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Speak Metaphorically to Influence Literally

Speaking metaphorically can help you influence people, literally. This post was inspired by the Ted Talk Metaphorically Speaking from James Geary.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary a metaphor isa figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them.”

He is my personal example of a metaphor. Several weeks ago, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was called before Congress because of the impact Facebook, fake news, and user data may have played into the 2016 presidential election. As our elected officials tried to grill Zuckerberg it was apparent they had little to no knowledge of how Facebook and other social media outlets operate. In response to this fiasco I post the following on a few social media sites:

“Imagine horse owners in 1910 grilling Henry Ford about car accidents and you have a picture of what happened the other day.”

People understood exactly what I meant right away. What would the impact on the newly formed auto industry have been if congressmen who rode horses ignorantly questioned Henry Ford about the dangers of automobiles? We might still be using the horse and buggy to get to work or at least set technology back many years if not decades!

For the most part people think in pictures, not words. When I mention an elephant it’s highly unlikely you’ll think “E-L-E-P-H-A-N-T.” Instead you probably have an image in mind. For some people it’s a big African elephant with huge tusks. Others might envision the smaller Asian elephant used in some Indian Jones movies. And other people pictured a cute baby elephant like the one in the movie Dumbo. No matter how people think of an elephant, we all use pictures in our mind’s eye and would likely agree on what an elephant is, despite minor differences.

Metaphors can take a complex subject and immediately make it understandable for most people. I’d guess if you didn’t see any of the Zuckerberg – Congress interaction you got a pretty good idea of what happened based on my 22-word description.

When Steve Jobs wanted people to grasp what a computer could do for them he said the computer was like “a bicycle for the mind.” Bicycles are easy to use and make us much more efficient in getting from one place to another. Most people, upon hearing Jobs, probably thought, “Yea, I get it.”

Much of persuasion is about taking the complex, simplifying it then communicating with people in a way that gets them to say “Yes” and take action. Next time you need to share something complex, don’t talk in technical terms, think about the proper metaphor to share and you’ll increase your odds of success. In other words, speak metaphorically to influence literally.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLEand Learning Director at State Auto Insurance. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed nearly 130,000 times! Have you seen it yet? Watch it and you’ll learn how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

Persuading Einstein and Members of AARP

I just finished Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Issacson. Excellent book!
Issacson also wrote another very interesting biography I read a few years ago, Steve Jobs. His book on Einstein was so well
written and portrayed Einstein in such a way that I was sad at the end to read
about his death because I felt like I was just getting to know him.
We all have notions of Einstein from school,
quotes we’ve read, movies we’ve seen and various other sources. Some of what we
learned was true and much was fairy tale or at least exaggeration. What
fascinated me about Einstein was how much of a rebel he was in his youth and
how much he was willing to change as he got older when the facts warranted
change.
As we get older, change gets harder. In some
sense we’ve honed what works for us and those patterns or habits – which
include speech and thought – are no exception. We think what we think and do
what we do because we believe it’s the right way or the best way given the
situation. Dale Carnegie understood this and that’s why one of his tips from How to Win Friends and Influence People
encourages us to “show respect for the other person’s opinion and never say, ‘You’re
wrong.’” Never forget, right or wrong, people have reasons for what they do.
Beyond being stereotyped as “set in their
ways” is there any proof that older people are more difficult to persuade?
Actually there is. A study mentioned in Robert Cialdini’s Influence Science and Practice noted, “in a follow-up study
employing subjects from ages 18 to 80, we found that preference for consistency
increased with the years and that, once beyond the age of 50, our subjects
displayed the strongest inclination of all to remain consistent with their
earlier commitments (Brown, Asher, & Cialdini, 2005).”
So as we age it’s natural to cling tightly to
closely held beliefs, attitudes, values, and ways of doing things. As most of
you reading this know, it can be darn hard to change someone’s mind, especially
as they grow older.
So what’s this have to do with our friend Albert
Einstein? On one hand he seemed to cling stubbornly to his view of the universe
and dismissed some newer science including quantum mechanics. Without going
into detail on either issue, suffice it to say that despite lots of data on
quantum mechanics, there were a few important questions Einstein could not
reconcile in his head. Had someone been able to help him do that he might have
changed his mind and abandoned his search for a unified theory.
Being an analytic personality, Einstein would
naturally cling to his beliefs because he so thoroughly thought them through.
You’d need data to convince him AND you’d need to do so at the points that were
of most concern to him. No scientist could convince him that we can never truly
tell a particle’s exact position and momentum (a tenant of quantum mechanics).
Scientists believe we can only guess at those two things but Einstein could not
reconcile that in his mind so he held to his earlier beliefs about the universe.
On the flip side there was something very dear
to Einstein’s heart that he eventually did change his mind about. He was an
ardent pacifist in his younger days and believed if people would refuse
military service there would never be a need for military action by nations.
His view on this was shaped by the horror of World War I and the unparalleled
destruction it brought on the world at that time.
Through the early 1930s he held onto this
view. However, with the rise of Hitler and the Nazis in Germany he began to
re-examine that view. While he never embraced war, he came to believe people
should enlist to defend freedom. He was also instrumental in getting President
Roosevelt to start exploring nuclear technology and was against unilateral
disarmament towards the end of his life because of the imbalance of power it
would cause.
Why did he change? He was confronted with
facts and the reality was the stakes were too high to be wrong.
As you attempt to persuade people you’d do well to consider where they are in their life cycle. Teenagers and younger people have not developed the same groove older people have. It’s easier for them to experiment and quite often there is much less at stake for them in terms of loss should they make a mistake.
However, as people get older and
responsibilities increase, scarcity – the fear of loss –
also plays into the equation too. Changing jobs when you have a family or child
getting ready for college changes the equation for many people. The stakes are
much higher for a wrong decision.
Helping minimize fear of loss becomes very important,
as does the ability to tie your request to consistency – what someone has
said or done in the past, what they hold as far as values and beliefs. And when
you try to tie into consistency make sure there’s not some other point that’s
most important for the other person otherwise you’ll hear, “Yes, but…” That was
Einstein’s retort to the physicists who pushed quantum mechanics.
As is the case with sales, persuasion comes
down to knowing your audience and their “hot buttons.” Once you know those two
things, crafting you argument becomes much, much easier.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
influencePEOPLE 
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.
 
