There Were Three Frogs on a Log

There were three frogs on a log and one decided to jump off. How many were left? If you’re like most people you thought to yourself, “Two,” but you’d be wrong. You see, there’s a difference between deciding and doing.

That riddle was first posed to me by John Petrucci. John was a coworker at State Auto for 22 years and led the department I was in for 18 years. When John joined State Auto I learned more about sales in one year with him than I had in my first 10 years in the business. After a long career with Allstate and State Auto John is retiring at the end of this month. Not coincidentally he also just celebrated his 60thbirthday. You can consider this post a tribute to John.

Over the course of my life I’ve seen the wisdom behind John’s riddle. Far too often I’ve seen people “decide” to do things – change careers, get in shape, repair a relationship, get out of a bad relationship, etc. – but failed to act. It’s as if they fooled themselves by deciding and talking.

Goal Setting

If you Google goal setting you’ll find lots of articles that talk about the need for goals if you want to succeed. I’m sure that’s no surprise. What might surprise you is the number of articles that try to dissuade you from setting goals because they see them as limiting.

Personal Goals

I’m all for goals because I’ve seen how valuable they’ve been in my personal and professional life. My best personal example would be running. I took up running because Jud, a friend and fitness trainer, convinced a number of friends that we could run the Columbus Marathon. I took up the challenge and failed miserably in my first race, the Cincinnati Marathon.

After figuring out what went wrong I went back to the drawing board. I had some success so I decided to make qualifying for the Boston Marathon my goal. That meant cutting more than an hour off of that first marathon time! Three years later I ran the Boston Marathon. That never would have happened without a goal to pursue.

Professional Goals

On a professional level it’s been my goal to turn Influence PEOPLE into a full-time career. I took that step last month but it didn’t just happen because I decided. I’ve had an eye on the prize for 10 years. My goal has been to nurture the business while I worked at State Auto Insurance. I knew doing so would give me the opportunity to step into it when the time was right. The nurturing was working on my speaking, landing outside opportunities and blogging during that time. There was a master plan in place because I had a goal then acted.

The Challenge

The challenge about deciding and doing is this – once someone decides, and even puts together a plan – then the real work begins. For marathoning I had to get out the door every day at 5 AM and run. For Influence PEOPLE it was writing every week for years on end, countless hours practicing and actively seeking opportunities.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that deciding, or even planning, are actually doing. Both are important but they are only the starting point. After that the work begins.

 

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. His Lynda.com/LinkedIn Learning course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed 150,000 times! The course teaches you how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process. Not watched it yet? Click here to see what you’ve been missing.

 

Get Your “Behavioral Grooves” on with this Podcast Interview

I was recently a guest on the Behavioral Grooves podcast when behavioral economists Kurt Nelson, PhD and Tim Houlihaninterviewed me about the principles of persuasion and pre-suasion. What a couple of fun guys! It was so enjoyable to speak with them that I decided to share their show notes in this week’s blog post. In addition to reading the post I hope you’ll take time to actually listen because it was an informative, fun conversation. If you want to listen right now click here.

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Brian Ahearn is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence People, LLC, and one of only 20 Cialdini Method Certified Trainers in the world. Brian’s experience with Robert Cialdini’s methods places him among the most experienced practitioners alive. It was a pleasure to speak with Brian and to gain some insight on applying the methods of ethical influence that Cialdini pioneered in his book, Influence with clients in the real world.

We hosted Brian in the Behavioral Grooves studio for our wide-ranging and in-depth conversation. It was a treat because we typically have our discussions via the web on Zoom or SquadCast, but Brian was able to meet us at the dining room table and it was terrific. As a result of being in the same room and sitting around the same table, our discussion on priming, influence and ethics was particularly personal and dynamic.

Brian began our conversation by outlining the six principles of influence: liking, reciprocity, authority, social proof or consensus, consistency, and scarcity, all of which were identified by Robert Cialdini in his first book.  We wandered into a great story about Cialdini’s very humble personality, that Brian conveyed by way of a dinner meeting with the professor. (Note: Kurt and Tim experienced Cialdini’s humility directly when we met up with the good professor in New York City, recently. Bob, as he urged us to call him, was as curious as a college freshman and solicited our thoughts on every topic we spoke about. Truly an inspiring and amazing guy.)

