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A Skill Displayed at Birth

Our daughter Abigail turned 23 years old this month. It’s hard to believe because I still remember standing at her crib thinking, “I can’t believe you’ve been with us for 100 days.” And here we are more than 8,300 days later! As I reflected on her birth it occurred to me that persuasion is a skill we all display as soon as we exit the womb.

What’s the first thing babies do when they enter the world? They cry. They do so because they can’t express their needs any other way. They cry when they want to be fed, burped, held, changed or any number of other things. They feel their needs and seek to get those needs met through other people.

Aristotle said persuasion was the art of getting someone to do something they wouldn’t normally do if you didn’t ask. That’s a great definition for us as we learn to speak but babies don’t come into the world with any language. Despite lacking verbal skills, they keep trying to influence people.

As we grow we begin to learn other ways besides crying to get our needs met. Some of those learned methods are more socially acceptable than others. A short list of acceptable behaviors includes:

  • Offering help in exchange for help.
  • Saying please and thank you.
  • Asking instead of demanding.

As children grow some socially unacceptable behaviors many also manifest themselves. Those might include:

  • Throwing tantrums
  • Threats
  • Physical harm

Here’s the reality when it comes to behavior – what is reinforced will be repeated. If parents, teachers, friends or others reinforce unacceptable behaviors a child will keep going back to those behaviors for one reason and one reason only – those behaviors get the child what they want.

That approach shouldn’t surprise you. Getting what they want, no matter how it happens, may seem like a great strategy to kids in the short-term. However, it’s a poor long-term strategy for the vast majority as they grow into adults because no one wants to be around adults who throw tantrums, issue threats or resort to violence to get what they want.

This is where understanding the principles of persuasion becomes so important. The principles of reciprocity, liking, consensus, authority, consistency, scarcity and unity are hard wired into our brains. Each has its roots in our development and survival as a species and that’s why humans have come to rely on them more often than not. In one sense they are a force of nature.

Think of the principles of persuasion this way – they help people process information more efficiently which makes communication easier. The easier it is to process information the more likely it will be that it’s acted on.

If you’re not getting what you want, or feel your current approach is taking a toll on your relationships, then maybe you should consider a change and take time to study human behavior. After all, it’s easier to swim with the waves and run with the wind than it is going against those forces of nature.

 

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.

 

Amazon or Amazing? I Missed It, Did You?

Look at the picture. Is it Amazon or just Amazing? Maybe it’s neither. I missed it at first, did you? When we received the marketing piece in the mail I thought it was from Amazon. My wife did too, until she opened it.

When we opened the marketing piece we saw ads for cars from a local dealership. That seemed odd so we looked at the cover again and realized it didn’t say Amazon, the word was Amazing. While it became obvious in hindsight, the color scheme, text and other visuals led us to believe it was from Amazon.

Being Amazon Prime members, we were naturally inclined to open something we believed was from Amazon to find out what deals might be inside. For the car dealership it was mission accomplished. In the battle for attention they got ours…for a moment. However, feeling tricked caused resentment for both of us. I’m guessing we’re not unique in that regard so the approach might end up working against the car dealership. I’m sure they’re measuring their marketing results so perhaps only they will know.

The whole experience leads to two items to briefly explore in this week’s blog – attention and ethics.

Attention

Some sources say the average consumer is bombarded with more than 5,000 marketing messages each day! As noted earlier, it’s a battle for marketers when it comes to standing out to gain our attention.

As awesome as the human brain is, it cannot consciously process multiple things at once (multi-tasking is a myth) and it’s working memory is pretty limited (just try to remember 10 things in a row and you’ll experience its limitations).

Our subconscious is another story. It’s powerful when it comes to processing without our awareness. As a result, scientists estimate anywhere from 85%-95% of decisions are driven by our non-conscious. In this case, everything about the “packaging” was associated with Amazon, a positive for most people, causing an almost automatic behavior to opened it.

Ethics

How do you feel when someone tricks you or pulls the wool over your eyes? I’m guessing silly, stupid, dumb, or taken advantage of are a few thoughts that come to mind. I think it’s a safe assumption to say most people don’t enjoy any of those feelings and will resent whoever is seen as the cause.

If you learned someone (car salesman, insurance agent, vendor, restaurant server, boss) tricked you, you’d probably do whatever you could to avoid dealing with that person in the future. This is important to consider when you’re trying to influence people. You may win the battle but lose the war because trickery is never good for building long-term relationships.

