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A Path to Real Change

There’s been lots of talk about a “new normal” when we emerge from the Covid-19 quarantine. Some people long to go back to the way things were just prior to the pandemic. That’s understandable because in the United States unemployment was near all-time lows, the stock market was at record highs and the economic outlook was promising. That doesn’t necessarily mean things were hunky dory for everyone.

Many of the jobs people had didn’t pay a living wage which meant working two or three jobs to make ends meet. It’s a safe bet the multitudes who barely made enough to pay their bills were not beneficiaries of the bull run in the stock market. This is evidenced by the financial hardship so many have encountered during the pandemic because of little or no savings.

You can’t legislate generosity so most employers only do what they’re legally required to do even though they may have the capacity to do more. But, maybe there’s a better way to real change than legislating it.

Reward vs. Reciprocity

Rewards and reciprocity are two well researched ways to influence behavior. But, they are very different ways to approach behavior change.

Rewards are commonplace in business because they’re contractual. Think of the contractual nature of rewards this way, “If you…I will…” For example, your boss tells you if you hit your sales numbers the company will pay you a bonus. If you don’t reach your goal, the company doesn’t owe you anything beyond your normal pay. Once you hit the goal you may not owe the company anything more either. In a sense, negotiated rewards bring closure to relationship.

By contrast, reciprocity isn’t contractual, it’s relational. Reciprocity can be view like this, “I have…will you…?” I have helped you, will you do me a favor? There’s no guarantee you will do the favor I want. I have to trust the rule for reciprocity which says people feel some obligation to give back to those who have first given to them.

You may think you’ll be taken advantage of if you do and do and do for people. It’s true that some people won’t do anything for you in return. Fortunately, most play by the rule. And here’s some good news; quite often when you engage reciprocity you can do much less and still have people very willing to help you when you need it. In other words, small acts of generosity don’t go unnoticed and can produce outsized responses.

A Better New Normal

I came across a story recently that got me thinking about this. Larry Connors, a Dayton, Ohio, real estate CEO, recently earned a whopping $1.6 million in the stock market in just eight days! How fortunate is that, especially during this time when the stock market has dropped more than 20% in just a few short months. Some people have all the luck and the rich just keep getting richer. But there’s a twist to this story of good fortune.

Larry Connors is giving away all $1.6 million to his employees. That’s right, each employee will get a gift of $2,000 – $9,000. Click here to read more.

While the article calls the payout a bonus, I intentionally use the word gift because usually bonuses are based on the reward mentality. They’re negotiated in advance. In this case nothing was negotiated and Connors was under no obligation to pay any of that money to his people. It was an unexpected gift during a time when people needed it most.

When is Enough Enough?

While a rising tide does raise all boats, with the economic tide some boats seem to catch much bigger waves and the income disparity in this country has continued to grow for more than four decades. According to the Economic Policy Institute, since 1978 CEO pay has risen 940%, but the increase for the typical worker was just 12%.

Legislating minimum living wages, capping senior level executive payouts, increasing tax rates and other ideas are always met with stiff resistance. Socialism and wealth redistribution are terms that are kicked around whenever this issue comes up.

But what if more people in positions of wealth, power and privilege willingly took the position of Larry Connors? What if an ever growing number of those folks realized they had more than enough and that helping others share in the pie would be better for everyone over the long run?

Certainly not every senior executive will have such a large windfall over such a short period but it’s so often the case that many get big raises and enormous bonuses that, if distributed more among the average worker at their company would lead to more economic prosperity. After all, sales when it comes to groceries, electronics, cars and other durable goods would increase if more money were in the hands of more consumers.

Why Even Consider It?

What good does it do Larry Connors, or might it do for other business leaders, to consider engaging reciprocity through non-negotiated acts of kindness? The reasons are numerous but below are three that came right to mind for me. I invite you to share a few of your own.

  1. Employee loyalty. Do you really think Larry Connors’ employees will go work anywhere else now? Reciprocity will likely dictate a response in the form of fierce loyalty and lower turnover lowers costs which could result in more competitiveness.
  2. Attracting talent. For many Millennials and Generation Zers money isn’t their top priority. Working for socially conscious companies with good, trustworthy people is. An act of giving when you don’t have to and it’s not expected makes working for such a company a strong attraction for top talent. Top talent usually translates into a competitive advantage.
  3. It’s better to give than receive. If you’re like me, growing up you may have heard it was better to give than receive. I’m not sure kids really believe that but as we grew up we started to realize making the choice to help others does feel really good. Even if nothing comes back your way you can lay your head on your pillow each night knowing you’ve helped people.