Brian shared his thoughts about Tom Hopkins work on “How to Master the Art of Selling” and the impact that the spoken word has on our beliefs. The ‘what I say becomes what I believe’ was an important reminder that words matter. And in Brian’s case, words are just about everything when it comes to the world of ethical influence. This became clear when he spoke about how he trains insurance salespeople to use primes with their customers when pitching technology. The technology actually helps keep the drivers safer and provides more reliable data to the insurance agencies. Brian trains the agents to say, “…this technology works really well for good drivers like you.” We’re all for being safer on the road.

Of course, we spent a fair amount of our conversation on the subtlety and power of primes. Fortunately, Brian took our musical bait and spoke to how he uses musical playlists to create and deliver his own personal primes. We were happy to hear that he’s created playlists that focus on titles or themes with the words ‘moment’ or ‘time’ in them. And it’s evidence that he takes his own medicine when it comes to the advice he shares with his clients. He’s using music to prime himself and others before meetings! We are always impressed with people, like many of our other guests, who apply these principles to their own lives.

The priming discussion included a great story about how he used reciprocity to engage his daughter in doing some extra chores around the house. Rather than making his request quid pro quo, Brian decided to preempt the request with a raise to her allowance. After the new, upgraded allowance was in place, Brian’s request was met with immediate support. Kurt and Tim have recollections of childhood chores compressed with bad feelings – and they linger long into adulthood. As children, we never experienced enthusiasm over chores or things we were asked to do, in part because of the ways those requests were made.

Brian concluded our conversation with three tips about the most impactful tools from the principles of persuasion. They are:

  1. Liking. The focus with liking needs to be on ME figuring out how to like YOU, not the other way around. The search for commonalities and the need to deliver compliments are on ME, not you.
  2. Authority. While authority has many meanings, a core part of this principle is in being an authority on what you do. Be willing to share advice. Be a giver. Be an authority, don’t just walk through your job with your eyes half closed.
  3. Consistency. The biggest part of consistency is, of course, being consistent in your words and deeds. However, beneath the headline is the very powerful subtext of asking, not telling. Be strategic. Be inquisitive. And live up to the words you speak.

Our discussion with Brian gave us the opportunity to talk about both Coldplay and Frank Sinatra. With a playlist that wildly varied from a guy from Ohio, what is there not to like? And since Brian is from Ohio, the home of the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, we decided to do a little grooving on it. So, Kurt and Tim discussed Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame inductees and who, in our humble opinion, deserves to be nominated. Todd Rundgren was discussed as one of our nominees we’d like to see in the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame in 2019. (We also discussed Queen, but Queen was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001, ten years after Freddie Mercury died.) The impact that music has on our lives is nearly immeasurable and we’re grateful to have the opportunity to listen to it, enjoy it, and chat about it.

Tee up a lively tune before you listen to this episode! We hope you enjoy our conversation with Brian Ahearn.

Subscribe at www.behavioralgrooves.com or learn more about Behavioral Grooves podcast and meetup.

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Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. His Lynda.com/LinkedIn Learning course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed 150,000 times! The course will teach you how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process. Not watched it yet? Click here to see what you’ve been missing.

Amazon or Amazing? I Missed It, Did You?

Look at the picture. Is it Amazon or just Amazing? Maybe it’s neither. I missed it at first, did you? When we received the marketing piece in the mail I thought it was from Amazon. My wife did too, until she opened it.

When we opened the marketing piece we saw ads for cars from a local dealership. That seemed odd so we looked at the cover again and realized it didn’t say Amazon, the word was Amazing. While it became obvious in hindsight, the color scheme, text and other visuals led us to believe it was from Amazon.

Being Amazon Prime members, we were naturally inclined to open something we believed was from Amazon to find out what deals might be inside. For the car dealership it was mission accomplished. In the battle for attention they got ours…for a moment. However, feeling tricked caused resentment for both of us. I’m guessing we’re not unique in that regard so the approach might end up working against the car dealership. I’m sure they’re measuring their marketing results so perhaps only they will know.

