Tag Archive for: goal setting

When the Journey Becomes Better than the Destination

My high school football coach, Todd Alles, said many times during our playing days, “You’re gonna learn a lot about life playing this game!” That didn’t mean much to a bunch of 15-18 year olds sweating in the hot August sun during two-a-day practices. In fact, if memory is correct, we were probably thinking, “Yea, right!” as we continued running sprints and doing drills. Coach was right but most of us didn’t realize it till many years later.

Since my football days I’ve gone through several radically different athletic endeavors. Through sports I’ve come to realize the journey is often better than the destination.


I started lifting weights in high school to get ready for football. My body responded extremely well and I put on more than 20 lbs in three months. I was hooked!

While at Miami University I was the president of the weightlifting club for three years. During that time, I started competing in powerlifting. For three years after college I competed in bodybuilding contests. My whole life revolved around weight training and I thought my destiny was to own a gym.


About a decade after I stopped competing in weightlifting a good friend, Jud Beachler, owner of The Yoga & Fitness Factory, convinced a dozen friends to run the Columbus Marathon. I was part of that group. Marathoning was a radical change from weightlifting!

Despite a disastrous first marathon I knew I could do well in the sport. I just needed to learn from my mistakes then train hard and smart. Eventually I cut more than an hour off of my first marathon time. I made such rapid improvement that I set my sights on the historic Boston Marathon. Within a few years, I qualified for and ran Boston twice.

Martial Arts

My last iteration was another radical change as I got involved with martial arts. I took up taekwondo to spend time with my daughter Abigail. I jokingly tell people; martial arts are great because you get to legally hit your kid three days a week. Of course, Abigail enjoyed taking some frustration out on her dear old dad which evened things out.

Our taekwondo school had a wonderful group of families and excellent teachers. By the time I stopped going (Abigail could no longer attend due to school and work) I had earned my 2nd degree black belt.


Here’s the biggest lesson I can impart to you. When you find something you love doing, a goal (a contest, race or test) becomes the reason to do the thing you love with more focus and intensity.

For me, each journey became better than the destination. That was great because oftentimes the destination was minuscule compared to the preparation time. For example:

  • In powerlifting I’d train 4-5 days a week, a least two hours a day. I did that for four or five months to perform just 9 lifts (3 attempts on 3 exercises) in a meet.
  • I conservatively spent 200 hours in the gym getting ready for a 20-minute appearance on stage for a bodybuilding contest.
  • It took nearly three years, 600 hours, to reach a point where I was ready for my first blackbelt test.
  • I would typically run 1,000 miles to get ready for a 26.2 mile marathon race.

The reward hardly seemed worth the effort except for the fact that I loved training and the anticipation of the day of the competition. Again, the goals helped me do what I already loved with more energy and enthusiasm.

To Do This Week

What do you enjoy doing? If you could do it with more focus and energy do you think you’d enjoy the activity and your days even more?

As noted earlier, many of the sports I was involved in over the years were activities I did, five, six and sometimes seven days a week. Reaching for goals made for a lot of really good days!

Whatever you love to do, set a goal three or four months out. Create a simple plan for how you’ll pursue that goal. Finally, begin your journey and see how it impacts you. If you’re like me, you’ll find more meaning and joy in each day.

Brian Ahearn

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, TEDx speaker, international trainer, coach and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the planet on the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was name one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by Book Authority! His LinkedIn Learning courses on sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 100,000 people around the world!

There Were Three Frogs on a Log

There were three frogs on a log and one decided to jump off. How many were left? If you’re like most people you thought to yourself, “Two,” but you’d be wrong. You see, there’s a difference between deciding and doing.

That riddle was first posed to me by John Petrucci. John was a coworker at State Auto for 22 years and led the department I was in for 18 years. When John joined State Auto I learned more about sales in one year with him than I had in my first 10 years in the business. After a long career with Allstate and State Auto John is retiring at the end of this month. Not coincidentally he also just celebrated his 60thbirthday. You can consider this post a tribute to John.

Over the course of my life I’ve seen the wisdom behind John’s riddle. Far too often I’ve seen people “decide” to do things – change careers, get in shape, repair a relationship, get out of a bad relationship, etc. – but failed to act. It’s as if they fooled themselves by deciding and talking.

