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Influence is all about PEOPLE

When it comes to influence it’s all about PEOPLE. After all, you can’t persuade things. No matter how persuasive you are, you can’t persuade your lawnmower to start on a hot summer day and cut the grass. However, if you’re good you might persuade your spouse, significant other or child, to start the lawnmower and cut the grass.

Dale Carnegie had it right when he wrote, “Dealing with people is probably the biggest problem you face, especially if you’re in business.” That holds true as much today as when he first penned those words more than 80 years ago. The more you understand how people think and behave, then combine that with an understanding of how to ethically influence people, the better your chances for success at the office and happiness at home.

When it comes to PEOPLE, remember it’s about those Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical. Let’s take a quick look at each component of PEOPLE.

Powerful

Who says influence is powerful? Here are what a few well-known people from history had to say about persuasion:

“Persuasion is often more effective than force.” – Aesop, Greek fabulist

“If I can persuade, I can move the universe.” – Frederick Douglass, American social reformer, abolitionist, writer, and statesman

“The only real power available to the leader is the power of persuasion.” – Lyndon B. Johnson, 36th President of the United States

In addition to those intelligent, successful people (and countless others over history), we now have research to rely on. There are more than seven decades of research from social psychology, behavioral economics, and now neuroscience, to prove how powerful persuasion can be…when it’s done right.

Everyday

Unless you’re Tom Hanks in Castaway you interact with people every day. Quite often in your communication with others you make requests hoping to hear “Yes!” Getting people to say yes is important because nobody goes it alone. That’s especially true for highly successful people. Jack Welch, former General Electric CEO said, “Nearly everything I’ve done in my life has been accomplished through other people.”

Here’s something I love about persuasion; it applies at work and home. Think of it as a 24x7x365 skill. At work you try to persuade your boss, direct reports, coworkers, vendors and customers. At home influence helps with your parents, significant other, children, neighbors and anyone else you come in contact with.

Opportunities

Every interaction with others presents opportunities to do “little things” differently to reap big rewards. For example; would you be curious to find out what the Cancer Society did to increase their volunteer rate 700% in one area of town? How American Veterans doubling the donations the received? Both were accomplished by doing a few, nearly costless, things differently using psychology.

The problem is, all too often people miss the opportunities that are right in front of them. Have you ever had someone point out a speaker saying “um” and then you notice it all the time? And so it is when you begin to learn the language of persuasion. You’ll be amazed at how often you begin noticing opportunities to engage the psychology to leverage better results.

Persuade

What exactly is persuasion? The definitions I hear most often are “to chance someone’s mind” or “to convince someone of something.” Those may be good starts but they’re not enough. In the end you want to see people change their behavior.

With a focus on behavior change let’s consider Aristotle’s perspective. He said, “Persuasion was the art of getting people to do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do if you didn’t ask.”

Lasting

Sometimes your interaction with another person is “one and done” but quite often you have ongoing relationships. When it comes to relationships, you don’t want to go back to the drawing board time after time do you? Of course not. Ideally, you want to communication one time and see people’s thinking and behavior change for the long haul.

Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower understood the power of persuasion could create a lasting effect. He said, “I would rather persuade a man to go along, because once I have persuaded him, he will stick. If I scare him, he will stay just as long as he is scared, and then he is gone.” Done right, persuasion will stick, have a lasting impact on others.

Ethical

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, manipulation is, “to treat or operate with or as if with the hands or by mechanical means especially in a skillful manner.” That’s not so bad. However, a more familiar definition is, “to control or play upon by artful, unfair, or insidious means especially to one’s own advantage.”

The word manipulation makes most of us bristle! That’s so because it connotes taking advantage of someone. I’m confident in writing this next statement; you don’t want to be manipulated. I’m also certain you don’t want to be seen as a manipulator either.

What’s the difference between ethical influence and manipulation? This quote from The Art of WOO sums it up well. “An earnest and sincere lover buys flowers and candy for the object of his affections. So does the cad who succeeds to take advantage of another’s heart. But when the cad succeeds, we don’t blame the flowers and candy. We rightly question his character.” It’s a character issue. Will you use the tools – principles of influence in this case – for good or bad?

Conclusion

Your ability to influence people is critical to your professional success and personal happiness. Knowing that, and knowing how much you use this one skill each day, doesn’t it make sense to get better at it? My new book, Influence PEOPLE, will help you do that.

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, Ph.D., 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 – is available online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and most other online sites.

His LinkedIn Learning courses Persuasive SellingPersuasive Coaching and Building a Coaching Culture: Improving Performance through Timely Feedback, have been viewed by more than 70,000 people! Keep an eye out forAdvanced Persuasive Selling: Persuading Different Personalitiesthis fall.

