The Mindless Things We Say Affect Us and Others

When you communicate your words create thoughts and feelings within you and for others. Sometimes the feelings come first then trigger thoughts. Other times thoughts may be prompted followed by feelings. Whatever the order (feelings-thoughts or thoughts-feelings) next comes behavior. If you agree with that assertion you’ll also agree that some of the mindless things you say affect your behavior and the behavior of those who hear your words.

I’m Sorry

There are certainly times for legitimate, heart felt apologies. However, if you pay close attention to the times you say you’re sorry, or when others do, you’ll realize quite often sorry isn’t necessary. This came to my attention when I watched a Ted Talk from sociologist Maja Jovanovic.

In early childhood parents and others teach us to say we’re sorry for a variety of reasons. Most are legitimate but after that our need to apologize seems to takes on a life of its own. As Jovanovic points out, constant apologizing disempowers you and can lead others to think less of you.

Here is an example. Let’s say you’re on your way to a meeting and a major car accident will cause you to be late. As soon as you realize this you call the person you’re supposed to meet with and say, “I’m sorry, I’m going be late. There’s an accident on the highway and the traffic is at a standstill.” The accident wasn’t your fault which means being late isn’t your fault so why apologize? It would be just as legitimate to say, “I’m calling to let you know I’m going be late because there’s an accident on the highway and the traffic is at a standstill.”

Again, I point this out because apologizing isn’t always necessary and can actually be counterproductive in terms of how people may view you.

Not Bad

This one is a pet peeve of mine. When you ask someone, “How are you?” it’s very common to hear, “Not bad.” You might be thinking, I know what they mean, but do you really? Let’s analyze this phrase just a little.

Does saying “not bad” mean you’re actually doing well? If so, why not say, “I’m doing well. Thanks for asking.” If bad is the standard are you content simply because you’ve avoided the bad state? That’s not the same as doing well. Or how about this one, “Not too bad.” You could be doing bad but as long as you’re not doing too bad you’re okay. Really?

You might think this is knit picking but it’s important. Doesn’t it make you feel different – in a good way – when someone answers you with “Doing well” or “Things are great” or “Fantastic”? Remember, your words create thoughts and feelings which lead to actions.

No Problem

Recall a time when someone did something you appreciated. It’s likely you said, “Thank you.” I bet you’ve heard the response “No problem” more times than you can count. If someone is paid to help you – restaurant server, customer service, salesperson, etc. – do you really care if it was a problem for them to help you? It’s their job and jobs are created to help people solve problems!

When someone thanks you for helping them any of the following responses are much better:

  • Thank you, it’s nice to be appreciated.
  • You’re welcome. We’re here to help.
  • I enjoy helping people so it was my pleasure.

Those are just a few potential responses to a heartfelt thank you. I’m sure you can come up with many more if you take a moment to think about it. Any of those phrases will leave someone feeling better about their experience than “no problem.”


Having just read this you might begin to notice some of these phrases in your communication. Or, you may notice other words and phrases that don’t serve you or others well. That’s great! Habits are hard to break and it begins with awareness. When you catch yourself don’t get down, be thankful for your awareness. The next step is to begin using words and phrases that will create the kinds of thoughts, feelings and actions in others that you’d like to see.

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 almost 55,000 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 a link to see what you’ve been missing.

Let’s Talk about the Elephant in the Room

Have you ever been in a situation where there was an elephant in the room but nobody acknowledged it? The term “elephant in the room” is used to describe a situation or problem that exists and everyone knows about it but is unwilling to deal with it. But, what if people really missed the elephant in the room?

Many years ago, on a trip to Baltimore, I arrived at State Auto’s regional office and asked if there was a room I could use to sit down and get some work done. I was led to a conference room and started getting busy. Sometime later Gretchen, the sales manager, stopped by to see how I was doing. She asked, “What do you think about it?” I replied, “Think about what?” She said, “The elephant in the room.” “What are you talking about?” I asked. She pointed to the back of the room where a seven-foot cut out of an elephant was up against the wall.

I had literally missed the elephant in the room! You might be wondering how that could happen. Well, it happens to me quite a bit and I’m sure it happens to you on occasion too. Here’s one more story.