To Do This Week

I’m certain most people reading this will not be in the position that Larry Connors was in but it doesn’t mean you can’t do something. Consider the following:

  • Next time you order food, double, triple or quadruple your normal tip. The amount may not be a lot to you but it will probably make your delivery person’s day.
  • If you don’t have much extra to spare then be very generous with your praise. If possible, make sure your praise reaches someone’s boss because it might be the catalyst for a promotion, raise or bonus.
  • Help others by making connections that might benefit both parties in the future.

Each of us is at a unique time in our lives. If we don’t make a commitment to do something different as we move out of quarantine then we’ll find ourselves right back where we started and that would be a shame because it would be like acknowledging that things were good enough. Unfortunately, they weren’t good enough for many people.

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

Brian’s book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was a top 10 selling Amazon book in several insurance categories and top 50 in sales & selling. His LinkedIn Learning courses on sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 100,000 people around the world!

7 Deadly Sins When Trying to Influence PEOPLE

I just celebrated my 12th anniversary partnering with INFLUENCE AT WORK, the organization headed up by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D. Cialdini, sometimes called “the Godfather of influence”, is the most cited living social psychologist on the planet when it comes to the science of influence. I have the privilege of being one of only two dozen people worldwide to have been personally trained and certified by Cialdini to teach his methodology when it comes to influence.

During my years working with people I’ve run into countless times where I’ve seen salespeople, marketers, leaders and many others incorrectly use the principles of influence. Here’s why it’s a big problem – when people use the principles incorrectly they don’t see the results they expect. That failure leads to, “Yea, it sounds good when he says it but it doesn’t work in real life.”

Trust me, used ethically and correctly, the principles of influence will move more people to act. There’s seven decades of research to back up that statement. To help you avoid that pitfall I want to share the 7 deadly sins – one for each principle – I see when people attempt to use the psychology of persuasion.

Liking

We all know it’s easier to say yes to those we know and like. Whether you’re in sales, coaching or leadership, the more someone likes you the more likely they are to follow your advice.

  • Mistake. Knowing this, people work too hard to get others to like them. They end up coming across like a desperate salesman who will say or do anything to close the sale.
  • Solution. Stop trying to get people to like you. Instead, try to like the people you’re with. As others sense you genuinely like and care for them, they will be far more likely to say yes to you.

Unity

Unity is about shared identity. We when see another person as one of us, saying yes to them is like saying yes to ourselves.

  • Mistake. People think this is the principle of liking on steroids. With that thought, they try harder than ever to connect on what they have in common.
  • Solution. Unity isn’t always available but when it is, tap into it. Do some homework to find out if you share something deep with the others person. It may be that you served in the same branch of the military, were in the same fraternity or sorority, or happened to share the same cultural heritage.

Reciprocity

From the time we’re young we’re taught that when someone does something for us we’re expected to do something in return. Help someone first and they’re likely to help you in return.

  • Mistake. I see marketers blow this one all the time. They encourage people to give a free gift after someone does something like sign up for a newsletter. That’s not reciprocity, that’s offering a reward as inducement and there’s a big difference.
  • Solution. Encourage people to take advantage of a free offer then, after they’ve done so, you can ask for something in return. “I hope you enjoy the free article! In fact, I hope you enjoy it so much you’ll want to sign up for our newsletter to learn even more. Click here to do so.”

Consensus

Humans are pack animals. Over the course of history, we’ve learned there’s safety in numbers and “everyone can’t be wrong.” Generally, it works well for us to follow the crowd.

  • Mistake. Thinking highlighting a big number is all that’s needed. For example, telling incoming college freshman 65% of students cheat (I made that up) in order to highlight the problem only encourages more cheating, making the problem worse.
  • Solution. Think about the behavior you want then emphasize stats that will encourage the desirable behavior. “College cheating has been on the decline each of the last five years,” would be a good message to encourage less cheating and get the behavior you’re hoping for.

Authority

People will listen to perceived experts, and follow their advice, far more often than they will someone whom they know nothing about.

  • Mistake. Don’t wait until the end of your talk or meeting to highlight your expertise. By that time people may have tuned you out.
  • Solution. Whether it’s a presentation or running a meeting, let people know your credentials up front. If possible, have someone introduce you for even more credibility. This approach causes people to listen more closely early on and likely throughout your presentation.

