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Protesting Mainstream Media and Traditional Politics

I’m done with our mainstream media and traditional politics. Why? Because I teach people about ethical influence and I’m sick and tired of all the manipulation I observe. This all bubbled to the surface a few weeks ago when I talked with Jane about the state of the country. I was surprised at how angry I got so I decided to do something about it in my own way. I hope you’ll read on and join me in this protest.

Mainstream Media

I stopped watching MSNBC, Fox, CNN, HLN and OAN because the mainstream media is not factual or unbiased. I thought flipping between these various outlets would give me a balanced view of our country and the issues we face. Instead, all I got was angry at the hypocrisy. The examples are endless so I’ll only share a few to make the point.

Fox skewered Obama for playing golf during his presidency. Funny how the same anchors say nothing about Trump playing even more golf. They praise him as godly but nothing could be further from the truth by his own words, prior deeds and his vast number of accusers on a multitude of issues. Evangelicals and men like Franklin Graham have lost all moral credibility when they talk about him as their Christian president.

MSNBC and other liberal outlets utter hatred for Trump has destroyed their journalistic integrity. They’re hypocrites for their stance on protests. In early spring, when protests were happening because of the economic shutdown in places like Wisconsin and Michigan, the liberal media told us the protests were a danger to all of us. But, those same outlets glossed over the potential Covid threat when the mass protests across the country aligned with their political view. Sorry, either large gatherings are safe or they’re not but you can’t have it both ways.

Is there any need to go on? I’m sure you have plenty of examples of your own. If we all decide to protest the manipulation by turning off mainstream news outlets advertising dollars will eventually dry up. And we know money drives nearly everything.

Traditional Politics

When it comes to politics I will no longer vote for any traditional (Republican or Democrat) candidates because the hypocrisy of both parties is just as bad as the media.

The democrats had the most diverse field of presidential candidates in history and settled on the oldest, whitest, long time politician with his own race issues. Funny thing is, most likely any of their primary candidates could beat Trump at this point. See what happens when you allow your party to rig another primary. It’s apparent the threat of losing the presidential election was more important than the integrity of what the party espouses it believes.

Republicans are no better. Mitch McConnell and the party don’t care about you or me. All they care about is one thing…maintaining their power. We only need to look at the impeachment hearing in the senate to realize this. No witnesses…not one…really? So much for truth, justice and the American way. Well done republicans.

Each side will give you its reasons for why it does what it does and the positions it holds. They’ve all played the game so long they have ready responses to manipulate for anything you or I might bring up.

Government Structure

On the whole, I think our government structure is very good. Despite America’s issues, as a nation we have done more good than harm. We need only look to the world wars to realize this. Had we not gotten involved the world might be a much, much worse place. But that doesn’t mean we should settle for that.

Our problem isn’t the structure, it’s the people in power. Nobody should serve as senator or congressperson for as many decades as so many have. There’s a reason we have term limits for the president and we should for EVERY elected office at every level of government. The only way to change the system is to change the players because they will not institute laws that will ultimately remove them from the power they have.

Democrats have controlled most major cities (mayors, district attorneys, police chiefs, etc.) for decades so why haven’t they instituted needed reforms – police being the biggest – at the local level? Will keeping the same old politicians in place really make a difference just because a democrat sits in the White House? It didn’t when Obama occupied that spot.

Our national debt is skyrocketing and republicans continually stoke fear that big democratic social programs will break the bank. The reality is, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Donald Trump were the ones who spent and printed money like they were playing Monopoly.

Stop voting republican or democrat! At some point we have to get new people and new parties that truly represent the views of most Americans.

To Do This Week

As I wrote at the top, because I teach about ethical influence it’s highly disturbing that the media and political parties are such manipulators.

  1. Stop watching mainstream news. I encourage you to remove any links from your favorites and delete the news apps from your phone. You’ll feel better and be no less informed because what you’re being “informed about” right now is so distorted.
  2. Don’t vote for any republican or democrat in November. It’s not wasting our votes if we send a message that we’ll no longer put up with the status quo and manipulation.

John Lennon sang, “You may say I’m a dreamer,” but I’d rather strive for a dream of my own choosing than the nightmare we’re currently asleep in.

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

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

The Data Tells The Story…Not!

I was listening to a podcast recently and the guest said, “The data tells the story.” I would contend it’s not the data that tells the story but rather, how the data is presented. Let me share several examples.

