Tag Archive for: ethics

From Womb to Tomb Each of Us is a Persuader

From womb to tomb, each of us uses the skill of persuasion throughout our lifetime. As soon as babies come into the world they cry because they want to be held, fed, burped or changed. They don’t understand they’re engaging the skill we call persuasion, but they know they have a need and they want it met! Persuading others to act is one big way each of us seeks to get our needs met every day.

What is Persuasion?

Persuasion is more than changing hearts or minds, it’s ultimately about changing behaviors. Aristotle put it best when he said persuasion was, “The art of getting someone to do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do if you didn’t ask.”

If someone is already doing what you want then persuasion isn’t necessary. However, if someone isn’t doing what you need them to do then how you communicate might make all the difference between yes and no. But doesn’t this border on manipulation?

Persuasion vs. Manipulation

Persuasion differs from manipulation in that manipulation is one sided. The manipulator doesn’t care about the other person. Manipulators only focus on what’s good for them.

Persuasion on the other hand carefully considers the other person, their wants, needs, desires and goals. Ethical persuaders focus on three very important things.

  1. Win-win. Ethical persuaders look to create mutually beneficial outcomes. I like to say, “Good for you, good for me, then we’re good to go!”
  2. Ethical persuaders tell the truth and they don’t hide the truth. By being truthful to a fault they build trust with everyone they interact with.
  3. Ethical persuaders only use psychology that’s natural to the situation. For example, if scarcity doesn’t exists they don’t falsely create it.

Relationships are the Foundation

It’s a well-established fact that people prefer to say yes to those they know and like. The mistake most people make in relationship building is focusing on getting others to like them. Getting others to like you can be effective and it’s not difficult to do. Two simple ways to make this happen are to focus on what you have in common and pay sincere compliments.

It’s very natural for us to like people we view as similar to us. For example, if you and I find out we grew up in the same hometown, went to the same college or cheer for the same team, you will like me more. Along the same lines; if I pay you a genuine compliment you’ll feel good about me and like me more. Nothing new here.

While there’s certainly benefit to that approach I’ve learned there’s a much better way. Cultivate the following mindset: I want to like the other person. And here’s some great news – the very same things that will make you like me will make me like you. In other words, when I find out we grew up in the same hometown, went to the same college, or cheer for the same team, I will like you more. If I pay you genuine compliments I will see you as a good person and I will like you more.

This is a game changer because when you sense deep down that I truly like you – and I do – you become much more open to whatever I may ask of you. Why? Because deep down we all believe friends to right by friends.

No More Manipulation

Here’s where manipulation is all but removed from the equation – the more I come to like you the more I want what’s best for you. Now my attempts to persuade you come from a place of wanting the best for you and you receive it that way. We have a virtuous cycle that’s good for you and good for me.

The subtle shift from getting others to like you, to becoming a person who likes the people you work with, naturally makes you the kind of person others want to be around and work alongside. In other words, you become the preferred teammate.

Keys to Ethical Persuasion

The following principles are scientifically proven to help you be more persuasive. The science is based on more than 70 years of research from social psychology and more recently behavioral economics. Let’s briefly look at each principle.

Liking. The principle of liking was just described in detail above. Coming to like others will cause them to like you and will make it easier to persuade them because you’ll want what’s in their best interest.

Reciprocity. When you give, people will naturally want to give in return. I help you, you help me and we’re both better off. Remember, because I’ve come to like you, my giving is from a place of goodness, wanting to help you in ways that will be beneficial to you.

Social Proof. The actions of others impact how we think feel and behave. It’s why we’re drawn to “best sellers” and “most popular” opportunities. If others like you prefer something, it’s a good bet you’ll feel the same and be willing to follow their lead.

Authority. We feel better following the lead of experts. The more you establish yourself as an expert or the more you bring credible expertise into your communication the easier it will be for someone to follow your advice.

Consistency. Most people feel better about themselves when their words and deeds align. Telling someone what to do is never as effective as asking because psychologically, once someone responds saying they’ll do something, they’re more like to follow through. That’s because they want to feel good about themselves and look good in your eyes.