 

 

Influence PEOPLE: the book – Ethical

In August my first book will be available in eBook and paperback online at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and other outlets. Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical was written to give you practical, real-world ideas on how to use the science of influence. The goal is to help you enjoy more success at the office and happiness at home. I hope you’ll consider getting a copy.

This week’s blog post is an excerpt from the book on what it means too be ethical when it comes to persuasion.

Ethical

“A man is truly ethical only when he obeys the compulsion to help all life which he is able to assist.”

Albert Schweitzer, theologian, philosopher, humanitarian

Do you know the difference between ethical persuasion and manipulation? Manipulators lookout only for themselves, unconcerned about the impact on others. It doesn’t matter to them if they stretch the truth – or outright lie – to get what they want. They don’t care if they disingenuously use their knowledge of psychology to twist your arm because they only care about how things work out for themselves.

This is why a good bit of advertising, particularly political ads, turn off so many people – because it’s apparent many companies and politicians distort the truth just to sell more products and win elections.

When it comes to ethics I like the following quote from The Art of Woo by G. Richards Shell and Mario Moussa; “An earnest and sincere lover buys flowers and candy for the object of his affections. So does the cad who seeks to take advantage of another’s heart. But when the cad succeeds we don’t blame the flowers and candy. We rightly question his character.” 

Are flowers and candy good or bad? They’re neither good nor bad. They’re neutral objects that acquire meaning based on how we use them.

The same is true of the principles of influence. They’re neither good nor bad, they describe how people typically think and behave. How you use your knowledge of influence will reveal your character. Will you use your new knowledge of influence in a mutually beneficial way, looking for the proverbial “win-win”? Will you be truthful? Will you employ principles natural to the situation you find yourself in? If you know you are telling the truth, using principles natural for the situation, and what you ask will benefit the other person in some way, then you can feel confident moving ahead with your ethical request. 

Using the principles of influence ethically cannot be overstated. Use them ethically and you can build strong, lasting relationships in your personal life and in business. However, if people feel you’re manipulating them, not only will they sever the relationship, they’re likely to spread the word and damage your reputation. We’d all do well to remember what Aristotle said; “Character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion.” As your use of ethical persuasion skills grows, so does your influence.

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, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the science 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 70,000 people! Keep an eye out for Advanced Persuasive Selling: Persuading Different Personalitiesthis fall.

 

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.

 

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.

The Mindless Things We Say Affect Us and Others

When you communicate your words create thoughts and feelings within you and for others. Sometimes the feelings come first then trigger thoughts. Other times thoughts may be prompted followed by feelings. Whatever the order (feelings-thoughts or thoughts-feelings) next comes behavior. If you agree with that assertion you’ll also agree that some of the mindless things you say affect your behavior and the behavior of those who hear your words.

I’m Sorry

There are certainly times for legitimate, heart felt apologies. However, if you pay close attention to the times you say you’re sorry, or when others do, you’ll realize quite often sorry isn’t necessary. This came to my attention when I watched a Ted Talk from sociologist Maja Jovanovic.

In early childhood parents and others teach us to say we’re sorry for a variety of reasons. Most are legitimate but after that our need to apologize seems to takes on a life of its own. As Jovanovic points out, constant apologizing disempowers you and can lead others to think less of you.

Here is an example. Let’s say you’re on your way to a meeting and a major car accident will cause you to be late. As soon as you realize this you call the person you’re supposed to meet with and say, “I’m sorry, I’m going be late. There’s an accident on the highway and the traffic is at a standstill.” The accident wasn’t your fault which means being late isn’t your fault so why apologize? It would be just as legitimate to say, “I’m calling to let you know I’m going be late because there’s an accident on the highway and the traffic is at a standstill.”

Again, I point this out because apologizing isn’t always necessary and can actually be counterproductive in terms of how people may view you.

Not Bad

This one is a pet peeve of mine. When you ask someone, “How are you?” it’s very common to hear, “Not bad.” You might be thinking, I know what they mean, but do you really? Let’s analyze this phrase just a little.

Does saying “not bad” mean you’re actually doing well? If so, why not say, “I’m doing well. Thanks for asking.” If bad is the standard are you content simply because you’ve avoided the bad state? That’s not the same as doing well. Or how about this one, “Not too bad.” You could be doing bad but as long as you’re not doing too bad you’re okay. Really?

You might think this is knit picking but it’s important. Doesn’t it make you feel different – in a good way – when someone answers you with “Doing well” or “Things are great” or “Fantastic”? Remember, your words create thoughts and feelings which lead to actions.

