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Speak Metaphorically to Influence Literally

Speaking metaphorically can help you influence people, literally. This post was inspired by the Ted Talk Metaphorically Speaking from James Geary.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary a metaphor isa figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them.”

He is my personal example of a metaphor. Several weeks ago, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was called before Congress because of the impact Facebook, fake news, and user data may have played into the 2016 presidential election. As our elected officials tried to grill Zuckerberg it was apparent they had little to no knowledge of how Facebook and other social media outlets operate. In response to this fiasco I post the following on a few social media sites:

“Imagine horse owners in 1910 grilling Henry Ford about car accidents and you have a picture of what happened the other day.”

People understood exactly what I meant right away. What would the impact on the newly formed auto industry have been if congressmen who rode horses ignorantly questioned Henry Ford about the dangers of automobiles? We might still be using the horse and buggy to get to work or at least set technology back many years if not decades!

For the most part people think in pictures, not words. When I mention an elephant it’s highly unlikely you’ll think “E-L-E-P-H-A-N-T.” Instead you probably have an image in mind. For some people it’s a big African elephant with huge tusks. Others might envision the smaller Asian elephant used in some Indian Jones movies. And other people pictured a cute baby elephant like the one in the movie Dumbo. No matter how people think of an elephant, we all use pictures in our mind’s eye and would likely agree on what an elephant is, despite minor differences.

Metaphors can take a complex subject and immediately make it understandable for most people. I’d guess if you didn’t see any of the Zuckerberg – Congress interaction you got a pretty good idea of what happened based on my 22-word description.

When Steve Jobs wanted people to grasp what a computer could do for them he said the computer was like “a bicycle for the mind.” Bicycles are easy to use and make us much more efficient in getting from one place to another. Most people, upon hearing Jobs, probably thought, “Yea, I get it.”

Much of persuasion is about taking the complex, simplifying it then communicating with people in a way that gets them to say “Yes” and take action. Next time you need to share something complex, don’t talk in technical terms, think about the proper metaphor to share and you’ll increase your odds of success. In other words, speak metaphorically to influence literally.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLEand Learning Director at State Auto Insurance. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed nearly 130,000 times! Have you seen it yet? Watch it and you’ll learn how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

Humology is the Intersection of Humanity and Technology

I had the privilege of speaking at the Assurex Global North American P&C and Employee Benefits Sales Conference a few weeks ago. It was a top-notch event at a beautiful location that brought together more than 100 highly successful insurance agency owners and producers. My topic was the application of persuasion in sales. I love the opportunity to share at events like that! A side benefit is getting the chance to hear other interesting speakers.

One speaker caught my attention, Andy Paden, the Director of Practice Development at INSURICA. During his talk, Andy used a term I’d never heard of before, “humology.” The term was coined by INSURICA’s consultant, Scott Kosloski, founder of Future Point of View. Humology is used to describe the intersection of humanity (relationships) and technology. He stressed the need for people to understand how relationships and technology have to be considered together in business.

I think it’s especially important to think through this topic because too many people bemoan the fact that technology is hurting our relationships. I don’t believe that’s the case because “good” relationships are primarily a matter of perspective.

I’m sure as we moved from an agricultural society to the industrial age many people thought relationships suffered because families no longer worked together. Suddenly family members were gone 12-16 hours a day in factories which meant significantly less time together.

When the phone was invented I bet lots of people lamented that face to face conversations were less frequent. Rather than walking or driving several miles to see a neighbor or relative to sit a talk people just picked up the phone.

In more recent times I’ve heard countless people say texting hurts relationships because no one picks up the phone to talk anymore. They also pooh pooh social media sites because “those aren’t real relationships.”

Over time it’s inevitable that society and technology will change how people interact. But can we really say one time period is better than another? I think our challenge is to figure out how we can use technology to have the best relationships possible.

I’ll share two personal examples. The first is Facebook. I got on Facebook more than eight years ago because a friend said my daughter Abigail would probably want to get on Facebook when she turned 13 years old. I enjoyed Facebook more than I would have imagined and I began to realize Abigail was probably learning more about me than I was about her! She saw how I interacted with friends, my sense of humor and much more. She had a view of me that I never had of my parents and that helped our relationship.