The whole experience leads to two items to briefly explore in this week’s blog – attention and ethics.

Attention

Some sources say the average consumer is bombarded with more than 5,000 marketing messages each day! As noted earlier, it’s a battle for marketers when it comes to standing out to gain our attention.

As awesome as the human brain is, it cannot consciously process multiple things at once (multi-tasking is a myth) and it’s working memory is pretty limited (just try to remember 10 things in a row and you’ll experience its limitations).

Our subconscious is another story. It’s powerful when it comes to processing without our awareness. As a result, scientists estimate anywhere from 85%-95% of decisions are driven by our non-conscious. In this case, everything about the “packaging” was associated with Amazon, a positive for most people, causing an almost automatic behavior to opened it.

Ethics

How do you feel when someone tricks you or pulls the wool over your eyes? I’m guessing silly, stupid, dumb, or taken advantage of are a few thoughts that come to mind. I think it’s a safe assumption to say most people don’t enjoy any of those feelings and will resent whoever is seen as the cause.

If you learned someone (car salesman, insurance agent, vendor, restaurant server, boss) tricked you, you’d probably do whatever you could to avoid dealing with that person in the future. This is important to consider when you’re trying to influence people. You may win the battle but lose the war because trickery is never good for building long-term relationships.

When it comes to ethical persuasion always be truthful in your dealings with other people and use your knowledge in ways that will genuinely help others. Use the local newspaper test – how would you feel if your approach was the headline story for the day? Would you feel a bit embarrassed or would you be perfectly fine with people knowing the details of your approach? Would you feel good if someone dealt with a loved one (your mother, father, son, daughter, etc.) that way?

You don’t need to resort to trickery or manipulative tactics when you understand the principles of influence and how to ethically use them. Once you learn the principles and apply them I guarantee you will be more persuasive than you are currently. I’m confident because there’s more than seven decades of research to back up that statement.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. His Lynda.com/LinkedIn Learning course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed 150,000 times! The course will teach you how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process. Not watched it yet? Click here to see what you’ve been missing.

 

The First Day of My New Career and the Rest of My Life

Today is the day – the first day of my new career and the rest of my life!! In September I announced a huge change was coming and it’s finally here. After 28 ½ years I’ve left State Auto Insurance to pursue Influence PEOPLE as my fulltime endeavor.

When I decided to make this move back in September my feelings were primarily a mixture of fear and excitement. As each day passed and I began to see the future more clearly the fear subsided and my excitement grew. While there are no guarantees in life all I see is opportunity ahead.

One thing that’s really stood out with my career change is this – if you truly come to like and enjoy the people you support (principle of liking) and do whatever you can to help others (principle of reciprocity) you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how many people will want to help you before you even ask.

Not only is this a career change, it’s a life change. I told my wife I’m going to look at everything I do – when I get up, how I work out, where I do my work, when I work and so on – and see what changes I want to make. I feel like I’ve moved into a new house and the opportunities to make it my dream home are endless.

With Thanksgiving soon upon us this is a good time to give several big THANK YOUS.

To all the State Auto employees, former employees, and agents who have reached out to ask how they can help me – THANK YOU! Your willingness to support me gives more even more confidence that I’ve made the right decision.

To my friends at INFLUENCE AT WORK – Bob, Greg, Bobette, Cara, Eily and Jandy – THANK YOU for your support and  encouragement.

To all of you who’ve been loyal readers of Influence PEOPLE over the years – THANK YOU! When I started blogging nearly 10 years ago I never imagined I would gain a following across the country and around the world. You also give me confidence in the choice I’ve made.

As I close I will be so bold as to ask for a couple of favors:

  1. If you’ve enjoyed the blog and have found it useful on a professional and/or personal level would you share it with friends and coworkers?
  2. If you think your organization could benefit from influence training, coaching or consulting would you share Influence PEOPLE with decision makers?

One last time – THANK YOU!

