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What Do You Want Them to Remember?

A few weeks ago, I finished a book called Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance by Alex Hutchinson and Malcolm Gladwell. Having run many marathons in the past, and still running six or seven days a week, I’m always interested to learn tips that can help improve my performance. This post isn’t about improving running performance but if you remember what I share it will help you improve your persuasion performance.

As a persuader, one question you need to ask yourself when giving a presentation or sharing information is, “What do I want them to remember?” This jumped out at me as I read the following paragraph from Endure:

“Personally, my gut instinct is to hope that anti-doping authorities proactively ban the technique before it becomes widespread, simply because I’m uncomfortable with imagining my sixteen-year-old self, desperate for any athletic edge, playing around with scalp-mounted electrodes. But I fully understand that others might disagree with banning an apparently safe and noninvasive way of boosting performance.”

Did you catch the subtlety? Alex was a competitive runner for many years and clearly opens with his desire to ban electronic brain stimulation to enhance performance while acknowledging the other side of the debate.

A master persuader would have remembered that people generally forget what comes before “but” and focus on what comes after. Just think of this phrase and you’ll know what I mean, “Honey, I love you but…” You tend to forget the “I love you” and focus on what comes next which is never as nice as love.

If Alex really wanted to drive home his point he should have written the paragraph the following way:

“I fully understand that others might disagree with banning an apparently safe and noninvasive way of boosting performance but personally, my gut instinct is to hope that anti-doping authorities proactively ban the technique before it becomes widespread, simply because I’m uncomfortable with imagining my sixteen-year-old self, desperate for any athletic edge, playing around with scalp-mounted electrodes.”

This rearranged paragraph starts out acknowledging the other side of the argument but ends with the desire to ban the practice. Does it seem like I’m knit picking? Does the order of a few words really matter that much? Consider these two paragraphs:

  1. “The impact of your donation has never been greater than it is today, but we know how difficult it is for many people to give during these difficult economic times.”
  2. “We know how difficult it is for many people to give during these difficult economic times, but the impact of your donation has never been greater than it is today.”

Both paragraphs use exactly the same words. The first paragraph leaves you focused on the difficulty of giving whereas the second ends with you focusing on the importance of your donation. In this real-life comparison the second paragraph drew 36% more donations than the first paragraph!

Most people wouldn’t notice the difference in the order of words until it’s pointed out. However, that subtle difference still registers in the back of the mind because so much persuasion takes place at the subconscious level. This is a small, costless change that can lead to a big difference in your ability to successfully persuade.

The goal of Endure is much bigger than persuading or not persuading people to try brain stimulation as a performance enhancer. But words matter and, in this case, the author would have done well to carefully consider what he wanted people to remember. Indeed, you and I would do well to carefully think through what we want people to remember when we’re communicating. The use of transitional words like “but” and “however” can make a huge difference if the information you share is positioned correctly.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLE. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed more than 120,000 times! Have you seen it yet? Watch it to learn how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

Visuals, Stories and Analogies, Not Facts and Figures, Persuade

I recently attended a meeting where the presenter tried to prove a point using all kinds of statistics and charts over a 30-minute timeframe. Those of us who watched and listened were not the ultimate target audience but many in attendance would be expected to convey the message to the final audience. Unfortunately, the message is doomed for failure because when you’re trying to persuade people visuals, stories and analogies, not facts and figures, are your best bet to change thinking and behavior.

Facts and figures used correctly can make you more persuasive because they tap into the principle of authority. But, they should not be the primary way you attempt to persuade. Let me share an example from Chip and Dan Heath’s book Made to Stick to illustrate my point.

The Heath brothers shared a story about how unhealthy a medium sized buttered popcorn purchased at the movie theater was back in the 1990s. It contained 37 grams of saturated fat and people basically said, “So what?” Here’s an eye-opening stat; that’s almost twice as much as the USDA recommended daily allowance of 20 grams! And still, people thought, “So what?”