Over 20 years ago Jane and I were walking around a gallery hop. It wasn’t my cup of tea but I tried to act like I was engaged so I made a comment about a painting by the famous French painter Monet. As we looked at the painting I said to Jane, “We have a painting buy that guy.” Jane told me, “We have that painting!” “Really? How long have we had it?” I innocently asked. She said, “About three years. It sits at the top of the stairs.” Wow, not an elephant but I sure missed that one.

How is it we can miss the obvious? Quite often it’s nothing more than focus. When I went to Baltimore and got to the office I had one goal – get some work done before several days of training. I only “saw” whatever would help me accomplish that goal.

At other times we become so familiar with our surroundings that we stop noticing things. For married men reading this you understand this every time your wife asks, “Notice anything different?” That’s when the beads of sweat start to form on your forehead, your mind starts racing, and you choke like an athlete in the biggest moment on the biggest stage. You’re so familiar with your spouse, home or something else that you stopped noticing the details. Ask someone in love the color of their partner’s eyes and they are very likely to give you a correct answer. Ask couples that have been married a long time and there’s a good chance they don’t remember. Familiarity isn’t always a good thing.

So how can you overcome this? Two simple ideas: slow down and get out of your head.

  • There’s an old saying, “Stop and smell the roses.” In other words, consciously take time to slow down so you can pay attention to things you normally don’t mindfully consider.
  • Make the conscious choice to stop focusing on certain things. You can’t “not think about an elephant” but you can distract yourself from thoughts of an elephant by choosing to focus on something else. Take a break from your work, go for a walk, or engage with a coworker to get out of your head.

While my stories are funny there are downsides to this. Missing the obvious can lead to bad decisions and in a business setting it could cause others to think less of you. And when it comes to personal relationships, missing the obvious can hurt someone’s feelings. None of these are good so slow down and get out of your head every now and then so you don’t miss the elephant in the room.

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.

“Fear has never created a single job or fed a single family.”

Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada weighed in on our Presidential election when he recently addressed the United Nations. He told world leaders, “Fear has never created a single job or fed a single family.”

His quote sounds good, very statesman-like, but unfortunately it’s completely incorrect. If you pause for just a moment and consider what fear does you’d have to conclude it creates a tremendous number of jobs. Consider the following:

  • The military – It exists because of the threat of war.
  • Police – They exist to serve and protect. This arises because of fear and people who break the law.
  • Insurance – It gives peace of mind because it reduces the anxiety that comes with the fear of loss (home destroyed, car accident, theft, etc.).

I’ve spent my adult life in the insurance industry and I tell people we’re a noble industry because we do two things:

  1. We help people. When people have a loss they’re thankful when they have the right insurance to help them get back on their feet.
  2. We help the economy. When an insurance company guarantees payment in the event your home or auto is destroyed banks lend more freely. That means more homes and autos are sold which means more people are employed as each are made.

Trudeau’s statement that fear doesn’t create jobs is ludicrous. Here are just a few facts from 2015 on the U.S. insurance industry from the Insurance Information Institute:

  • People spent more than $1.2 trillion on insurance products.
  • There were 5,296 insurance companies.
  • The industry employed 2.5 million people.

In much the same way that marketing professionals want you to buy their product, Mr. Trudeau wants people to buy into the notion that Donald Trump is peddling fear in an effort to win the election. He is, but so is Hillary Clinton. As I wrote this summer in The Politics of Fear: They’re Trying to Scarcity the Hell Out of You, using fear to win votes is a very old strategy and is used equally on both sides of the aisle.

Whenever someone is using fear they’re tapping into the principle of scarcity. First know this; fear has served mankind well because it’s a survival instinct. From Robert Cialdini’s book Influence Science and Practice, according to social psychologists Haselton & Nettle, “One prominent theory accounts for the primacy of loss over gain in evolutionary terms. If one has enough to survive, an increase in resources will be helpful but a decrease in those same resources could be fatal. Consequently, it would be adaptive to be especially sensitive to the possibility of loss.”

Second, quite often fear of loss moves us to take actions that ultimately serve us well. If scarcity led to more bad choices than good we’d stop responding to it.

Having shared those two thoughts remember this – there are times when scarcity is legitimate and there are times when it’s manipulative. Manipulators realize the power of this principle and will use it to their advantage.

So the real question becomes; is the fear (scarcity) legitimate? If it is then you should pay heed and take appropriate action. When it’s not legitimate then reframe it as someone’s attempt to manipulate you.

