When Civility Goes So Does Conversation

Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk recently announced his intention to move Tesla’s headquarters from California to Texas. When asked if it had anything to do with an article, “Tesla Moved its HQ to Texas Following Explicit Offer from California Assemblywoman,” his response was, “Exactly.”

Lorena Gonzalez, the assemblywoman in question, tweeted “F*ck Elon Musk,” on May 9, 2020. I doubt the decision to uproot a business as large as Tesla was based solely on a tweet, but the tweet certainly didn’t help. What’s sad is, Musk’s company is helping people who want to combat climate change and Gonzalez is an environmental attorney. Talk about letting your emotions get the best of you and ruining a good thing for your state and constituents! A self-inflicted wound for sure.

Do We Want This?

The bigger issue than the location of Tesla is this; do we really want politicians telling business owners and people they might disagree with to “f*ck off”? It used to be that people in certain positions understood the need to act like adults and show restraint even when others may not.

I understand the emotions that she might have felt. We’ve all felt anger. I’ve been so angry at times that I felt like throttling people on Twitter. In fact, I wrote about that years ago in a post I called “Once Upon A Time – A Good Twitter Lesson.” Someone did something that really made me angry. However, I went against my initial emotional reaction and not only resolved a situation, I made a friend in the process. Believe me, that was far more satisfying than spewing an angry tirade.

Another Example

This issue isn’t limited to one side of the aisle. It was disgraceful when Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla) verbally berated Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the steps of the U.S. Capitol building in July 2020. Yoho, a self-professing Roman Catholic, called her a, “F*cking B*tch.” Fortunately, Yoho is no longer in Congress and cannot claim to represent anyone.

I chose not to respond to either of these situations – Yoho or Gonzalez – on Twitter because, in my opinion, the platform has become too toxic for conversation. However, I feel comfortable sharing my thoughts in this article because we need to start talking about this negative trend. It doesn’t serve anyone well except perhaps those who want to sow discord.

Conclusion

One of my favorite quotes comes from Viktor Frankl, the Nazi concentration survivor, who wrote, “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.”

Another way to look at this comes from Tim Kight, founder of Focus 3. He regularly talks about E+R=O. That is, events plus response equals outcome. We can control events but our response to events can influence outcomes.

Restoring civility and respect starts with each of us. Until we do that we won’t have conversation, only shouting matches.

Brian Ahearn, CPCU, CTM, CPT, CMCT

Brian Ahearn is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An authorTEDx speaker, international trainer, coach, and consultant, he’s one of only a dozen people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s first book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was named one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by BookAuthority. His second book, Persuasive Selling for Relationship Driven Insurance Agents, was an Amazon new release bestseller in several categories. His next book, The Influencer: Secrets to Success and Happiness, will be available by year-end.

Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses on persuasive selling and coaching have been viewed by more than 400,000 people around the world.

Will You Listen for a Change?

“Will you listen for a change?” That phrase can be interpreted several ways depending on who it is talking, the tone of voice, the situation, history between the people, etc. In this instance, I don’t mean it in some angry, “You never listen to me,” way. No, my intention is this; sometimes a willingness to listen is what prompts change. 

A Chance Encounter

I was out of town a few weeks ago to speak at a conference. My first night in town I didn’t have any dinner plans, so I decided to sit at the bar, have a meal, enjoy some Scotch, and watch whatever ball game was on the big screen tv. 

There were only two open seats, one on either side of an individual who was near the end of the bar. As I observed the man, I thought he might have a disability based on his movements and speech. To be honest, that made me not want to sit next to him. At that moment I wish Jane or Abigail had been with me. Jane plays golf with a blind friend and Abigail works with the deaf. They are more graceful around people than I am, and I was feeling awkward and unsure.

Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone

But I went against my natural tendency, made the decision to step out of my comfort zone and took a seat next to the man. Truthfully, I also felt like God was tapping me on the shoulder and I’ve learned to respond to those promptings. I knew if anything good came out of the situation it certainly wouldn’t be due to anything on my part other than a willingness to be obedient. 

After a few moments I struck up a conversation with the man. He wasn’t disabled, just really, really drunk. We started to talk. He shared, I listened. I asked questions and he did his best to respond. 

Two hours later he was much more sober. I’d learned a great deal about him and why he was in the state he was in. He learned a little about me too. I gave him my card and asked him to stay in touch. He did connect with me on Facebook shortly thereafter.

A Prayer Answered

About a week later, on a morning walk I asked God to have the man reach out to me if He wanted me to communicate with him. Later that day I started getting messages from the man on Facebook. Coincidence? I don’t know where you stand on God and spiritual matters, but I believe it was God prompting him and answering my prayer.