Consistency

People tend to feel better about themselves when their words and deeds match. As little pleasure seekers and pain avoiders this is a powerful principle.

  • Mistake. Too many people tell others what to do and think they’ve engaged the principle of consistency. When you tell someone what to do you’ve not triggered the psychology of wanting word and deed to match.
  • Solution. Stop telling people what to do and start asking. When you ask and someone says “Yes” they’re far more likely to follow through on their word because they don’t want to feel bad and look bad.

Scarcity

It’s a natural human tendency to want we can’t have or whatever might be going away. We hate the thought of having missed out on something.

  • Mistake. Manufacturing false scarcity will hurt your credibility. Don’t use the worn out line, “If you sign today I can save you 15% but I can’t offer you this deal after today.” Seldom is that true and people have learned to see through it.
  • Solution. If scarcity isn’t available, don’t manufacture it. If it is naturally available use it but don’t come across in a fear mongering, scare tactic way. “I’d hate for you to miss out on this opportunity,” is more effective than, “You really should take advantage of this deal.” It’s a subtle difference that can make all the difference.

BONUS! Compare and Contrast

Compare and contrast isn’t actually one of the 7 principles of influence. It’s a psychological concept that’s always available because people are always making comparisons. Knowing this, it deserves mention.

  • Mistake. Too often people make the wrong comparison. In sales this happens when people try to “upsell” customers. The problem is, once you’ve seen a low number it becomes an anchor and all other numbers seem bigger by comparison as you try to upsell. Not exactly what you want when trying to close a sale.
  • Solution. Present your best solution, product or service first. You never know, the other person might just say yes. If they don’t, you have options to retreat to and when you do so, the price on those options looks better by comparison.

Conclusion

The principles of influence describe how people typically think and behave. Consider them communication tools and, like any tool, they’re only as good as the person who wields it. You may know how to use a saw and hammer but that doesn’t make you a carpenter. The same goes with the principles. Knowing and wielding them correctly (and ethically) are two different things.

To Do This Week

  1. Give these mistakes thought.
  2. Ask yourself if you’ve made any of these mistakes.
  3. Commit to keep learning and growing.

Do those three things and you will have more people saying yes to you more often.

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

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

From Womb to Tomb Each of Us is a Persuader

From womb to tomb, each of us uses the skill of persuasion throughout our lifetime. As soon as babies come into the world they cry because they want to be held, fed, burped or changed. They don’t understand they’re engaging the skill we call persuasion, but they know they have a need and they want it met! Persuading others to act is one big way each of us seeks to get our needs met every day.

What is Persuasion?

Persuasion is more than changing hearts or minds, it’s ultimately about changing behaviors. Aristotle put it best when he said persuasion was, “The art of getting someone to do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do if you didn’t ask.”

If someone is already doing what you want then persuasion isn’t necessary. However, if someone isn’t doing what you need them to do then how you communicate might make all the difference between yes and no. But doesn’t this border on manipulation?

Persuasion vs. Manipulation

Persuasion differs from manipulation in that manipulation is one sided. The manipulator doesn’t care about the other person. Manipulators only focus on what’s good for them.

Persuasion on the other hand carefully considers the other person, their wants, needs, desires and goals. Ethical persuaders focus on three very important things.

  1. Win-win. Ethical persuaders look to create mutually beneficial outcomes. I like to say, “Good for you, good for me, then we’re good to go!”
  2. Ethical persuaders tell the truth and they don’t hide the truth. By being truthful to a fault they build trust with everyone they interact with.
  3. Ethical persuaders only use psychology that’s natural to the situation. For example, if scarcity doesn’t exists they don’t falsely create it.

Relationships are the Foundation

It’s a well-established fact that people prefer to say yes to those they know and like. The mistake most people make in relationship building is focusing on getting others to like them. Getting others to like you can be effective and it’s not difficult to do. Two simple ways to make this happen are to focus on what you have in common and pay sincere compliments.

It’s very natural for us to like people we view as similar to us. For example, if you and I find out we grew up in the same hometown, went to the same college or cheer for the same team, you will like me more. Along the same lines; if I pay you a genuine compliment you’ll feel good about me and like me more. Nothing new here.

While there’s certainly benefit to that approach I’ve learned there’s a much better way. Cultivate the following mindset: I want to like the other person. And here’s some great news – the very same things that will make you like me will make me like you. In other words, when I find out we grew up in the same hometown, went to the same college, or cheer for the same team, I will like you more. If I pay you genuine compliments I will see you as a good person and I will like you more.

