When a Cookie is More than Just a Cookie

Have you ever stayed at a DoubleTree Hotel? If you have, then no doubt you received a cookie when you checked in at the front desk. And it wasn’t just any cookie, it was a warm chocolate chip cookie presented to you in a bag that read:

This delicious chocolate chip cookie is our way of saying welcome to the DoubleTree by Hilton. Enjoy your stay.

That’s a nice way to start your stay! Now, contrast that experience with other hotels. Many give free cookies. I know Hampton Inns put cookies out every afternoon. Getting them out of the plastic case with tongs isn’t quite the same as being presented with them at a DoubleTree.

I’ve stayed at many Embassy Suites and they put out free cookies too. They’re usually located between the hotel entryway and front desk so you can grab as many as you want on your way in our out.

In my travel experience nobody talks about the cookies at the Hampton Inn, Embassy Suites or any other hotel. However, people rave about the DoubleTree cookies! They’re very tasty but it’s more than just how they taste, it’s also how you experience them.

In persuasion there’s a principle of influence known as reciprocity. It describes the feeling you have – an obligation of sorts – to repay the favor when someone does something for you first. Reciprocity is the difference between the DoubleTree cookie and all others.

Just because something is “free” doesn’t mean it’s viewed as a gift. If you don’t perceive something as a gift then there’s no obligation to do anything in return. Grabbing a cookie on your way in or out of the hotel doesn’t fit the bill when it comes to reciprocity. A hotel employee presenting (not just handing) you with a cookie taps powerfully into reciprocity. At a minimum you thank the employee but, as noted earlier, people rave about the DoubleTree cookie. As I wrote in the opening paragraph, it’s a very good cookie but presenting it the way they do is what sets the DoubleTree apart. Some people stay at DoubleTree hotels for the cookie above all else!

Conclusion

Reciprocity is a powerful principle of influence because the need to repay the favor weighs heavy on us. That’s why it feels like an obligation. Do you have “free” items for employees, customers or vendors? If so, how do you present those items? If people are required to get those things themselves then they’re probably not perceived as gifts. If that’s the case then you’ve lost an opportunity to tap into reciprocity and perhaps move people to yes when you need it next.

Here’s my advice – look at what you freely give away and consider how you’re doing that. Think of ways you might present those same items so they’re perceived as gifts. Sometimes a cookie is more than just a cookie and so it is with other items you may give to people. Remember, it’s when you give, not when people take, that reciprocity is engaged.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An international speaker, coach and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, the most cited living social psychologist on the topic of ethical influence. Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses Persuasive SellingPersuasive Coaching and Building a Coaching Culture: Improving Performance through Timely Feedback, have been viewed by more than 65,000 people! Have you watched them yet? Click a course title to see what you’ve been missing.

 

Hard Thinking is Like Your Mind Doing Sprints

“Thinking is some of the hardest work there is,
which is probably the reason so few engage in it.”
– Henry Ford, Founder of the Ford Motor Company

I suspect if you’re reading this you don’t have a physically demanding job. By that I mean, you’re probably making your living more with your brain than your brawn. However, just because your job doesn’t require demanding physical activity I’m sure it can be mentally demanding all the same.

It’s not uncommon to hear people talk about how exhausted they are by the time they leave the office. The exhaustion isn’t just in their head; they really are tired, almost as if they were laying bricks or chopping wood. Exhaustion comes because your brain, despite only being about 2% of your body weight, uses about 20% of your calories in any given day. And when your brain is engaged in hard thinking, its demand for energy goes up by about 400%!

To put it another way; focused concentration (hard thinking) is to our minds like sprinting is for a runner. No matter how fit a runner is, he or she cannot sustain sprinting for extended periods before muscle fatigue and exhaustion set in. By the same token, no matter how mentally gifted you may be, you cannot stustsain intense focus for extended periods before mental fatigue and exhaustion set in.