I’ve found whenever I respond to what I believe God is asking of me, the person I interact with benefits. However, just as importantly, I benefit too. My faith grows because I know I’m being used by God to help someone. I cannot describe how that feels but I hope you have felt it or feel it one day. It’s indescribable!

Conclusion

All God wanted was for me to meet that man where he was. No condemnation, I think he’s had enough of that. No advice, I’m sure he’s heard more well-intentioned advice than he can recall. No agenda, he’s not a project, he’s a person. I was called to listen, ask questions to learn more, and to honestly answer his questions. I think each of us is capable of listening, asking, and answering.

I’ll conclude with this; will you listen for a change? You might be surprised at who changes as a result.

Brian Ahearn, CPCU, CTM, CPT, CMCT

Brian Ahearn is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An authorTEDx speaker, international trainer, coach, and consultant, he’s one of only a dozen people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s first book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was named one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by BookAuthority. His second book, Persuasive Selling for Relationship Driven Insurance Agents, was an Amazon new release bestseller in several categories. His next book, The Influencer: Secrets to Success and Happiness, will be available by year-end.

Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses on persuasive selling and coaching have been viewed by more than 400,000 people around the world.

 

Quarterly Newsletter

Have you ever been on an airplane that’s just about to land when suddenly the pilot gets on the intercom and says, “We’ll have to circle the airport until further notice because of storms in the area.”? If you’ve ever had that happen after a long flight, when all you want to do is get off the plane, it’s disheartening. Welcome to 2020 + 1. We thought the pandemic was on the wane and now we’re circling the airport until further notice. Ugh! 

Despite the continued turmoil, the third quarter was wonderful for me and the business. An unexpected beach vacation, a full calendar of in person and virtual events, and nearing completion of book #3, consumed my time.

I hope the quarter was just as good for you on a professional and personal level, and that Q4 is even better.  

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

Writing

My third book, The Influencer: Secrets to Success and Happiness, is almost through the editing process – thank you Nancy Edwards! We’ve nailed down the cover so the next step will be formatting. After that, it’s getting the book ready to push to Amazon and the on-demand publishing house. I find writing is easy now but all the steps needed to turn it into a book can be a challenge. That’s why I’ve turned to my book coach, Barbara Grassey, for help with each book. If you have a business book inside of you…hire her to help you make it a reality. And while you’re at it, I highly recommend Michael Franzese to help with the artwork. He designed my company logo, business cards, and all three book covers. 

Podcasts

I added another eight shows to my podcasting page during the quarter. I’m starting to do more and more around insurance because it’s my primary market. It’s fun to share on those shows because I believe in the insurance industry and what we do to help people. Here are a few shows you might want to check out: 

  • Third time was a charm! Closing the Gap host Chris Cline invited me back on the show after I spoke virtually to agents who represent Westfield Insurance. Chris wanted to go deeper on some principles of influence that I didn’t get to share during my presentation. Check out the episode to learn additional ways insurance agents can ethically influence constituents of all types.    
  • David Saltzman invited me to join him on the ShiftShapers Podcast to discuss insights into how insurance advisors can drive sales and build relationships using the psychology of persuasion. We also touched on persuading different buying personalities and listening skills. You can catch the episode here.
  • Craig Pretzinger and Jason Feltman are insurance agents by day and The Insurance Dudes podcast hosts by night. We got very granular on specific things insurance agencies can do in order to help their customers and sell more effectively. This two-part podcast was a blast. Make sure you catch the opening of the first episode: Part 1 and Part 2.

Best of…

My old boss John Petrucci used to say, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.” He’s so wise that I’m still his friend…and he’s not given me a paycheck in almost three years! John’s point applies to learning – if you stop doing things to improve yourself then don’t expect any positive change to take place. Let me give you a few suggestions to help. 

Books

What You Customer Wants And Can’t Tell You by Melina Palmer. Melina host The Brainy Business Podcast and has translated and distilled hundreds of episodes into a fantastic resource for people in sales and marketing. Here’s the testimonial I gave Melina which appears in the front of the book along with other accolades; “Einstein said, ‘Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.’ What Your Customer Wants and Can’t Tell You does just that as Melina Palmer takes a tremendous amount of research from behavioral economics and social psychology and shares it in ways anyone can understand. And, she does so without losing the nuances you need to know if you want to get it right. Most importantly, Melina gives real world application and additional references for readers who want to dive deeper into the topic. This book, and her Brainy Business Podcast, are resources you don’t want to overlook if you want to become more persuasive.” 