When it comes to ethical persuasion always be truthful in your dealings with other people and use your knowledge in ways that will genuinely help others. Use the local newspaper test – how would you feel if your approach was the headline story for the day? Would you feel a bit embarrassed or would you be perfectly fine with people knowing the details of your approach? Would you feel good if someone dealt with a loved one (your mother, father, son, daughter, etc.) that way?

You don’t need to resort to trickery or manipulative tactics when you understand the principles of influence and how to ethically use them. Once you learn the principles and apply them I guarantee you will be more persuasive than you are currently. I’m confident because there’s more than seven decades of research to back up that statement.

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 Wealth of Information Creates a Poverty of Attention!

Multi-tasking is a fallacy. Despite what you might believe, our brains cannot consciously focus on multiple tasks. Studies show when you try multi-tasking you’ll take longer and make more mistakes than you would have if you’d tackle one thing at a time. Sure, you can walk and talk but walking doesn’t take conscious thought most of the time. However, when something requires your attention, like avoiding stepping into the street into oncoming traffic, your ability to focus on the conversation, or anything else for that matter, is temporarily diverted.

In the world we live in some estimates say you’re bombarded with 3000 to 5000 marketing message a day. The late Herbert Simon, an economist, psychologist and Nobel Prize winner, said this about information overload, “…information consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”

Your “poverty of attention” creates the inability to focus and is due in large part to the overstimulation of daily life. But it’s not just marketing that causes it. Your cell phone is part of the problem. Google “cell phone addiction” and you’ll get millions of results! According to an article on Health.com, smartphones have lots in common with Vegas slot machines and they’re altering our brains.

As a persuader you’re competing against this overstimulation and lack of attention. What can you do? By thoughtfully incorporating the principles of influence into your communication you can bypass a lot of the noise.

One big reason using the principles work so well is due to human evolution.  Over the course of history, the principles enabled humans make better decisions faster which increased our survival rate. Travel back in time and consider:

  • Someone who looked, sounded and acted like you could probably be trusted without giving it much consideration (liking).
  • There’s a rustling in the woods so everyone takes off running…and you do too, with very little thought (consensus).
  • There’s not much Wooly Mammoth left so you quickly get some because you don’t know when the next kill will be (scarcity).

These are just a few examples where the psychology of persuasion prompted actions that generally led to good results. Our world is vastly different than the one our ancestors occupied but we still face psychological threats and the wiring of the human brain hasn’t changed.

  • You get a new boss and you have many things in common. You immediately like your boss (liking) which makes working with her easier and less threatening.
  • You’re in new job and realize on day one that you’re not dressed like everyone else. That night you head to the store to make wardrobe adjustments so you’ll fit in a little better (consensus).
  • Things are changing at work but despite the fact that you’re not in agreement with everything you don’t speak up (scarcity).

We face a different environment than our ancestors but we’re using the same brain. The more you look for opportunities to tap into the principles of persuasion the easier it will be for your message to cut through the information overload.

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! The course teaches 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.

Systems Plus Persuasion Equal Success

Something I’ve noticed over time is how much systems contribute to success. It’s not to say that being carefree and creative don’t have value – they do. However, my observation has been with most things – learning, fitness, health, sales, coaching, leadership, etc. – having good systems in place are much more beneficial than winging it. Even with creative endeavors like improv comedy, there’s a system or approach that’s used. It may appear as though those doing the comedy are just going with the flow but there’s a structure underneath their creativity.

Two athletic examples come right to mind when I think about systematic approaches: weightlifting and running.

As a teenager I learned a system for weightlifting that made a world of difference. Before my junior season of high school football, I worked out consistently for a year and only gained 5 lbs. Pretty disappointing! During the offseason before my senior year I learned a system for working out and put on 30 lbs. before the season started. At my peak in college I was 90 lbs. heavier than when I first started lifting.

When I took up running my first marathon was a disaster. I covered the 26.2 miles in four hours and fourteen minutes and “hit the wall” about 20 miles into the race. Then I learned a system for running and eventually cut an hour off of that first marathon time and qualified for the Boston Marathon in the process.

In business I’ve seen this play out time and time again. People and organizations with systematic approaches win consistently. Let’s take leadership, sales and coaching as examples.

I’ve spent a lot of time learning and applying leadership concepts from Focus 3. At a high level their system focuses on three things: leaders, culture and behavior.

In the Focus 3 approach leaders create the culture that drives the behaviors that lead to results. If you want better results you need better behaviors which means creating the right culture to support the right behaviors. That’s why culture is the #1 responsibility of leaders.