Unhealthy Big Macs

In Made to Stick, authors Chip and Dan Heath shared a story about how unhealthy movie popcorn was back in the 1990s. A medium sized bucket contained 37 grams of saturated fat. While that sounded unhealthy, people basically said, “So what?” Even when informed it was almost twice as much as the USDA recommended daily allowance of 20 grams, people response was still, “So what?”

It wasn’t until “the data” was put into a visual that people sat up and took notice. During a press conference at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, it was conveyed, along with a visual, “A medium sized ‘butter’ popcorn at a typical neighborhood movie theater contains more artery-clogging fat than a bacon-and-egg breakfast, a Big Mac and fries for lunch, and a steak dinner with all the trimmings – combined!” You don’t have to be a doctor or fitness expert to understand how unhealthy that picture is!

Tax Increases

Several years ago, there was debate over a potential increase in the state tax for Illinois residents. It was a whopping 66% increase according to opponents. However, supporters said it was only a 2% increase. And, as strange as it may sound, both sides were right!

At the time, the state tax was 3% and the proposal was to increase it to 5%. So, it was raising the tax two percentage points. But, looking at the change from 3% to 5% represented a 66% increase in what Illinois residents would pay.

It was literally two sides of the same coin…that the state wanted!

Carbon Emissions

I saw a news story last week with the headline U.S. Sets Record in Reducing Carbon Emissions. Given that we stepped away from the Paris Accord it caught my attention. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA):

“The United States saw the largest decline in energy-related CO2 emissions in 2019 on a country basis – a fall of 140 Mt, or 2.9 percent, to 4.8 Gt. U.S. emissions are now down almost 1 Gt from their peak in the year 2000, the largest absolute decline by any country over that period.”

The counterfactual was as follows:

“It’s true that, according to the IEA’s February 2020 report, the U.S. achieved a greater absolute reduction in CO2 emissions than any other country, in 2019. However, claims that the U.S. therefore ‘led the entire world’ or was a ‘global leader’ in CO2 emissions were belied by the fact that other countries (including Germany, Japan, and likely others) achieved a superior rate of reduction in CO2 emissions. Although not a country, the European Union achieved both a larger absolute reduction and a greater rate of reduction in CO2 emissions than the US did.”

This is analogous to the Illinois state tax. It depends on how you view it; in absolute or relative terms. No matter how you view this one, a reduction is a good thing.

National Debt

Is a million dollars a lot of money? I’m guessing all of my readers would say it is. Is a trillion dollars a lot of money? I know everyone would agree that’s a lot of money! Did you know our national debt is over $23 trillion now? Do you realize how big that number actually is? Probably not so let me give you some perspective:

If the U.S. national debt grew no larger starting today, and we could pay it down by one million dollars a day, every single day, any idea how long it would take to pay it off?

Just over 63,000 years. Yes, you read that right, it would take 63,000 years to pay off the national debt if we reduce it by a million dollars a day. We hear about numbers on the news – data – all the time and have no clue as to what those numbers really mean for us.

Conclusion

I could go on and on with examples like these. I hope you see my point – the data doesn’t tell the story. The presentation of the data tells the story. And, how that data is presented always comes with an agenda.

To Do This Week

Start looking critically at what’s being presented and how it’s being presented, especially in the news. Never forget, every news outlet has a bias so carefully consider what’s being presented and ask why it’s being present the way it is.

We’re coming up on a presidential election, a time when all candidates on both sides make big promises. Do a little research, find out what’s being promised and whether or not those promises as truly feasible. I think in most cases you’ll conclude they’re not.

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

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

What Goes Around Comes Around: Dysfunctional Politics

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time you’ve probably seen me mention that last election I didn’t vote for Hilary Clinton. I didn’t vote for Donald Trump either. I found both candidates distasteful for many reasons and was not going to succumb to “the lesser of two evils.” Some people considered my vote for Gary Johnson a wasted vote. It was no more wasted than any other vote that goes for the losing candidate every four years.

I voted for Obama the first time around but voted for Romney the second time. That was because the economy was still struggling and I thought Romney was much stronger on economic issues based on his business savvy and his debate performance.

When it comes to the “news” I regularly flip between MSNBC and Fox so I can understand opinions (not news) from both far left and far right positions.

I share those facts because I want you to know I consider myself a middle of the road citizen when it comes to politics. When it comes to politics I’ve observed this over my adult life; what goes around comes around. That’s reciprocity in action and it’s led to dysfunction in our government.