Podcasts

Honestly with Bari Weiss is one of my new favorite shows. Bari is definitely liberal but not liberal enough for the New York Times. She left the newspaper because she didn’t like the ultra progressive direction the paper was heading. Her show explores all sorts of controversial topics and she looks to get to the truth, no matter where it takes her, and no matter how controversial the findings may be. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how she tackles issues.

Intangibles is hosted by Steve Berg. The show has a variety of guest who discuss traits, behaviors, and qualities that entrepreneurs can cultivate to become successful. I’m going to be on the show sometime soon and can tell you, no host I’ve dealt with does as much prep work as Steve. You’ll understand what I mean when you listen because his questions are deep and reveal he’s done his research.

Watch

Muhammad Ali, the new PBS documentary by Ken Burns. Watch it! This 4-part series goes into the life of one of the most well-known people of the last century. As a young man Ali knew something wasn’t right in our country when it came to race. Boxing became his platform to talk about issues that made people feel uncomfortable. People wanted him to shut up and box. After all, he was getting paid huge sums at that time. Sound familiar?

Brian Ahearn

Brian Ahearn is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, TEDx speaker, international trainer, coach, and consultant, he’s one of only a dozen people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s first book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was named one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by BookAuthority. His second book, Persuasive Selling for Relationship Driven Insurance Agents, was an Amazon new release bestseller in several categories. His third book, The Influencer: Secrets to Success and Happiness, will be available by year-end.

Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses on persuasive selling and coaching have been viewed by more than 400,000 people around the world.

The Influencer – Another Sneak Peek

My next book, The Influencer: Secrets to Success and Happiness, is with my editor and on track for release later this year! Below is another sneak peek for your enjoyment. In this chapter the protagonist, John Andrews, learns about the principle of unity in an unexpected way that helps it drop from his head to his heart.

Family Practice

In January John made a trip to New Mexico. Not nearly as populous as Arizona or Texas, he didn’t have many clients there but he was looking for prospects in Albuquerque. That’s where he met Al Harris, the lead physician in an unusual medical facility. Upon arriving at the newly furnished office John felt different than he did with other clients. He noticed a deep camaraderie among the employees. Everyone was friendly, not only with clients, but each other. It went beyond smiles and greetings, they seemed to genuinely enjoy helping each other. It was a family practice that seemed like it was run by an actual family.

After spending time touring the facility they moved to Al’s office. While he was in Al’s office John listened with his eyes and ears. What he noticed was unmistakable.

John took Al to lunch so they could relax and get to know one another. “Al, I do my best to pay close attention to people and the environments I’m in. Something stood out about your office,” John started out.

“Oh really,” Al replied after swallowing a bite of his salad. “What’s that?”

Setting down his fork, John went on, “There’s a closeness between your staff, almost like family. It’s unlike anything I’ve noticed in other physician’s practices. What do you attribute it to?”

Wiping his mouth with the cloth napkin, looking straight into John’s eyes, Al said, “John, I’m going to share something with you that I don’t tell most people unless I see a need for help or the curiosity you displayed. I’m a recovering alcoholic.”

John was taken back because he never would have imagined someone as outgoing, friendly, and successful as Al would struggle with alcohol. Apparently his face betrayed his thoughts because Al said, “You look surprised John.”

A little embarrassed, looking down rather than directly at Al, John confessed, “Al, you don’t fit the image I had of an alcoholic. I mean, recovering alcoholic.”

Al laughed and that put John at ease. “Don’t worry John, you’re not alone in that thought. We come in all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and walks of life. I’ve been sober for 30 years now.”

“Congratulations! But, what does all of this have to do with what I noticed in the office?” John inquired.

“Not only am I alcoholic,” Al said, “Nearly everyone who works for me is on the road to recovery.” He smiled as he shared that, proud that he was able to help people who are sometimes marginalized by employers. 

That blew John away. Curious he went on, “I had no idea and never would have guessed. I don’t know anyone who is an alcoholic so I wonder; how can you trust someone who struggles with alcohol?”

“Usually when I invite someone in for an interview they feel unqualified to work in an office environment like ours. I tell them if they can beat the disease then anything we ask them to do will seem easy by comparison. They usually light up at that, as if they’re thinking, ‘I never thought of that but he might be right!’” 

John asked an obvious question, “What do you do when someone relapses?”

Finishing his salad, Al said, “We love ‘em, support ‘em, and get them the help they need. If they get back on track, we take ‘em back. If they don’t, we let them know we’re still here to support them but we need people we can rely on because our patients count on us. We’ve only lost two people in 20 years.”

“That’s incredible Al. How does that tie into the family atmosphere I sensed?” John inquired as he sipped his iced tea. 

