I Trust Nothing from Anybody Anymore

Recently I saw the following social media post from a friend and former coworker: “I trust nothing from anybody anymore. I’ll go with my gut instincts and do what I think is right.” Like my friend, you’re inundated with more information than ever and very likely frustrated by all of it. According to one source, you’re subjected to 5000 marketing messages a day! All of those messages, and plenty of other information, is right there at your fingertips with social media and Google. And it’s available 24x7X365 through your phone. The trouble is, much of the information you’re exposed to seems contradictory so I get the frustration. But abandoning reason for gut level decisions on important issues is a bad idea!

Losing Trust

Looking to authorities when making decisions usually serves us quite well. If I have a question about taxes I talk to my accountant. If it’s a legal consideration I consult an attorney. When it comes to health issues, I have friends who are doctors so I seek their input.

In each of the cases just noted, the individuals I go to have far more knowledge than you or I possess and that’s multiplied by the amount of time they’ve been practicing their trade. Imagine trying to play a sport – soccer, basketball, golf, etc. – against a professional athlete – an expert. Apart from making a lucky play here or there, you would be dominated every time! And so it is with people who are experts in their chosen field.

Credible authorities are trusted experts. It doesn’t matter how many degrees someone has, the breadth and depth of their experience, or their prior accomplishments if they can’t be trusted. When it comes to this I’ve often referred to Bernie Madoff, the disgraced financial investor convicted of a $65 billion Ponzi scheme. Madoff knows more about financial markets and investing than perhaps 99.9% of all people…but would you trust him with your money? Of course not!  Trust is a critical element of authority if advice is to be acted upon.

Going with Your Gut

If you feel you can’t trust experts you may wrongly think you’ll be just as well off to make decisions on your own. Most likely a bad move over the long haul because you’re operating from very limited knowledge when compared to experts. Even if you decide to do your own research you’re still relying on the expertise of others to some degree. In other words, you have to place some trust in the sources you’re looking at.

The worst thing you can do is go with your gut according to my friend Dr. Gleb Tsipursky, founder of Disaster Avoidance Experts, LLC, and author of Never Go with Your Gut. Most of the decisions we make today require rational thought because our guts can lead us astray.

If you’re in a life and death situation where you need to make an instant decision there’s no time for researching pros and cons. Go with your gut at those times! That’s what your instincts were designed to do – help you survive. But, seldom are you in such tight predicaments in modern life. Most situations you face today have a myriad of choices with far reaching consequences so investing time and energy into decision making is the prudent approach.

To Do This Week

Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Social media seems to have created “experts” in abundance but don’t fall for that. And the friend who has a friend whose distant relative is an expert in [fill in the blank]. Don’t fall for that either. Instead of wading through social media posts, which are often fake and almost always biased, do some research of your own. When decisions are important – your health, financial future, career, who you’ll vote for, etc. – consider the following advice:

  1. Research the information shared. Does it make sense? Is it unbiased or does it have a clear slant? Is it data driven or just opinion? A fact would be, “That car is $35,000.” An opinion would be, “That car is expensive.” Big difference between fact and opinion.
  2. Research the source. Is the person or organization credible? Are they relying on data or opinion? Are they advocating for a particular point of view or ideology? Sometimes even data can be manipulated to support a point of view.
  3. Consider multiple sources. Do you want to go with an outlier when the vast majority of credible sources are pointing in a different direction? Ask yourself why the majority might be congregating around a particular position? While there are always exceptions, much of the time the crowd is right so give strong consideration to what the majority are saying.

Following these three simple steps won’t lead you to the optimal answer 100% of the time but I’m confident they will lead you to the best answer far more than throwing in the towel and relying on your gut.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, TEDx speaker, 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 name one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by Book Authority. His LinkedIn Learning courses on sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 100,000 people around the world.


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.


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.

LinkedIn is “Social” Media so Try Being Social

One definition for social is “pleasant companionship with friends or associates” (Merriam-Webster). You’re probably social at work when you interact with people in friendly ways. That’s natural and makes work more enjoyable. Are you social on social media?

Social media helps connect people. Never in the history of humanity has it been so easy to connect with so many people anywhere in the world. I’ve made friends across the globe – and met some in person – because I chose to be social on social media. You never know where those relationships will lead.

How I use LinkedIn

I accept every request to connect on LinkedIn even though most people don’t know how to use LinkedIn effectively. For example, too many people just click on the request to connect button without sending a personal message to say why they want to connect. When I get a request like that I always send this message immediately after accepting the connection:

Thanks for reaching out to connect with me Joe. I’m curious, how did you come across my profile? Brian

Almost everyone responds and the number one reason they want to connect with me is because they’ve taken one of my LinkedIn courses. It would be foolish on my part to dismiss so many connections – especially those who’ve enjoyed my course – just because they’re not more LinkedIn savvy. And who knows, those people could be clients in the future.