No Problem

Recall a time when someone did something you appreciated. It’s likely you said, “Thank you.” I bet you’ve heard the response “No problem” more times than you can count. If someone is paid to help you – restaurant server, customer service, salesperson, etc. – do you really care if it was a problem for them to help you? It’s their job and jobs are created to help people solve problems!

When someone thanks you for helping them any of the following responses are much better:

  • Thank you, it’s nice to be appreciated.
  • You’re welcome. We’re here to help.
  • I enjoy helping people so it was my pleasure.

Those are just a few potential responses to a heartfelt thank you. I’m sure you can come up with many more if you take a moment to think about it. Any of those phrases will leave someone feeling better about their experience than “no problem.”

Conclusion

Having just read this you might begin to notice some of these phrases in your communication. Or, you may notice other words and phrases that don’t serve you or others well. That’s great! Habits are hard to break and it begins with awareness. When you catch yourself don’t get down, be thankful for your awareness. The next step is to begin using words and phrases that will create the kinds of thoughts, feelings and actions in others that you’d like to see.

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 course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed by almost 55,000 people! Persuasive Coaching went live earlier this year and Creating a Coaching Culture will be online in the second quarter. Have you watched these courses yet? Click a link to see what you’ve been missing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One last time – THANK YOU!

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

A Huge Life Change is Upon Me!

I have some exciting news to share – I’ve decided to leave State Auto after 29 years to pour my heart and soul into Influence PEOPLE on a full-time basis. November 16 will be the last time I walk out of 518 East Broad Street as an employee. This is one of the biggest decisions I’ve ever made and certainly the biggest career decision. I put it on par with getting married, buying a home and deciding to become a parent because all were scary/exciting adventures into the unknown.

Choosing to leave State Auto was not easy. I’ve been blessed to work for someone who has been a great boss, close friend and big supporter. I loved what I did and believed I helped people in the process. On top of all that, I enjoyed the people I worked with beyond measure! If you have a great boss, love what you do, enjoy the people you serve and are paid well, then you’re a lucky person. I was, and remain, very fortunate in all regards.

The friendships mattered most. As you might imagine, when you spend 29 years with one company it feels like family. There have been times when I traveled and stayed with coworkers because we were that close in our friendships. I’ve been to weddings, funerals, seen children born, seen some pass away, traveled to wonderful places, cried and laughed with coworkers. I could go on and on but you get the picture. More than anything else I will miss the people.

When I was trained under Robert Cialdini on the psychology of persuasion I knew it was what I would eventually do full time. Everything I’ve done over the past 10 years with the business, blogging, networking, speaking and social media has been for this moment. If I said I wasn’t a little bit scared I’d be lying. But, with each passing day, as I take more steps in this new direction fear is replaced with excitement. One of those steps will be finishing a book I started many years ago so keep an eye out for that.

As I look to the future I’m so excited share what I know about human behavior and the psychology of persuasion because I believe with all my heart I can help people enjoy more professional success and personal happiness through Influence PEOPLE.

I want to close with something I wrote more than 25 years ago in my personal mission regarding my career:

I want Christ to be the centerpiece for all that I do at work; I want to give my best effort to whatever task is laid before me; be remembered for making my workplace better for having been there in both a productive and personal sense; obtain satisfaction from my chosen career; be fair and honest while remaining firm and decisive; remember the people involved; earn the trust, respect and confidence of those I work with; continue to develop personally and seek new challenges. Last, I need to remember that I work to live — I don’t live to work. Therefore, I will never sacrifice my spiritual, personal or my family’s well-being at the expense of my career.

I believe I fulfilled the mission at State Auto and now it’s time to move on. In this next chapter I look forward to fulfilling that mission across the country and eventually around the world.

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

Influence is all about PEOPLE

When I speak to groups I always emphasize this point early on – Influence is all about PEOPLE. I say that because we can’t persuade things. I’ve been teaching influence for 15 years and realize no matter how good I am at this skill I cannot talk my lawn mower into cutting the grass on a hot summer day. However, if I’m good at influence I might be able to persuade my wife or daughter to tidy up the yard. Dale Carnegie hit the nail on the head when he wrote, “Dealing with people is probably the biggest problem you face, especially if you’re in business.”

When it comes to PEOPLE I encourage you to think about the about the following: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical. Let’s examine the PEOPLE perspective in more detail.

Powerful: Who says influence is powerful? Take a look at what these well-known people from history had to say about persuasion.

  • “Persuasion is often more effective than force.” – Aesop
  • “If I can persuade, I can move the universe.” – Frederick Douglas
  • “Persuasion is the art of getting people to do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do if you didn’t ask.” – Aristotle

In addition to those highly intelligent individuals, we now have more than 70 years of data from social science and behavioral economics to prove just how powerful persuasion can be when it’s done right.

