughts and ideas succinctly and confidently can help your career immensely. Roy, a Toastmaster veteran, talks with people who’ve taken the leap into public speaking. You may have heard that some people fear public speaking more than death! Roy and his guests will help you get past any fear you may have with practical, easy to implement speaking tips.

Watch

Star Trek the original series. All work and no play makes for a dull day! During the pandemic I spent a lot of time on the treadmill and to pass some of that time I indulged in a show that brought back so many good memories. I never considered myself a trekkie but I watched Star Trek as a kid. Watching all 80 episodes over a couple of months felt like a reunion with old friends. The show was well ahead of its time in terms of many social messages it was sharing. It’s corny, fun and worth watching now that more than 50 years have passed since the final episode was filmed.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, 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 a new release bestseller in several Amazon categories.

Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses on the application of persuasion in sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 350,000 people around the world.

Let’s Talk About Cancel Culture

Here’s a phrase you’ve probably encountered in the news lately – “cancel culture.” You may have heard it used with Mr. Potato Head, Dr. Seuss, Gina Carano, Colin Kaepernick, The Dixie Chicks, or any number of other people. But what exactly is cancel culture?

According to Wikipedia, “Cancel culture (or call-out culture) is a modern form of ostracism in which someone is thrust out of social or professional circles – whether it be online, on social media, or in person. Those who are subject to this ostracism are said to have been ‘cancelled’.”  

Ostracism isn’t New.

One of the harshest forms of punishment over the course of human history has been to ostracize individuals. In the most extreme form, it was excommunication from religious organizations or banishment from tribes. Because religious institutions and tribes were central to social life, banishment would result in severe hardship and possibly death.

Other forms of ostracism start during childhood when kids are excluded from teams, peer groups and certain organizations. Sometimes exclusion comes at the hands of peers but other times it’s a selection process facilitated by adults. Either way, some kids are excluded and it’s painful.

Physical and Emotional Pain.

You may have been taught, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” It turns out broken bones usually heal faster and more fully than the emotional scars we suffer from name calling, ostracism and other types of social interaction.

I encourage you to watch this short video where Dr. Robert Cialdini talks about the origin of pain in the human brain as he discusses the famous conformity experiments conducted by Solomon Asch in the 1950s. Spoiler alert: your brain doesn’t differentiate between physical and emotional pain.

Isn’t All Social Pressure Cancel Culture?

Aren’t boycotts the same as cancel culture? After all, it’s a group of people trying to use social pressure to bring about change. Groups of people have always tried to use their influence to bring about change. Boycotts are one example, but others include protests and unionization. 

Quite often the power of the crowd has done much good. Protests got women the right to vote and have brought about better civil rights. Unions helped make many workplaces safer, protected children and ushered in other labor laws.

I wouldn’t call boycotts, protests or union pressure cancel culture because their motive is usually change within a system. For example, unions aren’t trying to get rid of the businesses they work for. Boycotts often seek to get companies to change their products, services or business practices.

The Danger with Current Cancel Culture. 

Cancel culture, as noted in the opening, is usually directed at individuals. It seeks to marginalize or silence people from the public discourse and/or seeks to punish them by removing opportunities. In that regard it’s not unlike banishment or excommunication.

It’s usually appropriate for someone to lose opportunities when they break a law.  However, it’s entirely different when a person’s actions or views (past or present) are found distasteful or out of step with current ways of thinking. Those are called differences.

No One is Immune. 

I can only speak for myself but if I were a betting man, I’d say every person could relate to this: I’ve said and done things in my life that I’m ashamed of. I’ve also said and done things, with no malice intended, that could now be considered offensive because norms have changed over time. I’m fortunate the internet wasn’t around when I was a stupid kid and during my early adult years. Despite having done a lot of good for many people, if enough people found me offensive they could invoke cancel culture on me. 

