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The Catalyst to Vegetarian

I’ve been reading The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone’s Mind by Wharton Professor Jonah Berger. Good book, I highly recommend it. As I’ve been reading it’s caused me to consider why I made the switch to vegetarian last November.

My wife Jane has been a vegetarian for more than 25 years. She made that decision because she loves animals. She’s technically a pescatarian because she will eat fish. I tell people, if it walks or flies it’s off limits but if it swims it’s fair game. She must not have had goldfish growing up!

For most of those 25 years Jane has encouraged me to try vegetarianism. She was not overt, just subtle things as in, “Try this, you’ll like it,” or “I bet you’d like being a vegetarian.” My standard responses were, “I would never order that if I could get a steak instead,” and, This would be perfect if there were some chicken in it.”

I joked with people that we both loved animals: she loved saving them and I loved eating them. Knowing this, why would a guy who runs every day, lifts weights and does martial arts give up meat?

My catalyst for change was watching a Netflix documentary called The Game Changers. A UFC fighter was injured and looked into diet as a way to speed up his recovery. He was floored by what he learned about a plant based diet. He featured strength athletes, endurance athletes, mixed martial artists, football players and others who successfully made the switch.

I love my wife and I know she has my best interests at heart. During her years as a vegetarian she went through a pregnancy, ran two marathons, competed in triathlons and became an awesome golfer. But, there’s always that spousal rub. You know what I mean. Your spouse might suggest something and you contend with it but when someone else says the same thing, well it’s the best idea since sliced bread! Sad, but true.

Truthfully, the catalyst for me was the athletes. Because I had, or continue to participate in most sports I was intrigued by their results. When it comes to influence there was consensus, liking, authority and scarcity. A bunch of people (consensus) like me – athletes – (liking) had successfully made the switch. There was empirical data from doctors and other researchers (authority) to back up the claims. I wondered what I might be missing if I don’t at least give it a try (scarcity).

Believe it or not, I haven’t missed steak or chicken. You might think, “No way, I could never do that.” I’m with you because that’s what I would have said too. More importantly, what have I noticed since making the switch?

  • Although many people lose weight when they go vegetarian I’ve not lost or gained any weight. Mind you, I ate pretty good, much better than the average person to begin with, and worked out a lot.
  • I can’t say my athletic performance has improved but at 56 I don’t expect to run farther or faster than I used to because I don’t train like I did when I competed. The same goes for the weights. My goals are different now.
  • My annual physical was great! Cholesterol along with every other indicator were very good. Health, not athletic performance, is my number one goal now.
  • Jane’s life is much easier (that’s what I live for) because she no longer has to consider cooking meat or chicken when she makes dinner. I must say her cooking, which was very good to begin with, has gotten even better because she feels free to try new things.
  • When we go out we can split dishes now. This is particularly good because it seems like most meals these days can feed two or three people!

Bottom line for me, no big health or weight changes but given our lifestyle the switch has been good. That’s my diet and I’m sticking to it.

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

Brian’s book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was name one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by Book Authority. His LinkedIn Learning courses on sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 100,000 people around the world.

 

I Trust Nothing from Anybody Anymore

Recently I saw the following social media post from a friend and former coworker: “I trust nothing from anybody anymore. I’ll go with my gut instincts and do what I think is right.” Like my friend, you’re inundated with more information than ever and very likely frustrated by all of it. According to one source, you’re subjected to 5000 marketing messages a day! All of those messages, and plenty of other information, is right there at your fingertips with social media and Google. And it’s available 24x7X365 through your phone. The trouble is, much of the information you’re exposed to seems contradictory so I get the frustration. But abandoning reason for gut level decisions on important issues is a bad idea!

Losing Trust

Looking to authorities when making decisions usually serves us quite well. If I have a question about taxes I talk to my accountant. If it’s a legal consideration I consult an attorney. When it comes to health issues, I have friends who are doctors so I seek their input.

In each of the cases just noted, the individuals I go to have far more knowledge than you or I possess and that’s multiplied by the amount of time they’ve been practicing their trade. Imagine trying to play a sport – soccer, basketball, golf, etc. – against a professional athlete – an expert. Apart from making a lucky play here or there, you would be dominated every time! And so it is with people who are experts in their chosen field.

Credible authorities are trusted experts. It doesn’t matter how many degrees someone has, the breadth and depth of their experience, or their prior accomplishments if they can’t be trusted. When it comes to this I’ve often referred to Bernie Madoff, the disgraced financial investor convicted of a $65 billion Ponzi scheme. Madoff knows more about financial markets and investing than perhaps 99.9% of all people…but would you trust him with your money? Of course not!  Trust is a critical element of authority if advice is to be acted upon.

Going with Your Gut

If you feel you can’t trust experts you may wrongly think you’ll be just as well off to make decisions on your own. Most likely a bad move over the long haul because you’re operating from very limited knowledge when compared to experts. Even if you decide to do your own research you’re still relying on the expertise of others to some degree. In other words, you have to place some trust in the sources you’re looking at.