“Family is as close as we can get. Helping family members is almost like helping ourselves because we share the same genes. The depth of the relationship between alcoholics isn’t genetic but it’s almost unparalleled. Perhaps only people who’ve served in the military share as close a bond. I think most alcoholics would agree with me when I say; helping another alcoholic is almost like helping myself and when they help me they’re also helping themselves. Does that make sense?” Al asked John.

“Completely,” John replied. “I think it goes to something I learned in college. There is a psychological principle called unity that describes it. That principle says it’s easier for people to say yes to those they see as one of them, part of the tribe, so to speak. I’ve always noticed the ‘band of brothers’ with the military but now I see it can apply to people and groups I never considered before.” 

Al shared, “I know what we’re doing is good and it works so well because we’re all in the same boat. It can be tough on regular businesses to hire alcoholics just as it might be for some ex-military to assimilate into ordinary life. There’s a brotherhood in each case that helps.” 

“Al, I appreciate your authenticity and trust to share all of this with me, especially since this is the first time we’ve met. I really look forward to learning more from you as we continue to get to know each other,” John said as he got ready to sign the credit card slip.

When he went back to the hotel he quickly wrote what he learned from Al. Unity was a concept John understood in his head but not in his heart…until that day with Al. He wrote, “Unity is about shared identity. People will be most likely to help others with whom they share an identity. It’s almost as if we is me and me is we.”

Brian Ahearn, CPCU, CMCT

Brian Ahearn is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An authorTEDx speaker, international trainer, coach, and consultant, he’s one of only a dozen people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s first book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was named one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by BookAuthority. His second book, Persuasive Selling for Relationship Driven Insurance Agents, was an Amazon new release bestseller in several categories.

Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses on persuasive selling and coaching have been viewed by more than 400,000 people around the world.

 

Revisiting Racist Tendencies

Six years ago I wrote an article called I’m Racist, You’re Racist, Everyone is Racist. Sadly, race relations have grown worse since that post appeared in August 2015. With all that’s going on in our country, and around the world, I thought it would be good to revise and repost that article. 

I realize the headline might offend some people but I hope you’ll stay with me to the end of the article and give thought to what I share. Race remains front and center in the United States and it won’t be going away any time soon. From Ferguson to Baltimore to Charleston to George Floyd, as a nation we continue to be confronted by the reality that despite all the strides that have been made since the Civil War, racism is still something we need to wrestle with. 

Are We All Racist?

I’ve given this a lot of thought and realize I’m racist. I don’t mean to be offensive but you’re racist, too. If it makes you feel better, everyone is racist. Think about the least racist person you can imagine. For me that would be Jesus because He loved perfectly. Who is the most racist person you can think of? Hitler comes to mind for me. Now consider this; we all fall somewhere on the spectrum between not racist and completely racist.

Not Racist (Jesus) <================> Completely Racist (Hitler)

Some people are overtly racist, working against people they believe are beneath them for no other reason than they think their race is superior. I believe that group is a small minority of people. Other people don’t try to harm others due to race but still might display attitudes that could be labeled as racist. That’s the category I think most people fall into. Even some people who actively work against racial inequality, such as former MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry, occasionally display racially insensitive sentiments. For Harris-Perry this happened when she made comments about Mitt Romney’s adopted grandson who is black.

My Background

Russell Barrow, my best friend and the best man in my wedding, is black. Russell and I have known each other for more than 40 years. I used to speak to him daily on my drive home from work. I remember when he shared his pride the day after Obama was elected president. He never believed he’d see a black man elected to the highest office in the land. He was surprised I remembered instances where he felt discriminated against when we were together. We talk about racism because I want to understand his perspective. I was shocked, and actually cried, when I learned there was a pool in our hometown where he was not allowed to swim as a kid because he was black. I had no idea until he told me decades later.

I was a member of my former company’s diversity committee and actively helped people of color whenever I could. With people of color I regularly talk about issues around race. I’ve read Ibram X. Kendi’s How to be an Antiracist, Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility, and Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste because I want to understand other perspectives. So how can I be racist?

I don’t say I’m racist because of Kendi’s, DiAngelo’s, or Wilkerson’s views on race or their definitions of racism. There’s much I agree with and much I disagree with regarding each of their views on the issue. I say I’m racist because I know this – I’m no Jesus! I’m very aware of my initial internal responses to certain events. I understand many of my thoughts are triggered at the subconscious level, which means before I realize it, the thought, belief, or attitude that could be considered racist is already there. I can try to deny it or rationalize it away but if I’m honest I need to simply admit it’s there. I don’t beat myself up over it because I know many of our thoughts, beliefs and attitudes are a result of decades of conditioning from factors outside of our control. 