Everyday: Unless you’re Tom Hanks in Castawayyou interact with people every single day. In your communication with others quite often you make requests, hoping to hear “Yes!” Nobody goes it alone, especially highly successful people. Jack Welch, former General Electric CEO was clear about this when he said, “Nearly everything I’ve done in my life has been accomplished through other people.”

Here’s something I love about persuasion; what you learn is beneficial at work and it applies equally well at home. That’s because influence helps with your parents, significant other, children, neighbors and anyone else you come in contact with. It’s truly a 24x7x365 skill.

Opportunities: Virtually every time you communicate with others there are opportunities to do seemingly little things to reap big rewards. For example, applying a little psychology of persuasion helped the Cancer Society increased their volunteer rate 700% in one area of town and Easter Seals doubled the number of donors! In each case small things led to big changes.

Lasting: Sometimes your interaction with another person is “one and done” but many times it’s part of an ongoing relationship. When that’s the case you don’t want to go back to the drawing board time after time, persuading someone about the same thing over and over. No, you want to communicate in a way that changes people’s thinking and behavior for the long haul. That’s possible when the other person’s self-identity is impacted in the process.

Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower understood the power of persuasion to create a lasting effect when he said, “I would rather persuade a man to go along, because once I have persuaded him, he will stick. If I scare him, he will stay just as long as he is scared, and then he is gone.”

Ethical: According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary one definition of manipulate is, “to treat or operate with or as if with the hands or by mechanical means especially in a skillful manner.” That isn’t so bad but another part of the definition means, “to control or play upon by artful, unfair, or insidious means especially to one’s own advantage.”

Manipulation makes most of us bristle because it conjures up images of taking advantage of unsuspecting people. I’ve never met anyone who liked being manipulated and I’m certain the vast majority of people don’t want to be known as good manipulators either.

I love the following quote from The Art of WOO by Richard Shell & Mario Moussa because it captures the essence of ethical vs. manipulative persuasion, “An earnest and sincere lover buys flowers and candy for the object of his affections. So does the cad who succeeds to take advantage of another’s heart. But when the cad succeeds, we don’t blame the flowers and candy. We rightly question his character.”

Make no mistake about it; understanding influence and persuasion is powerful and in the wrong hands can lead to taking advantage of others. But I think it’s reasonable to say the people who would do that would also try to manipulate others apart for learning persuasion techniques. It’s important that you understand the psychology of persuasion because not only will not only help you ethically move others to action, it will help you avoid being taken advantage of by unscrupulous people.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLE and Learning Director for State Auto Insurance. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed more than 135,000 times! Watch it to learn how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

Robert Cialdini, Friend and Mentor

This week I’d like to highlight my friend and mentor, Robert Cialdini, Ph.D. I won’t go into details on how I came to know Cialdini because I shared that story last year in a post I called My Chance Encounter with Robert Cialdini.

Cialdini has been associated with the psychology department at Arizona State University for more than three decades and helped the department receive world-wide recognition. On Cialdini’s recent birthday the ASU psychology department released a video to thank him and his wife Bobette for their generous donation “to help push ASU psychology forward as a national leader.”

You need to understand when it comes to this field of study Cialdini is a rock star! In fact, he’s the most cited living social psychologist in the world when it comes to the science of influence and persuasion. His books Influence Science and Practice and Pre-suasion are both New York Times best-sellers. He also co-authored Yes: 50 Scientifically Ways to be Persuasive and The Small Big. If you want to understand how to ethically move people to action these four books are must reads because they’re the gold standard when it comes to influence and persuasion.

For all his fame and the pull he must feel from people, he’s always been generous with me when it comes to his time. On many occasions over the past 15 years I’ve had the privilege of dining with him alone or in small groups. I always walk away having learned new things and brimming with fresh ideas to try. I’ll never forget the dinner we shared eight years ago as my daughter Abigail was getting ready to go to high school because he gave me some valuable advice.

For my part, I’ve always tried to encourage Cialdini with stories from the field as I look to implement his life’s work at State Auto Insurance and through my company Influence PEOPLE. I recall one dinner where my boss, John Petrucci, and I told him some things we were doing at State Auto with regard to the principles of influence. As we talked Cialdini had a wide smile, his eyes grew larger and he leaned in to listen. It was so apparent he was genuinely excited to find out how his work was being use in the real world. That genuine enthusiasm plus his stance on ethics are what made me want to be associated with him and his team at INFLUENCE AT WORK.

I hope you’ll join me in wishing him a belated happy birthday and to give thanks for his generous donation to ASU so they can build on his work and continue to help us learn how to ethically influence the world.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLE and 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.

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.