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Sometimes It’s All about What You SAID

I grew up playing football. From the time I was eight years old until I was 18, every year was all about football. Unfortunately I wasn’t naturally big, strong, or fast. As a junior in high school I played outside linebacker at a strapping five foot nine inches tall and weight of 155 lbs., soaking wet.

Then something happened between my junior and senior year. I was taught to lift weights the right way by some power lifters and the difference was amazing! I put on 20 lbs. in just three months and by the time the next season rolled around, I was 30 lbs. heavier than the year before. It made a HUGE difference on the field.

Something my teammates and I were taught during those lifting sessions was the SAID principle. SAID stood for Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands. What that means in layman’s terms is simply this – you get what you train for. Here are some examples:

  • If you lift heavy weights for low reps you get bigger and much stronger.
  • If you lift lighter weights for higher reps you get a little stronger and more defined (cut).
  • If you practice running in short hard bursts your ability to sprint will get better.
  • If you run at an easy pace for a long time you tend to become a better distance runner.

I think it’s obvious running long slow distances won’t help you get really fast in the 40-yard dash and lifting lighter weights will never make you as big and strong as people who lift massive amounts of weight. You get what you train for.

This philosophy applies to business skills as well. When you work on a particular skill you tend to improve that skill. However, if you don’t work on the skills required in your business you’ll only improve marginally.

For example, walking gives some physical benefit but nothing like running distance or working on sprinting. So why do with think because we use our ears every day we’re getting better at listening? Just because we ask people questions on a daily basis does that necessarily make us good at questioning.

Persuasion is an everyday skill. According to Aristotle persuasion is the art of getting someone to do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do if you didn’t ask. Each of us asks others to do things every day but does that make us good at the skill of persuasion? Having studied the topic for more than a dozen years and working with countless people over that time I can tell you with certainty it doesn’t make you better.

People and companies – some very smart people and very good companies – make basic mistakes routinely. In nearly every case small changes could make big differences. For example take a look at the screen shot from my Starbucks app. Notice anything?

 In psychology there’s something we call the contrast phenomenon. What you experience first will impact what you experience next. When Starbucks puts “No Tip” first then $0.50 they make $1.00 and $2.00 seem much bigger by comparison. I have no doubt if they reversed the order the average tip would be much higher because after debating about the $2.00 tip, $1.00 doesn’t seem like too much. Not everyone will give more but enough will that baristas would do much better after giving their friendly service.

I’ve seen this same mistake made by organizations raising money via donations. Starting with $5 on the donation form then going to $10, $25, $50, etc., will never be as effective as starting with the highest number then going lower.

I could share many more examples but I think you get the picture. As I stated in the opening, doing something routinely doesn’t necessarily make you better at it. Taking time to focus on a skill to get better at it, like a golfer who practices consistently, will help you improve much faster and more efficiently. This is why everyone should take time to learn about the psychology of persuasion. Doing so will help your professional success and personal happiness. Did you hear what I SAID?