Looking for Similarity

It’s natural for us to feel a closer bond to people we see as similar to ourselves. Evolutionarily this was a survival necessity. Those who looked and spoke like us were probably friends and those who were different might be enemies. Even though we live in a very different time than our ancestors, a time where people need not be feared just because they are different, we can’t help the brain wiring we acquired at birth. All we can do is acknowledge the beliefs and attitudes that surface, then examine our thoughts and hopefully to make new choices to behave differently.

Home Environment 

Another factor is the environment we grew up in. Some of you reading this may have grown up in a mildly or overtly racist home. When that’s all you know that’s your normal. If you believed your parents loved you, and you saw them as good people, then you had no reason to question their views on race or any other topics. The beliefs that were instilled during your formative years die hard.

Outside Influences

Apart from your home, if you had little or no exposure to people who were different, then many of your beliefs may have been formed by outside influences such as the media, friends, and your community. An example of this is how criminals are referred to in the media. Muslims are often viewed as terrorists and blacks are labeled thugs, but many whites who commit terrible crimes are deemed mentally ill. Those stereotypes cause us to look at different groups of people with caution and fear. However, many people look at the white criminal as an outlier, not representative of the race as a whole. When you grow up consistently exposed to these views you begin to harbor attitudes and beliefs without really understanding where they came from. 

Bringing About Change

Examine beliefs and attitudes. It’s natural to defend your position because, at least for some people, acknowledging a belief or attitude might be racist is tantamount to admitting they’re a bad person. That’s a hard pill to swallow but it’s not necessarily the case. We’re not good or bad, we float back and forth between good and bad thoughts, behaviors, etc. 

Initiate conversation. I’ve learned a tremendous amount in my conversations with Russell and other black friends and coworkers. I encourage you to initiate the conversation and ask questions because some people will never bring up the subject. When I’ve initiated conversations, I’ve been amazed at how much people have to share!

Engage liking. During workshops I ask participants, “Does the impact of similarity or liking suggest a retreat from diversity in the workplace?” Some people think looking for similarity might hurt diversity but that would only be the case if you just looked at someone’s exterior. If that’s all you do it would be easy to conclude you’re different solely based on looks. However, the good news is that studies show race and ethnicity differences are overwhelmed when people realize they share the same beliefs, values, and attitudes with one another. 

Conclusion 

The problems we face won’t go away if we put our heads in the sand. This time is different. We have to open ourselves to trying to understand people who are different from us. We may not agree on everything but the dialogue is likely to move us a little closer rather than apart. That will be a big step in the right direction.

Brian Ahearn

Brian Ahearn is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, TEDx speaker, international trainer, coach, and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s first book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was named one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by BookAuthority. His second book, Persuasive Selling for Relationship Driven Insurance Agents, was an Amazon new release bestseller in several categories. His newest book, The Influencer: Secrets to Success and Happiness, will be available by year-end.

Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses on persuasive selling and coaching have been viewed by more than 400,000 people around the world.

Odds are 1 in 275,000

What would you think if I told you had a 1 in 275,000 chance of really knowing all that’s going on with you? According to science your subconscious processes about 11 million bits of information per second. Wow! On the other hand, your conscious brain only processes about 40 bits of information during that same second. What?? That’s right, your subconscious is processing 275,000 bits of information for every bit that your conscious brain is handling. 

Granted, most of that processing deals with information you don’t need to actively focus on (hint: that’s why the subconscious does it) like your heartbeat, breathing, body temperature, and other bodily regulation. The subconscious is also dealing with the environment; sights, sounds, odors, and other stimuli. Only when something in the environment is novel or threatening does it come to the surface of your consciousness. Be thankful for that because if you had to consciously think about every aspect of your body and the environment you wouldn’t have time for anything else and you’d be exhausted.

Awareness and Unawareness

When you become aware of how much you’re unaware of then it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that most of what you do is outside of your conscious mind control. That doesn’t mean you’re randomly bouncing around like a rubber ball in a box throughout your day. There are certainly patterns to your thinking and behavior. However, those patterns are driven in large part by your subconscious, the old tapes that are playing in the background of your head. 

Salespeople have known this for a long time and put it this way, “People buy based on emotion then justify with logic.” Science seems to confirm this. You take some action then come up with a reason you believe you did what you did.

What’s Motivating You?

Beyond subconscious vs. conscious, your brain wiring plays into this big time. In Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior, authors Ori and Rom Brafman cite some fascinating brain research around motivation and actions.

When you’re motivated by rewards a particular part of the brain Ori and Rom call the “pleasure center” (nucleus accumbens) is activated. When you engage in altruistic tasks another part of the brain they call the “altruism center” (posterior superior temporal sulcus) is activated. 