But here’s the thing; no one is immune because there’s no guarantee what’s acceptable today will be acceptable tomorrow. People who feel so enlightened right now will be out of step with the culture at some point in the future. For example, what if 50 years from now people look at the destruction that happened during 2020 protests and deem it barbaric because society has found more peaceful ways to resolve conflict? It’s possible and it wouldn’t matter that the underlying motives were good or that the change brought about was needed. Future generations may look back and say, “It doesn’t matter, it’s unacceptable by today’s standards. How could you?”

Suggestion: Replace Cancel with Conversation  

Here’s my suggestion: replace cancel with conversation. If a black man can convert 200 KKK members through dialog, then nothing is impossible. I spend a lot of time talking to my black friends on a regular basis. They share their life experiences and it’s been eye opening. I listen and ask questions. I don’t need to worry about saying the wrong thing or having my questions or views misinterpreted. It’s a learning process for everyone involved and we all are better off for it. I encourage you to give it a try with people who are different than you.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, 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 a new release bestseller in several Amazon categories. 

Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses on the application of persuasion in sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 350,000 people around the world.

Influence Secrets to Expand Your Online Network: Leverage Connections

This is the sixth and final post in the series where I’ve shared influence secrets to expand your online network. This week we’ll look at leveraging your connections through social proof and liking.

As I’ve stressed throughout this series; be social and personalize your approach to people. It takes a little more effort but will pay big dividends.

Ask for introductions.

Imagine walking up to someone at a social event and introducing yourself. You see the nametag and say, “Hi Alice. I’m Sam.” Not a bad approach because most people will respond politely. But, there’s a better way.

Imagine a friend making the same introduction for you. “Alice, I’d like to introduce you to a friend and coworker, Sam.”

Which approach do you think will get a warmer reception? Sometimes it’s better to be introduced rather than asking to connect directly. That approach applies online just as much as in person.

If there’s someone you want to meet, ask a mutual connection to make an introduction for you. I benefited tremendously from this last year. I wanted to connect with Patrick Leddin, a leadership podcaster and professor at Vanderbilt. I turned to a former coworker who just happened to be a Vandy grad, to see if he would make an introduction to Patrick. He did so, we connected, and Patrick eventually invited me on his podcast. After hearing me on the podcast, Patrick’s wife, also a professor at Vanderbilt, reached out to ask if I would share a little about using influence in negotiations with her graduate level students. 

I share that story to show the power of good introductions and strong connections. You never know where they’ll lead!

Mention a mutual connection.

You don’t always have to ask for an introduction. Sometimes mentioning a mutual connection is enough to open up the other person. Using a personalized invite try something like this:

Patricia,

I see you and I are both connected to John Peterson. John and I worked together for many years. Anyone in John’s network is worth getting to know so I thought I’d reach out to connect.

This taps into liking – you both know John so it’s easier to connect because of that similarity. Of course, the stronger John’s relationship with Patricia the more likely she is to respond to your request.  

Harness multiple connections. 

When you see you have lots of connections in common harness the power of social proof. The more the better because when people see you’re connected to many people already in their network it’s assumed you too will be a good connection. Here’s another example:

Bob,

When I came across your profile, I noticed we have dozens of connections in common so I thought it would be good to connect with you.

You’ll get more bang for the buck if you mention the names of a few mutual connections who are significant to you. 

Tap Former Associates. 

When you’ve worked for an organization make sure you note that and give more detail whenever possible. I’ve had great success with messages like this:

Kim, 

I started my career at The Travelers right out of college. Fond memories because not only did I get great insurance training…I met my wife there on my first day. I like to stay connected with the company, so I thought I’d reach out.  

When you have lots of connections at the company note that in particular. This is an even tighter approach than just noting connections. This approach also taps into social proof because we’re likely to follow the lead of people most similar to us.

Pat, 

I’ve been in insurance for quite a long time and see that we have a number of connections in common at Westfield. I’m always looking to expand my network, so I hope you’re open to connecting. 