It wasn’t until the message was conveyed in a way that people could picture in their minds that change came about. What finally cause people to sit up and take notice? At a press conference the Center for Science in the Public Interest shared – with visuals – the following: “A medium sized ‘butter’ popcorn at a typical neighborhood movie theater contains more artery-clogging fat than a bacon-and-egg breakfast, a Big Mac and fries for lunch, and a steak dinner with all the trimmings – combined!” Use visuals, stories and analogies, not facts and figures, to persuade.

You don’t have to be a health nut to know that eating all three of those meals in a single day is not in your best interests. Now picture getting all that fat into your system over the course of a two-hour movie. All of a sudden people stopped buying popcorn which forced movie theaters to change how they made buttered popcorn.

Here’s one more example. This one comes from William Poundstone’s book Priceless. Many years ago, an elderly woman severely burned herself when she spilled a scolding hot cup of McDonald’s coffee on her lap. The burns led to an eight-day hospital stay for the 79-year-old woman. Eventually she won a $2.86 million-dollar settlement! As outrageous as that seems, McDonald’s blew it when they refused to settle for just $20,000. The lawyer for the elderly woman didn’t ask the jury for nearly $3 million in compensation. Instead, he only asked for one or two days of McDonald’s revenue from the sale of coffee. That didn’t sound like too much to ask the jury except revenue was $1.35 million per day! Use visuals, stories and analogies, not facts and figures, to persuade.

Here’s the take away – next time you attempt to change people’s thinking and behavior with facts and figures stop! Take time to think about how you might put those facts and figures into a picture, story or analogy that will resonate with your audience. Do so and you’ll be far more likely to hear “Yes!” as illustrated by the Heath brothers and William Poundstone.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLE. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed more than 120,000 times! Have you seen it yet? Watch it to learn how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

Cooperation is More than Just a Nice to Have

The late Rodney King famously asked, “Can we all get along?” His plea came after video footage of Los Angeles policeman beating him with night sticks surfaced and led to riots. Getting along, or perhaps cooperation, is more than just a nice to have, it strengthens groups and can help you enjoy more success in the moment and in the future.

Robert Cialdini, former Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University, coined the term “liking” for one of his seven principles of influence. The principle of liking tells you something you probably intuitively know – it’s easier for people to say “Yes” to you when they know and like you. The challenge as a persuader is to connect quickly with someone so they begin to like you. Once you’ve done that persuasion becomes much, much easier.

A great way to engage the principle of liking is through cooperation. Studies show when people cooperate and have success, they will like each other more. Perhaps you can relate to this example. You’re put on a project with a small team which includes one person – Kim – who you don’t know. You wouldn’t say you don’t like Kim but you also can’t say you like her either because you don’t know anything about her. As you work on the project you see Kim making significant contributions that lead to a successful conclusion. It’s very likely over that time you’ve come to like her first and foremost because of the cooperate effort you both put forth. It’s also a good bet Kim like you for the same reasons.

On the other hand, there may have been a time at work where someone – Pat – didn’t pull his weight and that was part of the reason for the failure of the project. Odds are, between the lack of cooperation and lack of success you probably don’t like Pat too much and Pat may not like you much either.
According to Will Durant and Ariel Durant, coauthors of The Lessons of History, “Cooperation is real, and increases with social development, but mostly because it is a tool and form of competition; we cooperate in our group—our family, community, club, church, party, “race,” or nation—in order to strengthen our group in its competition with other groups.”

It’s natural to like people who are like you (friends, family, community, etc.) and cooperate with those groups. When you cooperate with people outside a defined group you begin to create a new group. You see this when building sports teams. Cooperative efforts that lead to wins help teammates overcome lots of differences.

Another example comes from the movie The Dirty Dozen. A synopsis of the movie reads like this: “As D-Day approaches, Colonel Breed hands the roguish Major Reisman an important assignment: He must train a team of soldiers to parachute across enemy lines and assassinate German personnel at a French chateau. The soldiers, recruited from murderers, rapists and criminals on death row, are promised commuted sentences. In spite of their history, the 12 men prove a spirited and courageous unit. Led by Major Reisman, they will exact revenge.”

While The Dirty Dozen is only a movie it borrows from real life in that this ragtag bunch of misfits and criminals came together and achieved success that would have been impossible otherwise. That’s art imitating life!

