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What’s the Worst that Can Happen?

Did you parents ever try to convince you to try something new or different by asking you, “What’s the worst that can happen?” They were subtly trying to get you to realize you’d probably be no worse off for having tried. For example, asking someone for help, what’s the worst that can happen? If they refuse your offer you’re no worse off. However, if they yes you’re better off.

Asking for Help

If you’re struggling with something – driving directions, a project at work, chores at home – you’d think asking for help would be a no brainer. Unfortunately, all too often people don’t ask for help because of fear. Here are three fears you might have when it comes to asking for help:

  1. You’ll look incompetent. This is an outward focus. You want to appear like you have everything under control. In your mind asking for help indicates weakness in the eyes of others.
  2. You’ll feel stupid. This is an inward focus where you put pressure on yourself to have all the answers. Not wanting to feel stupid you may spend much more time than necessary to come up with the answers you need.
  3. The other person might say no. For the most part humans are little pleasure seekers and pain avoiders so it’s natural for you to want to avoid the pain of rejection.

People are More Willing to Help than You Think

Here’s some good news – research shows people are more willing to help than you might think. In one study university students were given a task – ask for an escort, not just directions – to the college gymnasium. The gym was about a 10 minute walk from where the ask was made so it was going to be a bit of an inconvenience for anyone agreeing to help.

Before getting to the task, each student was asked how many people they thought they’d have to approach in order to get a yes. The typical student thought they’d have to approach seven or eight people in order to get someone to help. The average guess was 7.2 people.

When the participants began asking they typically got help after approaching just two or three people. The average for all students was 2.3 people.

That’s significant! People overestimated rejection by more than 200%. If you knew you’d get the help you needed two or three times more than you thought, you’d be much more likely to ask for help whenever you needed it.

The Benefits of Asking for Help

There are lots of benefits to asking for assistance but we’ll focus on three that are very significant.

First, you get the help you needed. Getting help allows you to finish whatever you were trying to accomplish. That feels good but it also feels good knowing people were willing to help you. It restores a little faith in humanity.

Second, the people you help feel good about themselves. When we help others we get a little shot of oxytocin and that feels good. That good feeling reinforces people’s willingness to help in the future. We can accomplish more together than alone so it’s one way humans were designed to ensure our survival.

The third reason is the people who help you will like you more. Typically, you’d think getting help would make you like the helper more. And it does. However, a side benefit of getting help is that the helper comes to like you more.  Those who help you will justify their actions by generating reasons for having done so. Some of those reasons will include thinking about things they like about you.

Conclusion

Imagine there was raffle with a $1,000 prize and all you had to do was fill out an entry form to possibly win. You don’t have to buy a ticket, you won’t be put on some email list and there are no strings attached. Simply put yoru name on a slip of paper and drop it in the bucket. Would you enter the raffle? You have nothing to lose and you might win big.

Next time you need assistance look at asking for help like gambling without having to put money down. The odds of winning are better than you think but even if you don’t win you’re no worse off.

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 course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed by more than 53,000 people! Persuasive Coaching went live earlier this year and Creating a Coaching Culture will be online in the second quarter. Have you watched these courses yet? Click either to see what you’ve been missing.

Human Resources Respond to Human Psychology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What We Believe Affects How We See Reality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Influence is all about PEOPLE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Power of Moments

Ever since reading Made to Stick I’ve been a fan of authors Chip and Dan Heath. I read their follow up books Switch, Decisive and most recently The Power of Moments. As you might expect, I was very excited when I learned Dan Heath was going to be a keynote speaker at the Chief Learning Officer Symposium I attended a few weeks ago. Dan didn’t disappoint and everyone in attendance was given a copy of The Power of Moments.

My quick synopsis of the book is this: We know there are special moments in life that stand out from the rest and it turns out they’re not random. Chip and Dan have spent a good bit of time studying why some moments mean more than others. In the book they give readers ideas they can use to create their own powerful moments. They explore moments of elevation, insight, pride and connection. I encourage you to pick up a copy because you’ll get ideas on ways you can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.

After hearing Dan speak I had the opportunity to briefly meet him. All of this made me reflect on the power of moments in my life. I’ll share a few that really stand out.

Getting Engaged

When I asked Jane to marry me I did so on her 23rd birthday. Because it was her birthday she thought the dozen roses I sent to work were just a gift. Of course, getting roses in front of coworkers scored me some brownie points. Later that day I showed up at her apartment with a bottle of wine and another dozen roses. Another surprise was the chauffeuered 1963 Silver Cloud Rolls Royce I hired to take us to dinner that evening. It was later that night, in the back of the Rolls Royce that I asked her to marry me and as they say, “The rest is history.”

52nd Birthday

Milestone birthdays (30, 40, 50, etc.) are usually memorable because quite often then involve parties. For Jane’s 50th birthday I gave her (us) improv lessons which were a blast. But for her 52nd birthday I had my most creative and challenging idea ever. To commemorate 52, it occurred to me that there are 52 weeks in a year. With that in mind I decided to give Jane a gift a week for an entire year. It turned out to be great for three reasons:

  • It gave Jane something to look forward to every week.
  • I learned more about her because I had to pay close attention to her likes, dislikes and needs.
  • I spent more time with our daughter Abigail because she helped me pick out many of the gifts.

Special Day

Abigail is our only child. We would have loved to have more but it wasn’t in the cards for us. To tangibly show Abigail how much we love her we started a tradition we call “Special Day” when she was just a year old. This is a day we choose at random each year where we surprise her with gifts and plan the whole day around her. When she was little it might have been lunch at McDonalds, a Disney movie and cupcakes later that night. As she grew up it was horseback riding, plays, shopping sprees and other fun activities. To Abigail’s knowledge, none of her friends growing up had anything like a special day so it really continues to make her feel special.

Abigail’s Birth

One last occasion I’ll mention is Abigail’s birth. We tried for years to have kids but to no avail. When she finally arrived, she was an answer to many, many prayers. Within days of her birth I wrote a letter to her detailing the events leading up to her arrival in the world to let her know how loved and wanted she was. It was also my desire to give her to have a strong sense of how evident God was throughout the whole process. When she was 12 years old she was struggling with some identity issues so I gave her the letter. It was a powerful moment for her because she’s read it many times over the years and often asks questions about the events surrounding her birth.

I was fortunate that long before reading The Power of Moments I was creating powerful moments for my family that have influenced our relationships in very positive ways. The same opportunity exists for you. If you’re not sure where to start or what to do pick up a copy of The Power of Moments and you’ll learn everything you’ll need to know to create your own powerful moments.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLE and Learning Director at State Auto Insurance. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed more than 125,000 times! Have you seen it yet? Watch it and you’ll learn how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

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.