Goal Setting

If you Google goal setting you’ll find lots of articles that talk about the need for goals if you want to succeed. I’m sure that’s no surprise. What might surprise you is the number of articles that try to dissuade you from setting goals because they see them as limiting.

Personal Goals

I’m all for goals because I’ve seen how valuable they’ve been in my personal and professional life. My best personal example would be running. I took up running because Jud, a friend and fitness trainer, convinced a number of friends that we could run the Columbus Marathon. I took up the challenge and failed miserably in my first race, the Cincinnati Marathon.

After figuring out what went wrong I went back to the drawing board. I had some success so I decided to make qualifying for the Boston Marathon my goal. That meant cutting more than an hour off of that first marathon time! Three years later I ran the Boston Marathon. That never would have happened without a goal to pursue.

Professional Goals

On a professional level it’s been my goal to turn Influence PEOPLE into a full-time career. I took that step last month but it didn’t just happen because I decided. I’ve had an eye on the prize for 10 years. My goal has been to nurture the business while I worked at State Auto Insurance. I knew doing so would give me the opportunity to step into it when the time was right. The nurturing was working on my speaking, landing outside opportunities and blogging during that time. There was a master plan in place because I had a goal then acted.

The Challenge

The challenge about deciding and doing is this – once someone decides, and even puts together a plan – then the real work begins. For marathoning I had to get out the door every day at 5 AM and run. For Influence PEOPLE it was writing every week for years on end, countless hours practicing and actively seeking opportunities.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that deciding, or even planning, are actually doing. Both are important but they are only the starting point. After that the work begins.


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 teaches 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.


Yin and Yang or Everything in Moderation

Goal setting is good but some say it can be bad. Yes, a few studies show the act of setting a goal convinces some people they’ve achieved their goal and don’t need to do any more. Having set the goal set them back.

Aerobic exercise, like running a marathon, can be very good but some say it’s potentially bad. One article warns that distance running can be bad for your heath.

Let’s circle back. I don’t think most people are failing to actually reach their goals because they’re setting goals. No, I’d bet most people would do much, much better if they knew how to set good goals and then did so.

Likewise, I’ve rarely met people who felt running hurt them. Yes, too many marathons can take a toll on the joints and ligaments, especially if you don’t listen to your body and adapt as necessary with age. But, on the whole most people suffer from a lack of aerobic activity, not too much.

I’m sure there are many more things I could list that have an upside and downside but the real question is this: does the potential upside outweigh the potential downside?

This has come to mind because it seems like so much downside caution has come across my social media in recent months. When I read it, I wondered how many people won’t do something that could be potentially very good for them because of the small downside.

The principle of influence known as scarcity tells us we place more emphasis on potential downside than we do upside. Daniel Kahneman won a Nobel Prize for his work in this area. He and his late partner Amos Tversky statistically proved human beings feel the pain of loss anywhere from 2.0-2.5 times more than the joy of gaining the same thing. In simple terms; you feel much worse about losing $100 than you would feel good about finding $100.

This is important for you to understand when it comes to your personal improvement. Don’t let comparatively small downsides get in the way of potentially big upsides!

My advice is set goals! In fact, set some you think you might not reach – stretch goals – because you’ll probably be surprised at what you do accomplish as you challenge yourself.

Take up a running program if your doctor says you’re fit enough to do so. There are plenty of stories of people who were woefully out of shape and finally did something about it and now are the epitome of health.

And here’s some extra good news – most of the time doing something like running a 10K, half marathon or marathon has spillover effects. Once you achieve something you never thought possible you get a sense of confidence to tackle challenges in unrelated areas.

This advice is timely as we wind down another year and prepare for a new one. I challenge you to find one thing that will stretch you. Next, set a goal then go for it. What you might just find is the journey is the real challenge and more fun than actually reaching your goal. Do this and 2018 might just be one of the best years of your life!

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

To Be More Productive Try 23 and 7

I was off the week of Thanksgiving and my wife was working half days so I had some extra time on my hands each morning. Because I love reading I dug into The Leading Brain: Powerful Science-Based Strategies for Achieving Peak Performance by Friederike Fabritius and‎ Hans W. Hagemann. As I read I came across something I knew to be true but had forgotten to use.