Here’s the fascinating thing; science has determined the pleasure and altruism centers cannot be active at the same time. In other words, you either do something for altruistic reasons or for some type of reward that will give you pleasure. 

Let’s consider giving as an example. When you donate money to a charitable cause, no matter the motivation for your act of giving, the recipient will benefit. That’s good. When it comes to giving, I’m sure most people would “convince” themselves they’re donating out of kindness and a desire to help. A brain scan might reveal something quite different. Some people might have done it out of the goodness of their hearts whereas others really wanted a tax break. Whatever the reason, the scan doesn’t lie; it’s either altruistic or pleasure driven no matter what you believe. 

Historical Reference

When I first learned about this I was reminded of a passage in the Bible. Jesus said the Pharisees (religious leaders of the day) practiced their religion to be seen by people, not out of a love of God. As a result, they had their reward in full, the admiration of man but not God.

Here’s another notable difference between altruistic acts and momentary pleasures; unlike pleasure, which often requires more and more, altruistic acts don’t take as much to be triggered in the brain and the good feelings linger longer. 

Conclusion

I’ll close with a quote I’ve shared many times over the years. Ben Franklin correctly surmised, “Three things are extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.” Way back in the 1700s Ben didn’t have scientific research to back up that claim, so we’ll just assume he got lucky, perhaps 1 in 275,000 chance of being right. 

Brian Ahearn

Brian Ahearn is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, TEDx speaker, international trainer, coach, and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s first book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was named one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by BookAuthority. His second book, Persuasive Selling for Relationship Driven Insurance Agents, was an Amazon new release bestseller in several categories. 

Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses on persuasive selling and coaching have been viewed by more than 400,000 people around the world.

Letting Go Of Expectations

If you read last week’s blog post, Frankie Says Relax, then you know Jane and I spent a week in North Carolina. We stayed in a small cottage on the beach. The opportunity came up unexpectedly at the beginning of August when a friend told me his beach house was available the last week of the month. Our schedules were open, so we jumped at the chance to get away, just the two of us. We didn’t know anything about the place we were staying, the beach, or the town of Oak Island. In other words, we went down without any expectations. All we knew was we wanted to relax and enjoy each other’s company.

We both agreed, aside from our three-week trip to Scotland for our 30th anniversary several years ago, this was probably the nicest vacation we’ve had. As we talked about it, we realized having no expectations was a wonderful thing. We woke up each day without pressure of being anywhere or having to do anything. Each day we got up, had leisurely mornings then decided what we wanted to do. Everything was new and fun.

Personal Expectations

This experience had me thinking a lot about expectations as I took my morning walk today. I don’t think we can ever fully rid ourselves of expectations, but it seems like the more we can push expectations to the side, the better off we are much of the time. I certainly believe that’s the case in personal life because so much disappointment crops up when our expectations are not met. Much of the time it’s because our expectations are unrealistic.

It also happens with the people in our lives. When people don’t do what we want, what we believe is right, what we think is best, it disappoints or hurts us. But not everyone holds the same values and priorities that we do. We saw this when our daughter chose not to go through her high school graduation ceremony. She never liked school and graduation meant nothing to her. Once we let go of the expectation of watching her walk across the stage we were fine and we still had a wonderful party to celebrate. I think for Abigail the party was more like an inmate celebrating release from prison.

Business Expectations

Of course, many of you are reading this thinking about business. We certainly can’t do without some expectations around business. Businesses come into existence to serve a purpose and in order to do that effectively vision statements, strategies, and goals are set. I’m a big proponent of all of those.

However, when things get more granular sometimes letting go of expectations can be a very good thing for businesses. As I reflected on my last three years of corporate life, when I ran a corporate university, I realized so much of the success my team enjoyed came about when I didn’t have expectations. Don’t get me wrong, I expected hard work and excellence, but I didn’t always have expectations around the details of projects.

Early on, just after taking over the Learning Director role, I recall talking with Katlynn about a new learning initiative. The details slipped my mind now, but I do remember telling her about the initiative and her asking what my expectations were. I told her I’d just given her my expectations. She asked how I saw it unfolding and I let her know I was leaving that up to her to her imagination and her creativity. I knew that she was more imaginative and creative than I was so I trusted she would come up with something far better than I would. I knew what we needed to do but not necessarily how best to go about doing it.

I think too often leaders don’t give enough freedom to the people they lead to use their skills and experience to get the job done in the best way possible. That’s why we usually put people in positions because they possess skills we don’t.

Conclusion

There will always be times when some people need more guidance than others. But as you lead and coach your team, if you’re doing it well they should grow in their capacity to do their jobs to the best of their ability. Hire the right people and give them freedom without your expectations and you might just be pleasantly surprised. I certainly was when I lead that small team in the corporate university. Jane and I were much happier at having let go of expectations of what we thought a vacation should be. I hope you’ll ponder this and give it a try. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Brian Ahearn

Brian Ahearn 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 an Amazon new release bestseller in several categories.

Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses on persuasive selling and coaching have been viewed by more than 400,000 people around the world.

Frankie Says Relax

Frankie Says Relax was an icon song in the early 80s by the English band Frankie Goes to Hollywood. I’m taking Frankie’s advice this week as Jane and I spend time at a beach house in North Carolina. It’s our first vacation, just the two of us, in three years.

What’s my idea of relaxing? Catching up on reading, finishing my next book, some light exercise, sleeping in past 5 a.m., and drinking a little more Scotch than normal.

I love what I do but don’t take enough time to wind down so I’m looking forward it! As you read this, I may be staring at ocean waves, watching a sunrise, looking up at the stars, or walking the beach with Jane.

Wherever you are, I hope you’re making some time to relax and recharge your batteries.

Brian Ahearn

Brian Ahearn is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, TEDx speaker, international trainer, coach, and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s first book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was named one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by BookAuthority. His second book, Persuasive Selling for Relationship Driven Insurance Agents, was an Amazon new release bestseller in several categories.

Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses on persuasive selling and coaching have been viewed by more than 400,000 people around the world.

The Influencer – Sneak Peak!

I’m still hard at work on book #3, The Influencer: Secrets to Success and Happiness. I was shooting for an October release but based on feedback from pre-readers I’m reworking parts before getting it to my editor. I’m still confident that it will be available by year-end. (The perfect Christmas gift? LOL)

The book follows the life of John Andrews, an ordinary young man born into a typical American middle class family. While there’s nothing extraordinary about John, his upbringing, or education, he becomes an extraordinary influencer. That’s because of what he learns from peers, coaches, clients, and mentors along the journey of life.

I hope you enjoy this sneak peak chapter where John learns the secret to building strong, lasting relationships.

Making Friends with Ben

Ben Blackstone was in his late 40s and reminded John of his dad. Ben was like Todd in that most issues were black and white, right or wrong, good or bad. John would silently chuckle when Ben would routinely make statements like, “There are two kinds of people in the world: those who are your customers and those who aren’t,” and, “When I was your age…” 

Ben had a very laid back way about him when it came to his sales calls. His casual approach reminded John of a golfer who didn’t try to kill the ball but who swung easy and always landed the shot in the middle of the fairway. Those golfers made the game look easy and Ben made sales look effortless. For Ben, a sales call was just a conversation between friends. That was evident because John could see how much Ben’s customers liked him.

On their third day together, as they drove down a lonely country road in Ben’s company car, John finally worked up the courage to ask Ben about his relationships. “Ben, something I’ve noticed is how much your customers like you. What do you do to get them to like you?”

Ben, eyes focused on the road ahead, casually replied, “I don’t do anything to get them to like me.”

John pressed him, “You must do something to get them to like you as much as they do.”

“Nope, I never try to get a customer to like me,” Ben answered with a slight grin.

John, getting a little frustrated, said, “Okay, I give up. Clearly I’m missing something. What’s your secret?”

Ben’s eyes lit up and he said, “John, I’m glad you asked. Most people who ask the questions you asked think I’m pulling their leg and stop short of finding out the secret to great relationships.”

John furrowed his brow and inquired, “So what’s the secret Ben?”

“The secret is…” Ben paused to build the anticipation, then went on, “I do my darndest to like my customers.” 

Staring at Ben, somewhat confused, John asked, “I don’t get it Ben. I know you like them but why do they like you?”

Ben elaborated, “John, once people know you truly like them, it’s almost impossible not to like you in return. But your liking has to be genuine. People have BS meters and can detect insincerity a mile away.”

John leaned in, “But what do you do to like them?”

Ben got straight to the point, “There are two simple approaches I take in order to like people. First, I make every effort to find out what we have in common. I do that because it’s natural for people to like other people they see as similar to themselves. Have you ever met someone who cheered for your favorite football team and you found you instantly liked them?”

“All the time,” John quickly replied. “Anybody who cheers for my team is okay in my book.”

“Exactly! See, it’s not about them liking you, it’s about you connecting on something you have in common so you’ll like them. My second approach is to pay people compliments when warranted. People don’t offer compliments nearly enough so when you do, that kind act is like giving a tall glass of water to a thirsty person – they drink it up!” Ben said with what was now becoming a familiar grin.

“But what if the person is kind of a jerk?” John interjected.