I also saw my relationship with Abigail grow because of texting. We have more frequent contact with text because there’s no chance we would have called as often as we texted. Because I was willing to communicate with her in the manner she preferred we communicated more and our relationship grew.

If you want good relationships with friends, family or customers make sure you engage them on social media. That means taking time to respond if they comment on your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or blog posts. That’s where communication happens and relationships form and grow. Taking this approach has helped me meet people all around the world.

The last thing I’ll mention is the application of the principles of influence. People often ask if those principles are as applicable today given all the change in society and technology. Absolutely! Society is rapidly changing and technology is changing even faster but the human brain has not evolved nearly as quickly. That means the same principles that guided our decision-making thousands of years ago still guide us today. How we engage those principles differs only because we have more ways to communicate today and we can communicate with more people faster than ever.

I encourage you to embrace the changes that are happening. As you do, ask yourself how you can use the change to build more relationships and strengthen those you already have. I’m sure as you do that employing the principles of influence will come in quite handy.

What’s Wrong With America?

We’ve had more than a month to let the presidential election settle in. Trump supporters hail it as a victory over the establishment, a chance to “drain the swamp” and possibly begin a new age in American politics. Meanwhile Hillary supporters believe his election has set us back decades on issues like gender and racial equality and they’ve taken to the streets to make their voices heard.

So what’s wrong with America? Are we a nation full of racists and bigots? I don’t think we’re anymore racist today than we were in 2008 when we elected President Obama. At that time the focus was the historical significance of the first African-American president and people were talking about how far we’d come as a nation on the issue of race. Have we regressed that quickly?

No, I don’t think we’ve taken a step back. We just had not taken as many steps forward as we thought. And for those who did make some strides, it seems as though they didn’t take a look over their shoulder to see how many others were keeping up.

In my persuasion workshops I share the following quote from Samuel Butler, “He who complies against his will is of the same opinion still.” I think that sums up the politically correct (PC) environment. The PC culture hasn’t changed hearts and minds, it merely silenced many people. Fear of loss, fear of being the outcast, and not wanting to go against the tide do nothing to change hearts and minds.

Because of Donald Trump’s brash, often offensive approach, many who were silent now feel comfortable being more vocal about their views on social issues.

So how do we change hearts and minds so we really can be more accepting of those whom we view as different? Facebook certainly won’t do it. For more on that see a post I wrote years ago, Why Facebook Doesn’t Change Anyone’s Opinion.

I believe it starts with relationship. When you break bread with people who are different and have conversations that aren’t intended to prove your point or disprove theirs but instead are focused on learning from another’s viewpoint, I believe you’ll start to change your opinions.

I’ll share two personal examples. The first occurred in the late 1990s when Jane and I met Ahmet, a Turkish waiter on a cruise ship. Of all the places in the world he could have ended up when he left the cruise industry he landed up in Columbus, Ohio to go to college!

Ahmet, a devote Muslim, was open to learning about my faith and I was open to learning about his. Neither of us was ready to change our deeply held religious beliefs but we formed a close friendship that I believe changed each of our views when it comes to people who have a different faith.

My second example was Jerry, someone who was brought in on a project at work. Jerry opened up over dinner to Jane and me about being gay. Our acceptance of him began to change his view of Christians and it changed our views of people in the LBGT community.

I believe each of us has racist tendencies to one degree or another. I wrote about that in I’m Racist, You’re Racist, Everyone is Racist. That fact doesn’t make all of us terrible people because much of it is conditioning from childhood. But that doesn’t mean we have to just accept it. If each of us changes just a little every day and we do it consistently we will make progress as a nation.

So what’s wrong with America? Our biggest problem is we’re a country full of human beings. We’re all flawed and deficient in many ways. It’s okay to admit that but let’s not be okay with it. Each of us can seek positive change.