This is a game changer because when you sense deep down that I truly like you – and I do – you become much more open to whatever I may ask of you. Why? Because deep down we all believe friends to right by friends.

No More Manipulation

Here’s where manipulation is all but removed from the equation – the more I come to like you the more I want what’s best for you. Now my attempts to persuade you come from a place of wanting the best for you and you receive it that way. We have a virtuous cycle that’s good for you and good for me.

The subtle shift from getting others to like you, to becoming a person who likes the people you work with, naturally makes you the kind of person others want to be around and work alongside. In other words, you become the preferred teammate.

Keys to Ethical Persuasion

The following principles are scientifically proven to help you be more persuasive. The science is based on more than 70 years of research from social psychology and more recently behavioral economics. Let’s briefly look at each principle.

Liking. The principle of liking was just described in detail above. Coming to like others will cause them to like you and will make it easier to persuade them because you’ll want what’s in their best interest.

Reciprocity. When you give, people will naturally want to give in return. I help you, you help me and we’re both better off. Remember, because I’ve come to like you, my giving is from a place of goodness, wanting to help you in ways that will be beneficial to you.

Social Proof. The actions of others impact how we think feel and behave. It’s why we’re drawn to “best sellers” and “most popular” opportunities. If others like you prefer something, it’s a good bet you’ll feel the same and be willing to follow their lead.

Authority. We feel better following the lead of experts. The more you establish yourself as an expert or the more you bring credible expertise into your communication the easier it will be for someone to follow your advice.

Consistency. Most people feel better about themselves when their words and deeds align. Telling someone what to do is never as effective as asking because psychologically, once someone responds saying they’ll do something, they’re more like to follow through. That’s because they want to feel good about themselves and look good in your eyes.

Scarcity. It’s natural for us to want things more when we believe they’re rare or going away. But the key is knowing that. By honestly telling someone about an opportunity that might not be available soon, or what they may lose if they don’t follow your advice, they’re more likely to act.

Full Circle

I used the term “virtuous cycle” earlier. Ethical persuaders understand this and take the long view when it comes to working with people. They recognize it starts with relationship. The stronger the relationship the easier everything becomes thereafter.

I often ask people; is it critical to your professional success that you understand how to get more people to say yes more often? The answer there is always a resounding yes! They also recognize the importance yes plays at home. After all, things tend to be more peaceful and happier at home when those around you willingly say yes.

By studying the influence process and psychological triggers that lead to yes you will enjoy more success at the office, happiness at home and be the kind of person others want to work with.

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

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

What Goes Around Comes Around: Dysfunctional Politics

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

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

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

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

Bill Clinton

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

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

Donald Trump

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

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

Mitch McConnell and Jerry Nadler

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

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

Confirmation Bias

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

To Do This Week

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

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

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

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

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

3 Considerations for Holiday Gift Giving

I recently attended an event to listen to a hugely successful speaker, Jeffrey Hayzlett, share business ideas for aspiring speakers to build their businesses. At one point he talked about working with the automotive manufacturer Chrysler. He was in a commercial for the Dodge Ram pick-up truck and afterwards was given a free truck!

As he told the story he was giddy! I asked, “Was the truck part of the contract or a surprise gift afterwards?” He said it was a surprise gift. I followed up with, “You can obviously afford that truck many times over so why did it mean so much to you that they gave it to you?” His response, “Ever since I was a kid I liked to win things. For me it was like winning something.”

He told several other stories of getting gifts. What’s the point? Even people who are extremely well off like getting gifts! It’s a very natural human response. That begs the question; what constitutes a good gift? We’ll take a look at three things that can make your gift giving stand out from the rest.

Personalized just for you

Here’s a mistake – when you give a gift you focus on what it means to you. No, no, no! Gift giving is all about what it means to the person you’re giving to. It doesn’t matter whether or not the person can afford it. What it means, or represents to the other person.

With Jeffrey’s story two things stood out. First, he liked pick-up trucks and already owned at least one so getting a new truck meant something to him. Second, he liked winning which went to one of his core motives.

Interestingly, he went on to tell us when he was Chief Marketing Officer at Kodak he had some celebrities who called him regularly for a free camera. They’d been given a free camera in the past and liked how that felt. Think about that; these multi-millionaire celebrities enjoyed getting free cameras that only cost around $100.

It’s not about what it means to you; it’s about what it means to them.

Surprise!