The worst thing you can do is go with your gut according to my friend Dr. Gleb Tsipursky, founder of Disaster Avoidance Experts, LLC, and author of Never Go with Your Gut. Most of the decisions we make today require rational thought because our guts can lead us astray.

If you’re in a life and death situation where you need to make an instant decision there’s no time for researching pros and cons. Go with your gut at those times! That’s what your instincts were designed to do – help you survive. But, seldom are you in such tight predicaments in modern life. Most situations you face today have a myriad of choices with far reaching consequences so investing time and energy into decision making is the prudent approach.

To Do This Week

Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Social media seems to have created “experts” in abundance but don’t fall for that. And the friend who has a friend whose distant relative is an expert in [fill in the blank]. Don’t fall for that either. Instead of wading through social media posts, which are often fake and almost always biased, do some research of your own. When decisions are important – your health, financial future, career, who you’ll vote for, etc. – consider the following advice:

  1. Research the information shared. Does it make sense? Is it unbiased or does it have a clear slant? Is it data driven or just opinion? A fact would be, “That car is $35,000.” An opinion would be, “That car is expensive.” Big difference between fact and opinion.
  2. Research the source. Is the person or organization credible? Are they relying on data or opinion? Are they advocating for a particular point of view or ideology? Sometimes even data can be manipulated to support a point of view.
  3. Consider multiple sources. Do you want to go with an outlier when the vast majority of credible sources are pointing in a different direction? Ask yourself why the majority might be congregating around a particular position? While there are always exceptions, much of the time the crowd is right so give strong consideration to what the majority are saying.

Following these three simple steps won’t lead you to the optimal answer 100% of the time but I’m confident they will lead you to the best answer far more than throwing in the towel and relying on your gut.

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

Brian’s book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was name one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by Book Authority. His LinkedIn Learning courses on sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 100,000 people around the world.

 

7 Deadly Sins When Trying to Influence PEOPLE

I just celebrated my 12th anniversary partnering with INFLUENCE AT WORK, the organization headed up by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D. Cialdini, sometimes called “the Godfather of influence”, is the most cited living social psychologist on the planet when it comes to the science of influence. I have the privilege of being one of only two dozen people worldwide to have been personally trained and certified by Cialdini to teach his methodology when it comes to influence.

During my years working with people I’ve run into countless times where I’ve seen salespeople, marketers, leaders and many others incorrectly use the principles of influence. Here’s why it’s a big problem – when people use the principles incorrectly they don’t see the results they expect. That failure leads to, “Yea, it sounds good when he says it but it doesn’t work in real life.”

Trust me, used ethically and correctly, the principles of influence will move more people to act. There’s seven decades of research to back up that statement. To help you avoid that pitfall I want to share the 7 deadly sins – one for each principle – I see when people attempt to use the psychology of persuasion.

Liking

We all know it’s easier to say yes to those we know and like. Whether you’re in sales, coaching or leadership, the more someone likes you the more likely they are to follow your advice.

  • Mistake. Knowing this, people work too hard to get others to like them. They end up coming across like a desperate salesman who will say or do anything to close the sale.
  • Solution. Stop trying to get people to like you. Instead, try to like the people you’re with. As others sense you genuinely like and care for them, they will be far more likely to say yes to you.

Unity

Unity is about shared identity. We when see another person as one of us, saying yes to them is like saying yes to ourselves.

  • Mistake. People think this is the principle of liking on steroids. With that thought, they try harder than ever to connect on what they have in common.
  • Solution. Unity isn’t always available but when it is, tap into it. Do some homework to find out if you share something deep with the others person. It may be that you served in the same branch of the military, were in the same fraternity or sorority, or happened to share the same cultural heritage.

Reciprocity

From the time we’re young we’re taught that when someone does something for us we’re expected to do something in return. Help someone first and they’re likely to help you in return.

  • Mistake. I see marketers blow this one all the time. They encourage people to give a free gift after someone does something like sign up for a newsletter. That’s not reciprocity, that’s offering a reward as inducement and there’s a big difference.
  • Solution. Encourage people to take advantage of a free offer then, after they’ve done so, you can ask for something in return. “I hope you enjoy the free article! In fact, I hope you enjoy it so much you’ll want to sign up for our newsletter to learn even more. Click here to do so.”

Consensus

Humans are pack animals. Over the course of history, we’ve learned there’s safety in numbers and “everyone can’t be wrong.” Generally, it works well for us to follow the crowd.

  • Mistake. Thinking highlighting a big number is all that’s needed. For example, telling incoming college freshman 65% of students cheat (I made that up) in order to highlight the problem only encourages more cheating, making the problem worse.
  • Solution. Think about the behavior you want then emphasize stats that will encourage the desirable behavior. “College cheating has been on the decline each of the last five years,” would be a good message to encourage less cheating and get the behavior you’re hoping for.