This week I challenge you to strike up a conversation with someone who is different than you. When you do this just have one motive – to get to know them and understand their point of view. If you do this I hope your experience is similar to those I had with Ahmet and Jerry.

 

Can We Please Stop the Memes and Labels?

Can we please stop with all the memes and labels? I don’t know about you but I’m tired of all the attempts to be cute, dumb down issues and label people with a silly picture or cynical text. With the political season in the U.S. right now, it seems to be at an all-time high.

There are a lot of complex issues facing our nation and many people want to reduce them to a meme on Facebook or 140 characters on Twitter.

News Flash – Nobody changes their mind or position on an issue when you post a picture of Gene Wilder in his Willy Wonka outfit pointing out some inconsistency in their position. The truth is, we’re all hypocritical to some degree. Our actions may contradict our beliefs sometimes but it happens to all of us because nobody is perfectly consistent all the time and quite often our own beliefs collide.

People also like to use Leonardo DiCaprio’s picture with a glass of champagne in his hand to smugly pointing out how they (the person posting the picture) are smarter or better than a whole class of other people who don’t share their view.

Even worse than all the memes are the labels people use. For example:

  • If you vote for Donald Trump you’re racist.
  • If you vote for Hillary Clinton you have no regard for the law.
  • If you voted for Brexit you’re dumb.
  • If you voted against Brexit you’re not patriotic.
  • If you’re for immigration reform you’re racist.
  • If you’re for immigration you’re a real American.
  • If you think abortion is simply a choice you’re a baby killer.
  • If you think abortion is wrong you hate women and their rights.

The list could go on and on. Have you paused for just a moment to consider these are complicated issues that good people can view very differently because of their life experiences?

I know people who will vote for Donald Trump for one reason – they’re sick of the establishment. They feel he can’t be any worse than the establishment and might just be better. That doesn’t make them racist.

I know people who will vote for Hillary Clinton because they sincerely believe she’s the most qualified person to run for president and it’s time for a woman to be president. That doesn’t mean they’re anti-law.

From what I’ve seen and read, many British people who voted for Brexit (for Britain to leave the European Union) want more say in the affairs that impact their country than the European Union might allow.

Many British people who voted against Brexit because they wanted to remain part of the European Union, did so because they felt it positively impacts Britain’s viability on trade and world affairs.

I know people who want a wall built between Mexico and the U.S. because they see more than 11 million people who came into America illegally, not because they are racist. They simply want to know that everyone goes through the same process and follows the laws of the land.

I’ve known people who’ve had abortions and regretted it. Some have always wondered, “What if?” I also know women who’ve had abortions and felt it was okay because it was their choice and right for them in their particular situation.

There are many good people out there who share different views from you and me. In the absence of knowing whom they might vote for in the presidential election, their stance on abortion, their feelings about immigration or many other issues, you’d probably enjoy their friendship.

And here’s a truth – the society we live in claims to be more concerned about fairness, equality and anti-discrimination and yet we practice discrimination every time we label an entire group of people just because of who they vote for, what they stand for or what they believe. That’s wrong!

I wrote in a post years ago – Why Facebook Doesn’t Change Anyone’s Opinion – and I believe the same rationale could be applied to the memes and labels people try to use to shame people or make them feel stupid. Have you ever considered that maybe, just maybe, the people posting all those memes and using labels are actually the ones who aren’t so smart? After all, Einstein did say the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

We would all do well to spend more time focusing on what we have in common versus what makes us different. We’d get along better and get more accomplished.