As noted earlier, the truck was not part of the contract. If it had been then it would not have been considered a gift. If it had been negotiated in the contract the truck would have been reduced to a monetary part of the transaction; a reward of sorts.

When the truck was given as an unexpected surprise after the fact it was attention getting! As the holidays approach there will be lots of gift giving. It’s expected. It’s also expected that gifts are given on birthdays. But, when you give a gift apart from holidays, birthdays or something negotiated, the gift will mean more because there was no expectation.

Create a sense of, “Wow, thank you so much!” by giving when it’s not expected.

More is better…to a point

When you give gifts, generally more is better. For example; a $25 gift card to a restaurant is nice. A $50 card is twice as nice but at some point you can give too much. Someone saying, “I appreciate you so I thought I’d get you this $1000 gift card,” wouldn’t be appropriate for most people.

Why can giving be too much be inappropriate sometimes? Because once you give a huge gift the other person will feel some obligation to “repay the favor” in the future. It would be awfully hard for most people to do something on par with a $1000 gift card.

You don’t need to give much to make someone happy and sometimes a little more will make them a lot happier.

To Do This Week

Giving gifts and doing favors for people engages the principle of reciprocity. This principle of influence creates an obligation in most people to repay the favor. The obligation isn’t bad because it’s useful to form relationships. I give to you and you give to me. We’re both better off, a win-win. With the holidays approaching there’s no better time to practice reciprocity.

  1. Personalize Gifts. When giving gifts be thoughtful about what your gifts mean to each individual. It may not be an unexpected gift during the holidays but the more you give in a personalized way the better the other person will feel.
  2. Practice Gratitude. Express sincere appreciate for any gift you’re given. How you thank someone can make someone’s day and might just reinforce that they’d like to give to you in the future.

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

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

Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses have been viewed by nearly 85,000 people around the world! His newest course – Advanced Persuasive Selling: Persuading Different Personalities – is now available through LinkedIn Learning.

 

5 Trust Essentials Because Trust is so Essential

Trust is essential in any relationship, business or personal. The late Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, put it this way, “Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”

It won’t matter how skilled you are in your profession if the people you interact with don’t trust you. And once trust is lost, it’s very, very hard to earn back. I often hear people talk about trust without every mentioning what you can do to build trust. I’m going to take as a given that you’re truthful. By that I mean, you tell the truth and don’t hide the truth. Beyond truth telling, let’s look at five trust essentials.

Give Back

Giving back after you’ve been given to is a trust essential. It’s playing by the rule of reciprocity. Breaking the rules in society, at work, in games, or just about anywhere else is a surefire way to lose trust.

Reciprocity is such a common norm that social scientists agree; every human society raises its people in the way of reciprocity. Giving and getting in return allows people to accomplish far more in life because resources are shared.

When people don’t play by the rule we call them takers. Nobody wants to be around takers let alone give to them. Don’t be a taker! When people give to you, make sure you look for ways to return the favor.

Admit Weakness

Newsflash: nobody is perfect, no product is perfect, and there’s no perfect service. Acting as is if you or your offering is flawless is another surefire way to lose trust. Why? Because any prospective client you interact with knows nothing is perfect.

If you want to gain trust, admit any weakness or shortcoming early. Doing so gains you credibility because you’re viewed as honest. Another benefit of dealing with a shortcoming early is, it usually takes it off the table so you can focus on your product or service strengths.

A wonderful example of admitting weakness is my long-time friend Al. Our first conversation more than 30 years ago started with him telling me he’d just gotten out of a six-week alcohol rehab facility. His admission let me know I could be completely honest with him in return. His admission was a trust builder. And great news – Al never drank again!

Keep Your Word

While you know your heart, people only see your actions. This is important to remember because people judge you not by your intent but by your deeds. If you say you’ll be somewhere or commit to doing something with someone but fail to follow through you lose a little bit of trust. Do it too often and trust erodes quickly.

One way to highlight you’re keeping your word is to occasionally say, “As promised…” then mention what you’re following through on.

  • “As promised, here’s the report you asked for.”
  • “As promised, I placed the order for you this afternoon.”

It’s human nature to notice and remember when things go wrong so people are likely to remember your failure more than the times you followed through. Using a phrase like, “As promised…” reminds others you’re a person of your word.

Take Responsibility

In his classic How to Win Friends and Influence People Dale Carnegie wrote, “When you’re wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.” More than 80 years after Carnegie penned those words his advice still applies.