According to John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist and author of Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School, people generally cannot stay focused for more than 40-50 minutes at a time. When it comes to the time devoted to critical thinking, oftentimes less is more. Here are some practical implications for you:

Personal Work

When you plan your work build in breaks so you can rest and replenish. It’s also a good idea to get some calories in you because as your energy wanes so does your ability to make good decisions. Dan Pink addresses this in his book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect TimingHe cites statistics about judges and their sentencing decisions before and after lunch. Hint: If you have to go to court get there first thing in the morning or right after lunch!

Running Meetings

Limit meetings to 45 minutes. If you need to go longer schedule regular breaks and let people know when to expect those breaks. Doing so will help them stay focused rather than wondering when they’ll be able to get food or use the restroom next.

I’ve sat through corporate meetings that have been two and three hours long without breaks! Meetings like that are a waste of time and productivity. During long meetings I’d look around and see people who were checked out, answering texts, leaving to use the bathroom or wandering around to grab food…even when senior leaders were addressing the group.

Hosting a morning or afternoon meeting with one break in the middle doesn’t cut it either because you’re still doubling the amount of time people can give good attention. If a meeting requires more than 45 minutes then plan on going 45 minutes with 15 minute breaks and keep repeating as needed.

Leading Training

If you’re leading all day training sessions build in 15 minute breaks every hour. Again, when people know breaks are coming they’ll generally wait to get food, use the restroom, make calls and return texts or email.

Also plan to have snacks and drinks because those little energy supplements will give people the calories their brains need to stay focused in the next session and throughout the day.

I used this approach successfully for years and people were amazed at how quickly the day flew by. Training was short and intense, breaks came frequently and people felt like they had time to decompress.

Conclusion

You may have heard of the story of the woodcutter contest. Two men set out to cut down as many trees as they could one day. One woodcutter worked tirelessly all day without a break. He was confident he’d win because he noticed his rival taking breaks every hour or so. He was shocked to learn he’d lost by a good margin. It turns out his rival wasn’t lazy, he rested his body and sharpened his axe so when he did swing it he was far more productive.

You can do a job or you can do a job well. Doing something well considers the optimal outcome you want then devising the best plan to make that happen. Whether you’re sitting down to work, hosting an important meeting or trying to train people, consider how the brain works. The more brain friendly your approach the better opportunity you’ll have to achieve your ultimate goals.

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

Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses Persuasive SellingPersuasive Coaching and Building a Coaching Culture: Improving Performance through Timely Feedback, have been viewed by more than 65,000 people! Have you watched them yet? Click a course title to see what you’ve been missing.

 

The 7%, 38%, 55% Myth Still Persists

Five years ago, I wrote a post offering up an apology to Albert Mehrabian, Ph.D. for unknowingly misrepresenting his work. It’s time to revisit the subject because the 7%, 38%, 55% myth still persists.

I recently attended an event where I heard a professional speaker and once again Dr. Mehrabian’s work was misrepresented. In this case the speaker tried to twist Merhabian’s work into the theme of charisma and liability.

Dr. Mehrabian is a Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He gained widespread attention for his research in the area of non-verbal communication in the 1960s. If you’re in business, have been to a communications seminar or heard a motivational speaker then you’ve probably heard Merhabian’s work misquoted as follows:

In face-to-face communication only 7% of your message is based on what you say. Your tone of voice accounts for 38% and your body language is 55%.

This prompted many people – me included – to place too much importance on body language and tone of voice during communication training. It’s certainly good to work on those areas because they can make your communication more effective. However, the problem with misquoting Mehrabian’s work is that it has people putting too much emphasis on tone of voice and body language and not enough on their actual message.

It’s amazing how a story shared by a speaker, mentioned in a book or noted on a popular blog is eventually taken as gospel truth. After all, that well-respected speaker, author or blogger wouldn’t make such a glaring mistake, would they? I certainly did early on because of the number of times I came across the 7%, 38%, 55% rule.

Once my eyes were opened to the truth it seemed as if nearly everyone was misinterpreting and misappling Dr. Mehrabian’s work. When I was prompted to read more about Dr. Mehrabian and his research I learned his work very specifically had to do with communicating feelings and attitudes. If listeners felt there was inconsistency between a person’s words and tone or body language then the listeners took more of their cues from the tone and body language.

