Tag Archive for: influence

Fatigue and Persuasion Equals a Bad Combination

Have you ever left the office and felt exhausted? Sure you have and your fatigue probably has little to do with the physical nature of your work. How can we feel so tired with so little physical effort? You can thank that thing between your ears called a brain.

Your brain is only about 2% of your body weight but it’s an energy hog! If your brain were a car we’d call it a gas-guzzler because it uses about 20% of your calories.

When we’re tired – mentally or physically – we are more prone to be influenced without thinking and we become less effective as persuaders.

In Six Degrees of Social Influence Richard Petty and Pablo Brinol wrote, “When motivation or ability to think are low, the variables identified by Cialdini are most likely to operate as heuristics.” By that they mean, if we don’t care much about something or our energy is low we respond almost mindlessly to the six principles of influence.

Some things don’t require much thought or energy. What you watch on television, which toothpaste to buy, or which restaurant to go to for lunch often don’t matter too much so we don’t give them much thought. However, with other choices there can be a lot on the line and even if we’re motivated to make the best choice possible, when we’re tired our ability will be hampered.

When it comes to your attempts at persuasion the same thing goes. This is top of mind for me because I was just in Oklahoma City to host a couple of workshops and do a talk for some bank executives. Hosting a 2-day workshop is not a problem at all but it is tiring. However, I’d never done two workshops back to back and four straight days of eight hours on my feet teaching and answering questions was tough. Throw in the bank talk plus travel and I was whipped when I got home.

I saw my fatigue play out as I went to buy tires for my daughter’s car. Unfortunately it turned into a fiasco. While I was very disappointed with the service I know I could have conducted myself in a more persuasive way. But I was tired and in no mood to think after a long, exhausting week. I had a Nike attitude about the tires – Just Do It!

Fortunately Jane saw my frustration and took over. When she and Abigail came home and the situation wasn’t resolved I let them both know what I thought of the whole thing. I told them I’d let the manager know my feelings in no uncertain terms. My venting came not only in a tired state but after I’d been balancing checking and savings accounts AND dealing with tax issues. Mental exhaustion doesn’t do justice to the state I was in.

After sleeping on it and taking my daughter’s advice to heart I decided to take a different approach. I will still let the manager know that I thought their service was poor but I will do it in a less emotional, more constructive way.

Let me end with two take away considerations:

First, the next time you decide to make a major purchase, not only do your research, make sure you’re well fed and well rested. The combination of high motivation plus good energy will keep you alert so you can “keep your head in the game” and make the best choice possible.

Second, don’t approach important situations where you need to be persuasive when you’re not in the right frame of mind. Well rested and well fed will allow you to keep your head. The right approach might save you big time in terms of time, money and reputation.