You gain trust when you step up and admit a mistake before anyone knows about it. Who would you trust more: a) the person who owns up to a mistake proactively or b) the person who knew about a mistake but did nothing about it until confronted? The answer is pretty obvious.

If you’re unaware of a mistake but it’s brought to your attention, own it. The more you try to deny, justify or shift the burden the more you’ll lose trust. I’ve generally found people to be far more forgiving than my irrational fears might have led me to believe. Don’t give in to fear.

Offer Help

Helping when you don’t have to, when you will gain nothing, earns trust. Too often people are seen as helping so they can get something in return. When you have the capacity (time, skill, relationship, etc.) to genuinely help another person do so.

Why would someone help when they don’t have to and they get nothing in return? Most likely because they’re a decent human being. We tend to trust caring people more than those who engage in quid quo pro actions.

Earlier I mentioned don’t be a taker. Now go one step further and be a giver.

Conclusion

Trust is essential for good, strong, productive relationships. It’s too important to leave to chance so be proactive in building and maintaining trust. While there are more things you can do beyond what I’ve noted, these five things are a great starting point.

To Do This Week

Focus on what I’ve shared, consciously trying to implement each:

  1. Give back
  2. Admit weakness
  3. Keep your word
  4. Take responsibility
  5. Offer help

Do so and you’ll become an even more trustworthy individual.

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

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

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

It’s Not a Sacrifice, It’s an Investment

Have you ever heard a parent talk about the sacrifices they make for their children? Maybe you’ve made a similar comment. A long time ago I started taking a different view about what we choose to forgo for our kids and others; it’s not a sacrifice, it’s an investment.

Investing

If you’re like many working adults you probably set aside some of your income each month for retirement savings. You’re forgoing spending on current wants and needs for something down the road you hope will give you more.

Children

By the same token, whatever you choose to forgo when it comes to your children, you hope will pay dividends in the future. To see your children grow up happy, healthy, productive and mature will bring you joy. If they give you grandchildren that’s icing on the cake.

Relationships

The same attitude (yes, it is a mindset) applies to our friends and coworkers. You probably choose to be around people who give something in return. That might be encouragement, fun times, a listening ear, advice or something else. The point is, you get something out of the relationship.

Giving in a friendship triggers reciprocity, that natural obligation we all feel to give back to those who first give to us. When you invest in friendships you get something in return. If your friends invest in you they get something too. It’s a win-win proposition.

The Taker

What happens when someone takes and doesn’t give? In other words, you realize it’s a bad investment because you get very little or nothing in return? You probably find yourself spending less and less time with takers.

The Giver

When you begin to change your thinking from “sacrificing” to “investing” you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the response of most people.

If someone sees you as sacrificing they may feel they’re putting you out. They may feel like strings are attached. It may make them feel like a pain in the butt.

However, when someone sees you as investing in them it conveys worth and dignity. That will make people far more likely to naturally want to do something for you because they appreciate what you’ve done.

Conclusion

Words matter. Words conjure up thoughts and feelings. How you think and feel will either encourage or discourage action from the people you interact with.

Sacrificing feels hard, like something is going away forever. Most people resist doing hard things. Investing on the other hand doesn’t feel as hard because there’s something to look forward to, a payoff down the road.

To Do This Week

Stop sacrificing and start investing. Approach people – family, friends, co-workers, strangers – with a mindset that says, “I’ want to invest in you.” That subtle mindset shift will change your demeanor and people will pick up on it.

Will every investment “pay off”? No, but the law of reciprocity dictates far more people will respond positively to you when you invest first.  Doing so creates win-win relationships and that’s a great long-term investment strategy!

Brian Ahearn, CPCU, CTM, CMCT®

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

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

Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses have been viewed by more than 75,000 people around the world! His newest course – Advanced Persuasive Selling: Persuading Different Personalities – is available through LinkedIn Learning and Lynda.com.

When a Cookie is More than Just a Cookie

Have you ever stayed at a DoubleTree Hotel? If you have, then no doubt you received a cookie when you checked in at the front desk. And it wasn’t just any cookie, it was a warm chocolate chip cookie presented to you in a bag that read:

This delicious chocolate chip cookie is our way of saying welcome to the DoubleTree by Hilton. Enjoy your stay.

That’s a nice way to start your stay! Now, contrast that experience with other hotels. Many give free cookies. I know Hampton Inns put cookies out every afternoon. Getting them out of the plastic case with tongs isn’t quite the same as being presented with them at a DoubleTree.