An example you can probably relate to is an apology. Two people can utter the very same words – “I’m sorry” – when apologizing and one person might be believed while the other might not. It’s easy to say the words but we also look for sincerity. Apologies are viewed as insincere when the person apologizing has a tone of voice, facial expressions or body language that conveys a different message. Can you recall a time when someone said the right things but you knew they didn’t mean it because of certain cues you noticed in their tone, face and body?

If you go to a presentation that’s not too emotionally based you will focus more on the words used. For example; if you went to a presentation on condo versus home ownership it’s not likely you’d be assessing the believability of the message based on the speaker’s tone of voice or body language. If you contend with anything it would most likely be the facts – words – used during the presentation. There’s much less assessment of attitude or feelings in such a fact-based presentation.

Conclusion

When it comes to your ability to persuade I’m not advocating you discount tone of voice or body language because both can enhance your presentation tremendously. But don’t forget, content is still king in most presentations. Would you rather have a meeting where people remembered: a) what you wore, or b) what you said? I’m sure you want them remembering what you said. After all, the reason for a meeting or presentation is to convey ideas so everything you do needs to enhance your message.

Five years ago, I apologized to Dr. Mehrabian. I learned a good lesson and now try to set the record straight when I learn his work is being misrepresented. If you could hear and see me I’m sure you’d notice my tone of voice and body language are in line with my words. My 7%-38%-55% messaging is congruent.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An international speaker, coach and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, the most cited living social psychologist on the topic of ethical influence. Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses Persuasive SellingPersuasive Coaching and Building a Coaching Culture: Improving Performance through Timely Feedback, have been viewed by more than 65,000 people! Have you watched them yet? Click a course title to see what you’ve been missing.

Influence PEOPLE: The Book – Reciprocity

In early April I shared a little from a book I’m working on. To build a more excitement I thought I’d share another short section from Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, which will be available this summer.

Principle #1 – Reciprocity

“You can get everything you want in life, if you will just help other people get what they want.”
Zig Ziglar, famous author & motivational speaker

Simply put, reciprocity is a mutual exchange. As a principle of influence it could be described in layman’s terms as the “good old give and take” principle or “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” When someone does something for us, we typically feel obligated to do something for them, to return the favor, so to speak.

You can easily think of a time when someone went out of their way to do something for you in return for a good deed you initially did for them. Although you probably recognize the principle just described, if you’re like most people, you may not realize how powerfully reciprocity actually works on you. Quite often reciprocity gets you to do things without you even realizing it! Take a moment to consider your response to each of the following questions:

  • Have you invited someone to a social gathering (summer cookout, wedding, graduation party, etc.) because they invited you to a similar event first?
  • Have you added someone to your Christmas card list after getting a card from them first?
  • Have you donated money to an organization because you received a free gift, like mailing labels?
  • If you’ve been to a home party like Pampered Chef or Tupperware, did you buy something because you would have felt bad not doing so, especially after you were served food and given a free gift?
  • During the holidays, have you ever bought Christmas wrapping paper, cards or some other items from neighborhood kids because their parents bought similar items from your kids?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, then reciprocity was influencing you! Society ingrains something in all of us from the time we are young: it’s right to repay the favor. When you do something for me, I feel obligated to do something for you in return.

In shows when someone saves another’s life, the one snatched from death expresses profound gratitude. The saved person may ask: “How can I ever repay you?” Of course Good Samaritans don’t help people to accrue favors, yet those who are helped feel a huge burden anyway and want to repay the Good Samaritan.

Let’s focus on understanding how the ball gets rolling when it comes to this principle. It happens when you take initiative and act first. In a sense you give a gift, whether tangible or intangible. This is the point: your action is usually met in kind by the person you gifted or helped.