When I was in college I had a special way to study for exams. I would start at 8 AM and study for 50 minutes followed by a 10-minute break. I’d do that till noon, eat lunch then start back up at one o’clock going until 5 PM. I took another hour break for dinner then I was back at it from 6 PM till 9 PM. That allowed for 11 hours of study but it never seemed overwhelming because of all the short breaks and the longer lunch and dinner breaks. The proof was in the pudding – I always did very well on my exams.

I chose this study method because I’d heard somewhere that the brain can’t concentrate for more than 45-50 minutes at a time. Reading The Leading Brain reminded me of this truth and my prior study habit so I decided to give this approach a try again but with a small twist.

If you’re like me too often you think if you can’t dedicate an hour or more to something then perhaps it’s not worth starting. Then what happens is those precious minutes get wasted on social media, watching television or some other mind-numbing activity. As much as I enjoy rest I didn’t want my week to idly go by and not accomplish some of the things I’d been looking forward to doing.

Rather than go 50 and 10, I decided to just go 23 and 7. I started with some reading. I closed my social media and consciously told myself I’d do nothing but read for 23 minutes. I set the alarm on my iPhone to buzz every 23 minutes followed by another buzz after 7 minutes.

It worked wonders! I read a lot and felt like I was retaining more because there were no starts and stops. Every time we allow ourselves to get interrupted and give our attention to the interruption we waste time and energy getting back to where we were. This isn’t so difficult with reading but it becomes very problematic with more complex tasks.

With that success, I decided to try it with my writing because, although I enjoy writing, I fall into the “I don’t have enough time” trap too often. I set my timer and started banging away on my MacBook keyboard. When the buzzer went off I walked away from my laptop and engaged in some other activity entirely. Just as it did with my reading, it worked wonders for my writing!

Any of us can bear down and concentrate for some short period of time. For you maybe it’s 10 and 5 or 20 and 10. Whatever you think will work best, give it a shot. Turn off or tune out anything that may distract you. Set a timer for some focused time followed by relaxing time. I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how quickly the time passes and how much you get accomplished. Two cycles of 23 and 7 were all it took to write this article, proof read it and get it posted!

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

Those Pesky Deadlines!

Don’t you just hate looming deadlines? Most people do because stress levels rise and quite often other things have to go by the wayside in an effort to complete the task with the deadline. I bet you just wish you could go without those pesky deadlines, especially those imposed by others, right? Actually, that might work against your best interests.

Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist from Duke and author of several books including The Upside of Irrationality, looked at ways students respond to deadlines. He divided his students into three groups. One had no deadlines other than turn in three papers by a certain date near the end of the semester. Another group got to choose their due date or dates. You see, they could have chosen to submit all three papers on the last possible day or they could set up any dates of their choosing throughout the semester. Most set their own timetables and didn’t default to the last possible date. A third group was given deadlines by Ariely.

Which group do you think did best on their grades? Logically it should have been those who could wait till the last day because that meant they could spend more time on each paper. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. In fact, as a group they did the worst on their grades. Procrastination usually isn’t helpful.

The group that got to choose their due dates performed better than those who had no due date other than the last day. Apparently some pressure was a good thing and procrastination was held at bay a little.

The group that did the best was the students who had three deadlines imposed on them by the professor. Apparently humans respond well when called to do so.

I had a chance to put this into practice over the summer. I was approached by to do a sales video that entailed writing 18-20 scripts that would last approximately five minutes each. That’s basically 18-20 blog posts on top of what I already write. I consider myself very self-disciplined but I know I can also become complacent at times.

So what did I do? My strategy was to discuss the situation with my contact at and get her to impose some deadlines on me. It worked well because I was able to get everything done in about six weeks, which was mush faster than she expected. It was a relief for me, too.

Why are deadlines typically so effective? Because they tap into the principle of scarcity. When deadlines loom we know there may be something to lose (a bonus or raise at work, a good grade at school, etc.) and that compels us to take action.

What does this mean for you? The next time you have something that needs to get done and you ask when it’s due, don’t settle for, “Whenever you get around to it.” Whomever you’re dealing with might be laid back but that “freedom” will probably hurt you in the end. Instead tell the other person you want a due date and some milestone dates before you start. Not only does that tap into scarcity, it engages the principle of consistency. When you publicly agree to the due date and milestone dates, you engage the principle on yourself because you’ll feel more compelled to hit those dates. It’s almost like having an accountability partner.

