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Get Your “Behavioral Grooves” on with this Podcast Interview

I was recently a guest on the Behavioral Grooves podcast when behavioral economists Kurt Nelson, PhD and Tim Houlihaninterviewed me about the principles of persuasion and pre-suasion. What a couple of fun guys! It was so enjoyable to speak with them that I decided to share their show notes in this week’s blog post. In addition to reading the post I hope you’ll take time to actually listen because it was an informative, fun conversation. If you want to listen right now click here.

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Brian Ahearn is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence People, LLC, and one of only 20 Cialdini Method Certified Trainers in the world. Brian’s experience with Robert Cialdini’s methods places him among the most experienced practitioners alive. It was a pleasure to speak with Brian and to gain some insight on applying the methods of ethical influence that Cialdini pioneered in his book, Influence with clients in the real world.

We hosted Brian in the Behavioral Grooves studio for our wide-ranging and in-depth conversation. It was a treat because we typically have our discussions via the web on Zoom or SquadCast, but Brian was able to meet us at the dining room table and it was terrific. As a result of being in the same room and sitting around the same table, our discussion on priming, influence and ethics was particularly personal and dynamic.

Brian began our conversation by outlining the six principles of influence: liking, reciprocity, authority, social proof or consensus, consistency, and scarcity, all of which were identified by Robert Cialdini in his first book.  We wandered into a great story about Cialdini’s very humble personality, that Brian conveyed by way of a dinner meeting with the professor. (Note: Kurt and Tim experienced Cialdini’s humility directly when we met up with the good professor in New York City, recently. Bob, as he urged us to call him, was as curious as a college freshman and solicited our thoughts on every topic we spoke about. Truly an inspiring and amazing guy.)

Brian shared his thoughts about Tom Hopkins work on “How to Master the Art of Selling” and the impact that the spoken word has on our beliefs. The ‘what I say becomes what I believe’ was an important reminder that words matter. And in Brian’s case, words are just about everything when it comes to the world of ethical influence. This became clear when he spoke about how he trains insurance salespeople to use primes with their customers when pitching technology. The technology actually helps keep the drivers safer and provides more reliable data to the insurance agencies. Brian trains the agents to say, “…this technology works really well for good drivers like you.” We’re all for being safer on the road.

Of course, we spent a fair amount of our conversation on the subtlety and power of primes. Fortunately, Brian took our musical bait and spoke to how he uses musical playlists to create and deliver his own personal primes. We were happy to hear that he’s created playlists that focus on titles or themes with the words ‘moment’ or ‘time’ in them. And it’s evidence that he takes his own medicine when it comes to the advice he shares with his clients. He’s using music to prime himself and others before meetings! We are always impressed with people, like many of our other guests, who apply these principles to their own lives.

The priming discussion included a great story about how he used reciprocity to engage his daughter in doing some extra chores around the house. Rather than making his request quid pro quo, Brian decided to preempt the request with a raise to her allowance. After the new, upgraded allowance was in place, Brian’s request was met with immediate support. Kurt and Tim have recollections of childhood chores compressed with bad feelings – and they linger long into adulthood. As children, we never experienced enthusiasm over chores or things we were asked to do, in part because of the ways those requests were made.

Brian concluded our conversation with three tips about the most impactful tools from the principles of persuasion. They are:

  1. Liking. The focus with liking needs to be on ME figuring out how to like YOU, not the other way around. The search for commonalities and the need to deliver compliments are on ME, not you.
  2. Authority. While authority has many meanings, a core part of this principle is in being an authority on what you do. Be willing to share advice. Be a giver. Be an authority, don’t just walk through your job with your eyes half closed.
  3. Consistency. The biggest part of consistency is, of course, being consistent in your words and deeds. However, beneath the headline is the very powerful subtext of asking, not telling. Be strategic. Be inquisitive. And live up to the words you speak.