Scarcity. It’s natural for us to want things more when we believe they’re rare or going away. But the key is knowing that. By honestly telling someone about an opportunity that might not be available soon, or what they may lose if they don’t follow your advice, they’re more likely to act.

Full Circle

I used the term “virtuous cycle” earlier. Ethical persuaders understand this and take the long view when it comes to working with people. They recognize it starts with relationship. The stronger the relationship the easier everything becomes thereafter.

I often ask people; is it critical to your professional success that you understand how to get more people to say yes more often? The answer there is always a resounding yes! They also recognize the importance yes plays at home. After all, things tend to be more peaceful and happier at home when those around you willingly say yes.

By studying the influence process and psychological triggers that lead to yes you will enjoy more success at the office, happiness at home and be the kind of person others want to work with.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, 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 and persuasion.

Brian’s book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was a top 10 selling gAmazon book in several insurance categories and top 50 in sales & selling. His LinkedIn Learning courses on sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 90,000 people around the world!

Truthfulness Matters…A Lot!

Ever since I was little I’ve been a truth teller. My mom used to joke that I couldn’t lie. I don’t recall telling the truth as something that was routinely hammered into my sister and me, so I’m not sure where my emphasis on the truth came from. And, despite a serious look I naturally display, I have no poker face. I think it’s an example of my body aligning with the core belief that telling the truth is important.

This jumped out at me when I watched a news segment recently where Democratic presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren was in an impromptu conversation with a Chicago resident about school choice. The resident said while people like Warren had the option of sending their kids to private school most people don’t really have that choice. Looking somewhat uncomfortable (like most politicians when they go off script) Warren responded saying her kids went to public school. Not an entirely true statement.

Warren’s daughter went to public school and so did her son but only through fifth grade. After that he attended private school. Warren’s answer gives her wiggle room but it was not an entirely true statement. I’m sure that Chicago resident would have pushed back had she known Warren’s son had a private education sixth grade through high school.

“Truth Telling”

This approach to “truth telling” is by no means limited to Warren. There are plenty of fact checks daily on President Trump’s statements. We saw it when President Obama said dozens of times that people would be able to keep their current doctor under Obamacare. President Bush made many statements about the war in Iraq that were less than truthful. And let’s not forget Bill Clinton wagging his finger at the television cameras as he told Americans, “I didn’t have sexual relations with that woman,” referring to Monica Lewinsky.

Forgive me if I tell you, I hardly believe a word that comes out of politician’s mouths these days. After 55 trips around the sun I’m very jaded when it comes to what people will say and do when power is on the line.

Lying by Commission

This takes place when you knowingly tell a falsehood. It doesn’t matter what your motive is, lying is lying. When you stretch the true as a means to your own ends, say what you will but you’re a manipulator.

Some do this because they think people can’t handle the truth. That’s a lack of respect. Imagine someone saying to you, “I would have told you the truth but I didn’t think you could handle it.” How would you feel? What you do with the truth, how you handle it, is up to you.

Lying by Omission

This is when you know something would impact a person’s decision in a way you don’t like so you decide not to bring it up. In other words, you knowingly omit the truth.

Let’s say I’m selling my house and there’s a big crack in the basement floor. Knowing this might change your decision to buy, or at least reduce the price you offer, I put a huge area rug over the crack and hope you don’t ask about it.

How will you feel if you buy the house then discover the crack? If you confront me about the crack and I say, “You didn’t ask about it,” I doubt you’ll think I was truthful. No matter what I might tell myself, I know deep down I wasn’t truthful because the truth would have changed your decision.

Truth Telling, Trust Building

When you admit a weakness or shortcoming in your offer, you can actually gain credibility because you’re seen as trustworthy. After admitting a weakness, the key is to then transition to something positive. In the case of Elizabeth Warren, she could have answered the Chicago resident as follows:

“I understand your frustration with public education. I say that because my daughter attended public school through high school. My son did so through fifth grade then we decided to put him in a private school. Because of that experience I’m well aware of the difference between a public and private education. I agree that it’s not fair only a select few can get a better education. My pledge is to change that.”