The Best Way to Ensure We All Get Along

I’m a big social media user. I particularly
enjoy Facebook because in my opinion it’s more personal than all of the other
social media sites I use. I like that I can get to know people in a much more
intimate way and that they can get to know me, too, because I’m the same guy on
Facebook that you’d encounter if we sat down to share a beer or had coffee
together.
While scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed
not too long ago, I came across a picture and quote from the rap artist
Eminem.
In case you had a hard time seeing the quote
here it is again, “I don’t care if you’re black, white, straight, bisexual,
gay, lesbian, short, tall, fat, skinny, rich or poor. If you’re nice to me I’ll be nice to you. Simple as that.”
From what I gather, Eminem has grown immensely
as an individual. Having seen a segment on 60
Minutes
about Eminem years ago, I believe that’s partly due to him becoming
a father. The intent behind his message is good – Accept me and I’ll accept
you in return. The world would be a much better place if we saw that in practice more
often.
However, you and I, Eminem, and every other
person, can be more proactive to make this mutual acceptance and respect become
reality. You see, according to what Eminem said, he is waiting for others to
treat him nicely, then he’ll do the same to them. In other words, he will
reciprocate their kindness. Eminem is responding to the principle of
reciprocity by giving back what he receives first. Most people live by this
principle of influence. If someone respects them they will respect the other
person. If someone is kind to them they will be kind in return.
A more effective approach to ensure we all get
along would be becoming an influence of change by being the first person to
act. In doing so, you engage the principle of reciprocity and others will feel some obligation
to treat you the same way. How much better would everyone be if Eminem and
other prominent people went out of their way to be kind first, to show respect
first, and to help first?
What about you? How might your family,
workplace and life be better if you were the first one to willingly give what
you’d like from others?
Imagine for a moment that you have a fractured
relationship. You believe the other person is at fault and they believe you’re
at fault. Usually the truth is somewhere in between and each person bears some
responsibility. What would happen if you stepped to the middle first and said,
“Regardless of what happened, I should not have said (or done) X. I want you to
know I’m sorry.” It’s very likely the other person will soften his/her position,
would fess up to some wrongdoing, and apologize in response to your first move.
The relationship may still be somewhat fractured but it’s on the mend and at
least has a chance of going forward.
Perhaps you want respect from coworkers. The
big question would be; do you give them respect? If not, start going out of
your way to do so, then see how they respond. Whatever it is you want from others,
be the first to give because it engages reciprocity and you’re likely to get
the same in return.
The principle of liking can help build or
strengthen relationships and so can reciprocity when it’s engaged sincerely. It
might require swallowing some pride from time to time, taking the first step to
say, “I was wrong” or “I’m sorry,” it could entail letting go of anger,
resentment or hurt. But in the long run you’ll be better off letting go of
those things and probably much happier restoring relationships and getting what
you desire in return – kindness, respect, love, and so on. What’s holding you
back from taking the first step?
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
influencePEOPLE 
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

The Importance of Congruent Messages When Persuading

I had in interesting Facebook exchange not
long ago. Someone posted a picture of an attractive young woman wearing a
t-shirt that had the following message on the front, “To be old and wise you
must first be young and stupid.”
To be honest I didn’t pay attention to the rest
of the post, which read, “Reinvent yourself with enhanced awareness, renew
yourself with enhanced tolerance and regenerate yourself with enhanced wisdom.”
Focused on the picture and the saying
imprinted on it I light-heartedly commented, “But if you’re too stupid when
you’re young you may not live long enough to become old and wise.  : ) ”
My Facebook friend replied, “@Brian: You mean
ONLY stupid people die young?? Just to refocus your observation on the quote
which is my thought – it is not on the t-shirt.”
I replied one last time to let him know I
didn’t think only stupid people die young. Of course, the more stupid things
you do, the more risk you run of harming yourself, but even people who make
good decisions experience bad things.
This week’s post isn’t about Facebook or the
stupid things young people sometimes do. What stood out to me after the
exchange was the following communication problem that’s all too common – the message
was incongruent.
You see, the picture of the attractive lady
stood out and in my mind the message on her t-shirt had nothing to do with my
friend’s quote, which was what he really wanted to convey to readers. Again, his quote
was, “Reinvent yourself with enhanced awareness, renew yourself with enhanced
tolerance and regenerate yourself with enhanced wisdom.” If there was a
connection, then how many others missed it too?
When you’re trying to communicate with
someone, perhaps even trying to persuade him or her, you’d better be sure every
part of your message is congruent.
For example, if I conduct a sales training
session for business professionals I’d be foolish to not dress in a suit and
tie or sports coat at a minimum. If I went to a training session dressed as I
do on the weekends my appearance will detract from my message. People have
expectations about how a sales trainer will dress just like you probably have
ideas about how a minister should look at a wedding or a lawyer in a courtroom.
When there’s a mismatch people can lose focus and the last thing you want is
someone focused on how you look rather than your message.
We also have expectations for the environments
we find ourselves in. We don’t act the same in church as we do at work, a bar,
or in a college classroom. We conduct ourselves differently in each place and
acting like you’re talking in church to a room full of college students will
lose them faster than they can update Twitter.
When you want to communicate a message make
sure everything has a purpose and that every part of the message builds to your
main point. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say after a
training session, “It was pretty good but he kept going off on these tangents
that had nothing to do with the workshop.” If you have stories to share, make
sure they add to the message and don’t detract from it.
Practice helps and perfect practice makes
perfect. Do you ever ask someone for feedback on a presentation before you give
it? Running through your presentation with another, as you would if your audience were right
there, will help you in multiple ways. One big way is to make sure the person
sees how everything ties together. If you have to stop and make the connections
for them then you might want to rethink your approach.
The same can be said of writing. Have someone
proof read your articles and blog posts. Have them challenge you and if
something doesn’t make sense, ask yourself if there’s a better way to convey
the message. Again, if you have to take extra time to explain what you mean
then that should be a signal that other readers might not get your point
either.
Communicating a message is like traveling to a
destination. Usually the shortest, most direct route is best. If you want to
get there in a hurry then limit your excursions and make sure everything is
working together like a well-oiled machine. The extra time and effort will be
worth it when people go, “Ah, I get it.”
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
influencePEOPLE 
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