Authority

People will listen to perceived experts, and follow their advice, far more often than they will someone whom they know nothing about.

  • Mistake. Don’t wait until the end of your talk or meeting to highlight your expertise. By that time people may have tuned you out.
  • Solution. Whether it’s a presentation or running a meeting, let people know your credentials up front. If possible, have someone introduce you for even more credibility. This approach causes people to listen more closely early on and likely throughout your presentation.

Consistency

People tend to feel better about themselves when their words and deeds match. As little pleasure seekers and pain avoiders this is a powerful principle.

  • Mistake. Too many people tell others what to do and think they’ve engaged the principle of consistency. When you tell someone what to do you’ve not triggered the psychology of wanting word and deed to match.
  • Solution. Stop telling people what to do and start asking. When you ask and someone says “Yes” they’re far more likely to follow through on their word because they don’t want to feel bad and look bad.

Scarcity

It’s a natural human tendency to want we can’t have or whatever might be going away. We hate the thought of having missed out on something.

  • Mistake. Manufacturing false scarcity will hurt your credibility. Don’t use the worn out line, “If you sign today I can save you 15% but I can’t offer you this deal after today.” Seldom is that true and people have learned to see through it.
  • Solution. If scarcity isn’t available, don’t manufacture it. If it is naturally available use it but don’t come across in a fear mongering, scare tactic way. “I’d hate for you to miss out on this opportunity,” is more effective than, “You really should take advantage of this deal.” It’s a subtle difference that can make all the difference.

BONUS! Compare and Contrast

Compare and contrast isn’t actually one of the 7 principles of influence. It’s a psychological concept that’s always available because people are always making comparisons. Knowing this, it deserves mention.

  • Mistake. Too often people make the wrong comparison. In sales this happens when people try to “upsell” customers. The problem is, once you’ve seen a low number it becomes an anchor and all other numbers seem bigger by comparison as you try to upsell. Not exactly what you want when trying to close a sale.
  • Solution. Present your best solution, product or service first. You never know, the other person might just say yes. If they don’t, you have options to retreat to and when you do so, the price on those options looks better by comparison.

Conclusion

The principles of influence describe how people typically think and behave. Consider them communication tools and, like any tool, they’re only as good as the person who wields it. You may know how to use a saw and hammer but that doesn’t make you a carpenter. The same goes with the principles. Knowing and wielding them correctly (and ethically) are two different things.

To Do This Week

  1. Give these mistakes thought.
  2. Ask yourself if you’ve made any of these mistakes.
  3. Commit to keep learning and growing.

Do those three things and you will have more people saying yes to you more often.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, 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 planet on the science of ethical influence and persuasion.

Brian’s book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was a top 10 selling Amazon book in several insurance categories and top 50 in sales & selling. His LinkedIn Learning courses on sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 90,000 people around the world!

From Womb to Tomb Each of Us is a Persuader

From womb to tomb, each of us uses the skill of persuasion throughout our lifetime. As soon as babies come into the world they cry because they want to be held, fed, burped or changed. They don’t understand they’re engaging the skill we call persuasion, but they know they have a need and they want it met! Persuading others to act is one big way each of us seeks to get our needs met every day.

What is Persuasion?

Persuasion is more than changing hearts or minds, it’s ultimately about changing behaviors. Aristotle put it best when he said persuasion was, “The art of getting someone to do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do if you didn’t ask.”

If someone is already doing what you want then persuasion isn’t necessary. However, if someone isn’t doing what you need them to do then how you communicate might make all the difference between yes and no. But doesn’t this border on manipulation?

Persuasion vs. Manipulation

Persuasion differs from manipulation in that manipulation is one sided. The manipulator doesn’t care about the other person. Manipulators only focus on what’s good for them.

Persuasion on the other hand carefully considers the other person, their wants, needs, desires and goals. Ethical persuaders focus on three very important things.

  1. Win-win. Ethical persuaders look to create mutually beneficial outcomes. I like to say, “Good for you, good for me, then we’re good to go!”
  2. Ethical persuaders tell the truth and they don’t hide the truth. By being truthful to a fault they build trust with everyone they interact with.
  3. Ethical persuaders only use psychology that’s natural to the situation. For example, if scarcity doesn’t exists they don’t falsely create it.

Relationships are the Foundation

It’s a well-established fact that people prefer to say yes to those they know and like. The mistake most people make in relationship building is focusing on getting others to like them. Getting others to like you can be effective and it’s not difficult to do. Two simple ways to make this happen are to focus on what you have in common and pay sincere compliments.

It’s very natural for us to like people we view as similar to us. For example, if you and I find out we grew up in the same hometown, went to the same college or cheer for the same team, you will like me more. Along the same lines; if I pay you a genuine compliment you’ll feel good about me and like me more. Nothing new here.