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. His Lynda.com/LinkedIn Learning course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed 150,000 times! The course will teach you how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process. Not watched it yet? Click here to see what you’ve been missing.

Missed Learning Opportunities

Last week I had the privilege of attending the 2018 Learning Conference put on by Elliott Masie in Orlando, Florida. It was actually my third time attending and second as a breakout session presenter. If you’re in the learning field I encourage you to attend! The conference typically hosts 1700-1800 people from around the world, offers hundreds of breakout sessions and features keynote presenters like John Lithgow, Leslie Odom, Jr., Dan Pink, Anderson Cooper, Laura Bush and Michell Obama.

The lens I view much of life through is the psychology of persuasion – how can we ethically move people to action. I view learning through that same lens because learning is about more than sharing information. Learning is about getting people to take in new information then act on it.

This is where persuasion comes in. The conference presenters were bright people who’ve done well in their careers and work for reputable companies. Unfortunately, many missed opportunities to use persuasion and pre-suasion to make for better learning experiences. I’ll share a few examples.

Pre-suasion Engages Audiences

In a storytelling session the presenter asked for a volunteer to share with the larger group. There were no takers so she asked, “Don’t we have any brave souls?” Eventually a hand went up. If she had understood a little about pre-suasion, how to arrange for an audience to be receptive to a message before delivering it, she would have approached the situation differently.

A better approach would have been to ask if there were any brave or adventurous people in the audience. That non-threatening question undoubtedly would have seen many hands go high into the air. Then it would have been easy to get a volunteer simply by asking, “Would one of you brave or adventurous souls be willing to share…” Once people had self-identified as brave or adventurous it would have been easy to tap into the principle of persuasion known as consistency to get volunteers.

It’s Common Sense

After one session on behavioral economics someone seated at a table with me and a handful of others remarked, “This is really just common sense.” I’ve heard that too many times to let it go so I chimed in that while it may appear to be common sense most people fail to use that common sense.

The example I shared with the small group was how people instinctively know more people will take action to avoid a loss versus gaining something. Despite that understanding people still go back to what they’ve always done – point out all the positives when trying to get someone to buy their product or service – rather than highlighting what someone may lose by not acting.

Application, Application, Application

In real estate there’s a saying that selling a property is all about location, location, location. In learning we could say it’s all about application, application, application. You cannot assume your learners will make the connection about what’s being taught and how it applies to them or their business.

Having taught influence for more than a decade the #1 piece of feedback I get is to give more examples. Learners never seem to get enough. Help them connect the dots and they’re far more likely to put into practice what they’ve just learned.

Your Next Learning Event

As you plan your next learning event give thought to these three things:

  1. What you will ask people to do? Once you know this ask yourself what frame of mind you want people in. Then do whatever is necessary to put as many people in that frame of mind as possible. This may be through written text, questions, visuals or some other method.
  2. To help avoid, “I already know this” or “This is just common sense,” address it up front with a good example or two. This might be what’s needed to change people’s thinking and have them focused on your message.
  3. Finally, for every major point you share give clear, concise application. Whatever you share might be interesting but the rubber meets the road when people understand how to use it in ways that will help them professionally and/or personally.

Do these three things and your audience will be in the right frame of mind to learn and take that learning home with them in ways that will make a difference.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. His Lynda.com/LinkedIn Learning course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed nearly 150,000 times! The course teaches you how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process. Not watched it yet? Click here to see what you’ve been missing.

There are No Dumb Questions, Thanks for Asking

When you were in grade school I bet you had teachers who said, “There are no dumb questions. Thanks for asking.” Why did they say this? Because they understood kids could be self-conscious about looking dumb in front of their peers and that can stifle the learning process. Your teachers also knew the same question was probably on the minds of other kids.

When it comes to persuading people much of the time it entails dialogue and true dialogue means asking questions then listening. Unfortunately, too often people are not actually listening. Stephen Covey put it this way, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” According to Covey, true listening happens when you “seek first to understand, then be understood.” That usually starts with a question.

