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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 viewed 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.

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.

Speak Metaphorically to Influence Literally

Speaking metaphorically can help you influence people, literally. This post was inspired by the Ted Talk Metaphorically Speaking from James Geary.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary a metaphor isa figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them.”

He is my personal example of a metaphor. Several weeks ago, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was called before Congress because of the impact Facebook, fake news, and user data may have played into the 2016 presidential election. As our elected officials tried to grill Zuckerberg it was apparent they had little to no knowledge of how Facebook and other social media outlets operate. In response to this fiasco I post the following on a few social media sites:

“Imagine horse owners in 1910 grilling Henry Ford about car accidents and you have a picture of what happened the other day.”

People understood exactly what I meant right away. What would the impact on the newly formed auto industry have been if congressmen who rode horses ignorantly questioned Henry Ford about the dangers of automobiles? We might still be using the horse and buggy to get to work or at least set technology back many years if not decades!

For the most part people think in pictures, not words. When I mention an elephant it’s highly unlikely you’ll think “E-L-E-P-H-A-N-T.” Instead you probably have an image in mind. For some people it’s a big African elephant with huge tusks. Others might envision the smaller Asian elephant used in some Indian Jones movies. And other people pictured a cute baby elephant like the one in the movie Dumbo. No matter how people think of an elephant, we all use pictures in our mind’s eye and would likely agree on what an elephant is, despite minor differences.

Metaphors can take a complex subject and immediately make it understandable for most people. I’d guess if you didn’t see any of the Zuckerberg – Congress interaction you got a pretty good idea of what happened based on my 22-word description.

When Steve Jobs wanted people to grasp what a computer could do for them he said the computer was like “a bicycle for the mind.” Bicycles are easy to use and make us much more efficient in getting from one place to another. Most people, upon hearing Jobs, probably thought, “Yea, I get it.”

Much of persuasion is about taking the complex, simplifying it then communicating with people in a way that gets them to say “Yes” and take action. Next time you need to share something complex, don’t talk in technical terms, think about the proper metaphor to share and you’ll increase your odds of success. In other words, speak metaphorically to influence literally.

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.

Don’t Stop Believin’ You can Influence People

Don’t Stop Believin’ by the 80s rock band Journey is one of the best-known songs of all time. It’s not that the song is musically distinct, it’s because the lyrics are easy to remember and it’s encouraging when everything seems to be going against you. Misuse “don’t” and you might hinder your ability to influence people.

“Don’t” is an interesting word. I think about amateur golfers who come up to a hole with water.  When I ask them what they think about as they get ready to play the hole it’s almost always, “Don’t go in the water.” And where do they end up all too often? In the water! Why would that happen when they’re so focused on not ending up in there? Let’s take a quick look at your brain to answer the question.

Your brain is like the engine of your car. The engine is what makes your car go. I bet you know how to drive but probably have very little knowledge about how the engine actually works. The same could be said of your brain. It’s your engine, driving your behavior, but if you’re like most people you probably don’t understand much about how your brain functions even though you use it every day.

Here’s some insight – your brain does not focus on the “don’t” but it does focus on the object that follows. There was a classic episode in the television show Frasier that perfectly illustrated this. Frasier and his younger brother Niles were intellectuals and both grew up to become psychiatrists. As nerdy kids all they did was study so they never learned to ride bikes. As adults they decided it was time to figure out how to pedal a two-wheeler for fun and exercise. Frasier was afraid of running certain objects so he’d make sure to keep an eye on them so he could steer clear. What do you think happened? He’d run into whatever he kept his eye on every time! He was like a moth drawn to a flame.

I experienced this phenomenon firsthand when I began running many years ago. If I saw a rock in the road I’d keep my eye on it so I wouldn’t step on it. You know where this is going – I stepped on a lot of rocks until I realized what was happening!

I share this because when you’re trying to change someone’s behavior, trying to influence people, quite often you want them to stop doing something. Whatever captures our attention commands our focus so when you tell someone “Don’t…” all too often they forget the “don’t” and end up focusing on the thing you wanted them to stop! For example, if I tell you, “Don’t think of an elephant,” I’m sure you briefly thought of an elephant.

The better strategy is to redirect a person’s focus to something you want them to do. The golfer who sees water on the right side of the fairway should make it their focus to hit the ball to the left. It’s not a guarantee they won’t end up in the water but it’s a sure bet they’ll end up in the drink a lot less.

One area we really miss the mark when it comes to this psychology is texting and driving. Accidents due to texting and driving has become an epidemic. In addition to damaged vehicles, injuries and deaths, it has a big impact on the insurance rates you pay, even if you’re a good driver. Driverless cars will help alleviate this problem but having roads full of driverless cars may be decades away. We cannot afford to wait that long because too many lives will be lost in the meantime. When we say, “Don’t text and drive” we’re setting up too many people to focus on “text and drive.” We need to direct people’s attention to what we need them to do – pay attention to the road so everyone is safe.

Here are some examples of rephrasing:

  • Instead of telling your teenager, “Don’t stay out past midnight,” tell him or her, “Be home by 11:45.”
  • When talking to an employee avoid, “Don’t be late with the report,” and instead say, “Make sure you get me the report by Wednesday.”
  • If it’s operating a car replace, “Don’t text and drive,” with “Always keep your eyes on the road.”

Having shared all this I should point out there might be times when you use “don’t” before an object because you want the other person focused on the object. That’s what Journey did with Don’t Stop Believin’. “Don’t stop” is a double negative so the words cancel each other out leaving you to focus on believin’ which is exactly what you want. In my industry we won’t stop believin’ that we can influence people to change driver behavior in order to save lives and heartache.

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.