Invoke the principle of liking by looking for ways to cooperate with others. You can do this personally or, if you happen to be a manager, use to build your team. In either case, not only will you be more likely to have success in the moment, you’ll set yourself and your team up for more success down the road.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLE. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed more than 120,000 times! Have you seen it yet? Watch it to learn how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

Persuasion isn’t Magic but it Can Help Influence Outcomes

In recent months I’ve spent a good bit of time listening to podcasts from Focus3, an organization that dives into leadership, culture and behavior as the pathway to elite performance for individuals and organizations. Focus3 is known for the following formula: E + R = O (Event plus Response equals Outcome). It’s not magic but it’s highly effective.

In a nutshell; events in life happen and they’re out of your control. The past is past and you cannot change it. You also cannot control future outcomes but you can influence outcomes based on how you respond to events of life. Here’s the key; do you react in a default, habitual way or do you thoughtfully respond with intention, with a goal of influencing the outcome you want?

The Focus3 view aligns closely with something Steven Covey shared in his classic book and one of the most influential books I’ve ever read, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey wrote, “We faced the reality of current circumstances (Events) and of future projections (Outcomes). But we also faced the reality that we had the power to choose a positive response (Response) to those circumstances and projections.”

While you cannot guarantee an outcome, you can influence the outcome in a favorable direction depending on what you choose to do. This is where understanding the psychology of persuasion (a.k.a. science of influence) comes in handy.

In life, the outcome you hope for quite often entails dealing with people where you have to move them to act in some way. If you know how people think and behave and you’re willing to trust the scientific research on persuasion you can get to a much better response than you’re probably getting today.

You see, while each of us adds our individual touch, flair or artistry to communication, underlying communication are proven principles which, if followed ethically and correctly, can help anyone be more persuasive. This will lead positive impacts on the outcomes they desire.

Make no mistake, understanding the psychology of persuasion is not a magic wand. Despite the claims of books and articles you cannot get anyone to do what you want all the time in eight minutes or less. In fact, you can never say for sure that you can persuade any particular individual to do what you want. However, relying on scientifically proven principles can guarantee that more people will do what you want. There’s more than seven decades of study to back up that claim.

Here’s a personal example. Last year I emailed about 100 people asking for their help with a fundraising endeavor. Ultimately 15 people took me up on the offer. You might think that’s not a huge response but what’s important to know is that it was triple nearly every other request made by other people. How much would it help you personally or professionally if three times more people took you up on an offer versus those you compete with?

I didn’t use a magic to get the higher response rate. No, I simply tapped into what I understood about the psychology of persuasion. That same psychology is available to you as well but like any skill in life getting better takes time, effort and practice. I hope you’ll keep following along to learn more about how you can make this a reality in your personal and professional life.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLE. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed more than 120,000 times! Have you seen it yet? Watch it to learn how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

Because, Because, Bec-oz…An Easy Way to Get to “Yes”

In The Wizard of Oz Dorothy, her dog Toto and her three friends (Scarecrow, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion) were off to see the wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz. Why were they going to see him? Because, because, because of the wonderful things he does!

The word “because” persuades you and can help you become more persuasive. Believe it or not, your mom and/or dad conditioned you to comply with other people’s requests every time they used the word “because.” It may have gone like this:

Mom or Dad – “Take out the trash.”

You – “Why?”

Mom or Dad – “Because I said so!”

You – Hurried and took out the trash.

And thus began your conditioning after hearing “because.” You learned to “fall in line” because of “because” but it can also help you get to the front of the line.

In Yes: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive (Cialdini, Goldstein, Martin) a study is mention about the power of “because” in persuasion. Ellen Langer, a behavioral scientist, conducted the study in which people standing in line at a copier machine were approached by a stranger who asked, “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?” Nearly two out of three people (60%) graciously let the person to go in front of them. Later the person conducting the experiment approached the copier line and asked, “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush.” Hearing the person was in a rush, nearly everyone, 94%, allowed the person to get in front of them.