Let’s go further with the principle of reciprocity and consider  concessions. When someone says “no” to you, if you immediately come back with another request, often the person will meet you part way because compromise is met with compromise. Concessions are the basis for negotiating as people barter their way to some sort of agreement.

When it comes to reciprocity, think of this word – Giving. When you give most of the time people will give in return.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An international speaker, coach and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, the most cited living social psychologist on the topic of ethical influence. Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses Persuasive SellingPersuasive Coaching and Building a Coaching Culture: Improving Performance through Timely Feedback, have been viewed by more than 65,000 people! Have you watched them yet? Click a course title to see what you’ve been missing.

 

What Do These Have in Common?

What do these seven things have in common?

  1. Brass name plate
  2. House with a white picket fence
  3. Family playing a game
  4. Ancient map of the world
  5. Giant orange work glove
  6. Airplane flying by
  7. Golf clubs, tennis racquet and a basketball

If you put them together they form a slightly weird, but memorable word picture, and are prompts for questions you can ask when you meet someone for the first time. I learned this ice breaker approach in a Dale Carnegie class more than a dozen years ago. Here’s the weird word picture:

When you look at someone for the first time imagine a big, brass name plate above their head. As you approach them you see a nice home with a white picket fence. You enter the home and see a family playing a game. You look across the room and see a fireplace with an ancient map of the world on the mantle. Magically, you ascend the chimney and there’s a giant orange work glove at the top. As an airplane flies by the glove grabs it by the tail and on the wings you see golf clubs, a tennis racquet and a basketball.

Let’s dissect each of the items to find out how they can help you initiate conversation in a non-threatening way and kickstart the principle of liking.

  1. The brass name plate is a simple reminder to ask someone their name. Once you’ve done that, picture their name written on it to help you remember it.
  2. A house with white picket fence is a prompt to find out where someone currently lives.
  3. The family playing a game is a visual to ask, “Tell me about your family.” This is better than asking, “Do you have any kids?” because that can be a sensitive subject for some people who cannot have children or chose not to.
  4. The fireplace with an ancient map of the world is a subtle reminder to ask where someone is originally from. This question is good because most people don’t live in the same town where they were born.
  5. The giant orange work glove on top of a chimney is a prompt to ask what the person does for a living.
  6. The plane flying by is a trigger to find out, “Do you like to travel?” or “Where’s the coolest place you’ve ever been?”
  7. Finally, the golf clubs, tennis racquet and a basketball on the wing of the plane can start a conversation around hobbies and sports the person might enjoy.

Why all the questions? A big part of your ability to influence people is contingent on building good relationships. It’s a scientific fact according to principle of liking; the more someone likes you the better your chance of hearing yes when you try to persuade them. With that in mind, here are three big reasons to use this approach:

  • In How to Win Friends and Influence People Dale Carnegie encouraged readers to show genuine interest in the other person. I’m sure you feel good when someone shows real interest in you so be that person for someone else.
  • Connecting on what you have in common is a simple way to bond with another person. The more you find similarities the easier it is for them to like you and for you to like them.
  • Last, the more you learn about someone the more opportunities there are to pay a genuine compliment. The more you offer genuine praise, the more the person will like you and you’ll like them.

Conclusion

Whenever you meet someone for the first time – be it at a networking event, work, party – it can feel awkward to get a conversation going. But it doesn’t have to be when you have a script to follow. I encourage you to practice each question till they roll off your tongue in a natural, conversational way. Do so and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much more people like you and how you’ll come to like others in return.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An international speaker, coach and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, the most cited living social psychologist on the topic of ethical influence. Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses Persuasive SellingPersuasive Coaching and Building a Coaching Culture: Improving Performance through Timely Feedback, have been viewed by more than 65,000 people! Have you watched them yet? Click a course title to see what you’ve been missing.

Stop! I mean, Go! Confused?

Mixed signals cause a lot of confusion. In business confusion in communication often leads to errors, delays and lost opportunities. It’s like telling someone to stop, then go, then stop. Do that and they will be confused. “But I thought you want me to…?”