Our discussion with Brian gave us the opportunity to talk about both Coldplay and Frank Sinatra. With a playlist that wildly varied from a guy from Ohio, what is there not to like? And since Brian is from Ohio, the home of the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, we decided to do a little grooving on it. So, Kurt and Tim discussed Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame inductees and who, in our humble opinion, deserves to be nominated. Todd Rundgren was discussed as one of our nominees we’d like to see in the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame in 2019. (We also discussed Queen, but Queen was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001, ten years after Freddie Mercury died.) The impact that music has on our lives is nearly immeasurable and we’re grateful to have the opportunity to listen to it, enjoy it, and chat about it.

Tee up a lively tune before you listen to this episode! We hope you enjoy our conversation with Brian Ahearn.

Subscribe at www.behavioralgrooves.com or learn more about Behavioral Grooves podcast and meetup.

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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.

Missed Learning Opportunities

Last week I had the privilege of attending the 2018 Learning Conference put on by Elliott Masie in Orlando, Florida. It was actually my third time attending and second as a breakout session presenter. If you’re in the learning field I encourage you to attend! The conference typically hosts 1700-1800 people from around the world, offers hundreds of breakout sessions and features keynote presenters like John Lithgow, Leslie Odom, Jr., Dan Pink, Anderson Cooper, Laura Bush and Michell Obama.

The lens I view much of life through is the psychology of persuasion – how can we ethically move people to action. I view learning through that same lens because learning is about more than sharing information. Learning is about getting people to take in new information then act on it.

This is where persuasion comes in. The conference presenters were bright people who’ve done well in their careers and work for reputable companies. Unfortunately, many missed opportunities to use persuasion and pre-suasion to make for better learning experiences. I’ll share a few examples.

Pre-suasion Engages Audiences

In a storytelling session the presenter asked for a volunteer to share with the larger group. There were no takers so she asked, “Don’t we have any brave souls?” Eventually a hand went up. If she had understood a little about pre-suasion, how to arrange for an audience to be receptive to a message before delivering it, she would have approached the situation differently.

A better approach would have been to ask if there were any brave or adventurous people in the audience. That non-threatening question undoubtedly would have seen many hands go high into the air. Then it would have been easy to get a volunteer simply by asking, “Would one of you brave or adventurous souls be willing to share…” Once people had self-identified as brave or adventurous it would have been easy to tap into the principle of persuasion known as consistency to get volunteers.

It’s Common Sense

After one session on behavioral economics someone seated at a table with me and a handful of others remarked, “This is really just common sense.” I’ve heard that too many times to let it go so I chimed in that while it may appear to be common sense most people fail to use that common sense.

The example I shared with the small group was how people instinctively know more people will take action to avoid a loss versus gaining something. Despite that understanding people still go back to what they’ve always done – point out all the positives when trying to get someone to buy their product or service – rather than highlighting what someone may lose by not acting.

Application, Application, Application

In real estate there’s a saying that selling a property is all about location, location, location. In learning we could say it’s all about application, application, application. You cannot assume your learners will make the connection about what’s being taught and how it applies to them or their business.

Having taught influence for more than a decade the #1 piece of feedback I get is to give more examples. Learners never seem to get enough. Help them connect the dots and they’re far more likely to put into practice what they’ve just learned.

Your Next Learning Event

As you plan your next learning event give thought to these three things:

  1. What you will ask people to do? Once you know this ask yourself what frame of mind you want people in. Then do whatever is necessary to put as many people in that frame of mind as possible. This may be through written text, questions, visuals or some other method.
  2. To help avoid, “I already know this” or “This is just common sense,” address it up front with a good example or two. This might be what’s needed to change people’s thinking and have them focused on your message.
  3. Finally, for every major point you share give clear, concise application. Whatever you share might be interesting but the rubber meets the road when people understand how to use it in ways that will help them professionally and/or personally.

Do these three things and your audience will be in the right frame of mind to learn and take that learning home with them in ways that will make a difference.

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.