And what about the November election? It’s my personal opinion that both Republicans and Democrats are trying to manipulate all of us. They all tell half-truths, outright lie and manipulate statistics in their favor in an effort to grab power. Each side tells us every election that it’s the most important election ever, that our country and way of life is at stake. It’s all BS!

I started with Mr. Trudeau so I guess I should end with him. Canadians seem to love him. He’s young, good looking and charismatic so he’s gaining notoriety on the world stage. I don’t know a lot about him but I know this, his quote about fear not producing jobs or feeding people is laughable. As you should do with any politician, you would do well to look beyond the veneer and critically think about what he says next time he speaks.

What Do You Think About Donald Trump?

“What do you think about Donald Trump?” That’s a question I hear more and more these days. People are curious about how he is in position to possibly win the presidency of the United States.

From the beginning the experts have been wrong about his chances and so was I. Remember when Trump announced his candidacy and proceeded to make remarks about Mexicans being criminals and rapists? Along with most of the political pundits I thought he was done before he even got started. We were wrong.

Remember when he said Senator John McCain wasn’t a war hero because he was captured? Political analysts thought he was done and so did I. But he wasn’t. Any number of things he’s said could have resulted in his demise. Consider this short list:

  • Carly Fiorina’s looks
  • Megan Kelly’s blood
  • Possibly punishing women who would get an abortion if abortion were illegal
  • The name calling with Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio

Despite these things his following only got stronger. Why? As I wrote months ago (Have We Changed or Are We Just Politically Correct), perhaps he is saying what many Americans actually think and feel but wouldn’t say in the politically correct environment in which we live. Now those people have a voice in Donald Trump.


Early on, Trump followers were denounced because of their strong-arm tactics at some of his rallies. They would shout down the opposition and sometimes get physical with Trump’s approval. People accused him of inciting violence.

Now the tables have turned. In Arizona we witnessed Trump protestors blocking roads to prevent his supporters from attending a rally. In several cities in California Trump protestors went much further than Trump’s followers ever had. Young people assaulted Trump supporters – male and female – without provocation. All the while the media showed Mexican flags waving in the background.

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is playing a big role in favor of Trump. This psychological concept shows people aren’t always open to new information and possible change. No, most people look for information that confirms what they already believe. In the case of Trump, young Latinos shown harassing Trump supporters on the nightly news only confirms for many people that he has been right all along about immigration.

On the subject of confirmation bias, most anti-Trump people don’t realize they’re falling into his trap the more they try to bash him. His supporters simply see their actions as attacks on him and double down in their belief in him.

The Media

And then there’s the media. They don’t know how to deal with Trump either. Case in point, CNN’s Jake Tapper interviewed Donald about his comments regarding a Mexican-American judge presiding over a case dealing with Trump University. When Tapper tried to get Trump to admit his comment was racist, Trump didn’t yield an inch and didn’t come across as someone back-peddling. He continued to assert his point about why he said what he said. Tapper looked like he didn’t know what to do. Trump has taken considerable heat for the comment, especially from the Republican Party, but Trump supporters see this as proof that all along the establishment has been out to stop him. Their view isn’t that the party is doing this for America but rather for their own power that’s at stake.


With Trump, people feel like they know what they get. He speaks his mind and doesn’t come across as a polished, Teflon-fake, career politician. Does he flip on some issues? Yes but it doesn’t come across as someone who puts up their finger to see which way the wind is blowing. Right or wrong, like him or dislike him, Trump says what he believes, or more rightly, feels in the moment, and people are responding to that. For more on this read Donald Trump’s mASS Appeal.

Hillary and Bernie

It certainly helps Trump that he’s running against Hillary Clinton. Were it not for Trump being in the race, polls show Hillary would be the most disliked candidate to ever run for president. Her years in politics and numerous scandals (and Bill’s) have many people saying they would never under any circumstances vote for her. Her email scandal only reinforces for many people that she’s not trustworthy and is a “typical politician.”

To make matters worse, she’s in danger of losing many Bernie Sanders’ supporters who feel they cannot vote for her in a system they believe is rigged. They would rather send a message to the Democratic Party, even if it means losing the election, because when Bernie loses they will say it’s because of the rigged system. Why would they want to vote for Hillary, whom they see as part of the problem, after losing what they perceive to be an unfair election?