This was top of mind recently when I was working on a presentation around the ideas of pre-suasion. Pre-suasion focuses on things you can do before you make a request of someone to increase the odds of hearing yes. A couple of examples include:

  1. A man sending flowers to a woman before asking her out. Flowers boost the chance of getting a date because they prompt thoughts of romance.
  2. Playing upbeat music later in the day. This will lift the mood and energy at a training event or conference. If you want people to say “Yes” to you then your chance goes up significantly if they’re feeling energetic and positive.

Much of persuasion and pre-suasion take place at the subconscious level which means, most of the time people are unaware of the impact. Something that affects your thinking is color. For example:

  1. Green has positive associations for most people. It conjures up thoughts of “Go” because of traffic lights. In the United States it makes people think about money because that’s the color of our printed currency. And more recently, it prompts thoughts of the environment.
  2. Red is usually experienced in a more negative way. When you’re losing money, you’re said to be “in the red.” Red signals to “Stop!” because of traffic lights and stop signs. It’s also the color of aggression – think Tiger Woods in Sunday in his trademark red shirt. And then there’s blood!

Sometimes marketers, advertisers and others forget these associations and hurt their efforts when it comes to moving people to action. This came to mind when I was on the New Yorker Magazine site recently. A pop-up box appeared to encourage people to subscribe to the monthly magazine and the “Sign me up” button was red. As I looked around the site I found another instance of the same thing.

The website designer probably thought the color stood out and would get attention. While it does that, it also subconsciously is telling your brain to stop. The magazine would be much better off having a green box because it signals “go” as in “Go ahead and sign me up!”

On the flip side, if you wanted someone to stop doing something it would be unwise to incorporate the color green. Doing so will cause confusion because the subconscious will think “Go!” and end up working against the conscious.

Conclusion

You might think what I’ve just described is insignificant but it matters. Despite a very good economy businesses are always looking for ways to impact the top and bottom line. If something as simple – and costless – as aligning the right colors with the actions you want people to take can reduce expenses or increase sales why wouldn’t you take advantage?

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An international speaker, coach and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, the most cited living social psychologist on the topic of ethical influence. Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses Persuasive SellingPersuasive Coaching and Building a Coaching Culture: Improving Performance through Timely Feedbackhave been viewed by more than 65,000 people! Have you watched them yet? Click a course title to see what you’ve been missing.

Luck is Where Preparation Meets Opportunity

Like so many people, a coach had a huge impact on my life. For me that person was Todd Alles, the head football coach at Dublin during my high school years. Among the many things he said that stuck with me was this – “Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.”

Whether or not we want to admit it, much of success has to do with luck. One definition for luck is, “success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.”

It’s the chance part that’s outside your control. For example; being born into your family, growing up where you did, the opportunities (sports, music and other activities) afforded you, and so much more had very little or nothing at all to do with your choices or skills.

Sometimes it’s randomly meeting a person who gives you a big break. Maybe it’s being fortunate to have a teacher or coach who took special interest in you and changed your life.

Chance has impacted me in numerous ways over the years. I’d like to share with you a couple of random events changed my life forever.

On a personal level luck…

led to my marriage. Having accepted a job before graduation college, I still decided to go to one last interview. The Travelers, a national insurance company, was looking for an underwriter and I only went to the interview because the job was in Columbus, Ohio, my hometown. My family and friends were in Columbus as was a girl I was dating so I thought it would be nice if I could stay in town. I got the job and on my first day I walked into the HR on boarding session and laid eyes on Jane, the woman who would become my wife.

On a professional level luck…

changed the course of my career. While at State Auto Insurance a good friend, Nancy Edwards, gave a video to me and my boss. She thought it would hit home with us because of our sales training. The video was Robert Cialdini presenting research on ethical influence at Stanford’s Breakfast Briefings. What he shared resonated with me on many levels so I began using Cialdini’s concepts in my sales training.