A few weeks ago I reached out to a friend via Facebook messenger with a question because I wanted to understand his opinion on something he posted. I asked him about the Megyn Kelly controversy where she said she didn’t see anything wrong with someone dressing up as Diana Ross for Halloween because she’s an icon that many people – black and white – would love to be like. I wanted my friend’s opinion on the topic. He gave a thoughtful response but then told me how disappointed he was in me for asking.

Right or wrong, every step of the way in life we learn. The current views we hold on race, sexuality and many other things in life are learned. What was acceptable 25, 50, 100 years ago is very different than today because we grow and learn. The more “enlightened” views we hold today versus those of the past might be considered racist, homophobic, ignorant in 25 years.

My friend asked why I would come to him, a gay white male, with my question rather than going to a black person. He wrote, “have you ever sat down with a person of color and asked them these hard but informative questions? Based on what you and I have talked about I’m guessing not. Believe me they want us too.” For me the answer was simple; my friend was the one who posted the story along with his opinion so I was curious to know more about his thoughts.

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time you know I’ve not shied away from issues of race. If you’re curious about my thoughts follow this link to see a few of my posts on the subject.

Russell Barrow, an African American, has been my best friend for more than 40 years. He was the best man in my wedding and stood with me at the renewal of my wedding vows. Because he’s so close to our family our daughter Abigail calls him “Uncle Russell.” Russell and I talk almost every day on my drive home from work. We talk about race, politics, President Trump, Colin Kaepernick, times where Russell experienced racism, and many other issues. Nothing is off the table because I love him, respect his opinion and I know whatever question I ask I won’t be judged. That leads to the kinds of conversations most people don’t have. At work I’ve spoken with dozens of African American coworkers over the years and a common question has been, “What’s it like to be an African American working at State Auto Insurance?” The answers have always been eye opening!

I would hope most people who’ve experienced negative attitudes and behaviors from others would welcome the opportunity to change their hearts, minds and actions, especially if they’re approached in a spirt of openness to learn. A great place to start is non-judgmental dialogue that allows people to get to know each other.

What’s to be learned from this experience that might help you in the future? A couple of things come to mind:

  1. First, just because you disagree with someone, or cannot fathom how they might hold an opinion different from yours, don’t make sweeping judgments about them or their psychological state. The truth is, you probably know very little about them, their life experiences or their thinking.
  2. Second, and most importantly, don’t shut down the conversation by making some feel ignorant or bad for asking a question in good faith. Show some grace and be thankful that they asked because it’s the first step towards better understanding. If we stop talking we’re screwed!

Remember, when it comes to persuading others – changing hearts, minds and actions – there are no dumb questions. Be grateful the other person is curious enough to approach you with a “help me understand” or “I’m curious” attitude. Saying, “Thanks for asking,” before sharing your insights will go a long way towards having more constructive conversations in the future. The more we do this as a society the better off we’ll be.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. His Lynda.com/LinkedIn Learning course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed nearly 150,000 times! The course teaches you how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process. Not watched it yet? Click here to see what you’ve been missing.

A Friendless Existence is the Loneliest Kind of Lonely

Aristotle is reported to have said, “No one would choose a friendless existence on the condition of having all the other things in the world.” What good would it do you to have everything but no one to share it with?

I recently made a trip to California and my wife Jane was going to accompany me. The plan was to do some work then extend the time into some vacation. Unfortunately, she badly broke her ankle the week before the trip and the doctor told her no flying because of the change of blood clots.

While California was beautiful and I met up with an old high school friend, a college buddy and finally met a long time Facebook friend it was not the same without Jane. I often tell people, anything I do is better when she is around. She brings out the best in me and gets me out of my comfort zone to try new things. Missing her got me thinking about Aristotle’s quote.

Human beings are social creatures. We function best and did a much better job surviving in groups as opposed to going it alone.  This is why we’re so heavily impacted by the principle of consensus (a.k.a. social proof). It’s natural for us to take our behavioral cues from other people – what they’re thinking, doing or feeling.