Human Resources Respond to Human Psychology

If you’re a human resources professional you know you have a tough job, one that comes with huge responsibilities. Your decisions impact entire departments, divisions and often the whole organization. Those decisions include setting corporate policy for paid time off, merit increases, education reimbursement, retirement savings and the biggie today – health insurance.

The larger the company the easier it is to forget the individuals who make up the departments, divisions and organization. Never lose sight of this reality; a company is no more than the people who choose to work there. It can be extremely dangerous to focus so much on the big picture that individuals become an after thought. You won’t get emails or phone calls from a department or division but you’ll get LOTS of communication from individuals when decisions come down that are perceived to negatively impact them.

In the highly competitive business environment we’re currently in it’s often necessary to make decisions to reduce costs to keep the organization competitive. What’s an HR professional to do when caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place? This is where human psychology comes into play because human resources respond to human psychology. Sometimes it’s not what you say but how you say it that can make all the difference.

For more than seven decades social psychologists, and more recently behavioral economists, have been studying the decision-making process (science of influence and psychology of persuasion) and they’ve gleaned many insights that can help when it comes to communicating HR decisions.

In psychology there’s something known as the contrast phenomenon which describes the reality that you can change how anyone experiences something by what you present first. Perhaps you’re announcing merit increases will be limited to 3% in the upcoming year. If the national average is only 2% then you’ll want to mention that first because 3% will seem to be a good bit larger by comparison. Here’s how you might approach a conversation with an individual:

Bob, you may not be aware but according to Towers-Watson the industry average for merit increases this year is only 2%. However, because we’re doing well we’re giving 3% across the board. I’m sure you wish it were more but here’s the reality; that’s 50% better than most people are getting in this industry. If we keep doing well thanks to contributions from people like you that additional increase adds up to quite a bit over time and it’s what allows us to attract and retain top talent like you.

Another application of contrast might come up with regard to health care. According to the Kaiser Foundationout of pocket health care costs for employees have risen eight times faster than wages! Citing an organization like Kaiser taps into the principle of authority because people believe information more when it comes from perceived experts. As an HR professional you’ll blow a persuasive opportunity if you don’t weave that into your presentation to employees.  Here’s how you might communicate this change:

You’re all aware that the cost of health care is skyrocketing. In most cases what you pay out of pocket has gone up eight times faster than your wages according to the Kaiser Foundation. We find that unacceptable. While we cannot afford to increase your wages at the same pace that health care costs are rising what we’ve done this year is go with a plan that caps your individual and family deductibles at amounts that are less than half the national average.

Another bit of psychology to remember is scarcity. People are more averse to loss than they are to gaining the same thing. In other words, losing $100 hurts more than the joy of winning or finding $100. Let’s continue on with the previous example:

We could have gone with a higher health care deductible this year and paid you a little more because we saved some money. However, the savings would have barely been noticeable in your bi-weekly pay and the reality is you probably would not set aside that small amount in case you needed it for your deductible. According to our health care provider, by going with the lower deductible many of you will avoid paying thousands more on health care bills this year.

The move from traditional vacation/personal/sick time to paid time off (PTO) which allows employees to use their time off any way they see fit can be tricky. Once PTO is in place, as new employees come to the organization they know what they’re signing up for so it’s not a big deal. However, introducing PTO to an organization can be challenging because of the perception of loss. Let’s say you had three weeks of vacation and five sick days available for a total of potentially 20 days off. The move to PTO might give you 18 days but you can use them however you want. Most employees don’t use all of their sick days and some don’t use all of their vacation days which means the typical worker might have 1-5 more days to use however they’d like under a PTO approach. Here’s how you might share this announcement:

To align ourselves with our competition we’re moving from the traditional time off model to PTO. The reason most competitors are going to PTO is because of the flexibility it gives employees. It’s not escaped our notice that some of you may perceive you’re losing time off. Recognizing that we’ve looked at our stats and less than 8% of you used all of your vacation days, personal days and sick time over the last three years. However, 80% of you used fewer than two days of sick time during that period. What that tells us is the vast majority of you will have more days at your disposal to use however you see fit. Many of you will take extra vacation days and that’s okay because that’s what PTO is for.

