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What Do These Have in Common?

What do these seven things have in common?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Remembering and Honoring Tracy Austin

One year ago this week my friend Tracy Austin passed away from pancreatic cancer. Shortly before his death I posted a tribute to him. To mark the anniversary of his passing I want to share that tribute again. Tracy was a wonderful human being who is missed by many every single day. I still take heart in the fact that we can multiply Tracy’s impact on the world by implementing what he taught us. This week I will be wearing a name tag each day in his honor. I hope you enjoy this post.

This post is different. It’s not so much about influence as it is a tribute to a good friend – Tracy Austin – who is battling pancreatic cancer. The cancer is winning the battle against Tracy’s flesh but not his spirit. It seems as though cancer may take his life soon but cancer is not the victor because Tracy’s spirit cannot be destroyed. His life will go on because of the thousands of people he’s impacted. In turn, those people will impact tens of thousands more, and so on. It occurs to me that in the same way that cancer spreads and takes lives, Tracy’s impact will spread and inspire richer, fuller lives!

I met Tracy Austin in 2004 through Robert Cialdini. Dr. Cialdini was a keynote speaker at several State Auto Insurance events that summer and Tracy came to hear him. He was the guest of the late Dr. Paul Otte, State Auto board member and past president of Franklin University.

Tracy’s association with Franklin University began in the early 1990s as a student. His experience was so good he wanted to give back and ended up working there. In his 20+ years with the university he impacted thousands upon thousands of students and faculty members.

If you know Tracy then you’re his friend, because he’s one of those rare people for whom it cannot be any other way. You can’t know Tracy and not like him. And I’m sure he never met anyone whom he didn’t consider a friend. That’s just who he is.

Our friendship began with that initial meeting in the summer of 2004 and manifested itself over lunches every two or three months from that point forward. We were both creatures of habit so nearly every lunch was on a barstool at Club 185 in the German Village section of Columbus, Ohio. During those meals we talked about leadership, training, public speaking, coaching and family.

Tracy was well known around town because he would wear a nametag with a random word each day. Actually, the words were never random. Rather, they were carefully chosen because each word was a public statement of Tracy’s attitude for the day. As you might imagine, they were often conversation starters, too. Nametags were his thing and everyone knew that.

Tracy retired from Franklin a year ago and because he was no longer working downtown, we missed a few lunches. Near the end of October Tracy posted on Facebook that he had been diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer.

I’ve had other friends go through cancer, but for whatever reason felt compelled to do something more for Tracy. I immediately went to the store, and bought 100 nametags. I sat down with my daughter, Abigail, and together we came up with 50 positive words. I filled out one set for me and one set for Tracy which I mailed to him. Each day I texted him in the early morning to let him know the word for that day and we’d both wear that nametag. We also posted to Facebook and people started to follow his journey in the fight against cancer.

Wearing the nametags has been interesting. I was often surprised at how few people would comment when I was wearing a word like Prayerful, Embrace, Joyful, etc. When the conversations did happen they were always encouraging and I would simply ask, “If you think of Tracy please say a prayer for him.”

Beyond our direct friendship a series of wonderful things happened for me because of Tracy. After meeting him, I met Marcy Depew at a coaching event Tracy led. Marcy and I struck up a friendship that’s included many coffee and lunch conversations.

Marcy introduced me to Merri Bame. Merri and I hit it off because we both train in the field of communication. As you might imagine a friendship ensued and we’ve enjoyed many coffee and lunches together, too.

Merri introduced me to Amanda Thomas McMeans. Amanda asked me to speak at a quarterly networking event she hosted. After speaking I attended one of her events as a guest and met a young man named Dan Stover.

Dan and I struck up a deep friendship that has included Dan spending some holidays with my family. Eventually Dan introduced me to Steve Anderson, the founder of Integrated Leadership Systems (ILS), the company Dan works for. Meeting Steve led to a sales consulting opportunity for me but more importantly, ILS ended up hiring my wife, Jane, to help secure speaking engagements. Working there has truly been life-changing for Jane.