I’ve stayed at many Embassy Suites and they put out free cookies too. They’re usually located between the hotel entryway and front desk so you can grab as many as you want on your way in our out.

In my travel experience nobody talks about the cookies at the Hampton Inn, Embassy Suites or any other hotel. However, people rave about the DoubleTree cookies! They’re very tasty but it’s more than just how they taste, it’s also how you experience them.

In persuasion there’s a principle of influence known as reciprocity. It describes the feeling you have – an obligation of sorts – to repay the favor when someone does something for you first. Reciprocity is the difference between the DoubleTree cookie and all others.

Just because something is “free” doesn’t mean it’s viewed as a gift. If you don’t perceive something as a gift then there’s no obligation to do anything in return. Grabbing a cookie on your way in or out of the hotel doesn’t fit the bill when it comes to reciprocity. A hotel employee presenting (not just handing) you with a cookie taps powerfully into reciprocity. At a minimum you thank the employee but, as noted earlier, people rave about the DoubleTree cookie. As I wrote in the opening paragraph, it’s a very good cookie but presenting it the way they do is what sets the DoubleTree apart. Some people stay at DoubleTree hotels for the cookie above all else!

Conclusion

Reciprocity is a powerful principle of influence because the need to repay the favor weighs heavy on us. That’s why it feels like an obligation. Do you have “free” items for employees, customers or vendors? If so, how do you present those items? If people are required to get those things themselves then they’re probably not perceived as gifts. If that’s the case then you’ve lost an opportunity to tap into reciprocity and perhaps move people to yes when you need it next.

Here’s my advice – look at what you freely give away and consider how you’re doing that. Think of ways you might present those same items so they’re perceived as gifts. Sometimes a cookie is more than just a cookie and so it is with other items you may give to people. Remember, it’s when you give, not when people take, that reciprocity is engaged.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An international speaker, coach and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, the most cited living social psychologist on the topic of ethical influence. Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses Persuasive SellingPersuasive Coaching and Building a Coaching Culture: Improving Performance through Timely Feedback, have been viewed by more than 65,000 people! Have you watched them yet? Click a course title to see what you’ve been missing.

 

Influence PEOPLE: The Book – Reciprocity

In early April I shared a little from a book I’m working on. To build a more excitement I thought I’d share another short section from Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, which will be available this summer.

Principle #1 – Reciprocity

“You can get everything you want in life, if you will just help other people get what they want.”
Zig Ziglar, famous author & motivational speaker

Simply put, reciprocity is a mutual exchange. As a principle of influence it could be described in layman’s terms as the “good old give and take” principle or “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” When someone does something for us, we typically feel obligated to do something for them, to return the favor, so to speak.

You can easily think of a time when someone went out of their way to do something for you in return for a good deed you initially did for them. Although you probably recognize the principle just described, if you’re like most people, you may not realize how powerfully reciprocity actually works on you. Quite often reciprocity gets you to do things without you even realizing it! Take a moment to consider your response to each of the following questions:

  • Have you invited someone to a social gathering (summer cookout, wedding, graduation party, etc.) because they invited you to a similar event first?
  • Have you added someone to your Christmas card list after getting a card from them first?
  • Have you donated money to an organization because you received a free gift, like mailing labels?
  • If you’ve been to a home party like Pampered Chef or Tupperware, did you buy something because you would have felt bad not doing so, especially after you were served food and given a free gift?
  • During the holidays, have you ever bought Christmas wrapping paper, cards or some other items from neighborhood kids because their parents bought similar items from your kids?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, then reciprocity was influencing you! Society ingrains something in all of us from the time we are young: it’s right to repay the favor. When you do something for me, I feel obligated to do something for you in return.

In shows when someone saves another’s life, the one snatched from death expresses profound gratitude. The saved person may ask: “How can I ever repay you?” Of course Good Samaritans don’t help people to accrue favors, yet those who are helped feel a huge burden anyway and want to repay the Good Samaritan.

Let’s focus on understanding how the ball gets rolling when it comes to this principle. It happens when you take initiative and act first. In a sense you give a gift, whether tangible or intangible. This is the point: your action is usually met in kind by the person you gifted or helped.

Let’s go further with the principle of reciprocity and consider  concessions. When someone says “no” to you, if you immediately come back with another request, often the person will meet you part way because compromise is met with compromise. Concessions are the basis for negotiating as people barter their way to some sort of agreement.