Will you still have some disgruntle employees? Sure, and you always will no matter what you say or do. After all, some people are only “happy” when they’re unhappy and others will always look at the downside rather than the potential upside. However, by framing your conversations using your understanding of social psychology and behavioral economics you’ll win over more people in the long run which means dealing with fewer calls and email from employees who don’t like change.

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?  To see what you’ve been missing click here.

It’s The Economy, Stupid

A theme for Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign was, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Have you ever paused to consider what skills you need the most in daily life? Which will get you ahead at work? Which ones you use more than others? This post is intended to open your eyes to one that’s used every day but seldom studied and practiced even less. No, I’m not talking about listening skills, although that would be a good guess. I’m talking about the ability to persuade; to move people to action, to change hearts and minds, to ultimately hear “Yes!” I would argue it’s a persuasion economy but I won’t call you stupid to make my point.

Every day, all day long, you engage with others and quite often you’re hoping to persuade them in some way. Aristotle said persuasion was the art of getting someone to do something they would not normally do if you didn’t ask. Getting people to do what you want can be challenging because it involves behavior change. On top of that, they can’t read your mind, don’t know what you want and, oh by the way, they have their own priorities.

But learning how to ethically persuade people is worth the time and effort, especially if you want to have more professional success and personal happiness.

Deirdre McCloskey, Professor of Economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago, researched persuasion’s impact on the U.S. economy in the 1990s. In Knowledge and Persuasion in Economics she built the case that this one skill is responsible for 25% of our national income. More than 20 years since her book came out, with the proliferation of the internet and all the changes that came along with it, some estimate that figure at closer to 30% now.

If that’s not enough to convince you, consider what Daniel Pink, author of To Sell is Human, has to say. In his book he cites a survey of more than 7,000 businesspeople in non-sales roles. He wrote, “People are now spending about 40 percent of their time at work engaged in non-sales selling – persuading, influencing, and convincing others in ways that don’t involve anyone making a purchase.” If you’re reading this and happen to be in sales I’d venture to guess that percentage is probably greater than 70% for you. What this means is the typical worker spends anywhere from three to six hours a day using persuasion skills.

As society places less emphasis on manual labor and more on knowledge and idea generation it’s no wonder Carmine Gallo, author of Five Stars: The Communication Secrets to Get from Good to Great, says, “Mastering the ancient art of persuasion—combining words and ideas to move people to action—is no longer a ‘soft’ skill. It is the fundamental skill to get from good to great in the age of ideas.”

Listening is a skill and, hearing impaired aside, we all come with the same equipment. However, I’m sure you know people who are very good listeners and others who are very bad. Persuasion is similar in that it’s something we all do starting at birth (babies cry to be fed, burped, held, changed, etc.) but while some people become very good at it, others are very bad. If you take the time to study persuasion then thoughtfully consider how to ethically put your knowledge to use you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much easier it will be to hear “Yes!”, change hearts and minds, and to move people to action.

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

A Huge Life Change is Upon Me!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why is it so hard to…

Have you ever wondered why it’s so hard to…do certain things and not do others? It’s a good bet that a lot has to do with psychology and conditioning. Your rational brain might be telling you one thing but something deep inside is prompting you in another direction. For example, why is it so hard to…

…say no to a friend? Imagine for a moment a stranger asks you for your last $10. I’m sure it would be very easy to say no but if a friend asked it would be much tougher to resist their request. That’s because the principle of liking is at work on you. It’s often the case that your willingness, or unwillingness, to do something has more to do with who is asking than what’s being asked. One word of advice; be wary of the person you come to like too quickly, especially if they ask for something shortly after meeting you.