Conclusion

Don’t be lazy! Instead, be thoughtful and influential when you reach out to connect on LinkedIn. Personalizing your request to connect, leveraging liking and/or social proof, and tapping into mutual connections are great ways to up your odds of getting yes responses to your networking attempts. 

If you’d like to go back and review any of the articles in this series visit my website

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, 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 a new release bestseller in several Amazon categories. 

Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses on the application of persuasion in sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 350,000 people around the world.

Influence Secrets to Expand Your Online Network: Romance Them

I’ve mentioned this before but it’s worth a deep dive. When you connect with someone do not try to sell them on anything. Think about dating and use a little romance.

Okay, I’m not talking about real romance but the concept of courting. You don’t meet somebody for the first time and immediately say, “I want to marry you!” In much the same way, as you build relationships online don’t look to get something from someone you’ve just connected with. There needs to be a courtship period where they get to know you and you get to know them. 

Far too many people have a negative view of salespeople because too often salespeople take a shotgun approach and push their product or service on everyone.  They do so without getting to know prospective clients and what their needs are. 

Unfortunately, the same thing happens in the online world. But here’s the reality; good salespeople take time to get to know the people that they interact with. Sometimes they have to say, “What I have to offer won’t benefit you.” Other times they need to modify what they offer to meet the specific needs of the client. But they can never really meet the needs of a prospective customer if they don’t understand the client and that takes time. So, what should you do? 

Spend time looking at someone’s profile.

So much is available right at your fingertips to help you understand the person you’ve connected with. Start with their LinkedIn profile. Find out where they’ve worked, the roles they’ve held, who they know, and people you both know. Check out where they went to college, find out what activities they are involved with, and places they volunteer. Each of these gives you insight into what’s important to that person. 

From there, check out other social media sites – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter – to see what you can learn. And, don’t underestimate the power of Google because it might lead you to lots of information outside of traditional social media sites. 

Pay attention to their posts.

You can see someone’s activity right on their LinkedIn home page. When you click on “See all activity” you can check out what they’ve posted, what they’ve commented on, and what they’ve liked. Each of those gives you insight into that individual. 

If the person is someone who has the potential to become a client this is a great way to try to understand what’s important to them and what they value. It allows you to start thinking about who you are, what you offer, and how that combination might help a prospective client.

Take time to comment. 

When someone comments on your post, do your best to reply and acknowledge them. Reciprocity dictates if they took time to read your post and comment then you should do the same. This is a great step towards ongoing communication.

This approach often starts dialog and leads to relationship building. Your comments should not be offers. Look at them as opportunities to engage people in conversation and get to know them. 

When is it right to reach out? 

Only once you know someone can you begin to understand how you might help them. When you begin to get a sense of this then you might want to gently reach out. Maybe send a LinkedIn message like this:

“Sam, we’ve been connected for a while and I’ve noticed based on some of your posts and comments that it’s a high priority for you and your organization that people respect diversity and inclusion. I’m not sure how many of my posts you’ve seen but a good number have been on this topic. Because of that I thought I’d reach out to share a recent article I wrote on D&I. I hope you find it helpful.” 

At the end of the message put a link to the article. This still isn’t asking anything of them. You’re simply sharing content they might find useful. Remember early on in this series I said content was king. This is your opportunity to share something that gives insight into how you think and how you operate. When you start doing this routinely with the right people in a personalized way, it can be a great door opener for you. 

Conclusion

I’m tempted to say all of this is just common sense but it’s too easy to look around and see a lack of common sense. In reality, we’re taught common sense and each of us can learn a few new “dos” and “don’ts” to avoid pitfalls and grow a strong network of LinkedIn connections. 

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, 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 a new release bestseller in several Amazon categories. 

Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses on the application of persuasion in sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 350,000 people around the world.

Influence Secrets to Expand Your Online Network: Reach Out

Most things in life that you want, you need to proactively go after. Building your network falls into that category. Unless you have the luxury of being so well-known that your network grows simply by responding to connection requests then you’d better get busy. Start by reaching out. 