Here’s one more things about deadlines that might surprise you. People say they hate gift cards with expiration dates. They think it’s not fair because the company that sold the gift card gets to keep the money regardless of whether or not you buy anything. But, you might be surprised to learn that gift cards without expiration dates are used less than those with expiration dates! When you know the card will expire you tend to use it so you don’t waste it. However, when cards don’t have expiration dates they tend to get lost, forgotten about and all too often go unused.

So the next time you encounter a pesky deadline, maybe you should step back and remember this post then give thanks that you’ll be more likely to do what you need to in short order.

Useful Tips for Reaching You Goals

In his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi made the case that people are happiest when fully absorbed in tasks they find challenging and that give them opportunities for personal growth.

He calls the state people experience at those moments “flow.” If that term is unfamiliar perhaps the terms athletes use might be more familiar: “in the zone” or “unconscious” or “in the groove.” Flow is a lot like love in that you definitely know when you’re in it because whatever you’re doing seems effortless and time flies by.

Something that Mihaly believes can help people achieve flow are goals. How you view goals can make all the difference in your motivation. For example, if you can’t run a mile without feeling tired then focusing running on a marathon would be demoralizing. However, if you accomplish running a mile, then focus on perhaps going two or three miles, then five, and so on, it’s very likely you’ll stay motivated.

You see, most humans feel a sense of accomplishment when they stretch themselves and do things they’ve never done before. Using marathons as an example, it’s irrelevant for most people that they cannot run the 26.2 miles in under two and a half hours like elite marathoners. What the typical person cares about is the fact that they did something they never thought they could!

A great way to accomplish big goals is to have many little goals, mile markers if you will, along the way, in order to stay focused. A good example of this comes from martial arts. Most martial arts use a belt system that starts at white and culminates in black with as many as 10 belts that must be earned along the way. These incremental belts help people stay focused and motivated. It’s much easier to focus on achieving the next belt than thinking about the three to five years it may take to earn a black belt.

When you set goals there are two ways to feel good about your progress. The first is early on to focus on how far you’ve come, not how far you still have to go. I used to run marathons and when we’d reach points early in the race people usually encourage runners saying, “Way to go, 10 miles down already!” Imagine how a runner would feel if they said, “Way to go, only 16.2 more miles left!” What?!?

Next, as you make progress and move past the halfway point don’t focus on how far you’ve come but rather focus on what’s left. Returning to marathoning, as we got closer to the finish you never hear someone say, “Great job, 23 miles down!” No, they would say, “Great job, only three miles to go!”

You might notice that in each case the key is to focus on the smaller number to feel a sense of accomplishment, remain focused and stay motivated. This thought process applies to getting through college, weight loss, projects at work and just about anything else that can be measured.

I have another tip for goal accomplishment but it takes some guts because it’s puts you on the line. When you set a goal, tell somebody or share your goal with multiple people.

When you share a goal you engage the principle of consistency on yourself. Consistency is the principle of influence that tells us people feel internal psychological pressure and external social pressure to be consistent in what they say and do.

This principle is a powerful motivator because your self-perception is on the line when you make public statements on things like goals. We don’t want other people to see us negatively nor do we want to feel negative about ourselves. That can spur you on to keep hammering away at your goals. For more details on this see a post I called Pave the Way to Success in the New Year.

So there you have it; a few simple ways to get into the flow and accomplish goals that mean something to you.

Goals Gone Wrong

I’m a goal setter. It seems as if most people who succeed in life are goal setters too. After all, without a goal how will you know when you’ve achieved success? Goals give us something to shoot for, keep us on track and allow us to measure progress. All in all, goal setting is a very good thing…most of the time.

There’s the old adage, “What gets measured gets done,” and sometimes we come to realize our measurements got us focused on the wrong activities. Here are a few examples.

About 25 years ago, around the time I started with State Auto, I was a commercial lines underwriter. At the time, a point system was put in place to measure our work. A full day of work was 60 points and various tasks (new business, renewals, changes, etc.) were given specific point totals. People quickly learned how to maximize their points while minimizing their effort. It wasn’t uncommon for someone to announce before lunch that they’d hit their 60 points. That could be accomplished more easily by tackling simple policy changes rather than dealing with new business even though the new business was more important. In other words, we were not incenting the right behaviors for the outcome we wanted.