…not say thanks to unwanted actions? Many years ago, my daughter and I were walking through the mall. Shortly after entering we were accosted by someone from a kiosk asking if we wanted to try Dead Sea Salt facial cream. I simply said, “No,” and immediately felt Abigail elbow me as she said, “Dad, it’s ‘no thank you.’” I asked her why I should say thank him when I didn’t appreciate being interrupted and wasn’t thankful for what he was offering? She advised me it’s considered polite to say, “No, thank you.” That social norm comes about because the principle of reciprocity conditions us to give back to those who first give. Even when someone’s actions are unwanted reciprocity typically prompts a conditioned response from us.

…go against the crowd? We all felt peer pressure growing up. Parents worry about kids caving to the pressure of underage drinking, sex, drugs and other behaviors that could be harmful. The pressure to conform never goes away but as we move past the teenage years we call this phenomenon the principle of consensus or social proof. All you have to do is observe an office setting to see how people look around then naturally begin to conform to what they observe. Whether it’s a new initiative at work, dress code, or some cultural norm, people find it hard to go against the crowd because standing out might reflect negatively on them as Robert Cialdini explains in this video from Big Think.

…dismiss expert advice? Your friend tells you to quit smoking and you pay little attention but your doctor tells you and resisting the advice becomes tougher. That’s because the principle of authority is working on your brain. In one study (Expert Advice Shuts Your Brain Down) brain imaging showed critical thinking almost comes to a halt when a perceived expert is giving advice! But, that same advice from someone with no credentials is easy to ignore.

…change your mind? The pressure to be consistent in what you say and do (principle of consistency) is HUGE. One reason that’s so because changing your mind might mean you have to admit you’ve been wrong. If you’ve held a particular view for a long time then it’s even tougher despite the reality that you’re always learning, growing and evolving in your views. One could make the case that changing one’s mind shows openness, flexibility and perhaps enlightenment but that nagging feeling of having been wrong is very difficult to overcome.

…resist some sales pitches? Buyer’s remorse is all too common. This happens when shortly after a purchase people regret their decision and wonder why they bought what they did. The pressure exerted from the principle of scarcity – fear or losing – is often the driver. There’s a fear that if you don’t buy that smart phone, new car, furniture, or something else, you might not get that good a deal again. Yet, in a moment of clear thinking you’d acknowledge sales are a dime a dozen. But here’s the problem – you’re not thinking clearly when you encounter scarcity. The following quote from the book Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much explains why – “Scarcity captures the mind. Just as the starving subjects had food on their mind, when we experience scarcity of any kind, we become absorbed by it. The mind orients automatically, powerfully, toward unfulfilled needs.”

For the most part our psychology and conditioning is good because both are meant to help you survive and thrive in a constantly changing environment. But, your subconscious can’t tell when the situation is life or death so it responds just as it did tens of thousands of years ago and that’s why it is so hard to…do many things.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC and Learning Director for State Auto Insurance. His Lynda.com/LinkedIn Learning course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed nearly 145,000 times! Have you seen it yet? Watch it and you’ll learn how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

What We Believe Affects How We See Reality

Over the past month one of the best coaches in college football, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, has been in the news regarding allegations of what he knew and didn’t know about domestic abuse from one of his former coaches. Although I’m a big Ohio State fan I’ve not followed the story so closely as to have a strong opinion about the punishment that was recently handed down. However, what has jumped out at me in the social media and regular media spaces is how confirmation bias is driving the discussion.

If the incidents in question had occurred with Alabama’s Nick Saban or Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh I’m sure Buckeye fans would have been crying, “Crucify them!!!” Their ability to find fault would have come quickly and easily. But all this has happened to their coach so they dissected the situation and defended Urban in an almost lawyer-like fashion.