It’s a rare person who prefers solitude over multitudes. Sure, there are some people who like to get away from it all on occasion. That might range from 20 minutes of meditation each day, to walks in nature, or solo camping for days or weeks at a time. But very, very few people choose to live in solitude. Why? Because as social creatures being separated from others can be painful.

Robert Cialdini talked about the implications of this when the famous Asch Conformity Experiments were conducted using neuroscience to analyze what was going on inside people’s heads. When we’re at odds with a group it registers in the same brain region where physical pain manifests. I encourage you to take three minutes to watch this video then consider the following situations that have their basis in isolation from groups:

Excommunication from the Church

It used to be that excommunication from “the church” meant separation from God. I’m not sure that’s really the case with institutions run by flawed human beings but certainly excommunication meant no dealings with those who were still part of the church. That would make daily life difficult and lonely because the church dominated daily life in much of the world. And, quite often excommunication meant no more contact with family members lest they be kicked out too.

Solitary Confinement for Prisoners

When prisoners get out of line quite often their punishment is complete isolation from other prisoners. According to a PBS report, “When corrections officials talk about solitary confinement, they describe it as the prison within the prison, and for good reason. For 23 hours a day, inmates are kept inside a cell that is approximately 80 square feet, smaller than a typical horse stable.”  The article goes on to say, “solitary can cause a specific psychiatric syndrome, characterized by hallucinations; panic attacks; overt paranoia; diminished impulse control; hypersensitivity to external stimuli; and difficulties with thinking, concentration and memory.”

Rejection from a Group

Whether it’s failure to make the sports team, get into a fraternity or sorority, dishonorable discharge from the military, or losing a job, rejection from a group hurts. The ramifications may not be as serious as solitary confinement but it can still have negative personal and social consequences. While some people can turn that negative into a positive (Michael Jordan got cut from his high school basketball team but went on to great things in the NBA) most people do not.

What are you to do with all this? Two things come to mind:

  1. If you have kids, teach them about the consequences of isolation. Encourage them to be the person who, when they observe another child who is struggling with friendships, to extend their hand in friendship. This could be a first step in stopping bullying and future school violence.
  2. When you notice someone who appears to be a loner, you too can extend a friendly hand. Everyone has good traits and talents, and your friendship offer might be what unlocks that in another human being.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. His Lynda.com/LinkedIn Learning course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed nearly 150,000 times! The course teaches you how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process. Not watched it yet? Click here to see what you’ve been missing.

Nike’s “Just Do It” to Build Better Relationships

Nike’s “Just Do It!” is famous around the world. It encourages you to get up and get moving. What are you waiting for? Just do it!

When it comes to influence “Just Do It” is great advice to build relationships and strengthen existing ones. But there’s a twist; just do the right things because they’re the right things to do.

Last week I completed my final Principles of Persuasive Selling Workshop at State Auto Insurance. Over the past decade I’ve led nearly 60 workshops and worked with more than 700 managers and salespeople. When it comes to relationship building I always emphasize to participants they should do the right things just because they’re the right things to do. Let me explain.

Engage Reciprocity

When it comes to engaging the principle reciprocity I’ve heard people describe it this way, “Give to get.” No, don’t give to get! When people sense you have an agenda, you’re only giving or helping in order to pull some lever and get a favor in return, they’ll probably reject your offer.

You should give because it’s the right thing to do and the best way to live life. Thousands of years ago Jesus taught His followers it was better to give than receive. He understood how humans thought and behaved and knew people would naturally want to give back to those who first gave to them.

When you give without expectation some people might take advantage of you. However, I think you’ll find far more appreciate your generosity and will be open to helping you whenever you may need it in the future. This is why Zig Ziglar used to tell audiences, “You can get everything you want in life if you’ll just help enough other people get what they want.”

Tap into Liking

The other relationship building principle is liking. I think you’d agree that life is richer and more fulfilling when you have many friends and loved ones. However, don’t focus on getting people to love or like you because you might come across as desperate.

Instead, focus on coming to like people. When you focus on others, and people sense you truly like and care about them, they become far more open to any request you might make. Why? Because we naturally assume friends do right by friends. Abraham Lincoln put it this way, “If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him you are his sincere friend.”