Of course, if someone is in a rush we might be more generous but the real question is this; was it due to being “in a rush” or could it have been something else that caused those people to comply with the request? To answer the question, one more variation was tried. This time the person would ask, “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make copies?” You might assume people would deny the bogus request because everyone was in line to make copies. Despite the reason being irrelevant, 93% of the people let the person go to the front! There was virtually no difference in response between a valid and bogus reason when “because” was used.

Social psychologists theorize we don’t pay attention to the reason given because we’re so conditioned by the word “because” that we hardly pay attention to the reason that comes next. Again, think about the response you heard from your parents when you questioned them about why you had to do something. Every time I ask a group that question I hear, “Because I said so!”

How can this understanding help you? Two ways come right to mind. First, it can help you protect yourself. Don’t mindlessly comply with a request without giving thought to the reason you’re being asked to do something. If you don’t you may just find yourself doing something you wished you hadn’t done.

The second way you can use “because” is to be more persuasive. When my daughter Abigail was younger she used to ask me what I did at work. I’d share things I thought she’d find interesting and things I felt would really help her someday. During one conversation I told her about the copier study. I encouraged her, “Abigail, whenever you ask someone to do something, always say ‘because’ and give them a reason. If you do that more people will say ‘Yes’ to you.”

Here’s the really cool thing. Long after that conversation, Abigail and I were watching American Idol and the latest American Idol CD was about to hit stores. Ryan Seacrest was promoting the CD outside a music store where there was a long line of people. Smart producers were using the principle of consensus to get you to believe everyone wanted to buy the new CD. As Seacrest was talking about the CD he’d try to make his way into the line but each time people denied him. Eventually he was at the back of the line with a disappointed look on his face. Out of nowhere Abigail blurted out, “He should have said ‘because.’” I looked surprised and said, “What?” She went on, “Dad, don’t you remember the copier story?”

I was stunned but glad because that’s a life skill that will serve her well. It will serve you well too, if you look for ways to use your new understanding of “because.”

Takeaway: Next time you ask someone to do something, take one more breath, use the word “because” and give them a legitimate reason. You’ll be pleasantly surprised because science says you’ll have more people saying yes to you.

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

My Golden Circle

Simon Sinek popularized the concept of the Golden Circle. He believes initially people are much more concerned with Why you do what you do as opposed to How you do it or the details of What you do. How and What are just as important as Why but the order in which you talk about them matters, especially when you engage people early on.

The Golden Circle has Why at the center because it’s where you should start conversations. Once people understand your Why they’ll be more open to hear How you go about fulfilling your Why. That’s the next layer in the Golden Circle. Finally comes the outer circle because once they know Why and How, they’ll be more apt to listen to What you actually do.

Sinek’s thought process resonates with me so I thought I’d let you know my Golden Circle. Using Sinek’s model my Golden Circle looks like this:

  • Why – Help people enjoy more professional success and personal happiness
  • How – Teach people the science of ethical influence
  • What – Speak, write, train, coach and consult

Why

I think it’s safe to say most people would like to enjoy more success at work. Quite often success comes about when someone says yes to your new product idea, sales proposal or management change to name just a few. Getting to yes can be tough…unless you understand how to ethically influence others.

Likewise, I believe everyone would like to enjoy more peace and happiness at home. After nearly 30 years of marriage and raising a daughter I can tell you from firsthand experience that life at home is much more peaceful and happy when my wife and daughter willingly say yes to me. I think they’d tell you there’s more peace and happiness when I willingly say yes to them too.

How

How do you get others to say yes to you more often? Science. Did you know there’s more than 70 years of research into the psychology of persuasion? That’s right, more than seven decades of studies from behavioral economists and social psychologist into this field of study.

One of the most prominent researchers is Robert Cialdini, PhD., the most cited living social psychologist in the world when it comes to the science of ethical influence. As one of only a few dozen people in the world certified to train on his behalf I can share insights with you that will significantly increase the odds of achieving that professional success and personal happiness you’d like to enjoy.