To Do This Week

Don’t lie. Instead, commit to being a truth teller. When there’s something that might be viewed as a weakness in your offer, bring it up early. After that, segue to the best parts of what you have to offer. Do so and you’ll feel better about yourself, gain credibility, and be known as a person with good character. I’ll leave you with a quote from the Greek philosopher Aristotle, “Character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion.”

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, international speaker, 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 when it comes to the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s first book – Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical – has been one of the top 10 selling Amazon books in several insurance categories and cracked the top 50 in sales & selling.

Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses have been viewed by more than 85,000 people around the world! His newest course – Advanced Persuasive Selling: Persuading Different Personalities – is now available through LinkedIn Learning.

Influence PEOPLE: the book – Ethical

In August my first book will be available in eBook and paperback online at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and other outlets. Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical was written to give you practical, real-world ideas on how to use the science of influence. The goal is to help you enjoy more success at the office and happiness at home. I hope you’ll consider getting a copy.

This week’s blog post is an excerpt from the book on what it means too be ethical when it comes to persuasion.


“A man is truly ethical only when he obeys the compulsion to help all life which he is able to assist.”

Albert Schweitzer, theologian, philosopher, humanitarian

Do you know the difference between ethical persuasion and manipulation? Manipulators lookout only for themselves, unconcerned about the impact on others. It doesn’t matter to them if they stretch the truth – or outright lie – to get what they want. They don’t care if they disingenuously use their knowledge of psychology to twist your arm because they only care about how things work out for themselves.

This is why a good bit of advertising, particularly political ads, turn off so many people – because it’s apparent many companies and politicians distort the truth just to sell more products and win elections.

When it comes to ethics I like the following quote from The Art of Woo by G. Richards Shell and Mario Moussa; “An earnest and sincere lover buys flowers and candy for the object of his affections. So does the cad who seeks 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.” 

Are flowers and candy good or bad? They’re neither good nor bad. They’re neutral objects that acquire meaning based on how we use them.

The same is true of the principles of influence. They’re neither good nor bad, they describe how people typically think and behave. How you use your knowledge of influence will reveal your character. Will you use your new knowledge of influence in a mutually beneficial way, looking for the proverbial “win-win”? Will you be truthful? Will you employ principles natural to the situation you find yourself in? If you know you are telling the truth, using principles natural for the situation, and what you ask will benefit the other person in some way, then you can feel confident moving ahead with your ethical request. 

Using the principles of influence ethically cannot be overstated. Use them ethically and you can build strong, lasting relationships in your personal life and in business. However, if people feel you’re manipulating them, not only will they sever the relationship, they’re likely to spread the word and damage your reputation. We’d all do well to remember what Aristotle said; “Character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion.” As your use of ethical persuasion skills grows, so does your influence.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An international speaker, 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 science of ethical influence.

Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses Persuasive SellingPersuasive Coaching and Building a Coaching Culture: Improving Performance through Timely Feedback, have been viewed by more than 70,000 people! Keep an eye out for Advanced Persuasive Selling: Persuading Different Personalitiesthis fall.


Amazon or Amazing? I Missed It, Did You?

Look at the picture. Is it Amazon or just Amazing? Maybe it’s neither. I missed it at first, did you? When we received the marketing piece in the mail I thought it was from Amazon. My wife did too, until she opened it.

When we opened the marketing piece we saw ads for cars from a local dealership. That seemed odd so we looked at the cover again and realized it didn’t say Amazon, the word was Amazing. While it became obvious in hindsight, the color scheme, text and other visuals led us to believe it was from Amazon.

Being Amazon Prime members, we were naturally inclined to open something we believed was from Amazon to find out what deals might be inside. For the car dealership it was mission accomplished. In the battle for attention they got ours…for a moment. However, feeling tricked caused resentment for both of us. I’m guessing we’re not unique in that regard so the approach might end up working against the car dealership. I’m sure they’re measuring their marketing results so perhaps only they will know.

The whole experience leads to two items to briefly explore in this week’s blog – attention and ethics.


Some sources say the average consumer is bombarded with more than 5,000 marketing messages each day! As noted earlier, it’s a battle for marketers when it comes to standing out to gain our attention.