Bill Clinton

You may remember Bill Clinton was impeached by congress in 1998. That came about because he lied to a grand jury about facts surrounding his extra marital affair with Monica Lewinsky and his obstruction of justice. The senate did not get the two-thirds majority needed to remove him from office.

Everything around that situation caused a big divide in the country. Democrats contended Republicans had been trying to get the Clintons from the day they took office. Remember Whitewater and all the women who accused Bill of sexual advances?

Donald Trump

Here we are just over 20 years later and Donald Trump will be impeached. The charges are different but the approach is eerily similar. Republicans believe Democrats have been trying to get Donald Trump since before he took office, including spying on him and his campaign.

Just like Clinton had his scandals, Trump’s include Trump University, withholding his tax documents, and a bevy of women who’ve claimed inappropriate sexual advances. And, just like Clinton’s impeachment, this one is dividing our country.

Mitch McConnell and Jerry Nadler

Back in October 2010, during an interview in the National Journal, McConnell said, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Hmmm, seems like there were more important issues he and the Republicans could have focused their time and efforts on for the good of all Americans.

Jerry Nadler doesn’t believe the next election will be enough to unseat Trump so impeachment, and all the divide that comes with that as nation, is the best way to prevent Trump from winning the next election. As was the case with Clinton, there’s no chance the senate will get the two-thirds vote needed to remove Trump. Votes in the house and senate will be almost strictly along party lines. When you see nearly complete party line voting you know it’s a dysfunctional government because no one is listening to the other side or trying to work with them.

Confirmation Bias

As I watched some of the impeachment hearings it was apparent that the grandstanding on each side was not going to persuade anyone on the other side to change one iota. It was completely an exercise in, “Let me tell you why I’m going to vote the way I’m going to vote.”

Do I believe the Democrats inappropriately spied on Trump? Yes, despite some of the IG report findings. Why? Because we’ve already seen how the Democrats plotted against one of their own – Bernie Sanders – in the last election. They wanted Hilary Clinton to win and did everything they could to make it happen.

Do I think Trump was deal making on the call with Ukraine? Yes, because that’s what he’s done his whole life. I also believe government officials on both sides make all kinds of “deals” every day.

Do I think something underhanded went on with Hunter Biden in the Ukraine? Absolutely! Why else does a company pay $50K per month to a guy with so many personal problems and so little industry experience? Because his daddy was the Vice President.

Conclusion

Forgive me if I say, I just don’t give a damn about all of it anymore. I really don’t because I believe there’s so much that goes on behind the scenes with both parties that would probably make your stomach turn if exposed. That is, assuming you really care about ethics and values.

In the situation we’re witnessing right now there’s plenty of blame and ugly shenanigans going on with each party. Neither side has the moral high ground because history seems to be repeating itself right before our eyes. When it comes to retaining power there’s a lot of manipulation going on.

To Do This Week

Don’t waste too much time on the news for several reasons. First, because it’s a time suck. Just like scrolling through Facebook can waste hours you can waste countless hours listening to pundits all day long.

Second, what you’re getting from the likes of MSNBC, CNN, Fox, OAN and others, isn’t really news, it’s highly slanted group-think opinions disguised as news.

Third, there’s nothing you can do about something like impeachment. If you don’t like the result the only thing you can do that might make a difference is to start voting differently. If we keep putting the same people and same parties in power expecting things to change, well, that’s the definition of insanity according to Einstein.

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

Brian’s book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was a top 10 selling Amazon book in several insurance categories and top 50 in sales & selling. His LinkedIn Learning courses on sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 85,000 people around the world!

Donald Trump, Joe Biden and Lynchings

DISCLAIMER: This post is neither for or against Donald Trump or Joe Biden. It’s not pro or con when it comes to Republicans or Democrats. I’ve voted for candidates in both parties over the decades. In the last presidential election I cast a dissenting vote for Gary Johnson because I found both candidates so objectionable for a variety of reasons.

The post isn’t pro or con when it comes to CNN, MSNBC or Fox. If I watch the news at all anymore, I give roughly the same time to each station because it’s like watching the world from completely different vantage points in space.

Impeachment

By now you’ve heard Donald Trump equated the impeachment inquiry into his phone call with the Ukrainian President to a lynching. The backlash over his comment was swift and fierce because of the history of lynching of blacks in America.