What

So, what is it that I do to help people? Most obvious, because you’re reading this, is blogging. I’ve been writing weekly on this topic for almost 10 years. Like clockwork, every Monday at 5:30 PM a new blog post goes live. If you’re enjoying more professional success and personal happiness because of what I write then why not share the blog to help others?

When it comes to speaking I do lots of keynote presentations. I believe keynotes should be fun, entertaining and most importantly actionable. If you’ve attended one of my talks then you know you’ll hear interesting stories, learn some fascinating science and most importantly you’ll get application ideas. After leaving a presentation you’ll have at least a handful of things you can immediately use to be more persuasive.

I separate training from speaking because the training I do is typically one or two full days as opposed to 60-90 minutes. This allows for deep learning when it comes to the principles of influence. More important that the learning (head knowledge), participants get to apply their learning in class. Being persuasive is a skill that needs to be practiced if it’s something you want to excel at.

Coaching is the best way to get better at almost anything skill related. That’s why we see the best athletes in the world continually working with coaches. A coach will push you, encourage you, hold you accountable and share insights you might not otherwise get. Coaching sessions are usually 30 minutes and are tailored to an individual’s particular needs.

Last but not least is consulting. Sometimes there’s a need that has to be addressed immediately. There may not be time for a workshop or coaching because a problem needs to be solved now. Immediate needs aside, some people don’t have time to attend a workshop or know they wouldn’t have the discipline to put into practice what they learn. That’s okay because we can talk about your specific situation and work together to make sure they’re addressed.

Want to learn more? Just reach out to me to start the conversation.

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

 

Yin and Yang or Everything in Moderation

Goal setting is good but some say it can be bad. Yes, a few studies show the act of setting a goal convinces some people they’ve achieved their goal and don’t need to do any more. Having set the goal set them back.

Aerobic exercise, like running a marathon, can be very good but some say it’s potentially bad. One article warns that distance running can be bad for your heath.

Let’s circle back. I don’t think most people are failing to actually reach their goals because they’re setting goals. No, I’d bet most people would do much, much better if they knew how to set good goals and then did so.

Likewise, I’ve rarely met people who felt running hurt them. Yes, too many marathons can take a toll on the joints and ligaments, especially if you don’t listen to your body and adapt as necessary with age. But, on the whole most people suffer from a lack of aerobic activity, not too much.

I’m sure there are many more things I could list that have an upside and downside but the real question is this: does the potential upside outweigh the potential downside?

This has come to mind because it seems like so much downside caution has come across my social media in recent months. When I read it, I wondered how many people won’t do something that could be potentially very good for them because of the small downside.

The principle of influence known as scarcity tells us we place more emphasis on potential downside than we do upside. Daniel Kahneman won a Nobel Prize for his work in this area. He and his late partner Amos Tversky statistically proved human beings feel the pain of loss anywhere from 2.0-2.5 times more than the joy of gaining the same thing. In simple terms; you feel much worse about losing $100 than you would feel good about finding $100.

This is important for you to understand when it comes to your personal improvement. Don’t let comparatively small downsides get in the way of potentially big upsides!

My advice is set goals! In fact, set some you think you might not reach – stretch goals – because you’ll probably be surprised at what you do accomplish as you challenge yourself.

Take up a running program if your doctor says you’re fit enough to do so. There are plenty of stories of people who were woefully out of shape and finally did something about it and now are the epitome of health.

And here’s some extra good news – most of the time doing something like running a 10K, half marathon or marathon has spillover effects. Once you achieve something you never thought possible you get a sense of confidence to tackle challenges in unrelated areas.

This advice is timely as we wind down another year and prepare for a new one. I challenge you to find one thing that will stretch you. Next, set a goal then go for it. What you might just find is the journey is the real challenge and more fun than actually reaching your goal. Do this and 2018 might just be one of the best years of your life!

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.

To Be More Productive Try 23 and 7

I was off the week of Thanksgiving and my wife was working half days so I had some extra time on my hands each morning. Because I love reading I dug into The Leading Brain: Powerful Science-Based Strategies for Achieving Peak Performance by Friederike Fabritius and‎ Hans W. Hagemann. As I read I came across something I knew to be true but had forgotten to use.