As awesome as the human brain is, it cannot consciously process multiple things at once (multi-tasking is a myth) and it’s working memory is pretty limited (just try to remember 10 things in a row and you’ll experience its limitations).

Our subconscious is another story. It’s powerful when it comes to processing without our awareness. As a result, scientists estimate anywhere from 85%-95% of decisions are driven by our non-conscious. In this case, everything about the “packaging” was associated with Amazon, a positive for most people, causing an almost automatic behavior to opened it.


How do you feel when someone tricks you or pulls the wool over your eyes? I’m guessing silly, stupid, dumb, or taken advantage of are a few thoughts that come to mind. I think it’s a safe assumption to say most people don’t enjoy any of those feelings and will resent whoever is seen as the cause.

If you learned someone (car salesman, insurance agent, vendor, restaurant server, boss) tricked you, you’d probably do whatever you could to avoid dealing with that person in the future. This is important to consider when you’re trying to influence people. You may win the battle but lose the war because trickery is never good for building long-term relationships.

When it comes to ethical persuasion always be truthful in your dealings with other people and use your knowledge in ways that will genuinely help others. Use the local newspaper test – how would you feel if your approach was the headline story for the day? Would you feel a bit embarrassed or would you be perfectly fine with people knowing the details of your approach? Would you feel good if someone dealt with a loved one (your mother, father, son, daughter, etc.) that way?

You don’t need to resort to trickery or manipulative tactics when you understand the principles of influence and how to ethically use them. Once you learn the principles and apply them I guarantee you will be more persuasive than you are currently. I’m confident because there’s more than seven decades of research to back up that statement.

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


When a Sale isn’t a Sale


Do you enjoy getting a good deal? I know I do
and so do most consumers. The reality is, very seldom do we know if we’re
getting a good deal because “the deal” is always relative. For example, a $300
smart phone is a good deal when you realize the normal price is $600. In other
words, when you think you’re saving money you believe you’re getting a good
deal and that’s extra enticement when it comes to the purchasing decision.
How would you feel if you were told you were
saving 50% off of the original $300 price of luggage only to find out you saved
nothing? I know I’d be upset because it’s very likely I would have factored in
the “sale” price into my buying decision, consciously or unconsciously.
In a class action lawsuit, a California court recently said
consumers have a right to sue retailers if the price advertised is fake. Kohl’s,
the retailer involved in the suit, says its advertised price was truly a sale
and besides that, “the lawsuit was originally dismissed because a judge ruled
that the customer couldn’t sue because he hadn’t lost money by buying
merchandise that wasn’t as much of a bargain as he thought it was.”
So imagine you have the luggage and it works
as well as you expected, would you still be upset that the “sale” price was
just the price that you’d get anytime you visited the store? Would you feel
manipulated to some degree?
It’s one thing to buy something and then
realize you could have purchased it elsewhere for less – shame on you for not
doing your homework. However, should you have to do your homework to know
whether or not the store is telling you the truth about their “sale”?
In an article titled “Permission Marketing,” in
Fast Company, William C. Taylor
wrote, “This year, the average consumer will see or hear one million marketing
messages – that’s almost 3,000 per day.” Wow! Now here’s a scary thought – that
quote is 15 years old! How much more do you think you’re exposed to with the
explosion of the internet and social media? No one can possibly process it all
and that’s why so much of our decision-making happens at the subconscious
level. In fact, Martin Lindstrom, author of Buyology,
contends that 85% of what we do on a daily basis comes from unconscious
One way we wade through the myriad of choices
comes from decision triggers, or reliable bits of information, that guide us
into what we believe are good choices. Seeing “sale” is one such trigger.
Studies show that simply by advertising a “sale” or using some other feature
like a yellow “Everyday Low Price” sticker can sometimes double sales even if the
price hasn’t changed at all.
When I teach people about influence I stress
ethics because I want students to feel good about how they apply their new
knowledge. As people work in small groups to come up with some criteria about
what constitutes an ethical request every group always mentions honesty and
truthfulness. To a person they feel if someone is going to make an ethical
attempt to persuade another individual they have to be telling the truth.
If you consider what I just shared about
decision triggers and how retail sales increase based on using the word “sale,”
do you think it’s deceptive of a store to advertise sale prices when in fact
they’re not any different that the regular prices you can get every day at the
store? In other words, if you shopped at Kohl’s every week and saw the 50% off
luggage, wouldn’t you come to realize the price is just $150 because it was
never sold for $300?
Like it or not, when we see a sale being
advertised it gets us into stores far more than if there was no sale. Once
we’re in the store we buy more so wouldn’t it be nice to know we’re truly
getting the good deal that’s advertised?
Brian, CMCT®
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

This Post Might Just Save Your Life!