While there’s certainly benefit to that approach I’ve learned there’s a much better way. Cultivate the following mindset: I want to like the other person. And here’s some great news – the very same things that will make you like me will make me like you. In other words, when I find out we grew up in the same hometown, went to the same college, or cheer for the same team, I will like you more. If I pay you genuine compliments I will see you as a good person and I will like you more.

This is a game changer because when you sense deep down that I truly like you – and I do – you become much more open to whatever I may ask of you. Why? Because deep down we all believe friends to right by friends.

No More Manipulation

Here’s where manipulation is all but removed from the equation – the more I come to like you the more I want what’s best for you. Now my attempts to persuade you come from a place of wanting the best for you and you receive it that way. We have a virtuous cycle that’s good for you and good for me.

The subtle shift from getting others to like you, to becoming a person who likes the people you work with, naturally makes you the kind of person others want to be around and work alongside. In other words, you become the preferred teammate.

Keys to Ethical Persuasion

The following principles are scientifically proven to help you be more persuasive. The science is based on more than 70 years of research from social psychology and more recently behavioral economics. Let’s briefly look at each principle.

Liking. The principle of liking was just described in detail above. Coming to like others will cause them to like you and will make it easier to persuade them because you’ll want what’s in their best interest.

Reciprocity. When you give, people will naturally want to give in return. I help you, you help me and we’re both better off. Remember, because I’ve come to like you, my giving is from a place of goodness, wanting to help you in ways that will be beneficial to you.

Social Proof. The actions of others impact how we think feel and behave. It’s why we’re drawn to “best sellers” and “most popular” opportunities. If others like you prefer something, it’s a good bet you’ll feel the same and be willing to follow their lead.

Authority. We feel better following the lead of experts. The more you establish yourself as an expert or the more you bring credible expertise into your communication the easier it will be for someone to follow your advice.

Consistency. Most people feel better about themselves when their words and deeds align. Telling someone what to do is never as effective as asking because psychologically, once someone responds saying they’ll do something, they’re more like to follow through. That’s because they want to feel good about themselves and look good in your eyes.

Scarcity. It’s natural for us to want things more when we believe they’re rare or going away. But the key is knowing that. By honestly telling someone about an opportunity that might not be available soon, or what they may lose if they don’t follow your advice, they’re more likely to act.

Full Circle

I used the term “virtuous cycle” earlier. Ethical persuaders understand this and take the long view when it comes to working with people. They recognize it starts with relationship. The stronger the relationship the easier everything becomes thereafter.

I often ask people; is it critical to your professional success that you understand how to get more people to say yes more often? The answer there is always a resounding yes! They also recognize the importance yes plays at home. After all, things tend to be more peaceful and happier at home when those around you willingly say yes.

By studying the influence process and psychological triggers that lead to yes you will enjoy more success at the office, happiness at home and be the kind of person others want to work with.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, 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 planet on the science of ethical influence and persuasion.

Brian’s book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was a top 10 selling gAmazon book in several insurance categories and top 50 in sales & selling. His LinkedIn Learning courses on sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 90,000 people around the world!

Don’t Memorize, Internalize. Embrace, Anticipate, Practice!

At a recent sales training event I encouraged attendees; don’t memorize, internalize. These were salespeople and we were talking about how to deal with objections whenever they arise. The key with objections is to embrace them. After all, if you’re in sales then objections are part of the game just like running is part of soccer or jumping is essential in basketball. Nobody would start playing soccer and complain about all the running. Likewise, no one would take up basketball if they didn’t like jumping. Now apply that thought process to sales and dealing with objections.

No surprises here

If you’ve been selling for any length of time you face the same objections over and over. Sure, there are rare case something new is tossed at you but the vast majority of the time there’s no surprise when an objection is lobbed your way.

I recall when I was learning hapkido (Korean version of aikido, think Steven Segal) every offensive attack move I attempted, the black belt I was working with had a counter move that would break my wrist, elbow or arm. No punch I threw at him caught him off guard.

You’re in control

With objections the ball is in your court so to speak because when you know what to expect you’re actually in control. Consider this; if you were playing a competitive sport and had an answer for every move you opponent might make there’s no way you’d lose!

Back to hapkido; because I could not surprise my black belt opponent he was always calm in control. That allowed him to stay focused on what needed to be done to protect himself and subdue me.

You have answers

You can’t control other people but you can control yourself. Not only do you know what’s coming, which allows you to stay in control, you should know exactly how you’re going to respond.

As noted previously, the black belt I was working with had a counter to every move I made. His counters, if fully executed, would have quickly ended the confrontation and because of the damage he could do it was scary stuff.

Practice you moves

There’s nothing worse than dealing with a salesperson or customer service rep who gives pat answers that sound like a bad telemarketer who mindlessly memorized a script. Even worse might be the person who obviously doesn’t care because “they’ve heard it a thousand times before.”

My black belt friend needed more than knowledge of what I would do and how he would respond. He needed to be really good at his response in order to protect himself and end the confrontation. That meant countless hours of practice on his moves.