Even more random was an email I sent to Stanford sometime later when their marketing referred to Cialdini’s training as manipulation. I never heard from Stanford but that email led to a phone call from a representative at INFLUENCE AT WORK. She called to thank me on behalf of Dr. Cialdini for pointing out Stanford’s mistake. Because of my email Stanford changed their marketing of the video and it led to a relationship with INFLUENCE AT WORK that’s now spanned more than 15 years. Were it not for that email it’s very likely I would not have pursued the career path I’m on and you certainly would not be reading my blog right now.

Where was the preparation?

In both cases opportunities presented themselves and I was prepared to seize them. When it came to the job interview, if I had not worked hard in school, gotten good grades and interviewed extensively, it’s very likely I would not have gotten the job…and never met Jane. Travelers is a fine company and I’m sure many college grads would have loved the opportunity to work for them but I was the one who was prepared.

With regard to my career, I could have easily disregarded the Stanford marketing piece that mentioned manipulation but I didn’t because being an ethical person is a core value for me. I felt compelled to address the situation and was articulate enough to bring about change. Again, I was prepared for the opportunity that presented itself.

Conclusion

Sometimes unfortunate opportunities come your way, things that are completely outside of your control that pose a threat or have a negative impact. Even in those cases the question is; are you ready to deal with the situation in a way that lessens the bad outcome or perhaps turns it into something positive?

When it comes to good luck there’s no room for boasting. But there is room for confidence that says, “I’m ready whenever the opportunity presents itself.” There’s a well-known saying on this that’s sometimes attributed to Arnold Palmer, “The more I practice, the luckier I get.” Make sure you’re prepared for the opportunities that might come your way someday.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An international speaker, coach and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, the most cited living social psychologist on the topic of ethical influence. Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses Persuasive SellingPersuasive Coaching and Building a Coaching Culture: Improving Performance through Timely Feedback have been viewed by nearly 65,000 people! Have you watched them yet? Click a course title to see what you’ve been missing.

Fake Influence – It’s Manipulation

No doubt you’re familiar with the term fake news. Faking it isn’t limited to the news. Fake influence is a real thing, it’s growing and it hurts everyone.

Would you loan money to someone you believed had a big bank account? It’s probably a sound business decision to do so because you assume they have the ability to repay the loan. What if it turns out they lied? That fake information most certainly would have changed your decision regarding the loan.

A similar situation exists with fake influence – manipulation to be more precise – and you’re probably unaware of it in most situations. I know I was until I learned about click farms.

What is a Click Farm?

Click farms are where fake influence grows. Imagine a wall with 100-200 cell phones. A low paid worker stands in front of the phones and gets paid to click on specific links to drive the impression that people are viewing particular websites, Facebook posts, Instagram photos, YouTube videos and various advertising. They also sign up for newsletters and other offers.

If you’ve ever seen ads to gain followers, increase likes, boost shares, etc., there’s a good chance a click farm was behind it.

Fake Followers

If you’re looking to gain a following in order to promote your product or service you’re hoping for legitimate people who might buy whatever you sell. Gaining access to new followers is analogous to advertising.

Let’s say you sell surf boards and want to grow your social media presence. You might find it worthwhile to have more views and followers. How would you feel if saw your numbers increasing but no change in sales? That’s exactly what happens when you get thousands of fake clicks and follows. There’s nobody there to actually buy.

Fake Social Proof

It’s very common for people to go online to look at product ratings and reviews before making a purchase. If you thought a product or service was rated 4.5 stars from hundreds or thousands of people that will sway your buying decision. How would you feel if you learned many of those positive reviews were fake?

Fake Influencers

Fake influences are a big way some people and businesses get hurt. The term influencer refers to people will large social media followings. These influencers interact with different organizations promising to give them “advertising” by using their products. Think of it like celebrity advertising except it’s from people who’ve not done anything other than gain followers on social media.

Let’s assume you run a resort hotel on a beach. It’s a good bet competition is tough and margins are small so you look for new opportunities to attract business. Now suppose an influencer comes along and tries to negotiate a deal. They want you to let them and a handful of their friends stay at your place for free and comp their meals and drinks. In return they promise to constantly post about their great experience while staying at your place. Why would you do this? To get thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of views from people who are your target market.