So there’s a confluence of things that are making Donald Trump’s improbable run a reality. Divorced from emotion, if someone would have told you years ago some of the things Trump would say and do I highly doubt you’d think there was any possibility he’d be in the position he’s in now. But we cannot divorce ourselves from emotion.

The Most Important Reason

This leads me to the final and perhaps most important reason Trump is succeeding – he’s a classic salesman. Good salespeople know people buy based on emotion and justify with logic after the fact. Trump drives home the message that America isn’t great right now and supports it by saying:

  • We negotiate bad deals
  • We overpay our share to defend the world
  • We have problems with illegal immigration
  • We have a problem with terrorism at home and abroad

It’s hard to dispute those things but Trump isn’t giving details on what he’ll do to make us great again. Instead he makes grand promises:

  • He will negotiate great deals
  • He will Cut defense funding to NATO, Japan, South Korea and other countries
  • He will build a wall…that Mexico will pay for
  • He will ban Muslims from coming to America for a period of time

In short, he “promises” to “Make America Great Again.”

Trump is tapping into emotions most other politicians can’t get to with their bland style of politics and old rhetoric. You may not agree with Donald’s methods, or like them, but there’s no denying he’s doing what almost nobody expected.

What’s to Come

There’s no guarantee he will win in November but there is one thing I think we can all agree on – this will be unlike any presidential campaign we’ve ever witnessed. Everyone should pay close attention to what is said by both parties to try to win our votes because the stakes are high.

Perception is Reality; Not really

You’ve heard it said, “Perception is reality.” What that means is how someone experiences something has a huge impact on their thoughts, emotions and behavior but, make no mistake about it, perception is not always reality.

Take two people who experience the very same thing but react completely differently. Suppose they are turned down for the same job. Let’s suppose one person decides to go back to the interview team to learn what he or she can do to perhaps get that job in the future. Imagine the other person sees the situation as a confirmation that he or she doesn’t have what it takes because in the past they’ve not gotten what they wanted.

The reality is exactly the same for each person – they were turned down for the same job – but each person’s interpretation is what impacts their future reality. From How-To Guide for Generations at Work by Robby Slaughter and Nancy Ahlrichs, it says “Most importantly, perception is reality. A strong conviction about a colleague’s perceived opinion has more bearing on a person’s actions than the truth.”

Reality can usually be measured and agreed upon. It’s truth. For example, the sky is blue. The colors that come through the atmosphere produce a prism of light we’ve agreed to call blue. You can call it green, red or anything else you want but the reality of the light emanating from the sky is the same.

Another reality is 2+2=4. You can wish it were something different and even call it something different but that doesn’t change the reality that having two items and adding two more means you now have four items.

Fortunately you can change your perception of situations! The famous American philosopher and psychologist William James said, “The greatest revolution of our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.”

In other words, we may not change reality but when we choose to change how we think about reality, that choice can transform us.

Here’s a great example. In the spring of 2011 storms and tornadoes ravaged the Midwest. Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Joplin, Mo., were two communities that were devastated. In that one quarter State Auto Insurance lost more money than in any previous year in the 90-year history of the company! Employees were down because the focus was “the worst quarter in the history of the company.”

John Petrucci, my boss and VP of Sales at the time, took a different approach. He started telling people it was the best quarter in the history of the company! You see, when people buy insurance they’re buying a promise – a promise that the company will be there to help when misfortune and tragedy strike. John’s view was, “This is the best quarter in the history of the company because we’ve never been able to fulfill our promise more than in this quarter!” That different viewpoint began to lift people’s spirits and that was important because we needed to be at our best physically and mentally to help our customers who needed us.

Is perception reality? No, because reality is neutral. How we interpret reality is entirely up to us. We need to make conscious choices to let go of thoughts that are not true and all too often hold us back.

Let me end with a quote from Henry Ford, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t – you’re right.” Which will you choose?

That Silent Nudge

Have you ever experienced any of the following?

  • You reviewed an email and felt something was off but you couldn’t put your finger on it. Eventually you sent it after rereading it one more time only to notice an error just after hitting send!
  • You left the house and felt something wasn’t right. You mentally reviewed your steps considering the rest of your day but decided to leave the house anyway. Before you know it you realize you forget your phone or wallet!