When I was in college I had a special way to study for exams. I would start at 8 AM and study for 50 minutes followed by a 10-minute break. I’d do that till noon, eat lunch then start back up at one o’clock going until 5 PM. I took another hour break for dinner then I was back at it from 6 PM till 9 PM. That allowed for 11 hours of study but it never seemed overwhelming because of all the short breaks and the longer lunch and dinner breaks. The proof was in the pudding – I always did very well on my exams.

I chose this study method because I’d heard somewhere that the brain can’t concentrate for more than 45-50 minutes at a time. Reading The Leading Brain reminded me of this truth and my prior study habit so I decided to give this approach a try again but with a small twist.

If you’re like me too often you think if you can’t dedicate an hour or more to something then perhaps it’s not worth starting. Then what happens is those precious minutes get wasted on social media, watching television or some other mind-numbing activity. As much as I enjoy rest I didn’t want my week to idly go by and not accomplish some of the things I’d been looking forward to doing.

Rather than go 50 and 10, I decided to just go 23 and 7. I started with some reading. I closed my social media and consciously told myself I’d do nothing but read for 23 minutes. I set the alarm on my iPhone to buzz every 23 minutes followed by another buzz after 7 minutes.

It worked wonders! I read a lot and felt like I was retaining more because there were no starts and stops. Every time we allow ourselves to get interrupted and give our attention to the interruption we waste time and energy getting back to where we were. This isn’t so difficult with reading but it becomes very problematic with more complex tasks.

With that success, I decided to try it with my writing because, although I enjoy writing, I fall into the “I don’t have enough time” trap too often. I set my timer and started banging away on my MacBook keyboard. When the buzzer went off I walked away from my laptop and engaged in some other activity entirely. Just as it did with my reading, it worked wonders for my writing!

Any of us can bear down and concentrate for some short period of time. For you maybe it’s 10 and 5 or 20 and 10. Whatever you think will work best, give it a shot. Turn off or tune out anything that may distract you. Set a timer for some focused time followed by relaxing time. I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how quickly the time passes and how much you get accomplished. Two cycles of 23 and 7 were all it took to write this article, proof read it and get it posted!

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.

Sometimes it’s Not “Why?” but “What?”

Last week I went for a four-mile run and after the first mile I wondered why the run was so slow compare to previous runs that week. As I started to ponder that a thought hit me – if I look for reasons why I’m running slow I’ll find them and I’ll keep running slow. Or instead, I could choose to focus on what I needed to do so I could run faster.

Why was I running slow? Here are some reasons that came to mind after I finished my run:

  • It was 26 degrees and it’s hard to run in the cold.
  • I started at quarter to six in the morning and early runs are tough.
  • I’d run eight miles each of previous three days and my legs were tired.
  • I’m 53 years old so it’s inevitable that I’ll slow down with age.

If I had focused on those thoughts in the moment they would have been justification for running slow. I also believe they would have put my mind in a state where it would have been hard to try to run any faster.

Rather than allowing my mind to gravitate to why I was running slow I decided to focus on what I needed to do in order to run faster. Here are the thoughts I began to focus on:

  • Relax and lengthen my stride.
  • Focus more on my breathing.
  • Take advantage of the downhill portions of the run.
  • Think about how much I enjoy running on cold, dark mornings.

One mile later my pace was 40 seconds faster and I easily maintained that pace for the next three miles!

As I pondered this it occurred to me that quite often we get stuck on “why” to the detriment of “what.” Our brains are constantly trying to make sense of the world around us and they do so by creating narratives. Before we realize it, we’re creating stories to make sense of things going on around us. The stories may or may not be accurate but we feel better having tried to make sense of the situation.

Sometimes we need to understand why something occurred in order to make the proper correction. In doing so we might just avoid a bad situation again. However, there are other times when the why is not nearly as important as the what – what am I going to do about this situation?

For example, at work you may never really know why someone reacted the way they did to your proposal. You can spend a lot of time ruminating over that question or you can simply focus on what you need to do going forward.