This might be a tempting offer because you’re not shelling out any cash like you would for traditional advertising. Instead, you’re only accruing expenses related to the free rooms, food and drink for a half dozen people. But you’re doing this because you believe so many people will see what a great resort you have. Well, maybe not as many people as you thought because so many “followers” were generated through click farms. Bottom line, they’re not real and could never stay at your resort.

Fake Advertising

If you happen to run a company that pays people for clicks or access to certain sites, you’re hurt by click farms because those clicks will never lead to any business.

Conclusion

The examples could go on and on but I’m sure you get the picture. You can call it fake influence, manipulation or fraud, because if you knew the truth you would have made a different decision. The influence is one sided, for the benefit of the influencer. There have always been scammers and there will always be. With new technology come new ways to make a buck at the expense of unsuspecting people. Just remember, ethical influence is not only good for the influencer, it’s good for the person being influenced. In other words, it should produce a win-win outcome.

Have a comment or question?Click here. If you liked what you just read why not share it with a friend or coworker?

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An international speaker and trainer, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini. Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses on Persuasive Selling and Persuasive Coaching have been viewed by more than 65,000 people! His latest course, Creating a Coaching Culture, will be online soon. Have you watched them yet? Click a link to see what you’ve been missing.

The Madness of People – Our Irrational Selves

“I can calculate the motion of the heavenly bodies, but not the madness of people.” 
– Sir Isaac Newton

I came across this quote while reading Robert Greene’s latest book, The Laws of Human Nature. Greene has authored many books including The 48 Laws of Power and The 33 Strategies of War. All are excellent reads because they’re well written and Greene weaves history and interesting stories throughout to illustrate his points.

The quote from Isaac Newton came after Greene shared the story of the South Sea Company. In the early 1700s the South Sea Company was supposed to open trade in South America for England. Suffice it to say, their approach was similar to Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme when it came to raising funds. It swept up people across England as they invested in what looked to be a sure-fire get rich quick opportunity. Even the brilliant, rational thinker Isaac Newton fell prey to the madness.

How did that happen? How did it happen again with Bernie Madoff? Why will it happen again? Three big reasons – recency bias, consensus and scarcity.

Recency bias

This is the distorted thinking where we give more weight to recent events than they deserve and we prioritize the present ahead of the future. Over the course of evolution giving immediate, focused attention to whatever was in front of us served humans well. That’s so because most dangers and opportunities were in the moment and needed to be acted upon right away to ensure survival.

Survival isn’t always at stake nowadays but our minds still focus far more on the present than the future. This is why so much importance is put on quarterly earnings by Wall Street. This pressure causes many companies to take actions to satisfy “the street” and investors in the short term but often at the expense of better long-term approaches.

In the case of the South Sea Company it was hard for people to resist investing when they kept seeing the stock price rise and people getting rich…even though the company never actually began trading in South America. Sounds a little like the dot com bust doesn’t it?

Consensus

We’re social animals so it’s natural for us to follow the crowd. This too served humans well when it came to survival. There’s safety in numbers and being part of the group felt more comfortable and safer than going it alone.

We don’t face the same kinds of physical dangers today that our ancestors faced so being part of the crowd shouldn’t be as important. But it is. Studies show exclusion from groups registers in the brain in the same region where physical pain is detected. In other words, there’s very little difference between physical pain and the pain we feel when we’re ostracized from groups.

We still see this mentality today with “hot stocks.” There are always those stocks that everyone seems to flock to which causes more people to flock to them. As this happens stock prices rise even if nothing tangible has been created yet. Sound a little like bitcoin?

Scarcity

The fear of missing out (FOMO) is a powerful motivator to act. Humans are wired to be more sensitive to loss than gain. In Robert Cialdini’s book Influence Science and Practice he quotes social scientists Martie Haselton and Daniel Nettle:

“One prominent theory accounts for the primacy of loss over gain in evolutionary terms. If one has enough to survive, an increase in resources will be helpful but a decrease in those same resources could be fatal. Consequently, it would be adaptive to be especially sensitive to the possibility of loss.”