This blog post might just save your life!
Well, not exactly. Truthfully, not even close. But you might be a little wiser
for having read it, so I hope you’ll stay with me for a moment and continue reading.
You might be wondering why I went with such a
sensationalized title. You could say it was manipulative, that I was just out
to get you to read, and you’d be right. So why is a guy who blogs about ethical
persuasion using a manipulative tactic? Simply to make this point – I’m so sick
of seeing manipulative headlines I decided to write about it. Here are some
that irritate me.
War on
– Did you know there was a battle raging this past December and
many soldiers lost their lives along with innocent civilians? This headline was
especially prevalent on Fox News over the holidays. My dad was in Viet Nam and
I’m willing to bet he and other veterans who’ve seen combat would not use the
word “war” to describe the tactics used by groups who are opposed to Christmas.
Declares War on the Citizens That Resist PPACA
– Not only are we
having to defend our lives against the Christmas rebel soldiers, we have to
battle our own President! I saw this headline on LinkedIn. Again, the use of
the word “war.” Really, the government is firing bullets and lives are being
lost because of what Obama is doing? Please!
War on

– I see this headline on Facebook a lot. I know women serve in the military and
now engage the enemy in combat but apart from that there’s no war on women.
Some people may be opposed to certain pieces of legislation but there’s no war.
Some of you are thinking this is no big deal. After
all we were taught, “Sticks and stones can break my bones but names will never
hurt me.” I’d counter with, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” You clearly
know when you’re being physically assaulted but it’s not always so clear when
it’s a mental assault. Whether or not you’re aware, those headlines impact
people’s emotions and thinking and that’s exactly why the authors use the words
they do.
Frank Luntz wrote a book about this very
subject called Words that Work. Luntz
polls people for a living to find out which words resonate most so he can help
his clients with their messaging. As you begin to pay attention to word choice
you can quickly tell which side of the issue a presenter is on. Let’s take a
look at a couple of good examples.
Aliens vs. Undocumented Workers
– Illegal is bad because it’s breaking the
law. When we think of aliens it typically conjures up images of beings we must
defeat before they take over our planet. Together “illegal aliens” builds a
negative image and negative emotions. It leads to zealous thinking along the
lines of, “We don’t want those illegal aliens in our country!”
On the other hand “undocumented” isn’t so bad.
It makes it sound like someone lost his or her paperwork. That could happen to
anyone. Workers aren’t bad either. We need more good workers in this country
and we esteem a good work ethic. Together we have “undocumented workers” which
creates a different mental picture and softer emotions. If we can get the
proper paperwork they could help this country immensely because quite often
they’re willing to do jobs the average citizen doesn’t want to do.
But let’s be clear; in the end both sides are
talking about the very same thing. However, the word choice each uses builds
different mental images and those mental images are designed to arouse completely
different emotions. Both are trying to get us to form very different opinions
on the same issue.
Tax vs. Estate Tax
– This is another great example. No one likes to pay taxes but
there’s a spectrum on which people fall when it comes to taxes. Some would like
to pay as little as possible and damn the consequences. Others see taxes as
necessary to build a strong society and infrastructure. The real question is
what word will we use with taxes.
Death is not a good image no matter how you
present it. Very few people want to die but when they do the last thing they
want to think about is the government reaching into their casket for one last
money grab. You mean even in death we can’t escape taxation? Outrage!
When you hear the word “estate” what do you
think of? If you’re like most people you think about rich people because
they’re the only ones who can afford to live on sprawling estates. Why should
their millions, or hundreds of millions, be passed on to some greedy spoiled
kids who did nothing to build that fortune? Does the world need any more Paris
Hiltons or Kardashian girls? With that imagery many people say, “Heck yea, take
as much as you can so the rest of us don’t have to pay as much!”
Again, two sides talking about the same issue
– taxing people’s accumulated assets when they pass on – using very different
words. They want to arouse emotions and ultimately actions.
It’s not like Sgt. Joe Friday who used to say
in the television series Dragnet,
“Just the facts.” Watch Fox and MSNBC or CNN and you’ll think they’re from two
different planets despite talking about the same issues facing our country. Pay
close attention to the words used because there are many issues that impact each
of us – taxation, abortion, gun control, health care, etc. – and how we’re persuaded
to act will have to do in large part with how each side presents its case.
Brian, CMCT®
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Lance Armstrong, a Modern Day Robin Hood? Hell No!