According to Merriam-Webster the definition of lynching is “to put to death (as by hanging) by mob action without legal approval or permission.” By definition, a lynching can occur in any culture regardless of race, sexual preference or anything else. However, words take on meaning beyond their stated definition based on their use and history. In the case of American culture, lynching has become synonymous with white mob actions against blacks.

Why that word?

Understanding the history tied to lynching in America, it begs the question – why would Trump use that particular word? For people who dislike (many would use the word “hate”) it’s clear – they see him as racist and that word is yet more proof of their already strong belief. Others may claim he’s just ignorant for using such a racially charged word.

But, could there be another, more strategic reason he used that one word? Perhaps. While it didn’t get nearly as much press last week, Joe Biden called the impeachment process of Bill Clinton “a partisan lynching.” Five other Democrats invoked that word about Clinton’s impeachment. No backlash in 1998, very little coverage in 2019.

President Trump may have used that word to point out a double-standard. I know some of you reading this might think that’s giving him too much credit. Maybe he’s a racist, maybe he’s smart, maybe he’s both.

Double Standard

Is there a double standard in the American press? Absolutely…on both sides!

CNN, MSNBC and other more liberal media outlets have given Joe Biden a pass. After all, times were different in 1998. He apologized. He’s been a Democrat all his life, and so on.

Fox continually gives Trump a pass too. They mercilessly condemned Obama for playing too much golf. Trump owns golf courses and plays all the time! That’s just one example but there are many more.

To deny favoritism from any news outlet would be intellectually dishonest. Each has a worldview/agenda that drives their bias reporting.

Justification

Humans have an amazing ability to justify almost anything and our ability to do so comes naturally. Just think about the small child who is about to be punished for hitting another child. “But he did it first!” is a common response. Kids don’t have to be taught to do that, it comes naturally. “Yea, but..” is used to justify so much of what we do.

If you love Trump you will find ways to explain his behavior as perfectly fine. On the flip side, many Trump supporters (Republicans more broadly) easily justified their contempt for virtually everything Obama did.

The same happens with liberals. They see Trump as pure evil and anyone can’t see that, well they must be part of the problem. Sorry but that’s just not true.

Good People

There are good people on both sides. I have friends who identify as Democrats and they’re very good people. Likewise, I know many folks who are die-hard Republicans and they are very good people too.

The difference is each side fundamentally views society, our challenges and potential solutions differently. While some of the people I know post inflammatory rhetoric on social media, when we get a chance to sit and talk, they’re good, reasonable people.

Don’t Be Manipulated

Make no mistake about it, when you watch MSNBC, CNN, Fox or any other “news” you’re not getting the news. You’re getting information that comes from an ideological slant then is supplemented by pundits who also have a biased viewpoint.

We can never remove all bias from the news any more than you or I can remove the biases we have. Having said that, as a society we’re working hard to try to reduce the influence biases cause in workplace (racial, sexual, gender, religious, etc.). We try to do so by setting up systems to help us.

So, here’s the big question – why aren’t media outlets going through anti-bias training? They have no problem pointing out how companies like Starbucks need to do so. Newsflash – media outlets do more to shape our thinking, behavior and politics than Starbucks. When we turn on the news why can’t we reasonably expect, as Sgt. Joe Friday of Dragnet used to say, “Just the facts.”?

Conclusion

Americans have an incredible ability to set aside differences and come together in the face of adversity. We did it in WWI, WWII, after the assassination of President Kennedy and after 911. We have the ability to set aside our differences and focus on the fact that we’re Americans. The country is far from perfect but still, people from all over the world want to come here because the opportunities are still greater here than anywhere else in the world.

To Do This Week

Question what you’re see, hear and read from the media. Just because what you encounter may be different that your view doesn’t make it wrong. By the same token, just because it aligns with your beliefs doesn’t make it right.

Have a conversation with someone who is different than you. In a non-judgmental way, ask them about how they see the world or certain issues. Don’t contend, just try to understand. I think you may be surprised by what you learn.

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

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

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

 

Our Hypocritical Selves

Most mornings I eat breakfast and watch a little news before I head out the door for work. I typically flip between MSNBC and Fox so I can get both ends of the political and cultural spectrum. It’s amazing how the very same story can be interpreted so differently. And make no mistake about it, most of the “news” is actually interpretation because a few facts are shared then “pundits” spend most of the time giving their opinions. As I watch and listen I can’t help but think about our hypocritical selves. Saying we – me, you and everyone else – are hypocritical to some degree might sound offensive but please stick with me.