This happened to me recently as I wrapped up a workshop. I had my laptop bag over one shoulder and several items, including a workbook and handouts, in the opposite hand. Some workshop attendees came up to talk and when we were finished I headed out the door. I had a momentary feeling that something was different but continued on despite the feeling. Later that night I realized I’d left my workbook and handouts on a table because I’d sent them down during that final conversation! Fortunately the hotel had not thrown them away when I called the next morning.

In each case noted above, your subconscious and mine was trying to tell us something but our subconscious doesn’t use words to communicate. It uses feeling, gut instinct and other discernable cues. I told one friend it’s like the look my wife Jane occasionally gives me. I know something is up but I’m not sure what it is even though I’m supposed to. I wish she’d just tell me but most of the time she doesn’t and I’m left to try and figure it out.

The human subconscious is a marvelous thing because it’s helped humans survive. It’s what alerts us to danger before we know what’s actually happening so we can react appropriately. Gavin de Becker does a wonderful job explaining this in his book The Gift of Fear. I highly recommend you picking up this book, especially if you’re a woman, because understanding this might just save your life.

I’ve noted in past posts that experts vary on how much of our behavior is driven by our subconscious but they agree it’s a lot; at least 85% and could be higher than 95%.

The principles of influence I teach on behalf of Robert Cialdini often impact us on the subconscious level. By that I mean, before we fully understand why we’re doing what we’re doing, we make quick decisions. One example has to do with the contrast phenomenon.

In a survey of blog readers many years ago, I posed the following question:

You are at a store considering buying a high-end electronic item for $879. While there you learn you can drive across town and get the same item for $859. Will you make the trip (approx. 30 minutes)?

Only 13% said they would make the drive. However, with another group, when the item they were considering was $79 and they could get it for $59 somewhere else, 49% said they would go to the other store – nearly four times more! It’s highly unlikely anybody was thinking, “Is $20 worth 30 minutes of my time?” Everyone was subconsciously comparing to an arbitrary number and making a decision based on that.

One more example. If you called a friend for a favor, let’s say to move a heavy piece of furniture in your home, they most likely wouldn’t say to themself, “Pat is my friend so I should help.” Instead they would probably say yes if they had the time and strength. In other words they’re not analyzing the friendship but the friendship (the principle of liking) plays heavily into the decision making. In case you wonder consider this; if you asked a stranger they would say no because they don’t know you and would consciously wonder why a stranger would ask something so ridiculous.

In conclusion, understanding the silent nudge of the subconscious is important for a couple of reasons.

First, recognizing that nudge, a nagging feeling, and taking time to consider your next step more thoughtfully can help avoid small errors like the email noted above and bigger errors like forgetting your wallet on the way to the airport.

Second, knowing the power of the subconscious should make you more determined to look for ethical ways to employ the principles of influence because doing so will make it easier for others to say yes to you.

Man’s Need to Add Meaning

Over the years I’ve watched many of the Ken Burns PBS documentaries while running on my treadmill. I started with The War (WWII), and then it was on to Prohibition, The Dust Bowl, The Civil War, Baseball, Jazz, and most recently The Roosevelts. If you’ve never seen any of them I can’t encourage you enough to check them out because they are amazing!

I must admit, I’m not much of a baseball fan but the storytelling from the narrator and interviewees were so compelling and the players so interesting in that series, that I found myself excited every day to learn more about the history of the sport. Something that really stood out was the importance so many people put on the game of baseball as well as the meaning and significance they attached to America’s national pastime.

When it comes to necessity, I think it’s safe to say the local grocery store, corner gas station, a nearby hospital, your town’s fire department, banks and any number of other businesses or institutions are far more important to daily life than baseball. If baseball were gone tomorrow many people would be upset, would miss it terribly but life would go on pretty much as it does during the baseball offseason. However, without some of the institutions noted above, life would be much more difficult, dangerous and perhaps deadly in a matter of days in some cases.

So why is a sport like baseball so important to so many people? I think much of it has to do with the meaning we ascribe to it and the significance we attach to the game, its players, and the statistics. This line of thinking was driven home as I read the following from Daniel Pink’s book A Whole New Mind, in which he quoted a prominent linguist, George Lakoff:

“‘A large part of self-understanding,’ says Lakoff, ‘is the search for appropriate personal metaphors that make sense of our lives.’ The more we understand metaphor, the more we understand ourselves.”

In his most famous work, Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl shared his life experience having survived three years in four different Nazi concentration camps. He believed he could translate the pain he endured into a meaningful life where he helped others.