 



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Why Facebook Doesn’t Change Anyone’s Opinion

Facebook is useless when it comes go changing people’s opinions. I’m sure many people will disagree with me but I firmly believe that’s the case. My belief comes from personal observation and science.

My personal observation is this – I’ve yet to see people go back and forth on Facebook about any issue where one person finally concedes and says, “Wow, you’ve brought up some interesting points I’ve never considered before. That’s helped change my thinking on this issue.” Have you ever seen someone post anything remotely related to that? I bet not.

Why do I believe science backs up my belief that Facebook isn’t a vehicle to change people’s minds on important issues? Because of Robert Cialdini’s principle of consistency. This principle of influence tells us people feel internal and external pressure to be consistent in what they say and do.  Some factors that strengthen consistency’s pull include someone taking a public, active stand and as long as it’s voluntary and requires some effort people will be more firmly entrenched in their original position.

We all hold beliefs about politics, religion, sex (the big three we’re supposed to avoid discussing in public), as well as many other issues. When we keep those to ourselves we might ponder other people’s views and possibly consider them but once we make our thoughts public we feel the pull of consistency to defend our original position.

Now consider taking an active stand. You begin posting on Facebook. The mere act of taking more and more action gets you to put more and more reasons in front of the world as to why you believe what you believe. You’re convincing yourself with each post that you’re right and the other person is wrong.

Of course, it’s assumed you’re doing this of your own free will – voluntarily. That’s important because we own our views much more than we do the views we might ascribe to primarily because of our parents, peers or the company we work for. So this is one more reason people dig their heels in even further.

And now we come to effort. The more effort you put into something the more you value it and take ownership. Dan Ariely calls this “The IKEA Effect,” because people love their IKEA furniture primarily due to the effort they put into building it. As you start researching to defend your position, check out someone else’s Facebook page or do anything to prepare for the back and forth exchange on Facebook, you are firmly entrenching your beliefs even more because of the effort you’ve expended.

So, having made your views public, actively and voluntarily, while engaging others with time and effort, almost makes it certain you won’t change your opinion. And you know what, the same holds true for the other person. Maybe you should ask yourself if it’s worth it – the time, effort and angst – to debate over Facebook. Personally I think it’s a waste of time because I know no good will come of it.

If you’re open to the reality that maybe, just maybe you don’t have all the facts and aren’t 100% correct all the time then I believe you’d get much more accomplished by sitting face-to-face over coffee or a beer so you can have a discussion. When you do so, each person can share their views and ask questions.