Again, I have no strong opinion on the whole subject because I’ve not read all the new stories. For all I know Urban may have been overzealously pursued because of his name, his position and/or the sensitivity of this subject in light of the #metoo movement. My point here is this; no Buckeye fan would have gone to a fraction of the lengths to make such a defense if the accused had been Jim Harbaugh or Nick Saban. Why? Confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias is the human tendency to look for information to support, or confirm, existing beliefs. People don’t have to work at this because it occurs naturally. Over the course of human existence this bias probably helped us survive as a species. For example, if there was a rustling in the woods it was probably safer to assume it was a threat and run rather that thinking it might be friendly and sticking around to check it out.

On a personal level, when was the last time someone you knew, looked up to, or loved was accused of something? How did you react? I’m willing to bet whatever the case you started looking for information to confirm your existing beliefs about the person in question. Rare is the individual who says, “I’m going to go against my existing belief to see if I can prove to myself he or she did it.”

On the flip side, Alabama and Michigan fans, indeed perhaps all non-OSU fans, likely started off with this mindset, “Guilty until proven innocent!” The confirmation bias of those fans is working in exactly the opposite direction as Buckeye fans. I have a hard time imagining any of those fans looking for ways to exonerate the coach of a rival.

Unlike the days of our ancestors, what we believe is seldom a matter of survival. That means we’re afforded the luxury of time to try our best to set aside our biases and look to make a more rational, thoughtful decision. While life and death may not be at stake, there’s still potentially great harm to ourselves and others when we simply cave to default thinking on serious issues.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC and Learning Director for State Auto Insurance. His Lynda.com/LinkedIn Learning course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed nearly 150,000 times! Watch it and you’ll learn how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

Influence is all about PEOPLE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Call it Implicit Egotism or I Like Me

Call it implicit egotism or I like me, most of us like things that are like us. According to Wikipedia, implicit egotism is “is the hypothesis that humans have an unconscious preference for things they associate with themselves.” I was reminded of this recently as I listened to the NPR podcast The Hidden Brain. The episode from October 2017 that got me thinking about this again was called What’s In It For Me?

When I first learned about implicit egotism many years ago I started collecting all the “coincidences” that come with people’s names and their effect on choice of career or partner. Below is my growing list. I think you’ll find some are quite humorous.

Let’s start with the proctologist named Dr. Ransbottom. If your bottom is sore he’d be the right guy to see.

When a good friend’s daughter was on the swim team I learned her coach was Jim Peterfish. Who’d have guessed someone with fish in their name would be into swimming?

The person who sold us our marble countertops years ago was named Dan Mason. Only someone named Stone could have done better.

My friend Michael Franzese has two favorite artists; Michael Angelo and Frank Frazetta. Michael and Michael may not be too uncommon but you can’t get much closer to Franzese than Frazetta!

On a news program I found out Dr. Lawrence Bone is an orthopedic surgeon in Buffalo, NY. You might say he’s the person to see for a good break.

James Float was an Olympic gold medalist in the 4×200 freestyle swimming event at the 1984 Olympics. Apparently, he does more than just float when he’s in the pool.

I don’t know Nicci Sprouse personally but found it quite interesting that she was President and co-founder of The Dating League. In other words, Sprouse helped people find a spouse.

I met Horace Henriot at a networking event. I thought it quite coincidental that he was a polo teacher. Why? Because Horace works with horses.

Robert Cialdini goes by Bob with friends. Is it totally random that he’s married to Bobette? Maybe, but then again, maybe not.

Richard D. Fairbank was the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Capital One Financial Corporation. I wonder if anyone knew early on that Fairbank would start something so similar to a bank when he grew up.

Former Alaskan Air CEO was Bill Ayers. Come on now! I guess his head was in the clouds from a young age.

Ronald Reagan’s press secretary at one time was Larry Speakes. If you want someone to speak on your behalf you might as well get someone who truly lives it.

Marcus Webb was the director of The Amazing Spiderman. Perhaps Spiderman isn’t the only person who can spin a web.

Steve Ruble is an accounting manager for the company I work for. In case you don’t know it, the ruble is a form of Russian currency. Steve was destined to work with money.