I like when people are honest and tell me, “I just clicked on the connect button because LinkedIn suggested you. I hope that’s okay?” My usually response: “Thanks for letting me know. Today is your lucky day!” My humor gets laughs and often opens up people to further communication. It’s being social.

An Interesting Exchange

The best exchange happened recently. I changed the name and a few other facts to keep the person anonymous. You’ll see the importance of being social in our brief exchange. There was humor and the principle of liking was clearly in play for both of us.

Me: Thanks for reaching out to connect Joe. I’m curious, how did you come across my profile? Brian

Joe: It suggests people. You looked interesting!

Me: Thanks for letting me know. I’ve done courses for LinkedIn Learning so a lot the time that’s the reason. It’s good to know why people are reaching out. I’m going to let my wife know someone found me interesting today. Every little bit helps. 😉 Have a terrific day. Brian

Joe: You tell her I found you interesting AND handsome AND someone who looked like he’d be an awesome husband.

Me: I’ll show her that message!

Me: I just show her and she said, “He seems like a funny guy.” I told her I wasn’t sure about that but being an Ivy League grad, I knew you were smart…and perceptive!

Joe: A smart something …. do you do talks for insurance conferences?  I am co-chairing an insurance sales conference this year.

It remains to be seen if I’ll speak at the conference but I know this: my odds are much better than they’d have been if I had rejected the connection. If I’d have accepted the connection, but not been social, my chance to speak would have still been much less.


There are plenty of reasons to steer clear of social media and one big one is the time suck once you start scrolling through feeds. To prevent falling into the time trap set designated times to use certain apps. For example: I generally try to use LinkedIn early in the morning and limit browsing Facebook to the times when I take a mental break from reading or writing.

Something else to consider – don’t wait until you need to make LinkedIn connections to start making them. That’s one of the biggest mistakes people make. They start working it after they’ve left a job and need a new one. Think of LinkedIn connections like regular relationships – the more time you invest everyday the better positioned you’ll be when you need help. People are more willing to help those they consider friends (liking) and those who’ve helped them in the past (reciprocity). It starts with you being friendly and looking for ways to help others.


If you want to grow your influence I encourage you to be more social on social media. It’s a great opportunity to practice your influence skills, make friends, and maybe open the door to new opportunities.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. His Learning course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed by more than 50,000 people! His latest course, Persuasive Coaching, just went live. Have you watched them yet? If not, click on either course name to see what you’ve been missing.

Think Before You Speak or Write

I read a LinkedIn post from Wharton Professor Adam Grant in response to a Washington Post piece, More companies are buying insurance to cover executives who sexually harass employees. Grant wrote, “Seriously, companies: instead of buying sexual harassment insurance, how about you stop promoting sexual harassers into positions of power?”

Unfortunately, we see it all too often in sports and now it’s coming to light in business in an unprecedented way. It’s almost common place to see sports teams pick up or keep athletes who’ve been involved in things that would cause termination in almost any other business. Why? Because of talent and the impact on the bottom line. Now we’re seeing that many businesses have been doing essentially the same thing for some of their top talent.

I don’t disagree with Grant’s assertion that businesses should do much more to vet people before moving them into positions of greater power. However, I had a problem with many of the ignorant comments to his post because too many people didn’t know what they were talking about. I’d venture to guess most didn’t even read the article that prompted Grant’s comment.

I’ve been in the insurance industry for more than 30 years so I want to share some insights. Businesses can buy a product called Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) to cover financial losses from things like sexual harassment, discrimination and wrongful termination. Why is the coverage needed? Simple – to protect the business from serious financial consequences or possibly ruin. This includes covering attorney’s fees, even if the allegations are proven false. A side benefit is more compensation available for those who’ve been harmed by someone in the employ of the business.

Imagine this for a moment. You own a small business and an employee does something really dumb – stops a bar on the way home from work while driving a company car. He gets in an accident shortly after leaving the bar and is found to be just over the legal limit for drunk driving. I’m sure you’d be darn glad you had a business auto policy to protect you and your company. He on the other hand might be spending some time in jail and will certainly see his personal insurance premium skyrocket.

Now imagine you own that same business and unbeknownst to you an employee does something (sexually harasses someone or makes an offensive racial comment) that leads to a lawsuit against your company. Depending on the size the lawsuit it could force you into bankruptcy unless you had an insurance policy to help protect you.