It’s a subtle, yet important difference: drawing meaning from what you’ve personally experienced versus something else like a sport. But in the end it’s the same desire – we want to know that our lives have meaning and significance. It’s inevitable that sometimes we attach more meaning to some things than perhaps they deserve. From the Burns’ series on baseball here are some examples:

Willie Mays is known more for his famous over the shoulder catch than any other play. It took incredible skill to cover as much ground as he did then essentially make a blind catch over his left shoulder. People who saw it swore nobody else could have made that catch. Spectacular? Yes! Impossible for anyone else? Doubtful.

When the Dodgers and Giants left New York it seemed disastrous! Fans were outraged and felt betrayed but the sun came up the next day and has every day for 60+ years. Life continued on just as it had before baseball. Their well-being and significance wasn’t as wrapped up in a team as they thought.

It was thought that no one else could have done what Jackie Robinson did. What he did was heroic, considering all that was going on in society and he is to be admired for his courage to step into the situation becoming the first black player in the majors. But if it were not Jackie, someone would have eventually taken on that role.

This post in no way is meant to diminish baseball or any of its heroes. In fact, quite the opposite for me because I haven’t been as drawn to the game as I was watching the series, since I was an adolescent.

However, sometimes we attach too much significance to things, people, and events and that choice ends up hurting us. If your favorite team fails to win the big game or championship it stinks but life goes on. Or if a hero turns out to be something different than what we thought (Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, Pete Rose, etc.) it devastates some people. To allow any of these situations to do more than give you a bad day or memory is to give it more power over your life than it deserves.

People, places and things do not define us. We define ourselves and that means we can narrate our own stories. So I’ll leave you with this question – What story are you writing?

Combating ISIS with NICES: Giving and Receiving

As I write this post there have been ISIS attacks in Belgium, Iraq and Pakistan, not to mention attacks in numerous other countries before all the recent tragedies. Their increased activity has people living in fear despite the reality that the likelihood of dying in an ISIS terrorist attack is so much less than dying in an airlines disaster or car accident.

The irrational fear is because of the recency effect. Those things we can quickly recall to mind impact our thoughts and behavior more than other things that might have a far greater chance of impacting us. Think for a moment; we don’t stop flying or driving even though the risks from those activities is far greater than dying from a terrorist attack. Similarly, a poor diet and lack of exercise will kill many more people “before their time” than will terrorist attacks!

Jesus told his followers more than 2,000 years ago it was better to give than receive. Even if you don’t consider yourself a follower of Christ, do you really believe that? I think most people just pay that saying lip service. Very few people get more joy giving than receiving mostly because they stay focused on a “me first” and “looking out for #1” attitude.

One person I know who does get more from giving than receiving is my friend Loring Mellien, also known as Pud to his friends. I saw this clearly on a recent trip to San Diego for his daughter April’s wedding. There’s a world famous golf course in San Diego called Torrey Pines and my wife Jane (an avid, almost addicted, golfer) was intent on playing there. Pud was just as intent on helping her make her dream come true. As Pud and I talked beforehand I told him I thought he might just get more joy out of seeing Jane get the chance to play Torrey Pines than she would actually playing there. Pud is a rare person because he truly gets more joy helping people than he gets from receiving. I also think he gets more happiness from helping others than they get from realizing their goals and desires.

How does this apply to ISIS? Most of the world is living in fear of a tiny group of people when we could do so much more to combat ISIS. I’m not talking about combating them with military forces. I’m talking about combating them with the admonition to love one another and giving, rather than looking to get.

What a message we could send to the world if we all adopted the attitude that you are more important than me! What if we always asked what do you need? How can I help you? The more we do so the more we’ll experience the joy that comes with giving.

How does this relate to influence? Studies form people like Adam Grant show when we help others we do feel better about ourselves (the joy of giving) but that’s not all we’re after. The real value is that when we help others they’re more inclined to help others as a result. That’s the basis of the “pay it forward” concept. Unlike terrorism, which feeds on fear, the more good we do the more good will spread!

If light dispels the darkness and if love conquers evil then we should be able to rid ourselves of the fear from groups like ISIS and others who hate, simply by loving and giving. When I talk of love I’m not talking about the feeling of falling in love but the choice to place another’s well-being above your own and looking for ways to give.

I challenge you this week to look for ways to love and give. Take notice of how you feel and how others respond. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised in both cases and your small part of the world will be better off because of you.