Another example might have to do with time. If you have the luxury of time and can determine why the situation you’re in exists that’s great. But, in the hustle and bustle world we live in we often face time constraints. You may not have time to delve into why things are the way they are because time is pressing and you need to decide what you’re going to do next.

Here are a couple of things for you to consider this week:

  1. If you have to construct a why for the situation you’re in try to temper the negative thoughts. Think about my run as an example. If I’d have focused on why I was running slow it’s not likely anything would have changed for the positive.
  2. Practice setting aside your desire to understand why and give more thought to what you can do in order to accomplish your goal. Again, think of my run as an example. When I focused on what I needed to do to run faster I accomplished my goal.

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 and you’ll learn how to can ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

Fear of Missing Out and the Black Friday Madness

Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping day of the year, is just days away. This year, Friday, November 24th, will be the unofficial start of the Christmas season. Throngs of people will make their way to malls all across the country hoping to get some of the best deals on holiday gifts.

It’s not too much of a stretch to say people will act like crazed fans at a football game or soccer match. The news will show us scenes of people fighting over items, shoving each other out of the way to get to the hottest toys and trampling one another the moment stores open.

So much for the season of giving and the spirit of joy!

What causes normal people will do some very abnormal things in hopes of getting the best deal? Why would someone stand in line for hours waiting for a store to open when they could visit that same store any day of the week? And why to people forego sleep, getting up hours earlier than they have to on their day off? Fear of missing out.

Fear of missing out taps into scarcity, the psychological principle of influence that tells us people value things more when they’re rare or appear to be less available. Scarcity can be triggered by time constraints and competition for a limited number of items.

Black Friday naturally taps into time constraints because it only happens one day each year. Forego this shopping day and you might miss the best deals of the season! But then again, you might not have missed out because sales only seem to better as Christmas approaches and retailers look to unload the last of their holiday merchandise.

Nonetheless, over the years the lure of Black Friday has increased dramatically and retailers have taken advantage of the popularity of Black Friday by opening stores earlier and earlier each year. Some stores will open at midnight because Thanksgiving will be over and it will officially be Friday. If you don’t get there at midnight you might just miss out on some time sensitive deals!

When we hear the word “competition” we often think of athletic endeavors but competition isn’t limited to the sports arena. No, when it comes to shopping competition is alive and well, and retailers play on it in a big way.

Here’s how the competition part of scarcity works – no longer is it good enough to just get to a store because if you are not there when the store opens they might run out of the thing you wanted most. Limited availability is different than limited time so while you might have all day Friday to shop, certain items marked “While Supplies Last” or “Limited Availability” might be gone by the time you arrive at 5 AM or 6 AM. Can’t let that happen now, can you?

It’s amazes me that people respond as they do because little Johnny probably doesn’t remember that great toy you got him three years ago. You know, the one you stood in line at the mall at 4 AM to get? And sweet Sally probably can’t tell you which American Girl doll you got her when she was eight years old but it’s a good thing you stood in line for several hours to pay for it.

Here’s another eye opener. People will say, “But I saved $200!” Saving money is great but many of those same people wouldn’t drive across town to save $200 on a car because a $200 savings on a $20,000 car by comparison isn’t worth the extra time and effort.

So, they spend four hours negotiating a car deal, could go across town and maybe spend another four hours to save $200, but they don’t. Sure, it’s an eight-hour investment but many of those same people will spend more than 12 hours at the mall just to save $200.

I’m not telling you not to shop. I know for some people, Black Friday shopping has become as much a holiday tradition as Thanksgiving, getting a Christmas tree or sending holiday cards. But I challenge you to consider if it’s really worth all the hassle – the lost sleep, extra time at the mall, fighting traffic, searching for a parking space, the disappointment when someone bought the last item you wanted, etc. Take a moment to ask yourself, “Would I normally respond this way? Do I want to respond this way?” Then decide what you want to do.

If you know you’re going to give into the madness then I’ll help you save some time by sharing with you the Black Friday web site. Go to this site to get a sneak peek at some of the deals that will be out there. Before all the holiday madness starts I want to wish you and your loved ones a very Happy Thanksgiving and a safe time no matter what you decide to do.

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.