And here’s the craziest one…as far as I’m concerned. My daughter is Abigail Ahearn. She’s dating Tyler Ahearn. What?!? Don’t worry, they were friends for years before they started dating and during that time checked ancestral records to see if there were related. Fortunately, there’s no relation as far back as they could go. If they were to get married their kids won’t have three eyes or 12 toes and best of all, my surname would continue on.

This is lighthearted but is there anything that can help you by knowing this? Yes, two things come to mind. First, when you’re drawn to someone or something and you notice a funny coincidence about names, pause and consider whether you really want the job or relationship or are you being drawn in because of implicit egotism.

My second bit of advice goes to you as a persuader. If you notice you have something that connects you and the other person or job, mention it. While implicit egotism usually happens at the subconscious level, making the connection for people will probably help and get a chuckle. Here are a few examples:

  • “Yes, my name is Bill and that’s why I think I would do well in billing and collections.”
  • “I guess you could say Sue is the perfect name for a prosecuting attorney.”
  • “With names like Patrick and Patricia it’s almost as if we were meant to be!”

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

We Know What to Do but Often Fail to Do It

Something I’ve consistently observed in people is this; quite often we know what to do but too often we fail to do it. Here are a few examples that come right to mind:

  • We know exercise is good for us and yet very few people do even minimal exercise.
  • We know how to eat healthy but still make lots of poor choices because of momentary temptation.
  • We know we should save for retirement but let immediate desires take precedence over our long-term financial goals.

When it comes to persuasion this is often the case too – people intuitively know what to do but don’t act on that knowledge. This important because it hurts your chances for professional success and personal happiness. When I speak to audiences they intuitively know the answers to many of the questions I pose when it comes to human behavior. However, my observation is that very few people act on what they know to be true in their gut. Let me give you examples for each of the principles of influence.

When it comes to reciprocity people know it’s good to be a giver. They know it makes them feel good, makes the other person feel good, and can lead to good outcomes like return favors. But when it comes to trying to change other’s behavior most people reflexively go back to a reward system that isn’t always so effective.

We all know it’s easier for people to say yes to us when they like us. That’s liking in action. However, too often people forego relationship building so they can “get down to business.” They let the busyness of the day get in the way of doing simple things that could help them get more accomplished and enjoy those they work with in the process.

We know there’s power in the crowd (consensus). After all, as the old saying goes, “Everyone can’t be wrong.” Well, the crowd can be wrong but usually going along with the crowd works to people’s advantage. If it didn’t we’d have stopped following the crowd long ago. Even though folks know this they don’t like to “pressure” someone by invoking the principle of consensus despite the fact that what they’re trying to get the other person to do would be in their best interest.

We know experts are believed more than the average person. Despite knowing this I’ve come across very few people who would think of sharing their bio with someone to get a third-party introduction. Even fewer are comfortable personally sharing their background for fear of coming across as a braggart. This is a big lost opportunity.

The principle of consistency can be easily invoked by asking someone to do something rather than telling them what to do. Although people know that they fall back on telling out of habit or a stubbornness. The stubbornness is revealed when a person says something like this, “As a parent (or boss) I shouldn’t have to ask!” Maybe you shouldn’t…unless you want be more effective at changing behavior.

Scarcity it perhaps missed the most. Intuitively crowds I speak to know people are more motivated by what they might lose as opposed to what they might gain. Although they know this they shy away from using legitimate scarcity because they don’t want to come across as negative or some kind of fear monger. If the studies are correct then they could be 2.0-2.5 time more effective if they would legitimately incorporate scarcity into their request.

Each instance where someone fails to act on what the psychology of persuasion has to say (something they quite often know in their gut) they hurt their chances for professional success and personal happiness. Don’t let that happen to you! Learn what the science has to teach you about how to effectively influence people then make the choice to act on it.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLEand Learning Director at State Auto Insurance. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed nearly 130,000 times! Have you seen it yet? Watch it and you’ll learn how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.