A personal example comes from me. I used to run marathons and was very competitive with myself. My goal was to qualify for the Boston Marathon, which I was able to do. To reach this goal, I would lay out a 24-week training plan with specific runs every day. Sometimes I became a slave to the plan. If a day called for an eight-mile run at a particular pace I was intent on getting eight miles at that pace come hell or high water. The only problem is sometimes my body was telling me to slow down, cut the miles or rest altogether. Not listening to my body usually resulted in injuries that only served to make reaching the ultimate Boston Marathon goal harder.

So what can you do so your goals don’t go wrong?

  • First, remember why. Constantly recall why you set the goal. This is why plans and strategies have been put in place. Success isn’t following the plan to the letter, it’s reaching the goal.
  • Second, be flexible. Don’t become a slave to the plan because sometimes flexibility can lead to better results over the long haul. (Remember my body telling me to rest.)
  • Third, don’t be afraid of change. If you see the plan is starting to distort the goal or it isn’t keeping you on pace to reach your goal don’t be afraid to change it or scrap it altogether.

Goal setting is good when it’s done right. If you read my post a few weeks ago on how to PAVE the Way to Success, then you know the principle of consistency comes into play when you set a goal and share it with others. As you set your 2016 goals, make sure they are Public, Active, Voluntary and Effortful.

PAVE the Way to Success in the New Year

If you’re like many people then you’ll be making New Year’s resolutions in a few days and if you’re like most people you’ll break your resolutions within a few days. According to one study, more than half the people who make resolutions are confident of achieving them, yet barely more than 10% do so. That’s amazing because most resolutions are good!

Here are a some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions:

  • Spend more time with family
  • Lose weight
  • Begin exercising
  • Quit smoking
  • Quit drinking
  • Get organized
  • Get out of debt

The list is admirable so why are these goals so difficult to achieve for 9 out of 10 people? There are probably as many reasons as there are resolutions and dwelling on those reasons would not be as beneficial as giving you scientifically proven ideas that can help make 2016 a year of positive change for you. Around this time every year I share an influence technique that can help readers PAVE the way to success in the New Year.

In the study of persuasion there’s a powerful motivator of behavior known as the principle of consistency. This proven rule tells us people feel internal and external psychological pressure to act in ways that are consistent with their prior actions, words, deeds, beliefs and values. When we act in consistent ways we feel better about ourselves and other people perceive us in a more favorable light.

There are four simple things you can tap into in order to strengthen the power of consistency in your life. These simple ideas will help you PAVE the way to success because they’ll dramatically increase the odds that you’ll follow through on your New Year’s resolutions.

Public – Whenever you make a public statement, whether verbally or in writing, you’re putting yourself and your reputation on the line. The mere fact that another person knows your intention and might ask you how you’re doing is often enough motivation for you to follow through.

Recommendation #1 – Share your New Year’s resolution with another person, or group of people, and ask them to hold you accountable.

Active – You have to actively do something. Merely thinking about a resolution, just keeping it to yourself as some sort of secret, will lead to the same results as people who don’t make any resolutions. In other words, nothing will change. This came to light in a study with a group of students who wanted to improve their college grades. One group was asked to write their goals down, one group kept their goals in their heads, and the last group had no specific goal whatsoever. As you can imagine, the group with the written goals succeeded, with nearly 90% of students increasing their grades by a full letter grade! With the other two groups the results were identical and poor. In each group fewer than 1 in 6 students improved a full letter grade. It’s worth noting, they were all given the same study materials so they all had the same opportunity to better their GPA.

Recommendation #2 – Make sure you have to take some active steps. It could be as simple as buying a book to help you learn more about the changes you’re hoping to make or writing them down.

Voluntary – This has to be YOUR goal, not someone else’s goal for you. If you’re trying to do something – quit smoking, lose weight, get in shape – it’s not likely your motivation will last if someone told you that you have to do it. The goal has to come from you because if it’s forced on you it’s not likely your willpower will last long. Samuel Butler said it best when he wrote, “He who complies against his will is of the same opinion still.”

Recommendation #3 – Make sure it’s something you really want to do of your own free choice.

Effort – It was already noted that you have to actively do something. In other words, making the commitment should require some effort on your part. The more effort you expend setting up your goal, the more likely you are to succeed. Something as simple as writing down your resolution can make a difference, even if you don’t share it with anyone. But, taking the time to share it also fulfills the public requirement, which gives you more bang for the buck! Robert Cialdini puts it this way, “People live up to what they write down.”