When it comes to behavior Focus 3 uses the following formula: E+R=O. In plain English this means Event plus Response equals Outcome. Life happens (events) and we usually have no control over those events in the moment. We can influence outcomes in the direction we want by choosing disciplined responses. These disciplined responses are our behaviors.

When it comes to sales the system is pretty simple. Selling is about building rapport with the prospective customer, overcoming objections they may pose then closing the sale.

Coaching has a system very similar to sales. Coaching also starts with building rapport, gaining trust, then motivating the person being coached to new behaviors. Without relationship and trust it’s not likely someone will follow the advice of a coach.

Where does influence come into these business systems? Every step of the way! According to Aristotle, persuasion is about getting people to do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do if you didn’t ask. Whether you’re leading, selling or coaching, the principles of influence can be used to support the system because they can be used to change behaviors. For example, the principles we call liking and reciprocity are excellent ways to build rapport. To gain someone’s trust or overcome objections the principles of authority and consensus come into play. And finally, to close a sale or motivate behavior change try the principles of consistency or scarcity. Do you have a system in place that will lead you to success? If so, then consider how you’ll execute your system. If your system involves other people at any point then you’ll want to decide which principles of persuasion you can tap into to get a better result.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLEand Learning Director for State Auto Insurance. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed more than 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.

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.

Overcoming Youth or Inexperience in Business

Recently I was on LinkedIn and saw a question about overcoming youth and/or inexperience in business. When I think I can add to a conversation I’ll usually chime in and did so in this case.

The person who was seeking guidance was fresh out of college and decided to pursue her master’s degree while working full time in a managerial role. Because of her age and inexperience she ran into resistance to her ideas and suggestions. She said it got so bad they brought in a more experienced professional who told the staff exactly what she’d been saying all along. She recognized those same suggestions carried more weight coming from the experienced professional. Bottom line, she wanted to know how young, or inexperienced, managers can overcome the lack of trust and respect from older, more experienced coworkers.

The scenario is a familiar one and perhaps one you’ve faced it or might in the future. With that thought in mind, I decided to share with you the advice I gave to this young lady on LinkedIn.

The good news is, there are several ways to potentially youth or inexperience. The first comes from Robert Cialdini. Cialdini is the most cited living social psychologist in the world when it comes to persuasion and according to his research the principle of authority is what’s needed here if you want to gain traction for your ideas and suggestions.

This principle of influence tells us people will defer to those with superior wisdom or expertise when making decisions. That’s because we generally feel more confident when an authority tells us something. In order to be seen as an authority you need two traits: trust and credibility.

Trust comes from being the kind of person who keeps your word. When you consistently do what you say people believe you. That belief extended into the future is trust.

Credibility is established when you show you know what you’re doing. Credibility can come from your own expertise or you can borrow it. When you’re young or inexperienced you probably won’t be seen as an expert so the next best thing is borrowing expertise by citing sources. When you share ideas, cite people who are experts who believe in the same approach. You should also share research that backs up your suggestions about what should be done. Quite often those two things – trust and credibility – can be the difference between buy-in or rejection of your ideas.

A second approach comes from Focus 3, a leadership firm. Focus 3 views trust as the foundation to getting results in business.  In their view trust is comprised of three things: connection, competence and character. All three are necessary for trust and strength in one area won’t necessarily make up for weakness in another area.

Character, as already noted, is being someone who can be counted on to be a person of integrity. Do you keep your word? Do you act consistently with people? Are you believable? The good news is being a person of character is simply a choice you make to do what you say you’ll do.

Connection is the relationship you have with people and it’s a two-way street. The more people know and like you the more they’ll respond positively to you. When people know you like them they naturally assume you’ll have their best interests at heart which make is even easier for them to do what you ask. Cialdini calls this the principle of liking.

Competence is your ability to make others better and provide the help they need. This doesn’t mean you’re better than the people you manage. On the contrary, those you lead are probably much better at their job than you would be if you did it and that’s okay! As a leader your primary role is to take what you know and use it to help make your team better.

Mastery of character, connection and competence will help you gain the trust you need to lead a team.

Finally, address your age or inexperience quickly. You might say, “I know I’m new here but I see that as an advantage because I’m not constrained by how things have always been done.”

Another approach might be, “I know some of you are looking at me wondering what someone like me can bring to the table because I’m young. There are certainly things I won’t know but something that I’ve learned is that many great ideas have come from people while they were young because they saw things from a fresh perspective. Einstein, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs are great examples.”