We like to believe we’re rational creatures who occasionally act irrationally but that’s the exact opposite of reality. Nobel prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman and best-selling author and behavioral economist Dan Ariely would both vigorously contend human beings are irrational creatures who occasionally act rational. Their assertions are back up by scientific research in their books Thinking, Fast and Slow andPredictably Irrational.

Human hypocrisy is seen best in the media and politics. Below are examples.

  • Fox constantly bashed Obama for playing so much golf during his time in office but has no trouble defending Trump consistently going to his Mar-a-Largo resort to play golf.
  • When Bill Clinton said “It’s the economy, stupid,” during his 1992 presidential campaign democrats loved it and he won. When conservatives point to how great the economy is doing now the other side says, “Yea, but…” and will try to convince you despite the lowest unemployment in 50 years things are not as good as they seem.
  • Immigration, now here’s a doozy. When Bill Clinton was for strong borders and enforcing our laws and the democrats cheered. Today Trump is vilified by that same group for trying to enforce the boarders and laws that have been in place for decades.
  • Recently Attorney General Jeff Sessions quoted a passage from the Bible to defend the administration’s current immigration stance and the separation of children from parents who are illegal. If that had been said by Eric Holder I’m sure conservatives would be pointing to verses about the need to take in and care for strangers as Jesus commanded.

Do you see what I mean? Every four or eight years each side flips the script. I’m politically agnostic because I’ve come to the point in life where I see power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. I just don’t believe most politicians truly have our best interests at heart.

Why are we hypocritical so often? Here are a few things play into our hypocrisy:

  • Confirmation bias. Most people look for evidence to confirm what they believe, not to disbelieve. It’s not easy to look yourself in the mirror and acknowledge long held beliefs might have been wrong because our beliefs are such a large part of our self-identity.
  • The principle of consistency. Human beings feel better about themselves when they act in ways that are consistent with what they’ve said and done in the past. This tendency gets stronger the older we get. It’s easier to keep doing what you’ve always done rather than seeking new approaches to life and issues.
  • Anywhere from 85%-95% of what you think and do in a given day is driven by your subconscious according to science. That means the vast majority of the time we “think” and act without consciously considering what we’re doing, saying or believing. The human brain is programmed to do this and before you realize it you may be many decades into life with thoughts, beliefs and habits that are very hard to change.

We’ll never get rid of the reality that some of our beliefs and actions will conflict with one another. But, we can make a more concerted effort to challenge our beliefs, thinking and actions. It only takes a moment and it will be a moment well spent, especially if you grow in the process.

I’ll end with something I heard Zig Ziglar say in response to someone who said church was full of hypocrites. Zig replied, “Come join us, we’ve got room for one more.” He wasn’t being cynical and he didn’t try to defend himself because he knew he, and all other human beings, have beliefs, conscious and unconscious, that are sometimes hypocritical. It’s part of being human and no of us is immune. The best we can do is stop fighting it, acknowledge the truth, then be open to the possibility that maybe each of us has room to grow.

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 nearly 135,000 times! Watch it and you’ll learn how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

Know the Game You’re Playing

Have you ever watched a tennis match where one player won more games but not enough sets and ended up losing the match? How about a football game where one team dominated the stats, held the lead the entire game but then lost on the last play? Here’s one that’s still fresh; a presidential election where one candidate won the popular vote, but not the delegate count, and lost the election?

In each case the losing side, fans or voters often say, “Yeah, but…” then talk about how their team, player or candidate should have won. The reality is it doesn’t matter how much one side dominates if they end up losing according to the rules. Tennis matches are won in sets, football games on the scoreboard and presidential elections are based on the electoral college vote. Know the game you’re playing!

This came to mind recently when people said President Trump was mentally unstable and unfit for office. If you followed the story did you notice he didn’t try to defend his mental stability or fitness? He went to an extreme, calling himself a “very stable genius” and it was a genius persuasive move. You might be wondering why I’d write that considering I’m not a Trump voter (I didn’t vote for Hillary either). I write that because it was brilliant anchoring on Trump’s part.

Anchoring is a term used in psychology that can be described this way; when you put out something like a number, it acts as an anchor and begins to change people’s minds in reference to that point. For example, if I want to sell something for $1000, when I put out that first offer it’s very likely what I end up getting will be closer to $1000 than if I’d not made that original offer.