 
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The Influential Steve Jobs

I
recently read Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. It was an interesting book about one of the most influential people of the last 100 years. When I say Jobs was influential I don’t mean in the sense of necessarily using the science of influence. I say Jobs was influential because the products he developed are used by so many people around the world and have set the standard for many communication devices today. Indeed, the iPhone and iPad are the standards when it come to phones and tablet technology.

I found an interesting paradox as I was reading the book, because I enjoyed the book but found myself disliking Jobs the more I got into it. At times I caught myself thinking, “I love my iPhone but can’t stand him.” I almost felt guilty that I enjoy so much what he invented because of the path he took to get there and how he negatively impacted so many people along the way.
There were certain descriptions used of Jobs throughout the book that I found to be nonsensical, particularly his “reality distortion field.” The author and many people he quotes talk about Jobs’ vision – be it for a new product, deadline or something he simply believed – as if he had some magical power to distort reality. He was certainly a visionary and he had a strong will coupled with a bully-like approached that helped get things done. For those reading this who played sports, think of your meanest, toughest coach and multiply that person many times over and you begin to get the picture of the approach Jobs used with people. Nonetheless, if you enjoy Apple products or just biographies of people who shaped history then I encourage you to pick up Steve Jobs because it’s a fascinating look at the man who’s had so much impact on the world we live in.
The following paragraph caught my attention and is the basis for this post because it relates to the science of influence and sales:

“When it came time to announce the price of the new machine, Jobs did what he would often do in product demonstrations: reel off the features, describe them as being ‘worth thousands and thousands of dollars,’ and get the audience to imagine how expensive it really should be. Then he announced what he hoped would seem like a low price.”

Whether or not Jobs understood he was using the science of influence, he was, by tapping into the compare and contrast phenomenon. This is used all the time in sales because the price of a product can neither be high or low unless it’s compared to something else. That something is quite often another price. For example, when I first started running I went to a department store and got a pair of running shoes for about $40. They were much better than anything else I’d ever worn so I was happy until I realized I needed a better shoe after logging lots of miles. Imagine my sticker shock when I saw good running shoes at a real running store sold for $65 – $115! Fortunately for me there were some good salespeople who could clearly explain what I was getting for my money.
Sometimes the comparison point isn’t another price; rather it’s describing everything someone will get. A good description makes them realize they’re getting quite a bit and can soften the blow price might deliver. We see this all the time on infomercials when we hear, “But wait, there’s more!” That’s where the infomercial host goes on to describe all the extra ginsu knives we get for the same low price we were considering buying a single knife for.
Another example comes from my area of expertise, insurance. In your auto insurance policy there’s a coverage called “liability” which protects you in the event that you cause bodily harm to another person or damage their property in an auto accident. The most common amount of coverage people carry to protect themselves is $100,000. The bad news is that really doesn’t go very far in today’s litigious society when some cars are worth nearly that much and even a short
hospital stay can easily exceed that amount.
Having more than 25 years in the insurance industry I’d never recommend selling someone less than $300,000 in liability coverage. Of course the natural objection from a customer would be paying three times more for all of the extra coverage. But the good news is it doesn’t cost three times more! A good salesperson would use a similar approach to Steve Jobs and might say, “If you’re like most people you’re expecting to pay three times more for three times more coverage. While that’s a reasonable assumption I have some great news, it will only cost $X more, not even close to three times as much.”
The value of this approach is that it lets a customer see there’s clearly a need for the extra coverage (they hear about lawsuits in the media almost daily), and their satisfaction level will go up when they realize they’re getting triple the coverage for a fraction of what they expected to pay.
No matter whether you’re a salesperson, involved in marketing, work with advertising or just trying to convince your spouse to spend some money on something you want, look for legitimate comparisons that will make your request look like the best, most reasonable choice. You may not have as much success as Jobs did with Apple but science tells us the odds of you hearing “Yes” will go up rather dramatically.
Brian, CMCT
influencepeople 
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.