The point in addressing age or experience is to acknowledge it early, then transition with a word like “but” or “however” into your strengths. Doing so gains you credibility because you’re seen as trustworthy when you own up to weakness. The good news is people usually forget what comes before “but” and that keeps them more focused on your strengths and how you can help them.

Persuasion isn’t a magic wand. Doing what I’ve listed above is no guarantee everyone who reports to you will overlook your youth or inexperience and fall in line. But, I’m confident you’ll see more people give you the trust and respect you’re looking for because decades of research show that to be the case with the approaches I’ve outlined.

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 more than 125,000 times! Have you seen it yet? Watch it and you’ll learn how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

The Big Bang Theory of Reciprocity

Across much of the world, it’s the holiday season and for most people the biggest holiday of them all is Christmas. Some celebrate Christmas as the season of joy and peace. For others, it’s the season of love and for many more it’s the celebration of the birth of Jesus.

A huge part of celebrating Christmas is Santa Claus, Christmas trees and holiday music. In some stores Christmas music started around Halloween! Of course, the holiday season represents the bulk of sales for many retail stores, sometimes accounting for as much as 70% of their annual sales!  A successful holiday season is a matter of economic survival for many stores.

All of this leads to another Christmas tradition – gift giving. The television show The Big Bang Theory had an excellent skit on the exchange of gifts, where Sheldon feels pressure because Penny got him a Christmas present. Here’s some of their exchange.

  • Sheldon: You bought me a present?
  • Penny: Yes.
  • Sheldon: Why would you do such a thing?
  • Penny: I don’t know, because it’s Christmas.
  • Sheldon: No Penny, I know you’re thinking you’re being generous but the foundation of gift giving is reciprocity. You haven’t given me a gift, you’ve given me an obligation.
  • Penny: Honey, it’s okay, you don’t have to give me anything in return.
  • Sheldon: Of course I do. The essence of the custom is that I now have to out and purchase for you a gift of commensurate value and representing the same perceived level of friendship as the gift you’ve given me. Gosh, no wonder suicide rates skyrocket this time of year.

It’s a very funny scene so if you’d like to watch the clip click here. The skit does hit the rule of reciprocity fairly well. This principle of influence tells us people feel obligated to give back to those who have first given to us. We also feel we should respond in kind so Sheldon was responding to a lifetime of conditioning when he felt like he had to match Penny’s gift.

We also see reciprocity at work in another of the Christmas traditions – exchanging holiday cards. Have you ever gotten a Christmas card in the mail from someone not on your list? How did you feel? I bet the majority of you reading this would respond in one of two ways:

  1. Get a card in the mail to the other person right away, or
  2. Add the person to your mailing list for next year.

Why do we respond this way? Because we’d feel socially awkward around the other person if we didn’t get them a card or gift and they took note of that.

We are so conditioned by reciprocity that we even respond when we don’t really want to. Here are some examples:

  • You’re at the mall and someone shoves something in your face and begins asking you questions. You respond – even though you’re rather they not do that – saying, “No thanks” when in reality you’re not thankful.
  • You get mailing labels in the mail and you respond to these “gifts” by sending the charitable organization money.
  • You’re out for drinks with friends and have had enough and are ready to go home but you stick around to buy one more round of drinks because you don’t want to be seen as having several drinks and not paying for a round yourself.

But there’s good news in all this. Sheldon wasn’t 100% accurate in the skit. He said suicide rates skyrocket this time of year and that’s not true. According the NYU Lagone Medical Center, “The media often links suicides during this time of year to the ‘holiday blues.’ However, various studies have shown no relationship between depression and suicide, and the holiday season. In fact, researchers found that depression rates and suicides actually drop during the winter months and peak in the spring.”

So, while it may be the season to reciprocate, don’t buy gifts and send cards this time of year under penalty of death. However, beware, you might feel awkward around some people if you break the rule of reciprocity but that feeling will pass eventually.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLE. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed more than 100,000 times! Have you seen it yet? Watch it to learn how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

Principles vs. Techniques, Laws and Other Burdensome Rules

When I lead The Principles of Persuasion Workshop for salespeople I tell attendees that a sales technique is good unless you find yourself in a situation where the technique doesn’t apply. If all you know is a technique or pithy response but not the why behind it you’ll probably find yourself a loss. However, understanding principles let you know why those sale techniques work which opens up many more options and gives you quite a bit of freedom. I was reminded of this thought as I read the blog post “Burn Your Rule Book and Unlock the Power of Principles” by Eric J. McNulty. He wrote:

“Principles, unlike rules, give people something unshakable to hold onto yet also the freedom to take independent decisions and actions to move toward a shared objective. Principles are directional, whereas rules are directive. A simple example of a rule: ‘All merchandise returns must be made within 30 days.’ Contrast this with Nordstrom’s principle-based approach: ‘Use your best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.’ The former shows no trust in either the sales associate or the customer. The latter is exactly the opposite and encourages the frontline worker to build a relationship with the customer.”