As people learned about the fantastic gains investors were making with the South Sea Company they couldn’t bear the thought of missing out on their chance to change their lot in life. Many dumped their life savings into the company in hopes of becoming fabulously wealthy.

It still happens today. Bernie Madoff’s stellar investment returns were an example. Smart, wealthy individuals and people with very intelligent investment advisors got sucked in. If those people and someone as rational and smart as Sir Isaac Newton can make the same mistake don’t fool yourself thinking you’re above it.

Conclusion

The wiring of your brain generally serves you well. However, we live in an unprecedented time of change and the pace of change is accelerating rapidly. Your brain on the other hand evolves very slowly and sometimes relying on old mental shortcuts can work against you instead of for you.

Next time something is consuming you, where you sense the pull of the crowd and feel like you’ll miss out if you don’t act quickly, take that as a cue to hit the pause button. If you’ll take time to slow down, consider why you’re feeling the way you are and take a long view, that might be enough for you to make a better, more rational decision. Sir Isaac Newton might not have done it but now you know a little more about the madness of human behavior than he did.

 

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An international speaker and trainer, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini. Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses, Persuasive Selling  and  Persuasive Coaching have been viewed by nearly 65,000 people! His latest course, Creating a Coaching Culture, will be online in the second quarter. Have you watched them yet? Click a link to see what you’ve been missing.

Influence PEOPLE: The Book – Mental Shortcuts

As I’ve transitioned from corporate America to Influence PEOPLE much of my time has been spent finishing a book I started years ago. Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical should be available online by the end of June. To start building anticipation I will share some excerpts in the months leading up to its publication.

Mental Shortcuts

“This year, the average consumer will see or hear one million marketing messages – that’s almost 3,000 per day”
William C. Taylor, co-founder Fast Company Magazine

In his article titled “Permission Marketing” which appeared in the magazine Fast Company, William C. Taylor wrote, “This year, the average consumer will see or hear one million marketing messages – that is almost 3,000 per day.” Wow! Did you realize you are bombarded with nearly 3,000 marketing messages per day? Here’s a scary thought – Taylor’s quote is from 1998! With the explosion of the Internet and particularly social media, this estimate is as high as 5,000 per day now!

Can anyone realistically process this many marketing messages each day? Of course not! That’s part of the reason Martin Lindstrom, author of Buyology: Truth and Lies about Why We Buy, contends “85% of what you do every day is non-conscious.” Some scientists, like Leonard Mlodinow, author of Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior, put the number at 95%. Let’s split the difference and say nine out of every 10 decisions and/or actions the average person undertakes are not consciously thought out in some rational fashion. While that might seem troublesome on the surface it’s actually beneficial because it helps us keep our sanity. Many choices we make don’t require lots of effort, which leaves more time and energy for the more important decisions and actions we undertake.

Consider your daily commute to work. If you’re like most people you go through very complex steps to make that commute. Driving a car is no easy task and neither is successfully negotiating traffic with other people driving at high speeds and yet you do it every day with very little thought. You make it to work most days without remembering too much about the drive because you were on autopilot in a very real sense. And so it is with most things we do each day.

This same phenomenon occurs with our thought processes. We don’t analyze every ad, decision or request that comes our way. Sometimes we give deep thought to those things but quite often we don’t because of a lack of time, energy and desire. To maintain our sanity and successfully make it through the day we rely on mental shortcuts. Think of these influence principles as time tested mental shortcuts that help people make quick, satisfactory decisions in the information overloaded society we find ourselves.

Bottom line: we need mental shortcuts to deal with the complexity of life and the principles of influence explain many of the mental shortcuts people use.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An international speaker and trainer, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini. Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses, Persuasive Selling and Persuasive Coaching have been viewed by more than 60,000 people! His latest course, Creating a Coaching Culture, will be online in the second quarter. Have you watched them yet? Click a link to see what you’ve been missing.