Conclusion

You may not be in sales but you’re sure to run into objections in your career. Those objections may be to a project you’re proposing, training you believe is needed, budget approval or any number of other initiatives. Knowing this you need to be embrace the reality of objections, anticipate them and practice your responses. The better you get at this the more likely you are to get the approval you need.

To Do This Week

Take time to write down the five most common objections you face. Next, think about how you might incorporate the principles of influence into your responses to make it easier to hear yes. Then begin to practice your responses out loud.

Two principles that are excellent when it comes to dealing with objections are social proof and authority.

  1. The more you are viewed as an expert or invoke expertise (principle of authority) the easier it will be to get beyond the objection.
  2. Tapping into social proof, what many or similar others are doing, is often an indicator that the person or group you’re trying to influence might want to consider doing the same.

Remember, just like my black belt friend, anticipate, practice and respond. Don’t memorize, internalize so your responses become and authentic part of who you are.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, 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 planet on the science of ethical influence and persuasion.

Brian’s book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was a top 10 selling Amazon book in several insurance categories and top 50 in sales & selling. His LinkedIn Learning courses on sales and coaching have been viewed by almost 90,000 people around the world!

PS That’s a picture of me with our daughter Abigail at Taekwondo.

Just Okay Is Not Okay

Commercials are designed to move consumers to action. One commercial caught my attention recently because it made me laugh. AT&T’s Just Okay Is Not Okay shows a concerned couple in a hospital room waiting to meet the surgeon. They ask if the nurse has ever worked with the doctor. The nurse replies, “Oh yea, he’s okay.” The couple gets a concerned look and says, “Just okay?” The commercial concludes with “Just okay is not okay, especially when it comes to your network.” Want a good laugh? Watch the commercial.

Expertise

You rely on experts every day and just okay is not okay. Sometimes you’re very aware of the need for expertise, like finding the right surgeon before an important procedure. Other times you don’t think as much about the level of expertise. Calling a plumber or finding an auto mechanic might fall into this category.

How do you tell the difference between? You don’t choose a surgeon based on his or her fees. Your concern is more about the reputation of the surgeon. What people have to say means far more than cost. However, when it comes to a plumber, mechanic or electrician quite often people will get several quotes and price is a big factor in the decision make process. You assume expertise because it’s likely the plumber, mechanic or electrician knows more than you but you’re not as nearly concerned with reputation.

Over my lifetime I’ve heard many people talk about their surgeon saying, “He’s great, one of the best in the area,” or “She’s been in practice for more than 20 years.” Not once have I heard such statements about a plumber, mechanic or electrician. Nope, it’s usually, “They did a great job and they weren’t a lot less than the other quotes I got.”

When the stakes go up you naturally become more concerned with reputation and less with cost. People will pay almost anything to get healthy but not to unclog a drain or have their brakes replaced.

Trust

But expertise by itself is not enough. The AT&T commercial highlights this when the doctor says, “Guess who got reinstated?” What? Why was he suspended? Who cares because you’d never feel good hearing that and whatever you might learn wouldn’t make you feel comfortable.

So, you don’t hire people on expertise alone. Whether it’s someone in home repair, investments or health care, if you hear anything negative about regarding trustworthiness you’re not likely to take a chance on the individual or firm.

For example, Bernie Madoff may know more about markets and investing than you or I but I’m confident you would never trust him with your money. In much the same way that reputation becomes more important as the stakes go up, so does the trust factor.

Conclusion

The commercial is a bit over the top but it’s funny because it’s true. You want to work with people who are great – not just okay – at what they do. And, you want those same experts to be trustworthy. That’s a powerful combination to justify doing business with someone.

To Do This Week

Let’s bring this back to you. What are you doing to increase your skills so you’re viewed as an expert? The law of averages says not everyone is great. Most are average and some are below average. Neither of those categories should be acceptable to you because they won’t be acceptable to someone who’s considering hiring you. One great way you can upskill is leveraging LinkedIn Learning. There are nearly 14,000 courses on almost anything you can imagine. Check it out, decide what you want to get better at then avail yourself of all the resources they offer.

What are you doing to build your trust level with people? Doing great work won’t be enough if you don’t deliver it when you said you would. You can reinforce your trust with simple phrases like, “As promised,” or “I wanted to get this to you early.” Those simple prompts will remind people you’re a person of your word.

Bottom line, set your sights on becoming a trusted expert and your ability to ethically persuade others will go up significantly.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, 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 planet on the science of ethical influence and persuasion.

Brian’s book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was a top 10 selling Amazon book in several insurance categories and top 50 in sales & selling. His LinkedIn Learning courses on sales and coaching have been viewed by almost 90,000 people around the world!

Truthfulness Matters…A Lot!

Ever since I was little I’ve been a truth teller. My mom used to joke that I couldn’t lie. I don’t recall telling the truth as something that was routinely hammered into my sister and me, so I’m not sure where my emphasis on the truth came from. And, despite a serious look I naturally display, I have no poker face. I think it’s an example of my body aligning with the core belief that telling the truth is important.