In the case of Trump, he ignored the mentally unstable comments. If he would have tried to defend his stability around that singular point he would not have been nearly as successful as he was when he referred to himself as a “very stable genius.” Now you might have argued, as many others did, “I don’t think he’s a genius. In fact, I don’t know anyone who thinks he’s a genius!”  But do you see what happened there? The conversation shifted from mentally unstable to debating whether or not he was a genius. Maybe he’s not a genius, only really smart. Or perhaps he’s just smart. Some might still call him dumb but he shifted the entire conversation away from being mentally unstable and unfit to be president!

Do you recall him using this approach during the election? He boasted he knew more than the generals about ISIS. People knew that wasn’t the case but the debate wasn’t that he knew nothing, it was whether or not he knew as much as the generals.

As I write this his mental stability is no longer an issue in the media. Like him or not, Trump won that round. The media moved from mentally unstable to talking about Fire Fury, the expose on him and his administration. Then it was accusations that he slept with a porn star. Those are out now because we’re debating the government shutdown and DACA. By the time you read this there may be something totally new grabbing our attention. What’s going on?

  1. Controlled chaos. Trump loves controversy and notoriety. Being noticed, even if it’s negative, is better than not being noticed. The more that comes out, the less the last thing sticks with us.
  2. The media is paying into his hand. They keep focusing on the next story and all the other controversies become a memory.
  3. Attention spans are shorter than ever. Most people don’t read much so they get their “news” in sound bites from editorial television shows posing as news shows.

Nobel prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman was right when he wrote in Thinking, Fast and Slow, “Nothing in life is ever as important as you think it is, while you are thinking about it.” We’re not thinking about much except Trump. His controversies are just a footnote in our thoughts because they keep changing but he remains constantly in the news and on our minds.

You might relate to this from your childhood. When I was growing up there were certain kids who got picked on regularly. Those who got angry, yelled back and made a scene played into the bullies’ hands because the bullies got under their skin. The bullies poked to get a reaction and it worked on most kids. In other words, those being picked on didn’t know the game the bullies were playing.

I don’t write this in support of Trump nor do I write it to discredit him. Whoever is president – democrat or republican – I want that person to succeed for the good of our country. I wrote this post because whether it’s Trump or anyone else you need to know the game that’s being played otherwise you’ll get played.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLE. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed more than 110,000 times! Have you seen it yet? Watch it to learn how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

 

Why Don’t We Just Listen for a Change

I was inspired to write this week’s post after watching an enlightening Ted Talk from Theo E.J. Wilson called A Black Man Goes Undercover in the Alt-Right. Don’t worry, this post is not to advocate for any particular position on the political and social spectrum. Rather it’s about the lost art of listening and communicating to understand one another. Theo rightly points out things that prevent us from understanding each other and I have added some of the principles of influence that make it easy to happen:

Online Algorithms

These algorithms begin to filter information to us that we already view and believe, an application of the principle of consistency. It’s no different than the Amazon recommendations that pop up based on prior purchase decisions and sites you’ve viewed. Isn’t it someone freaky how you can start to type in a Google search and the choices that appear almost always contain the exact search you need? It’s as if Google read your mind! This curating of information is constantly going on behind the scenes and may be limiting your worldview.

Media Outlets

We make active choices that narrow our worldview such as only watching Fox News or CNN to the exclusion of all other media outlets. We do so because other large groups of people like us – the principle of consensus – hold the same views. I try to watch MSNBC and Fox in equal amounts because it’s like viewing the world from the North Pole and South Pole. Doing so gives me a better view of the entire planet. Make no mistake, news outlets are run by human beings and have their own bias points of view so be wary.

Our Associations

We tend to hang out with like-minded people. This is a natural phenomenon – the liking principle – because we like people who are similar to us and it’s less taxing mentally to have conversations with people who think like we do.

Social Media

Online “conversations” aren’t really conversations at all. They’ve become forums to espouse views then vehemently defend them. This is one way the principle of consistency can lead us astray. For more on this I will refer you to a post I wrote years ago called Why Facebook Doesn’t Change Anyone’s Opinion.

I’m sure you can think of more things that limit our ability to understand each other. Here are some ideas to perhaps change this. By change I don’t necessarily mean your views have to change but, if you come to understand another person, their point of view, and can maintain respect for them, then isn’t that a good thing?