When it comes to reciprocity, think of this word – Giving. When you give most of the time people will give in return.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An international speaker, coach and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, the most cited living social psychologist on the topic of ethical influence. Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses Persuasive SellingPersuasive Coaching and Building a Coaching Culture: Improving Performance through Timely Feedback, have been viewed by more than 65,000 people! Have you watched them yet? Click a course title to see what you’ve been missing.

 

The Dumbing Down of Social Media

Did you know, in many European countries (Austria, Belgium, France, Poland) organ donation rates are almost 100%? However, in some countries (U.K., Germany, Denmark) it’s less than 25%! Are some Europeans four times more socially conscious than their continental partners or is something else going on?

The gap can be explained by one simple difference – in many countries the default when getting a drivers license is to be an organ donor. In countries with high donation rates Europeans drivers have to check a box to opt out of organ donation. In countries with low participation rates people have to check a box to become an organ donor.

Checking a box takes virtually no effort but that small change in the default – check to opt in vs. check to opt out – makes a huge difference! Many people argue it’s good for society to make certain choices, like organ donation or saving for retirement, easier whenever possible.

Behavioral economics looks how people make choices and what’s been discovered can help individuals and organizations structure choices in ways that benefit more people. But, resetting defaults doesn’t always lead to the hoped-for outcomes, especially with social media. The problem is many sites are dumbing things down.

Congrats on your work anniversary!

If you spend any time on LinkedIn then it’s a good bet you’ve seen notifications alerting you about work anniversaries for your connections. That’s nice because those milestones might otherwise go unnoticed.

To make life easier for LinkedIn users the platform lets you click on a link that automatically sets up a message which reads, “Congrats on your work anniversary!” The vast majority of people hit the send button and move on with their day.

But here’s the problem, we’ve come to realize it takes almost no time, effort or thought on the part of the person who sent the message. It’s like getting spam except it comes from someone you know. The same applies to the birthday alerts.

What Can You Do?

People value what you do for them, the gifts you give and the congratulations you offer, much more when you take time to personalize them. In one study, a simple handwritten message on a yellow sticky note doubled response rates on a survey. Why? Reciprocity dictates the more someone does something for us the more we feel we should do for them.

When you take a moment to personalize whatever you’ve done it makes people feel special and shows you put in some extra thought, time and effort. That’s a great way to build or strengthen relationships.

Gifts. You could argue a gift card is the best gift because it lets the receiver buy whatever he or she wants. Letting the other person choose their gift may be nice but there are a couple of problems with this approach:

  1. Now the burden is on the recipient to go to the store.
  2. It might indicate you don’t know them well enough, or care enough, to understand what they might like.

The best time for gift cards are when you know something about the person so it becomes personalized. For example, if someone loves to browse books at Barnes & Noble then a gift card is a reason to go somewhere they enjoy. If they happen to walk away with an unexpected find they’ll remember it was your gift card that led to the purchase.

Congratulations. We all like to be recognized, especially on important dates. It hardly takes time to modify the “Happy birthday!” or “Congrats on your work anniversary!” that automatically pop up daily on LinkedIn.

  1. Happy birthday Joe. Any fun plans for today? Enjoy!
  2. 15 years is a long time Ann! Congrats on the anniversary!

If you take a moment to send a text instead of the LinkedIn message you’ll be surprised at the responses you get. Taking it one step further, there are people I call every year on birthdays. I know they really appreciate it because not only do they tell me, they tell others. A friend recently told me she mentioned my birthday calls to Nick, a mutual connection. Nick told her he doesn’t get a call on his birthday so I sent him this message the same day:

I had lunch with Christy today and she told me you two know each other. I got the sense you weren’t feeling as loved as she does so I’ve marked December 16 as a special day to give you a call. Hopefully we’ll see each other well before then. Enjoy the downside of the week.

Little things like this can make a big difference! Nick and I will have a nice laugh on December 16 and I know this; if I ever need his assistance he’ll gladly help, not because he has to, but because he wants to.

Conclusion

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about social media being social. I applaud the efforts of LinkedIn, Facebook and other social platforms to make it easier for us to remember important milestones for the people we’re connected to. But, don’t let the ease create a laziness in you. Building and maintaining relationships is different than prompting behavior change for social causes. If you don’t understand this you might end up hurting relationships when your intent was to do something nice.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An international speaker and trainer, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini. Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses, Persuasive Selling and Persuasive Coaching have been viewed by more than 60,000 people! His latest course, Creating a Coaching Culture, will be online in the second quarter. Have you watched them yet? Click a link to see what you’ve been missing.