This jumped out at me when I watched a news segment recently where Democratic presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren was in an impromptu conversation with a Chicago resident about school choice. The resident said while people like Warren had the option of sending their kids to private school most people don’t really have that choice. Looking somewhat uncomfortable (like most politicians when they go off script) Warren responded saying her kids went to public school. Not an entirely true statement.

Warren’s daughter went to public school and so did her son but only through fifth grade. After that he attended private school. Warren’s answer gives her wiggle room but it was not an entirely true statement. I’m sure that Chicago resident would have pushed back had she known Warren’s son had a private education sixth grade through high school.

“Truth Telling”

This approach to “truth telling” is by no means limited to Warren. There are plenty of fact checks daily on President Trump’s statements. We saw it when President Obama said dozens of times that people would be able to keep their current doctor under Obamacare. President Bush made many statements about the war in Iraq that were less than truthful. And let’s not forget Bill Clinton wagging his finger at the television cameras as he told Americans, “I didn’t have sexual relations with that woman,” referring to Monica Lewinsky.

Forgive me if I tell you, I hardly believe a word that comes out of politician’s mouths these days. After 55 trips around the sun I’m very jaded when it comes to what people will say and do when power is on the line.

Lying by Commission

This takes place when you knowingly tell a falsehood. It doesn’t matter what your motive is, lying is lying. When you stretch the true as a means to your own ends, say what you will but you’re a manipulator.

Some do this because they think people can’t handle the truth. That’s a lack of respect. Imagine someone saying to you, “I would have told you the truth but I didn’t think you could handle it.” How would you feel? What you do with the truth, how you handle it, is up to you.

Lying by Omission

This is when you know something would impact a person’s decision in a way you don’t like so you decide not to bring it up. In other words, you knowingly omit the truth.

Let’s say I’m selling my house and there’s a big crack in the basement floor. Knowing this might change your decision to buy, or at least reduce the price you offer, I put a huge area rug over the crack and hope you don’t ask about it.

How will you feel if you buy the house then discover the crack? If you confront me about the crack and I say, “You didn’t ask about it,” I doubt you’ll think I was truthful. No matter what I might tell myself, I know deep down I wasn’t truthful because the truth would have changed your decision.

Truth Telling, Trust Building

When you admit a weakness or shortcoming in your offer, you can actually gain credibility because you’re seen as trustworthy. After admitting a weakness, the key is to then transition to something positive. In the case of Elizabeth Warren, she could have answered the Chicago resident as follows:

“I understand your frustration with public education. I say that because my daughter attended public school through high school. My son did so through fifth grade then we decided to put him in a private school. Because of that experience I’m well aware of the difference between a public and private education. I agree that it’s not fair only a select few can get a better education. My pledge is to change that.”

To Do This Week

Don’t lie. Instead, commit to being a truth teller. When there’s something that might be viewed as a weakness in your offer, bring it up early. After that, segue to the best parts of what you have to offer. Do so and you’ll feel better about yourself, gain credibility, and be known as a person with good character. I’ll leave you with a quote from the Greek philosopher Aristotle, “Character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion.”

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, international speaker, 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 planet when it comes to the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s first book – Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical – has been one of the top 10 selling Amazon books in several insurance categories and cracked the top 50 in sales & selling.

Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses have been viewed by more than 85,000 people around the world! His newest course – Advanced Persuasive Selling: Persuading Different Personalities – is now available through LinkedIn Learning.

5 Trust Essentials Because Trust is so Essential

Trust is essential in any relationship, business or personal. The late Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, put it this way, “Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”

It won’t matter how skilled you are in your profession if the people you interact with don’t trust you. And once trust is lost, it’s very, very hard to earn back. I often hear people talk about trust without every mentioning what you can do to build trust. I’m going to take as a given that you’re truthful. By that I mean, you tell the truth and don’t hide the truth. Beyond truth telling, let’s look at five trust essentials.

Give Back

Giving back after you’ve been given to is a trust essential. It’s playing by the rule of reciprocity. Breaking the rules in society, at work, in games, or just about anywhere else is a surefire way to lose trust.

Reciprocity is such a common norm that social scientists agree; every human society raises its people in the way of reciprocity. Giving and getting in return allows people to accomplish far more in life because resources are shared.

When people don’t play by the rule we call them takers. Nobody wants to be around takers let alone give to them. Don’t be a taker! When people give to you, make sure you look for ways to return the favor.

Admit Weakness

Newsflash: nobody is perfect, no product is perfect, and there’s no perfect service. Acting as is if you or your offering is flawless is another surefire way to lose trust. Why? Because any prospective client you interact with knows nothing is perfect.

If you want to gain trust, admit any weakness or shortcoming early. Doing so gains you credibility because you’re viewed as honest. Another benefit of dealing with a shortcoming early is, it usually takes it off the table so you can focus on your product or service strengths.