When was the last time you had a conversation with someone who was different than you, not to convince them of your point of view, but to simply get to know them and their point of view better? I find it’s best to do this in person, over coffee, a drink, or a meal, where there can be dialog instead of monologue.

Have you ever asked someone what it’s like to be them? Two conversations I’ll never forget happened with a couple of African-Americans; a coworker and my best friend. With my coworker, I asked her on a flight from Nashville to Columbus what it was like to be an African-American working at my company. She talked non-stop the entire flight and I had a new, enlightened point of view.

The other conversation was with my best friend after Barack Obama won the presidential election in 2008. You cannot imagine the pride he expressed at something he never thought he would see in his lifetime. I don’t believe in either case the conversations would have happened if I had not opened the door with questions. Give a safe place for people to express themselves and you’ll be surprised at what you hear.

What was refreshing in the Ted Talk was hearing Theo acknowledge that many people who held views completely opposite from his were still people just like him. He saw pictures of kids and families. He saw people who enjoyed activities and liked to have fun. They were humans who viewed the world differently. When we lose sight of other people’s humanity we’re in big trouble because we treat them as things to be opposed. We need not look any further than Nazi Germany and the Holocaust to see what people can do to those they consider less than human.

It was also refreshing to hear Theo acknowledge flaws in the thinking of people he more closely aligned himself with. Every side has flaws because they’re made up of human beings, all of whom are flawed.

Someone asked me recently if I thought our country was more divided than ever. My response was no because there was a time we were so divided we plummeted into civil war. We have an opportunity to turn much of our negativity and opposition into something better. In order to do that I believe we need to stop opposing each other, stop shouting each other down and start having real, person to person conversations. Steven Covey encouraged us to “seek first to understand, then be understood.” That would be a great starting place.  I encourage you this week, reach out to someone who is different than you and start a dialogue.

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.

 

Human Contradictions and the Ugly Side of Reciprocity

In 2008 Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a republican from Kentucky, said, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one term president.” He and the republicans did everything they could to block President Obama’s initiatives.

In 2016 McConnell’s tone was much different when he spoke these words, “It’s time to accept the results of the election, to lower the tone and see what we can do together to make progress for the country.” Mitch seems to have done an about face when it comes to the opposing party working with a president elect.

Remember during the election there were fears of rioting after the November 2 results? Those fears were voiced by Democrats who thought Trump supporters would riot if he lost. It turns out the fear of riots was right…except it’s been Hillary supporters who’ve been rioting.

No doubt each side will rationalize their words and actions. As behavioral economist Dan Ariely likes to point out; we’re not rational beings who occasionally act irrationally but rather, we’re irrational beings who occasionally act rationally. Salespeople have always known this and sum it up this way, “People buy based on emotion and justify with logic.”

Most of us are reactive and our reactions are based on emotion. The sad reality is this; had Republicans been conciliatory when President Obama won and had they honestly tried to work with him they’d have a leg to stand on when asking Democrats to work with Trump. That’s reciprocity.

Instead we’re seeing the ugly side of reciprocity play out in an eye for an eye manner right now. What basis do Republicans have when it comes to expectations of the Democrats working with them? None. And two years from now when the Democrats retake the Senate – mark my words they will because of the natural ebb and flow of politics – our country will be caught in another political quagmire where the highest importance in Washington isn’t getting things done for the good of the country but rather blocking the other side from doing anything to promote their agenda.

All is not lost however and there is a glimmer of hope. The Democrats and their supporters don’t owe anything to Republicans but should they decide to turn the other cheek and try working with Trump then they’ll have a soap box to stand on next time their candidate wins – and surely there will be other Democratic presidents. They’ll be able to appeal to republicans and the nation saying, “Work with us like we worked with you.”

You see, reciprocity can work both ways. When someone does us a good turn it’s easy for us to do something good in return. However, when someone harms another person the natural inclination is to inflict harm back. As a nation we find ourselves in the downward negative side of the cycle but we don’t have to stay there. We can make the conscious choice to look for what we have in common – and there is much – then work together to achieve something good based on those common goals. That may be all it takes to turn the tide and start an upward cycle where favors are traded in a positive way that benefits us all.

Congratulations America, You Just …

Congratulations America, you just elected the most disliked, distrusted person to ever enter the oval office. I knew I was going to write this headline leading up to the election but I honestly thought I’d be writing it about Hillary Clinton, not Donald Trump. I, along with just about everyone else, was wrong when it came to predicting the outcome of the election, but the headline is still accurate.