Recommendation #4 – A little more effort, like committing pen to paper, will increase your chance for success significantly.

So to recap the four recommendations:

  • Public – Share your resolutions with others.
  • Active – Make sure to take some active steps.
  • Voluntary – Make it your goal and own it.
  • Effort – Commit pen to paper.

None of what I just shared is new but I’m guessing many of you haven’t tried to PAVE the way to success before. If you’ve failed at your resolutions in the past then give this approach a try. If you fail again you’re no worse off but this different approach might just be your key to success in 2016. Good luck and Happy New Year’s!

What’s Your Goal?

I work with lots of people in different roles when it comes to teaching ethical influence. Over the years I’ve worked with senior leaders, middle managers, supervisors, claim reps, underwriters, field sales reps, insurance agents, business owners, financial reps and many others. I’m always amazed at how often people try to persuade without a clear goal in mind.

You may think a salesperson always has a clear goal; i.e., to make the sale. True enough, but that’s still a little vague in my book. Let me share an example to help you see what I mean.

During the Principles of Persuasion Workshop© we have an activity where participants work in teams to come up with a persuasive argument to get a high school student, Jimmy, back in school after he’s been expelled for foul language and insubordination. Participants generally do a good job at applying the principles of influence to persuade the school board to let Jimmy back in but very few clearly state when they want Jimmy back in school. That leaves the final decision up to the school board, which could opt for another week or two out of school.

Participants would do much better to say something like this at the conclusion, “It’s our sincere hope that you’ll let Jimmy back in school tomorrow.” Why is this so important? Because if the board says no there is a moment of power the teams can leverage.

Studies show when someone says “No” to you, if you make a concession and ask for a smaller request immediately your odds of hearing “Yes” are much better. This is an application of the principle of reciprocity because when we give a little, people often feel compelled to give a little in return.

Robert Cialdini had his research assistants run an experiment that shows how powerful this concept can be in real life.  These students randomly asked people around the Arizona State University campus if they would be willing to be a chaperone on a day trip to the zoo for a group of juvenile delinquents. As you might expect, very few people wanted to spend a day at the zoo with those kids so only 17% said they would be willing to help.

At a later date the research assistants roamed the campus and started with a bigger initial request. They randomly asked people if they would be willing to be a big brother or sister to some juvenile delinquents. They made sure people knew this was a weekly commitment of two hours and they were looking for people to sign up for two years. No one was willing to give up that much time. As soon as people said no the research assistants would ask, “If you can’t do that, would be willing to be a chaperone on a day trip to the zoo for a group of juvenile delinquents?” So basically they were asking for the exact some thing they’d asked for earlier but this time 50% said yes – triple the initial response rate!

Two things were at play during the second scenario. First, the contrast phenomenon came into play. By comparison, a day at the zoo is nothing compared to a two-year commitment so it’s much easier to say yes to the zoo after thinking about being a big brother/sister. The second thing was the principle of reciprocity was engaged by way of concessions. When the research assistants counter-offered immediately, many people felt compelled to do the same.

Let’s go back to the scenario with Jimmy. By clearly stating what the team wants – to have Jimmy back in school tomorrow – they will be more effective persuaders. They might hear a “Yes” to the initial request but if they don’t they can make a counter offer that’s very likely to be accepted. This is a far better approach than leaving the timing up to the board.

How does this work for you? Two ways.

  • Clearly state what you want. Think about the times when you’ve not clearly stated what you wanted and left if to someone else to decide the outcome. Perhaps you interviewed for a job but didn’t clearly state the salary or benefits you wanted. Or maybe you were trying to make a sale but didn’t make the first offer.
  • Don’t censure yourself. For example, you want a job and would like to earn $95,000 but inside you’re thinking they might say no so you ask for $85,000. If you hear no then you might end up at $80,000 or less. Ask for $95,000 because you might just get it but if not you can retreat to $90,000 and are more likely to get that than if you’d started at $90,000 or $85,000.

Next time you go into a situation where you’re trying to persuade someone don’t just focus on building your persuasive communication. Give lots of thought to what your ultimate goal is. What would you like to have happen if everything worked out as you wanted? But don’t stop there; clearly communicate your desired outcome. Be ready in case you hear “no,” which means having multiple fallback positions ready. This allows you to leverage the moment of power after “no.” Do these few things and you’re on your way to becoming a much more effective persuader.