A wonderful example of admitting weakness is my long-time friend Al. Our first conversation more than 30 years ago started with him telling me he’d just gotten out of a six-week alcohol rehab facility. His admission let me know I could be completely honest with him in return. His admission was a trust builder. And great news – Al never drank again!

Keep Your Word

While you know your heart, people only see your actions. This is important to remember because people judge you not by your intent but by your deeds. If you say you’ll be somewhere or commit to doing something with someone but fail to follow through you lose a little bit of trust. Do it too often and trust erodes quickly.

One way to highlight you’re keeping your word is to occasionally say, “As promised…” then mention what you’re following through on.

  • “As promised, here’s the report you asked for.”
  • “As promised, I placed the order for you this afternoon.”

It’s human nature to notice and remember when things go wrong so people are likely to remember your failure more than the times you followed through. Using a phrase like, “As promised…” reminds others you’re a person of your word.

Take Responsibility

In his classic How to Win Friends and Influence People Dale Carnegie wrote, “When you’re wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.” More than 80 years after Carnegie penned those words his advice still applies.

You gain trust when you step up and admit a mistake before anyone knows about it. Who would you trust more: a) the person who owns up to a mistake proactively or b) the person who knew about a mistake but did nothing about it until confronted? The answer is pretty obvious.

If you’re unaware of a mistake but it’s brought to your attention, own it. The more you try to deny, justify or shift the burden the more you’ll lose trust. I’ve generally found people to be far more forgiving than my irrational fears might have led me to believe. Don’t give in to fear.

Offer Help

Helping when you don’t have to, when you will gain nothing, earns trust. Too often people are seen as helping so they can get something in return. When you have the capacity (time, skill, relationship, etc.) to genuinely help another person do so.

Why would someone help when they don’t have to and they get nothing in return? Most likely because they’re a decent human being. We tend to trust caring people more than those who engage in quid quo pro actions.

Earlier I mentioned don’t be a taker. Now go one step further and be a giver.

Conclusion

Trust is essential for good, strong, productive relationships. It’s too important to leave to chance so be proactive in building and maintaining trust. While there are more things you can do beyond what I’ve noted, these five things are a great starting point.

To Do This Week

Focus on what I’ve shared, consciously trying to implement each:

  1. Give back
  2. Admit weakness
  3. Keep your word
  4. Take responsibility
  5. Offer help

Do so and you’ll become an even more trustworthy individual.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, international speaker, 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 planet when it comes to the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s first book – Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical – has been one of the top 10 selling Amazon books in several insurance categories and cracked the top 50 in sales & selling.

Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses have been viewed by more nearly 80,000 people around the world! His newest course – Advanced Persuasive Selling: Persuading Different Personalities – is now available through LinkedIn Learning.

I’m Sorry

Last week I wrote about the importance of saying, “Thank you.” It’s always appreciated and might make someone’s day. This week we’ll go to the opposite end of the spectrum to focus on, “I’m sorry.” Saying you’re sorry is hard but it can also make someone’s day a little brighter and make you more influential in the long run.

This post was inspired by someone I met in June when I was the opening keynote speaker at the S.I.T.E. Conference in Memphis, TN. Meg McKeen and I struck up a conversation over dinner then connected on LinkedIn. She’s an insurance agent in Chicago and recently posted about her car getting sideswiped. Being an insurance agent, she’s properly covered. However, the person who damaged her car didn’t take responsibility. No note, no “I’m sorry,” no nothing. She said that stung and I get it.

A Story with a Moral

When my daughter Abigail was 10 years old my wife had gone out of town. She asked that I take Abigail to Walmart to pick up her new glasses. Abigail was excited to get her new glasses just in time for the movies that night.

We walked into the eye care section of the store and were helped right away. Unfortunately, the person helping us could not locate the glasses and said they must be at another store. I explained that my wife had taken Abigail to that particular Walmart because it was very close to our eye doctor.

Finally, a manager came over and tried to help but to no avail. He said the glasses were at another store on Morse Road, about seven miles away. To his credit, he did everything right. Nonetheless, I wasn’t happy. I didn’t do or say anything I would have been embarrassed by but had you seen me you would have known I wasn’t a happy customer.

As we left I called my wife to let her know what happened. She said, “You know, I think we were at the store on Morse Road.” My initial thought was, “You made me look like an idiot!” Then I caught myself and thought, “No, I made me look like an idiot.”

Convicted that I could have handled the situation differently, Monday morning I called Walmart and asked for Jason, the manager. We had an exchange that went something like this:

  • Me – “I don’t know if you remember me but I was in last weekend to pick up some glasses for my daughter.”
  • Jason – “I remember you. How can I help you?”
  • Me – “I’m calling to apologize.”
  • Jason – “Apologize for what?”
  • Me – “For how I acted.”
  • Jason – “You didn’t act bad compared to most customers.”
  • Me – “Maybe not but I was upset with something that wasn’t your fault. You did everything right and I should not have been angry.”
  • Jason – “Man, you just made my day. No, you made my week! If you ever need anything please ask for me and I’ll personally help you.”