We just witnessed the most contemptuous campaign in modern times and no matter who won history was going to be made. History could have been made by electing the first woman president or it could have been made by electing the first person with zero political experience. My focus however, was that we made history because our nation elected the most disliked, distrusted person ever.

Make no mistake, each side can rationalize why their candidate was the better choice and each can make the case why the other was the potentially the end of our existence. Intellectually honest people will realize virtually everything that was thrown up as a reason to not vote for the other candidate applied to their own candidate as well.

  • It’s hard to dispute that Hillary Clinton has a perceived history of dishonesty and deception. Donald Trump was also viewed as dishonest because of things like Trump University and stiffing workers.
  • Hillary was talked about as a criminal for various reasons although defenders say she was never convicted of anything. Donald was considered a criminal by many people who pointed to all the lawsuits against him. However, his defenders argue those were civil, not criminal, and lawsuits are to be expected in business.
  • Donald was painted a racist for many things he said. Hillary was considered racist having called black teens “super predators” in the 1990s and Bill Clinton was responsible for mass incarceration of blacks.
  • Donald is sexists and perhaps worse. Bill Clinton was every bit as bad and Hillary defended him knowing he’s been unfaithful.

The list could go on and on with each side calling the other hypocritical. Sad truth is both candidates were so flawed many Americans found themselves voting against a candidate rather than for a candidate.

How did either side justify voting for their candidate? Confirmation bias. It’s human nature to look for evidence that confirms what we believe and discount information that is contrary to our beliefs. We all do this to one degree or another.

So how did Donald Trump win? There are lots of theories on that. Detractors say he appealed to the worst part of people. That oversimplifies the problem because there are many good people who voted for Trump just as many good people voted for Hillary.

Trump and Hillary both used scare tactics because politicians and their handlers know fear works. I wrote about this in The Politics of Fear: They’re Trying to Scarcity the Hell Out of You.

Both candidates resorted to manipulation by telling outright lies, half-truths and using lies of omission. Each side will contend the other was worse but no doubt each side used manipulation in an attempt to win over voters.

When it comes to voting people tend to focus on a few issues and those become their rationale for choosing a candidate. To find out more about that line of thinking take a look at Values, Voting and Other Decisions. With so many negatives about each candidate people held their nose and made choices based on the few issues that were most important to themselves.

What is shocking about Trump’s victory are the following:

  1. He was his own worst enemy, saying and doing things much worse than others who’ve seen their political careers end over such things.
  2. The media was against him. With the exception of Fox News all major media was clearly favoring Hillary.
  3. The polls all said he would lose which could have caused people to stay home rather than wasting their time voting.
  4. He didn’t have the backing of his own party, let alone a prior president, the current president, or major celebrities.
  5. His spending was significantly less than Hillary’s.
  6. He had no political experience to help him be seen as an authority.

So how did he overcome such long odds? He was certainly a more passionate, motivating and persuasive candidate. But he also benefitted from timing. If his Entertainment Tonight sex talk video had come out days before the election rather than the FBI disclosure he probably would have lost. I say that because we have short memories and even shorter news cycles. What’s most prevalent in our minds tends to cause us to act in the moment and Trump was darn lucky about the timing of his revelations versus Hillary’s.

I have to admit, when I saw Hillary lost I was happy. But, when I realized Trump won I was sad. I didn’t vote for Trump in the Ohio primary and I didn’t vote for him in the general election. People say my Gary Johnson vote was wasted. Some accuse me of helping Trump while others said I would be helping get Hillary elected. Each line of reasoning is crap! In good conscience I couldn’t vote for either so I didn’t. If our country is to get out of this false choice – the belief that we can only have a republican or democrat become president – it has to start somewhere.

People are saying our nation has never been more divided but that’s not true. Ever hear of The Civil War? I think we were a tad more divided when we went to war against our brethren. We’re not at that point right now and hopefully we never get to that point again.

Here’s what I believe Americans need to focus on. We live in the United States, the U.S. It’s about “US” as in we, me and you, all of us together. We need to begin focusing on what binds us together as opposed to what separates us. We always seem to be able to do that when tragedy strikes (WWI, WWII, 911, etc.) but we don’t have to wait for that to happen. We need to learn the art of comprise and quit depicting candidates as evil and the next Hitler because if we don’t we’re only heading for more division, difficulty and hatred.