Beware the Lies, Damned Lies and Stats!

Facts, figures and statistics – we’re
bombarded with them. We just came though another election and most of us were
inundated with political ads. It’s amazing how two candidates can talk about
the same facts in such different ways. Democrats touted lower unemployment and
a rising stock market. Republicans debated the legitimacy of both claims when
it came to helping people and the economy. Had the tables been turned and Republicans
been in power they’d have bragged about the declining unemployment rate and all
time highs in the stock market. And it’s very likely the Democrats would have debated those same facts.
Another example; sometimes we hear that average
household income is up. On the surface that’s good. However, if you dig a
little deeper and realize the increase only went to a very few people at the
top and that most people’s income was stagnant or lower, would it still be such
a good thing? Not if you’re in the mass of people who are not benefitting.
As noted earlier, the stock market is at an
all-time high. Again, a good thing on the surface but if the growth in revenue
and profits isn’t leading to job creation then are we (or at least the
majority) really better off?
I’ll never forget seeing the debate over a
potential increase in the state tax for Illinois. One group said it was a 66%
increase and another group said it was a 2% increase. And both were right. The
state tax was 3% and the proposed increase to 5% was raising it two percentage
points but people would pay 66% more in state income tax compared to what
they’d pay without the increase.
I hope you can see statistics can be used to
portray whatever someone wants you to believe. I won’t say it’s unethical
because in each instance facts are being shared but the vantage point can make
all the difference. Two homes could look out over the same land but can have
very different views depending on where each home sits. And so it is with stats.
Mark Twain once said there were lies, damned lies and statistics. His point was simply
this; sometimes facts and figures can be used to justify the position of the
person communicating. As noted earlier, all you need to do is listen to
politicians from opposite sides of the aisle to realize this. They may talk
about the very same issue and you’d think they were from different planets.
You’ll get some very diverse viewpoints if you scan CNN, MSNBC and Fox.
What does this mean for you? Simple; don’t
take everyone or everything at face value. Ask questions, dig a little deeper
into the claims being made, occasionally play devil’s advocate. In doing so
you’ll give yourself a fuller picture and better opportunity to make the best
decision possible.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer


Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Arouse an Eager Want

Question: Would you rather do something of your own free will or be forced? I’m going to guess all of you said you’d prefer to exercise your free will. That’s not to say we all can’t stand a good kick in the seat of the pants every now and then. I’m thinking of my old high school football coach as I type that! We can always be pushed to do a little more than we think we’re capable of but that’s not what I’m talking about here. What’s important is this difference; if I’m forced to do something I’ll probably stop doing it the moment the force, or threat, is removed. However, if I do something of my own free will I’m likely to continue in that behavior, especially if I enjoy some benefits.

Dale Carnegie also understood that people want to exercise their right to choose and that’s why he encouraged readers to arouse in the other person an eager want. It’s usually fun and enjoyable to do things when we want to do them but quite often people don’t want to do what’s asked of them. So how do you make someone want to do the thing you’re asking of them? A few thoughts come to mind.

In sales we jokingly say everyone’s favorite radio station is WIIFM. That stands for “What’s In It For Me” and it’s where everyone’s attention is tuned in almost continually. Let’s face it, first and foremost people think about how they will be impacted by things. I once heard a psychologist build on the WIIFM concept by adding everyone’s favorite song to the mix, a derivation of Willy Nelson’s classic, “You were Always on My Mind.” Paula Butterfield, addressing a leadership group at Franklin University several years ago said people’s favorite song was, “I was Always on My Mind.” Every person you meet is thinking, “How will this affect me?” That means you have to think about how to put things in terms that will appeal to them.

Understanding the other person and what they want, hope for, desire – what motivates them – is key. While this seems simple, how many times have you seen people try to motivate others in ways that motivate themselves? It’s not about YOU, it’s about them. If making more money is your thing that’s not necessarily someone else’s carrot. The same could be said for title or position. Not everyone wants to be a VP, company owner, head coach or some other highly visible position. For some people that motivation is easily seen and tapped into but when it comes to others you have to pay close attention. What do people talk about? What do you observe in their office or home? For some people the motivation is a sense of belonging, knowing they’re making a difference, family, hobbies, etc.

Once you know what that motivation is, your next step is to align your request with it somehow. This is the concept of consistency; the principle that says people are likely to act in ways that are consistent with what they’ve said or done in the past. If another person sees how what you’re asking ties into what’s most important to them then they’re likely to tackle it with more enthusiasm and more likely follow through. That’s the principle of consistency at work. For example, many kids don’t enjoy the work that comes along with college but they might have career aspirations. Tying in how coursework or grades might help them realize their dreams will make them a little more eager to do well.

Sometimes making something seem special, something not many people can have, or do, is what does the trick. This taps into scarcity, the principle of influence that tells us people are motivated to action when they fear losing an opportunity. This isn’t new to the human condition. Mark Twain wrote of Tom Sawyer in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, “He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it – namely, in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain.” This came about because Tom didn’t want to paint a fence. He convinced the other kids to do it when he made it seem special. All of a sudden they all wanted to do it.

So we’ve now covered three fundamental techniques for handling people:

  1. Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.
  2. Give honest, sincere appreciation.
  3. Arouse in the other person an eager want.

In the weeks to come we’ll explore Dale Carnegie’s six ideas to get people to like you. In the meantime, I’ve love to hear your thoughts about arousing an eager want in another person so feel free to leave a comment below.

Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”