The Moral of the Story

Most good stories have a moral, something to learn. In this case it was a lesson for me and for my daughter. Later I told Abigail I had called the store to apologize. She asked why and I told her I should not have been upset with the manager. I also let her know mom and dad wouldn’t always be around to prompt her to say “I’m sorry,” that sometimes you just have to step up to apologize without someone telling you to do so.

Apologizing and Influence

Most people don’t enjoy saying, “I’m sorry.” We don’t like to think we’re wrong, have done something wrong or might have hurt someone. But, none of those negates that reality that we might have blown it.

One benefit of admitting a mistake is that you can actually build your authority with others. The principle of authority tells us people pay more attention to credible experts. Part of your credibility is being trustworthy and trust often comes when you admit a weakness. Don’t you respect someone more when they’ve owned up to something like a mistake? I know I do. We’d all be better off if more people said, “I’m sorry,” and took took responsibility.

To Do This Week

Last week I encouraged you to take a moment to thank someone. This week the encouragement is to step up and say, “I’m sorry,” if you’ve made a mistake or hurt someone. You’ll feel relieved, might make someone’s day a little brighter despite what happened and you’ll remove some of the sting from whatever prompted the apology.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An international speaker, coach, consultant, and author, 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 planet when it comes to the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s first book – Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical – went live on August 20 and has been one of the top 10 selling Amazon books in the insurance space and in the top 100 in the sales & selling category since launching.

Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses Persuasive SellingPersuasive Coaching and Building a Coaching Culture, have been viewed by more than 70,000 people! Keep an eye out for Advanced Persuasive Selling: Persuading Different Personalitiesthis month.

Hello Darkness My Old Friend – Volkswagen Overcoming Scandal

While watching the men’s U.S. Golf Open Championship this past weekend my attention was grabbed by the new Volkswagen commercial “Hello Light.” The commercial is easily the best I’ve seen in years! It’s eerie, dark, and set to Simon and Garfunkel’s classic folk rock song, The Sound of Silence. I encourage you to take a moment to watch it because I think you’ll be blown away.

You may recall, four years ago Volkswagen was embroiled in a scandal. The giant car manufacturer falsified emissions results in the lab for its turbo charged diesel engines. It turned out the engines actually emitted 40 times more nitrogen oxide in the real world than in the lab!

Until that point, Volkswagen had a great reputation with the public. They set themselves apart in the automotive industry in the 1960’s with the Volkswagen Beetle and Bus. However, their stock price fell from around $26 a share to about $10 in the wake of the scandal.

Here we are in 2019, and with the emissions scandal mostly behind them you might wonder why they would bring it up in their commercial. Because it will ultimately help them!

In the study of influence there’s a principle of persuasion known as authority. It describes the reality that people are more willing to follow the lead of people or companies that are viewed as authorities. Volkswagen enjoyed that status for many decades but lost the public’s trust in the wake of the scandal. That’s important because in order to leverage authority to move people to action you have to have expertise and trustworthiness.

It might seem counterintuitive to mention the scandal but it can actually help Volkswagen. Studies show, when you mention a weakness or own up to a mistake you’re seen as more trustworthy. By referencing the scandal Volkswagen is owning its mistake rather than hiding from it. In doing so they can regain some trust. They do this brilliantly near the end of the commercial when the following appears on screen; “In the darkness, we found the light.”

But you can’t just admit weakness and leave it there. If that’s all Volkswagen did then people would only talk about the emissions scandal. In order to turn the corner, the next step is to segue into a strength. By doing this people tend to remember the strength, not the weakness or mistake. In the case of Volkswagen, they end the commercial telling viewers they’re now making electric cars. With the move from diesel to electric cars the public doesn’t have to worry about emissions and pollution. No more emission producing cars, no more chance for emissions scandals.

Only time will tell if Volkswagen’s approach works but I’m betting it will. For the most part, people are forgiving with the passage of time when an organization or person apologizes. Enough time has passed since the scandal, the company has owned it, and they’re focusing the public on the fact that they’re moving in a new direction. Kudos to Volkswagen on all fronts.

Conclusion

Learn from Volkswagen and science. If you’ve made a mistake don’t try to cover it up, hope people won’t notice, or pray it will just go away. Own it! Make sure you mention your mistake early then use a transitional word like “but” or “however” to segue into a strength. In doing so you’ll be seen as more trustworthy and people will be far more likely to remember your strengths as opposed to weaknesses or mistakes.

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 first book – Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical – will be available for pre-sale July 9and goes live on August 20.

His LinkedIn Learning courses Persuasive SellingPersuasive Coaching and Building a Coaching Culture: Improving Performance through Timely Feedback, have been viewed by nearly 70,000 people! Have you watched them yet? Click a course title to see what you’ve been missing.