When you tap into the principle of liking it all but removes manipulation from the persuasion equation. Why do I say that? Because when you truly like someone – you can call them friend – you won’t manipulate them. Far from it because you want the best for your friends and loved ones.

Let me wrap up with a question – Do you want more, and better, relationships? If you answered yes then I have two simple suggestions. First, go into situations with this mindset; I want to like the people I work with and serve. Look for the best in others, talk about what you have in common and give sincere praise when it’s due.

Second, focus on giving in ways that will be beneficial for the people you come across. This is much easier when you actually like them because you’ll naturally want to help your friends. And the more you know them the more appropriate your giving and help will be.

Relationship building isn’t rocket science. All it takes is your willingness and a little more effort. Just Do It!

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. His Lynda.com/LinkedIn Learning course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed nearly 150,000 times! The course teaches you how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process. Not watched it yet? Click here to see what you’ve been missing.

A Wealth of Information Creates a Poverty of Attention!

Multi-tasking is a fallacy. Despite what you might believe, our brains cannot consciously focus on multiple tasks. Studies show when you try multi-tasking you’ll take longer and make more mistakes than you would have if you’d tackle one thing at a time. Sure, you can walk and talk but walking doesn’t take conscious thought most of the time. However, when something requires your attention, like avoiding stepping into the street into oncoming traffic, your ability to focus on the conversation, or anything else for that matter, is temporarily diverted.

In the world we live in some estimates say you’re bombarded with 3000 to 5000 marketing message a day. The late Herbert Simon, an economist, psychologist and Nobel Prize winner, said this about information overload, “…information consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”

Your “poverty of attention” creates the inability to focus and is due in large part to the overstimulation of daily life. But it’s not just marketing that causes it. Your cell phone is part of the problem. Google “cell phone addiction” and you’ll get millions of results! According to an article on Health.com, smartphones have lots in common with Vegas slot machines and they’re altering our brains.

As a persuader you’re competing against this overstimulation and lack of attention. What can you do? By thoughtfully incorporating the principles of influence into your communication you can bypass a lot of the noise.

One big reason using the principles work so well is due to human evolution.  Over the course of history, the principles enabled humans make better decisions faster which increased our survival rate. Travel back in time and consider:

  • Someone who looked, sounded and acted like you could probably be trusted without giving it much consideration (liking).
  • There’s a rustling in the woods so everyone takes off running…and you do too, with very little thought (consensus).
  • There’s not much Wooly Mammoth left so you quickly get some because you don’t know when the next kill will be (scarcity).

These are just a few examples where the psychology of persuasion prompted actions that generally led to good results. Our world is vastly different than the one our ancestors occupied but we still face psychological threats and the wiring of the human brain hasn’t changed.

  • You get a new boss and you have many things in common. You immediately like your boss (liking) which makes working with her easier and less threatening.
  • You’re in new job and realize on day one that you’re not dressed like everyone else. That night you head to the store to make wardrobe adjustments so you’ll fit in a little better (consensus).
  • Things are changing at work but despite the fact that you’re not in agreement with everything you don’t speak up (scarcity).

We face a different environment than our ancestors but we’re using the same brain. The more you look for opportunities to tap into the principles of persuasion the easier it will be for your message to cut through the information overload.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. His Lynda.com/LinkedIn Learning course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed nearly 150,000 times! The course teaches you how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process. Not watched it yet? Click here to see what you’ve been missing.

Human Resources Respond to Human Psychology

If you’re a human resources professional you know you have a tough job, one that comes with huge responsibilities. Your decisions impact entire departments, divisions and often the whole organization. Those decisions include setting corporate policy for paid time off, merit increases, education reimbursement, retirement savings and the biggie today – health insurance.

The larger the company the easier it is to forget the individuals who make up the departments, divisions and organization. Never lose sight of this reality; a company is no more than the people who choose to work there. It can be extremely dangerous to focus so much on the big picture that individuals become an after thought. You won’t get emails or phone calls from a department or division but you’ll get LOTS of communication from individuals when decisions come down that are perceived to negatively impact them.