Reaching out was mentioned in last week’s post when I encouraged you to be social. Specifically, I said you should personalize your invite requests. This week let’s be a little more strategic about who you might want to reach out to and what you might say.

People You Can Learn From

LinkedIn isn’t just about connecting with people who might become customers in the future. LinkedIn offers a golden opportunity for you to learn from others. The opportunity in this form didn’t exist just two decades ago. In the past, to learn from other people you had to attend or purchase their courses, read their articles in magazines, or buy their books. Now you can read their posts, check out their online articles, and avail yourself to other content for free in most cases. 

When it comes to people you find interesting and can learn from, you can see their content by following them on LinkedIn. However, a better way is to connect with them and build your network. When you reach out to these people make sure you give them a reason. Here’s a sample message: 

“Sam, I’ve seen some of your articles online and read your most recent book. I’ve learned a lot from you and would love to connect so I can follow you more closely and learn more. Thank you for all you do, Brian”

This approach allows the other person to know exactly why you want to connect. By sharing a short message, they also know you’re not looking to get something from them other than learning opportunities. Outreaches like this tap into liking because it’s flattering to get a genuine compliment and I’ve found most people will connect. When they connect be sure to thank them with a short message.

“I appreciate you connecting with me. Have a terrific day! Brian”

People Who Might Become Customers

My niche is influence and most of my clients are in the insurance industry. If there’s an organization I hope to work with in the future, I lay the groundwork by reaching out to people at that company who are in roles I might work with and those who are decision makers.

I take this approach for a couple of reasons. First, I want people to see my profile and realize I might be able to help them. That’s tapping into authority. 

Second, as I start to build a following within the organization and people who work there see I’m connected to many of their peers they’re more likely to accept my request to connect. That’s using social proof. 

Of course, I send a personalized invite. It might go something like this: 

“Pat, I’ve been in the insurance industry for more than 30 years. I see we know many of the same people so I thought I’d reach out to connect. Thanks, Brian” 

When the connection is made, I send a thank you message just in case the person simply hit “accept” and didn’t see my personalized invite. My follow up may look like this:

“Pat, I appreciate the connection. Enjoy the rest of your day. Brian”

It’s short and sweet, and quite often this extra step becomes a conversation starter. A word of caution here, and for your initial invite – DO NOT try to sell anything! This is about growing your network and it starts with relationship building, not selling. You don’t look to get married on a first date so don’t try to sell at this time either. Proposals and sales come later, sometimes much later.

People You Can Help

Networking isn’t just about what you can get. It’s also about what you can give. In the second post in this series, I wrote about creating and sharing meaningful content. Good content will attract people to you. It can also be a door opener for you to reach out.

When you see someone who you’re not connected to comments on something you’ve shared, acknowledge the comment. Next, reach out to connect with them using a personal message.  

“Kim, I saw you commented on my most recent article. Because you liked it, I thought I’d reach out to connect. Thanks, Brian”

I know I sound like a broken record right about now but when Kim connects make sure you respond with a personal message. 

“Kim, thanks for accepting the connection request. I hope you find what I share interesting and valuable. Have a great day! Brian”

If Kim didn’t notice your personalized invite she’s more likely to see that when you do the follow up message. 

Conclusion

Having a good LinkedIn bio is a great start to growing your network because people need a reason to connect with you. However, don’t think your bio will be so good that people will be flocking to you. You have to be proactive if you want to connect with people that you can learn from, people who might be potential customers, and those whom you can help. I encourage you to start today. 

After you read this article, think about what you’ve learned then reach out to at least one person using one of the approaches I’ve outlined. Next, start being systematic in your approach and I think you’ll see these tips will pay big dividends. 

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, 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 a new release bestseller in several Amazon categories.  

Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses on the application of persuasion in sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 350,000 people around the world.