So last week, Lance Armstrong confessed to Oprah Winfrey that he did in fact use banned substances during his career. While this might be a surprise and disappointment to the general public, it wasn’t a shock to anyone inside the sport of cycling nor was it to most athletes. Whenever we see superhuman performances like winning the Tour de France seven times, Flo Jo smashing the 100-meter dash record by a half second, or Roger Clemons pitching at a Hall of Fame level well into his 40s, we should be very leery.

As I listened to Mike and Mike on ESPN radio driving to work they brought up the point that some people have equated Lance Armstrong to a modern day Robin Hood because he helped so many, despite breaking the rules. I say, “Hell no, he isn’t a modern day Robin Hood!”
First, Robin Hood was a fictional character. We see many fictional charters we wouldn’t tolerate in real life. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays some pretty cool action heroes in his movies but would we really tolerate such characters in the real world? Of course not, and it showed when his funny quips, best left for the movies or Saturday Night Live, got him in trouble on a number of occasions while governor of California. Remember the “girlie man” quote he made about budget opponents?
Robin Hood’s motive was all about helping the poor because they were oppressed by the local government and a corrupt sheriff. If you’ve followed Lance Armstrong over the years then you know Lance’s motive was Lance, pure and simple. With his notoriety he was able to help people but it was still about Lance, from the starting line to the finish line.
I heard one commentator say Lance knew he had to do this (confess), that he had no choice. He went on to say he also realizes it’s the right thing to apologize to those people whose lives he ruined. Did you notice it was about Lance first and the people he hurt second? If the right thing had been his motive then perhaps in the absence of the overwhelming evidence he would have approached those same people and apologized for what he’d done, then confessed to the world.
People have said, “But look at all the good he did.” Can’t the same be said for Joe Paterno when it comes to Penn State and their student athletes? Joe Pa had a very positive impact on both but this line of thinking is “the ends justifies the means.” In other words, it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you can point to how you helped others. Bernie Madoff donated millions to various organizations over the years and they benefited tremendously but did that make it right in terms of how he obtained his wealth? Ask the investors who paid his tab.
If there’s a silver lining for Lance Armstrong it’s twofold. First, he has advocates who will never leave him no matter what. Those people who benefitted from the LIVESTRONG foundation are among those. And don’t forget the millions he inspired to work hard at whatever their chosen profession or sport. When it came to inspiration he was like a real-life Rocky.
The second silver lining is the forgiveness of the American people based on the recency effect. Here’s a list of people who played their cards right and, while perhaps not attaining the same level of popularity and income they had prior to their scandals they’re still doing pretty well:
  • Tiger Woods is still the crowd favorite at PGA events.
  • Martha Stewart remains an icon for most homemakers.
  • Pete Rose might just make it into the Hall of Fame during his lifetime because of the legions of fans who believe it’s the right thing to do.

So what does all of this have to do with a blog on persuasion? Here are a couple of closing thoughts.

Aristotle said, “Character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion.” Each of these people influenced legions of us to do things because of who we thought they were. Had we known the truth many of us might have made different choices on what to do with our time, money, effort, and adoration.
When I write about persuasion my bent is ethical persuasion because none of us wants to be manipulated nor do we want to be known as manipulators.  If something is the right thing to do then we shouldn’t have to resort to manipulation to get people to do what we want.
Let me leave you with this; Frank Sinatra sang, “I did it my way” and there’s a part of the “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” American mentality that loves this.  That is, until we find out someone’s “way” is to cheat and manipulate, because in the end the ends DOESN’T justify the means. If you want to look yourself in the mirror and feel good about who you are, do the right thing.
Brian, CMCT®
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

PEOPLE – What is Ethical Persuasion?