In the highly competitive business environment we’re currently in it’s often necessary to make decisions to reduce costs to keep the organization competitive. What’s an HR professional to do when caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place? This is where human psychology comes into play because human resources respond to human psychology. Sometimes it’s not what you say but how you say it that can make all the difference.

For more than seven decades social psychologists, and more recently behavioral economists, have been studying the decision-making process (science of influence and psychology of persuasion) and they’ve gleaned many insights that can help when it comes to communicating HR decisions.

In psychology there’s something known as the contrast phenomenon which describes the reality that you can change how anyone experiences something by what you present first. Perhaps you’re announcing merit increases will be limited to 3% in the upcoming year. If the national average is only 2% then you’ll want to mention that first because 3% will seem to be a good bit larger by comparison. Here’s how you might approach a conversation with an individual:

Bob, you may not be aware but according to Towers-Watson the industry average for merit increases this year is only 2%. However, because we’re doing well we’re giving 3% across the board. I’m sure you wish it were more but here’s the reality; that’s 50% better than most people are getting in this industry. If we keep doing well thanks to contributions from people like you that additional increase adds up to quite a bit over time and it’s what allows us to attract and retain top talent like you.

Another application of contrast might come up with regard to health care. According to the Kaiser Foundationout of pocket health care costs for employees have risen eight times faster than wages! Citing an organization like Kaiser taps into the principle of authority because people believe information more when it comes from perceived experts. As an HR professional you’ll blow a persuasive opportunity if you don’t weave that into your presentation to employees.  Here’s how you might communicate this change:

You’re all aware that the cost of health care is skyrocketing. In most cases what you pay out of pocket has gone up eight times faster than your wages according to the Kaiser Foundation. We find that unacceptable. While we cannot afford to increase your wages at the same pace that health care costs are rising what we’ve done this year is go with a plan that caps your individual and family deductibles at amounts that are less than half the national average.

Another bit of psychology to remember is scarcity. People are more averse to loss than they are to gaining the same thing. In other words, losing $100 hurts more than the joy of winning or finding $100. Let’s continue on with the previous example:

We could have gone with a higher health care deductible this year and paid you a little more because we saved some money. However, the savings would have barely been noticeable in your bi-weekly pay and the reality is you probably would not set aside that small amount in case you needed it for your deductible. According to our health care provider, by going with the lower deductible many of you will avoid paying thousands more on health care bills this year.

The move from traditional vacation/personal/sick time to paid time off (PTO) which allows employees to use their time off any way they see fit can be tricky. Once PTO is in place, as new employees come to the organization they know what they’re signing up for so it’s not a big deal. However, introducing PTO to an organization can be challenging because of the perception of loss. Let’s say you had three weeks of vacation and five sick days available for a total of potentially 20 days off. The move to PTO might give you 18 days but you can use them however you want. Most employees don’t use all of their sick days and some don’t use all of their vacation days which means the typical worker might have 1-5 more days to use however they’d like under a PTO approach. Here’s how you might share this announcement:

To align ourselves with our competition we’re moving from the traditional time off model to PTO. The reason most competitors are going to PTO is because of the flexibility it gives employees. It’s not escaped our notice that some of you may perceive you’re losing time off. Recognizing that we’ve looked at our stats and less than 8% of you used all of your vacation days, personal days and sick time over the last three years. However, 80% of you used fewer than two days of sick time during that period. What that tells us is the vast majority of you will have more days at your disposal to use however you see fit. Many of you will take extra vacation days and that’s okay because that’s what PTO is for.

Will you still have some disgruntle employees? Sure, and you always will no matter what you say or do. After all, some people are only “happy” when they’re unhappy and others will always look at the downside rather than the potential upside. However, by framing your conversations using your understanding of social psychology and behavioral economics you’ll win over more people in the long run which means dealing with fewer calls and email from employees who don’t like change.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. His Lynda.com/LinkedIn Learning course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed nearly 150,000 times! The course teaches you how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process. Not watched it yet?  To see what you’ve been missing click here.