What does “the return must be within 30 days” rule signal? It could be that the company doesn’t trust its customers. They feel they will be taken advantage of so they have to limit the chance of that happening. A fundamental distrust of people might say more about the organization than the customers.

The rule could also signal that the company don’t trust their employees to make good decisions. Perhaps they need to do a better job hiring the right people and then training them on how to make good decisions that benefit the customer and the company.

As I considered principles and rules I thought about how Jane and I raise our daughter Abigail. We’ve always spent a lot of time talking with Abigail from the time she was very little. We didn’t want to just teach her right and wrong, good and bad. Rather, we wanted her to understand why we believed some things were good and some bad, and what made something right or wrong. Granted, these concepts are very subjective but we all possess subjective values and we pass our values along because we believe they’re good to live by.

My verification that we were on the right track came as Abigail approached her 16th birthday. My mom told me she was having a conversation with Abigail about getting her license and her curfew. Abigail told my mom that she didn’t have a curfew to which my mom responded, “Oh you better believe you do.” Abigail told her again that she didn’t have a curfew and again, my mom insisted she did, along with other rules. Then Abigail said, “No grandma, I really don’t have any rules but I wouldn’t do anything to break my parents trust.” Wow! That’s exactly what Jane and I would have hoped for. She wasn’t focused on the minutia of following rules but simply wanted to maintain a good relationship with us.

We’re not as involved in church as we used to be and I know church gets a bad rap quite often for reasons too numerous to list here. Church can seem like a rule based life to define good and bad but that’s not how I see it. When it comes to living right I believe this passage from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians, “For the whole law is fulfilled on one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” That’s pretty simple just like not breaking parent’s trust and just like using your best judgement. If something goes wrong following these simple principles then you have a coaching opportunity with your child or employee.

I encourage you to give thought to this idea this week. If you’re a parent, manager or run a company are you loading people down with rules or helping them understand why you want them to do what you’ve asked them to do?  George Patton once said, “If you tell people where to go, but not how to get there, you’ll be amazed at the result.” Tell your kids and employees where you want them to go, give a few guiding principles and they might just surprise you.

Humology is the Intersection of Humanity and Technology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love the One You’re With

Last week I mentioned I would be writing a series of posts on how you can use the principles of persuasion to influence your own behavior for positive changes.

Crosby, Stills and Nash have a famous song from the early ‘70s called “Love the One You’re With.” There’s a lot of wisdom in that little title and while we might not be able to “love” everyone, we can at least come to like people more than we do today.

In the psychology of influence, we talk about the principle of liking. When we like someone it’s easier to say, “Yes” to him or her. Or to look at it the opposite way, it’s harder to say “No” to people we like.

There are many things we can do to get people to like us. Two simple things are similarities and compliments.

When we learn we have something in common with someone it’s easy for them to connect with us and like us. Have you ever experienced a situation where you learned you had something in common with another person (hobby, hometown, college, pet, etc.) and the conversation just naturally flowed? Sure you have. We all have. You could probably tell that person liked you and responded differently to you than a stranger might.

When it comes to compliments, it’s easy to see the impact they have on others. When you give genuine praise the other person not only appreciates it, they feel better. Feelings are the result of chemical reactions in our bodies as different hormones are activated. When you routinely look for the best in others and let them know about your positive thoughts, they like you more because they like how you make them feel.

So how do you use this with yourself? The principle of liking isn’t just about getting someone to like you so they’ll do what you want them to do. The bigger implication is that you will come to like them! That’s right; as you connect through similarities and offer up genuine compliments you’ll convince yourself that you like them. This is the game changer in relationships because when you like someone you tend to:

  • Want the best for them
  • Offer up your best efforts
  • Care for them
  • Trust them

The list of positives could go on and on but you get the point. When you like someone they sense it and respond accordingly. The whole dynamic changes.

So here’s what I want you to do. Don’t approach new people thinking, “How can I get them to like me?” Instead start focusing on, “How can I come to like that person?” Look for ways to connect on similarities and offer genuine praise in order to persuade yourself. It’s often said the only person we can control or change is ourselves so do whatever you have to so you can come to like other people. I think you’ll find it easier, less frustrating and much more beneficial in the long run.