Influence PEOPLE – Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical. Can we persuade others in an ethical manner? My nephew Max asked me about that a while ago and that prompted this series of posts on PEOPLE. We’ll explore the ethics of influence this week in the last article of this series.

Interestingly enough I first made contact with Dr. Cialdini because of ethics. Stanford University had come out with a new marketing piece advertising his best selling video on the principles of influence and the headline read, “Call it influence, persuasion, even manipulation…” I emailed Stanford and told them since no one wants to be manipulated and no one wants to be known as a manipulator that word could not be helping sales. Shortly after my email I received a call from Dr. Cialdini’s office thanking me and letting me know Stanford was changing their marketing of the video.
Manipulation isn’t bad when we use it to refer to things like a carpenter manipulating the wood he’s working with. However, when it comes to people the connotation is always negative because it implies shrewd and unfair dealings. As I noted above, people don’t want to be manipulated and no one with an ounce of integrity would want to earn the title manipulator.
I do believe we can ethically persuade others and influence them in non-manipulative ways. College courses are taught on ethics and books are written on the subject so no doubt some of you might have questions after reading this short post. I encourage you to leave comments and I will do my best to respond.
My challenge as someone who teaches others about sales and persuasion is to distill the question of ethics into something quick and easy so it can be used in real world situations. All too often we don’t have time to consider every aspect of ethics nor do we have time to debate hypothetical situations.
Having shared that, I believe we can be ethical in our attempts to persuade others in everyday situations if we’re doing two simple things. First, we have to be honest and forthright in what we share. Sharing untruths and half-truths to get your way won’t cut it, especially if the person you’re attempting to persuade questions your integrity because of your presentation of the facts.
Second, we should always consider the well being of the other person we are trying to influence. Is what we want them to do really in their best interests as well as ours? This goes to the heart of what Stephen Covey called a “win-win” outcome. If we believe what we’re asking them to do will benefit them and not just ourselves we can usually feel good about proceeding with our attempt to persuade.
A couple of questions might come to mind with what I just wrote. First has to do with the facts. As I shared in an earlier post on politics, people will present information in a way that best highlights their case. Was the state income tax increase from 3% to 5% a 2-point increase or a 66% increase? It’s factual to say either. One side says 66% to arouse emotion to persuade people to vote against the tax increase while the other side emphasizes it will only cost voters two percent of their income. I don’t think either side is being unethical but each has an agenda so we need to be aware of all the facts so we can make the most informed decision.
The question my nephew raised had to do with whether or not the person persuading truly knows what’s best for the other individual or group. I don’t think anyone always knows what’s best for other people. As the father of a teenager I’m attempting to influence Abigail all the time. I believe I know what’s best for her but as she grows up and continues to develop her own ideas, views and interests it may not always be the case that I know best. I don’t think that negates my good intentions because I do believe what I ask of her is in her best interests.
Sales can be very much the same. Is my company’s insurance right for everyone? No, but assuming agents who represent us have prequalified potential customers – they should assess their needs and match them to the best company(s) – they should feel confident when they decide to present State Auto as a solution. The potential customer will make the final decision because they will know best what they need. The role of the agent is to inform them and make a recommendation as the expert.
What I find manipulative is when someone presents information in a manner to influence other’s thoughts and behavior when they know revealing the larger context would change people’s opinion. For example, early on in the presidential campaign Republicans showed a video clip of President Obama and chided him for certain statements. What most people didn’t know was the clip was edited to manipulate people’s thinking because in actuality President Obama was quoting Senator John McCain’s words from the prior election. When asked if this was right, former RNC Chairman Richard Steele said there was nothing wrong with it! Sorry, but I think that’s sleazy politics.
Having shared that I’ll say the Democrats did something similar when they hammered former Governor Romney when he said he was willing to let the auto industry go bankrupt, as if the doors would close, everyone would lose their jobs and we’d no longer make cars in the United States. That wasn’t the whole truth because they conveniently left out the larger context. Romney wanted the automakers to declare bankruptcy to get out from under certain debts and reorganize as many large corporations have done over the years. That’s a very different picture than doors closed and assembly lines stopped.
Obviously this is a deep subject, much too deep for a short blog post. However, I hope it’s prompted your thinking about the subject. In closing my encouragement would be twofold:
  1. Do your homework so you know what you’re asking someone is truly good for them as well as you. Make it a win-win to the best of your ability.
  2. Make sure you’re honest in your communication and if context is needed then supply it.
I believe if you do these two things you’ll be able to look yourself in the mirror and sleep well at night. A side benefit is the trust you’ll gain will make it easier for you to work with and persuade others down the road because you’ll be building a good reputation.
Brian, CMCT
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Is Persuasion Manipulation?