I’ll conclude with this – it used to be considered a good thing to be open minded and willing to change if need be. However, that seems to have gone out the window these days, especially in politics because the external pressure to remain consistent is so strong. If you’re a politician who changes on a position you’ll be crucified as a flip-flopper, waffler or wishy-washy. As everyday citizens get more firmly entrenched in the ideology of their party and take to social media to air their opinions it will only get tougher to persuade people to change. So, if you want to be a master persuader, you’d better rethink your approach if you want to impact someone else for your cause. My simple suggestion is to take it offline.

Facebook: Right Ways and Wrong Ways to Motivate

There’s a right way and a wrong way to go about motivating people to take action. I thought I’d write about this subject because it’s relevant based on some Facebook messages I’ve seen several times in recent months. If you’re on Facebook you might have seen the following message or some variation of it:

“In memory of family and friends who have lost the battle of cancer and the ones who continue to conquer it! Put this on your page if you know someone who has or had cancer. Dear God, I pray for the cure of cancer. Amen. 93% won’t copy and paste this, will you?”

The intent of the person and message is wonderful, to get people to pray for those with cancer, pass along the message and create more awareness. Unfortunately the method to motivate people to act on it is poor. After all, if 93% of people won’t copy and paste the message, why should you or I? Worse yet, that phrase tries to shame people into action. If someone feels shamed you can bet they won’t take action. This type of “motivation” is seen all the time in chain letter emails:

– “There were 12 tribes of Israel and 12 disciples. If you love God will you take a moment to send this to 12 friends?”
– “I cared enough to send this to you and 10 others; will you do the same for 10 people you care about?”
– “Please don’t break this. Send it to at least 7 of your friends.”

This isn’t an indictment against anyone who did take the time to post the message because they didn’t come up with the message. All they’ve done is copy and paste the message that’s been floating around. We can applaud their effort to do something good but there’s a more effective way to spread the word.

In psychology there’s a principle of influence known as consensus which tells us people are motivated to certain behaviors when they see others engaged in the same behavior. The motive to act is strengthened if the people observed are just like us or if there happen to be many people engaged in the behavior. Parents know all about this except they call it peer pressure, not consensus.

As a society all too often we make the same mistake the Facebook message makes. Consider the following two scenarios:
Voting – Messaging used to focus on what a shame it was that so few people voted. Shame was used when we were reminded that people died for our right to vote. Result – why go vote when so many others are not. Contrast that with the messaging before the 2008 presidential election, “A record turnout is expected.” That simple message helped change behaviors and we did end up having a record turnout. The thought process for many people was, “I better get there early if I want to vote.” There was an interesting Time magazine article on this, “How Obama is Using the Science of Change.”

Cheating in School – “Back in 1940, only 20 percent of college students admitted to cheating during their academic careers. Today, that number has increased to 75 to 98 percent.” (Education-Portal.com) Interpretation for students – I might as well cheat because everyone else is cheating.

So let’s circle back to the Facebook message and see what might be more effective. Simply replace, “93 % won’t copy and paste this, will you?” with something like this, “After reading this some of my other FB friends took time to copy and paste this onto their wall. I’d appreciate it if you would too.” This change is small but could produce a big result because it appeals to consensus; my Facebook friends, people like you, are doing this.

Beyond Facebook, take a look at how you’re trying to motivate people to action. If you talk about a negative behavior and how so many people are engaging in that behavior you’re probably hurting your attempt to change the behavior. Talk about how many kids aren’t cheating or how few kids were cheating in 2008 vs. some other year. Mention how fewer people are driving drunk or how more people voted than ever in 2008 and that number will go up on 2012. With a little forethought and small changes in your messaging you could see much, much better results for your cause.

Finally, thanks to all of you who forwarded Influence PEOPLE to others last week. I had a nice bump in readership, my third highest week ever, and got some new followers to boot. As I shared in last Monday’s post, someone would win Dr. Cialdin’s book Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive. Congratulations to the lucky winner Kelli Moore.Brian
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”