“Great question! Abraham Lincoln once said, ‘I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.’ I believe honest Abe and I’m a firm believer there’s good in everyone. Some people you have to look a little harder but when you find a good quality then pay a genuine compliment you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes. Difficult people seldom get compliments so they’re dying from thirst but don’t seem to realize it. When you give them that cool glass of water they appreciate it even more than most people!”

“Ben, you make it sound so simple,” John noted.

Wrapping up the conversation, as they pulled into the parking lot for their next appointment, Ben said, “That’s because it is simple John. Always have this mindset with whomever you meet; ‘I want to like this person.’ Then connect and compliment. The more you do it, the easier it gets until it’s just naturally who you are.”

John threw this pearl that Ben taught him onto a sticky note: Don’t try to get people to like you. Instead, come to like other people. This reminded him of the liking principle he first encountered in college but Ben’s advice took it to a whole new level. And, it alerted him to something he had mistakenly done. He spent so much effort on getting people to like him that he realized now he might have come across as desperate to make friends. He vowed to start making an effort to like everyone he met.

Brian Ahearn

Brian Ahearn is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, TEDx speaker, international trainer, coach, and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s first book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was named one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by BookAuthority. His second book, Persuasive Selling for Relationship Driven Insurance Agents, was an Amazon new release bestseller in several categories.

Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses on persuasive selling and coaching have been viewed by more than 400,000 people around the world.

 

 

Reflections of a Recovering Perfectionist

I don’t always enjoy getting feedback. I bet most people reading this don’t like it either. It would be great to sail through life doing everything perfectly but that’s not reality. Although I don’t always enjoy feedback, I’ve learned to embrace it. In my case, feedback stings because I used to be a perfectionist. 

Quick Backstory

I was raised by a Marine. For some of you reading this, nothing more needs to be said. My father had high expectations for me, especially when it came to grades. Education was a big thing in the Ahearn family, going back to my grandfather who was a professor at NYU and other prestigious colleges. 

I vividly remember bringing a report card home in eighth grade: six As and a C. My father’s response was, “What happened in English?” That took place more than 40 years ago and the fact that I still remember it shows it had a big impact on me. It set in motion a need to be perfect.  

Interestingly, when Jane and I went to an open house during our daughter Abigail’s freshman year of high school I was confronted with a similar situation. Abigail’s grades were good except in science. I kept my mouth shut, not wanting to saddle her with my burden. 

No matter how well I did, it was never quite good enough. In my mind feedback wasn’t received as an opportunity to grow and do better, it filtered through me as, “Not good enough.” I never took time to enjoy what I’d accomplished or how far I’d come. It was always about what could have been better and how far I still had to go.

Growth

Over time, I slowly learned to change how I thought about feedback. There’s no denying on a gut level it still bothers me a little and sometimes even stings. But I’ve learned that I can acknowledge how I feel then set aside my emotions and choose a different thought process concerning the feedback.

Most of the feedback I receive comes from people who know me. I know they’re rooting for me and their feedback is only intended for good. Reminding myself of that helps.

I’ve also learned to enjoy the process of growth. Now, whenever I give a presentation, I almost always feel like it’s the best one I’ve given. After enjoying that feeling I look for ways to make it better. However, now I do so because I enjoy improving my skills and know the better I get, the more people I can help. It’s fun. 

Current State

This all came to mind recently when I received feedback from people on my upcoming book, The Influencer: Secrets to Success and Happiness

Writing a book is a little like having a kid. Both are creations that emanate from you. Just as most parents think their kid is just the best thing ever, authors tend to feel similar about their writing. Someone criticizing your kid would sting and some of the feedback I received felt like that.  

I spent a good bit of time processing what people shared. I also talked it over with Jane. Now I’m diving back into the book. It may delay its publication, but it will be worth it because the finished product will be even better.  

Conclusion 

Most of the time you can’t help how you feel. Feelings come from a lifetime of experience and conditioning. But that doesn’t mean you have to be ruled by your emotions. 

Denying how you feel doesn’t work either. I’ve found the best approach is to honestly acknowledge how you feel. Next, take a breath and assess the situation. What story are you telling yourself? Sometimes people are trying to tear you down, but you don’t need to listen to them. Focus on the people who are your fans, the ones cheering for your success. 

None of this is easy but if you struggle with perfectionism or feedback like I did, you too can turn the corner. It won’t happen by chance, it will take some deliberate work, and it’s so worth it.

Brian Ahearn

Brian Ahearn is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, TEDx speaker, international trainer, coach, and consultant, he’s one of a dozen people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s first book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was named one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by BookAuthority. His second book, Persuasive Selling for Relationship Driven Insurance Agents, was an Amazon new release bestseller in several categories. 

Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses on persuasive selling and coaching have been viewed by 400,000 people around the world.