What Would You Do?


At the last supper the apostle Peter said to
Jesus, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” Jesus told
him, “I tell you the truth. This very night, before the rooster crows, you will
disown me three times.” Peter protested, “Even if I have to die with you, I
will never disown you.” And the rest is history – Peter did deny the Lord three
times before sunrise.
I love that story because it reveals Peter’s
humanity and ultimately the forgiveness of Jesus. I also believe it tells us
something about each of us as individuals – we never really know how we will
act until a situation is upon us.
I believe Peter meant what he said with all of
his heart. To his credit he was ready to die for the Lord when he drew his
sword and cut off the Roman slave’s ear. However, he wasn’t ready when the
situation changed slightly. In the early morning in the courtyard outside the
temple when he was under no physical threat he denied knowing Jesus when asked
directly three times.
Quite often we “think” we know what we’d do in
a situation. We would never participate in the holocaust; we would have done
something about Jerry Sandusky had we been at Penn State; we would not have
participated in segregation in the South even if we had grown up there. Then
social psychology comes along and bursts our bubble with experiments that show
us otherwise. For example:
We believe we could resist the pressure to conform (consensus) if we knew we were
right. That’s what people assumed going into the Asch conformity experiments in the 1950s. And
yet, an amazing number gave into the crowd and went along with them even though
their senses told them they were correct, not the crowd.
Most of you reading this believe you’d never
harm another person just because an authority insists that you do
so. The participants in Stanley Milgram’s obedience experiment in 1961 probably
thought the same thing going into the experiment. However, two-thirds
eventually gave a series of 30 shocks with the last being 450 volts!
The college students in the 1971 Stanford prison experiment probably thought
they’d never behave sadistically when acting as prison guards just because of the environment. After all, the late ‘60s
and early ‘70s were known for young people railing against the establishment,
not conforming to it. In reality the students were so sadistic the two-week
experiment was halted after just six days!
When it comes to how we’ll react in stressful
situations we often overestimate our goodness and underestimate the impact of
people in positions of authority, the environment we’re in, and the pressure we
feel from others to conform.
Not everyone gave in during those experiments
and maybe, just maybe, you’d be one of those who would have resisted. However,
most people did give in so we’d be a little arrogant to just assume we’re so
different than those ordinary people that we’d always do the right thing.
So what’s a person to do? Peter tried relying
on his willpower and we know how that turned out. Heck, he was even told
explicitly what he’d do and that wasn’t enough for him to catch himself and
make a different choice.
Wouldn’t it be better to understand how people
typically think and behave? If you have that understanding it can create the
self-awareness you might need to make a better choice should you find yourself
in a situation where you know the right thing to do but feel paralyzed by fear.
That fear can be rejection from the crowd, retribution from the authority or
the feeling of powerlessness in the situation.
This is where social psychology comes in handy
because quite often our hunches about human behavior are incorrect. Dan Ariely
wrote two books about this very subject; Predictably
and The Upside of
. I encourage you to keep checking in with Influence PEOPLE
each week. An investment of five minutes might be all it takes for you to catch
yourself and make a better choice than Peter did and most people in the
experiments I mentioned.

** To vote for Robert Cialdini, President of Influence At Work, for the Top Management Thinker of 2013 click here.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Influence At Work

By now some of you have noticed I’ve been posting twice a week. I’m going to make an attempt to have a short Thursday morning post each week to let you know about other resources that might interest you.

Some people might wonder why I’d promote someone else’s work, especially if it’s in the same field as mine. I’ve come to learn in the online world the principle of reciprocity is king. You help others, promote them, and they usually do the same for you. The online pie is plenty large enough that no one has to worry about getting their fair share.
This week I want to point you to Dr. Robert Cialdini and his organization, Influence At Work. Many of you reading this know he’s the reason I became so intrigued with influence and ultimately started this blog. If you want to read more about my association with him click here.

Dr. Cialdini and several of his associates have a blog called Inside Influence Report. I’m not a doctor, and I don’t play one on t.v., but these guys are doctors – in the field of social psychology – so they’re worth listening to when it comes to mastering influence and persuasion. They do the social science research, dissect other scientist’s research and break it all down so you can use the information to be more a more persuasive person. I highly recommend you check out Inside Influence Report for great insights on influence and persuasion.

Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”