Here are some things to think about:

  • Would you want to lose your job if you worked in one of those companies because their doors closed?
  • If you invested in one of those companies wouldn’t you want management to be careful and have protection in place, just in case?
  • If you were a separate organization that depended on the company being sued, wouldn’t your business life be easier if they could keep operating as opposed to shutting down?
  • What if it turns out a court finds the lawsuit was without merit?
  • Here’s the biggest question – if you’re the one who was harmed, wouldn’t you want to know compensation is available?

In each case, there’s a risk that needs to be protected against and insurance companies are willing to offer protection for an appropriate price. Please note: The insurance won’t keep a wrongdoer out of jail if he or she is found guilty of a crime! The insurance is to protect the business.

Many of the comments I saw (nearly 200) in response to Grant’s post were laughable because so many people don’t understand what the insurance is and what it does. Should we do away with auto insurance and simply tell businesses to hire better drivers? There’s already an incentive in place to hire good drivers – lower insurance premiums – but sometimes bad stuff happens. Here are just a handful of comments that show no understanding of the issue as it relates to insurance and protecting a business:

  • “I didn’t even know that such a type of insurance exists. Awful.”
  • “Really? This absolutely stupid!”
  • “We really do live in a profoundly sick society.”
  • “Wow! Can’t believe this even exists.”
  • “You’re kidding. Let’s not solve the problem; let’s just CYA with insurance. This is just wrong.”

Why this post this week? Perhaps to protect you. There’s an old proverbs that says, “Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise.” Today that could also apply to jumping into an online conversation before you have all the facts. Think first, do a little research, or at least read the article being referenced before you offer an opinion because it might help you avoid looking foolish.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLE. His course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed more than 100,000 times! Have you seen it yet? If you want to learn how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process then you’ll want to watch it.

Humology is the Intersection of Humanity and Technology

I had the privilege of speaking at the Assurex Global North American P&C and Employee Benefits Sales Conference a few weeks ago. It was a top-notch event at a beautiful location that brought together more than 100 highly successful insurance agency owners and producers. My topic was the application of persuasion in sales. I love the opportunity to share at events like that! A side benefit is getting the chance to hear other interesting speakers.

One speaker caught my attention, Andy Paden, the Director of Practice Development at INSURICA. During his talk, Andy used a term I’d never heard of before, “humology.” The term was coined by INSURICA’s consultant, Scott Kosloski, founder of Future Point of View. Humology is used to describe the intersection of humanity (relationships) and technology. He stressed the need for people to understand how relationships and technology have to be considered together in business.

I think it’s especially important to think through this topic because too many people bemoan the fact that technology is hurting our relationships. I don’t believe that’s the case because “good” relationships are primarily a matter of perspective.

I’m sure as we moved from an agricultural society to the industrial age many people thought relationships suffered because families no longer worked together. Suddenly family members were gone 12-16 hours a day in factories which meant significantly less time together.

When the phone was invented I bet lots of people lamented that face to face conversations were less frequent. Rather than walking or driving several miles to see a neighbor or relative to sit a talk people just picked up the phone.

In more recent times I’ve heard countless people say texting hurts relationships because no one picks up the phone to talk anymore. They also pooh pooh social media sites because “those aren’t real relationships.”

Over time it’s inevitable that society and technology will change how people interact. But can we really say one time period is better than another? I think our challenge is to figure out how we can use technology to have the best relationships possible.

I’ll share two personal examples. The first is Facebook. I got on Facebook more than eight years ago because a friend said my daughter Abigail would probably want to get on Facebook when she turned 13 years old. I enjoyed Facebook more than I would have imagined and I began to realize Abigail was probably learning more about me than I was about her! She saw how I interacted with friends, my sense of humor and much more. She had a view of me that I never had of my parents and that helped our relationship.

I also saw my relationship with Abigail grow because of texting. We have more frequent contact with text because there’s no chance we would have called as often as we texted. Because I was willing to communicate with her in the manner she preferred we communicated more and our relationship grew.

If you want good relationships with friends, family or customers make sure you engage them on social media. That means taking time to respond if they comment on your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or blog posts. That’s where communication happens and relationships form and grow. Taking this approach has helped me meet people all around the world.

The last thing I’ll mention is the application of the principles of influence. People often ask if those principles are as applicable today given all the change in society and technology. Absolutely! Society is rapidly changing and technology is changing even faster but the human brain has not evolved nearly as quickly. That means the same principles that guided our decision-making thousands of years ago still guide us today. How we engage those principles differs only because we have more ways to communicate today and we can communicate with more people faster than ever.

I encourage you to embrace the changes that are happening. As you do, ask yourself how you can use the change to build more relationships and strengthen those you already have. I’m sure as you do that employing the principles of influence will come in quite handy.