Is persuasion manipulation? I recently read The Hidden Persuaders by Vance Packard, a book written in the mid-1950s to alert people to how advertisers were getting the public to buy products using their understanding of psychology. It paints the social psychologists who worked with big companies in a negative light and described “the advertising man” as a “journeyman psychologist.” The cover of the book and the opening paragraph both state, “Many of us are being influenced and manipulated in the patterns of our everyday lives.”

I enjoyed the read and have to agree in part because there are people who take advantage of their understanding of psychology in order to get what they want. Reading it made me think it was time to address the topic of manipulation. If we’re to talk about manipulation we need to know what manipulation is. I looked up “manipulate” in several dictionaries and while they all vary somewhat their definitions, the word boils down to a couple of meanings, one good and one bad:

1. to handle or use skillfully (i.e., a carpenter manipulates wood – good)
2. to control something or someone cleverly or deviously (the car salesman manipulated me – bad)

I think it’s safe to say the words manipulate, manipulated and manipulation all carry negative connotations today. After all, no one wants to be manipulated and no one wants to be known as a manipulator.

When it comes to understanding manipulation we need to understand motive. I love a quote from The Art of Woo by G. Richard Shell and Mario Moussa. They wrote, “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.”

Understanding influence and persuasion is completely neutral like the flowers and candy noted above. Why a man uses the flowers and candy as he does, or why a person uses persuasion and influence is the real question. In each case you have to wonder if the person is only looking out for #1 — what’s in their best interests.

The term “win-win” is popular today. It’s encouraged in business and negotiations if you want to maintain a relationship with another person or organization. That needs to be kept i
n the forefront when it comes to using persuasion. You have to ask yourself, “Is what I’m asking this person, or company, to do in the best interests of all parties?” If it is and you’re being truthful in your approach then you can probably feel okay about proceeding.

Something else to consider. As you learn more and more about influence and persuasion, wouldn’t it be foolish to not use that understanding when making requests of others? If you knew there was a better way to hear “Yes” then why would you not use that method? If you felt bad that someone agreed then perhaps you have to step back and ask yourself whether or not your request — influence and persuasion aside — was legitimate to begin with.

Here’s an interesting side bar: it was this very topic that got me in touch with Dr. Cialdini. When I read an ad for one of his videos it read, “Call it influence, persuasion…even manipulation.” Knowing his stance on ethics I emailed the organization saying I don’t think he’d agree or appreciate that description of his work. His company, Influence at Work, found out about my email and called me. That’s what led to him becoming a guest speaker at State Auto in the summer of 2004, my attendance at his two-day Principles of Persuasion workshop and eventually my certification as a CMCT (Cialdini Method Certified Trainer).

On a more personal note – I used flowers, candy and a Rolls Royce on my wife’s 23rd birthday to “influence” her decision when I asked her to marry me. I think she’d agree it’s been a win-win relationship.

Before I let you go I want to point out the very cool drawing from a friend, Mike Franzese. Mike is in the advertising business and has a blog, Franzeseinklings, that I follow. I liked his drawings so much that I asked him for a picture that conveyed manipulation. I think you’ll agree, he did a terrific job! Keep an eye out for more from him and give his blog a follow.

Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes! “