It’s very likely that none of those good things and friendships would have happened had I not met Tracy. I have no doubt that hundreds, if not thousands, of people could share similar stories about Tracy’s impact on their life.

We would all be fortunate not only to have the kind of impact Tracy has had but to be as loved as he is. Whenever the day comes and he passes, it will indeed be sad for all of us who will not see his smile, hear his laugh or be lifted up by his word of the day. But, if we take what Tracy has given us and pass it along we will multiply his goodness and cancer will be the only loser.

I opened by saying this wasn’t so much about influence as it was a tribute. As I conclude I know it’s actually both, because as I’ve written and you’ve read there’s no doubt about Tracy’s influence on so many of us. The best tribute we can give Tracy and his wife, Karen, is to take the lessons of his life and pay them forward.

Use Post-suasion to Set Up Future Influence

I recently watched an interview with Robert Cialdini on his newest book Pre-suasion. If you’ve not picked up a copy I highly encourage you to do so. Not only will you learn how to set the stage (pre-suade) to make persuasion easier, you’ll learn about a 7th principle of influence he calls unity.

As I watched the interview I recalled something from chapter 14 in Pre-suasion – the concept of post-suasion. Not only are people unaware of how to pre-suade, they’re also unaware of post-suasion. What do I mean by that? It’s about doing things after the fact that will set the stage for potential future interactions.

One example of post-suasion would be how you respond to, “Thank you.” For more on that take a look at my post How to Respond to Thanks.

Another post-suasion approach has to do with networking and making connections. Let me share a story to help you see what I mean.

I recently attended Elliot Maise’s Learning 2016 conference in Orlando, Fla. It was an outstanding event where I met lots of people in the learning and development field from around the world.

With each event I attended I made it a point to reach out to presenters and people I sat near and interacted with. I made sure I gave them a business card and mentioned what I do.

What stood out was how few people either sent a follow-up email or reached out to connect on LinkedIn. Unfortunately this form of post-suasion is overlooked far too often. I’ve seen it with young and old, male and female, successful and unsuccessful. I would say the vast majority of the people I meet are very smart and career-oriented but for some reason this extra step eludes most of them.

So why do people overlook it? I think a big reason is because they don’t understand the power of networking. Let me be very clear about networking – I’m not talking about connecting and immediately after that trying to sell your services or set up a meeting to sell your services. People are turned off by that approach and I will usually break the LinkedIn connection right away if that happens.

Networking is about mutually learning from and helping each other. I connected with people during and after the learning conference because I’d like to learn from them, I think I can teach them some things and you never know how we might benefit each other down the line.

When I post-suade I make sure I send a personal message, not standard, “I’d like to connect with you on LinkedIn.” When I personalize my invite, I drop in one sentence about how I enjoyed talking with them, meeting them or attending their presentation. Another sentence is a little more personal, like wishing them good luck with an initiative they may have mentioned. My last sentence talks about staying in touch with them via LinkedIn and encouraging them to contact me if they think I can help them in any way.

When someone accepts my connection request I put a note on their LinkedIn profile to remind me when I met them, where I met them and a brief comment about our interaction. Then I respond with another brief, personalized message thanking them for accepting the connection. Touch points like what I’ve described are the social part of social media. When I do these things I feel much more at ease sending messages in the future.

Something else I do is regularly reach out to people I’ve interacted with in the past. For example, in September 2015, I was in Toronto to host the Principles of Persuasion Workshop for Sun Life Financial. I sent a personal note to each attendee in September 2016 to see how they were doing and to remind them I’m always available to help.

You never know where people will be in two, five or ten years. If you want them to think of you then take the bull by the horns and be the one to stay in touch. Earlier this year I wrote a post titled A Networking Story which detailed a chain of connections that led to friendship and ultimately business. I encourage you to read that post to get better a picture of how I view networking.

Let me end with this encouragement – when you meet interesting people don’t just exchange business cards. Think about post-suasion and take a more effective step by connecting on LinkedIn. It’s your opportunity to learn more about them, for them to learn more about you and to easily stay in touch.