Influencers from Around the World – Three Lessons from Arnold

This month our “Influencers from Around the
World” post comes from Marco Germani. Marco is a native of Italy, originally
hailing from Rome. He’s been a fan of influence for decades and wrote a book on
the subject in Italian. The father of two youngsters, he now gets to apply his
influence skills outside of his business pursuits. I’m sure you’ll enjoy his
post on lessons he’s learned from Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.
Three Lessons from Arnold
I have recently given a second go at the
spectacular Arnold Schwarzenegger’s biography, Total Recall – The Truly Unbelievable Story of My Life, which
didn’t fail to impress and inspire me, as it already did last year when I first
read it. You may or may not  like the man,
but it is undeniable that what Arnold has accomplished in his life thus far is
nothing short of incredible. Arnold was a legendary bodybuilding champion, a
record-breaking Hollywood action movie actor, and an accomplished real-estate
investor who made his first million from this business. If all that wasn’t
enough, he was also the “Governator” of California.
I thought Arnold’s story would fit well in
this blog because in order to accomplish all that he has, Arnold had to develop
the capacity to influence millions of people.
I’ll try to extrapolate a short, actionable
lesson from each phase of his career, which enabled him to accomplish such
extraordinary things and maybe each of us will become a better influencer
because of it.
1: Focus on your strength
Since he was a teen, Arnold had a clear vision
in his mind: Go to the USA and become famous. He had no idea how to accomplish
this, not even the field of endeavor. He then started his quest, his search for
his unique talent, which would bring him fame and fortune.  As he realized that nature had gifted him
with a body built to grow and become incredibly muscular, he put all of his
heart and soul into a single project; becoming the most muscular man on earth
and winning all the existing body building competitions around the world. It
didn’t matter if it meant endless hours in the gym lifting huge weights, it
didn’t even matter if sometimes it meant fainting or vomiting in the gym out of
All that counted was getting to the top. And
he made it! Not only that; he set new standards for his sport and made bodybuilding
famous to around the world, becoming the international ambassador for the
He worked on the mental aspect of competition
(the “Pumping Iron” documentary is a great testimonial of this), he even went
to ballet classes to perfect his posing; in other words, he did whatever it
took to become outstanding and make his dream come true. Thanks to bodybuilding,
Arnold finally got to the USA. He was penniless, with no other skills under his
belt, but ready to pursue his second lifetime goal: to make it big in Hollywood.
2: Persistence in spite of obstacles
When Arnold, already a celebrity in the bodybuilding
circuit and on his way to financial independence thanks to real estate
investments in Santa Monica, started to pursue his acting career he had all the
odds against him. He spoke English with a thick Austrian accent, he had below
average acting skills, no particular artistic talent and he was even told his
name was too long to fit on movie posters! Thanks to his body, he managed to
get a part in a B-movie called “Hercules” in New York where he first had to be
dubbed due to poor English pronunciation. The movie itself was never released
due to production financial issues but is now a cult movie because of Arnold’s
In spite of this, he did not get discouraged,
he kept the vision clear, he simply ignored everybody else around him advising
him to open a gym and to let go this impossible dream to become a world-famous
actor. He patiently waited several years, turning down dozens of parts, even as
a leading actor, in movies which would have not benefited his career in the
long run. His big movie break was “Conan the Barbarian.” Arnold knew this movie
would be a game-changer and, once again, he put his heart and soul in
preparation for this part, taking care of every single detail. In the first
scene of the movie, he was actually bitten by a real wolf and had to have a
dozen stiches on his leg, but this didn’t discourage him a bit to give his best
and make this movie into a cult classic, which he did.
The rest is history. Conan brought Arnold into
the firmament and just a few years later, with movies like “The Terminator,” “Total
Recall” and “True Lies,” he was paid as much as $25 million per movie, becoming
the highest paid action movie star in Hollywood…as he originally planned.
3: Expand your expertise
After becoming a Hollywood superstar Arnold
was ready for a new challenge and decide to enter politics. Though married to a
Kennedy family member, Maria Shriver, he was never afraid to express his liking
for the Republican Party. He got close to the Bush family and openly supported
them. When he saw the opportunity to run for governor of California, he
understood he had to massively expand his knowledge and expertise in order to
become credible and have a serious chance to win.
Almost anyone who spent his life in body
building and acting probably would have be intimidated by the massive amount of
information, in many different subjects an aspirant governor must assimilate.
That was not the case for Arnold. He established the “Arnold University” instead.
He gathered notable experts in each of the fields he needed to learn such as
economic, public health, the environment, etc. He worked long hours taking
notes and learning everything he needed to learn. When it was time to debate on
national television with seasoned and shrewd politicians, ready to attack his
weak points with no mercy, he used humor as his best defense, having a set of
punch lines written by professional comedy authors and memorized in endless
preparation sessions. His motto was, “It is just reps, reps, reps,” in
bodybuilding and in life. That is what made a farm boy from a small village in
Austria the Governor of the richest state of America.
Of course Arnold had his lows as well – like
his divorce from Maria due to a secret child he had with an housekeeper 20 years
ago or admitting using steroids in his competition days – but he was not afraid
to expose these in either of his books. However, his life remains a shining
example of what a human being is capable of, when ready to pay the price.
Arnold was able to touch many lives and influence many people along the way, for
which he deserves, in my opinion, the highest recognition as a master influencer!
And who knows what he will accomplish more in the next 20 years…


Careful What You Say Because It Affects Everything

For those raising kids, especially those with teenagers, I think you’ll appreciate this week’s post. My daughter Abigail is 14 years old, a very typical teenager in most ways. She’s very athletically gifted, far more than she realizes. She learned to swim at just two and a half years old and was on the swim team by the time she was six. She did quite well until she decided getting in a cold pool at 8 a.m. wasn’t any fun. She already has her black belt in taekwondo and more recently tried out for and made a club volleyball team. I watch her and I know she can be anything she wants to be, do anything she wants to do. There’s only one thing in life that can hold her back – Abigail.

Like most teens, left to her own devices she’d spend all day at the mall, watching television, chatting on Facebook, checking out YouTube videos or texting friends. She’s also no different when it comes to homework or practice…she’d rather do anything but! My dilemma, like every other parent, is this – how do I get her to do what I know is best for her?

There’s a quote from former Dallas Cowboy football coach Tom Landry that went something like this, “My job is to get men to do the things they don’t want to do so they can accomplish what they’ve always wanted to accomplish.” That could be the job description for a parent. We want to help our kids be ready to successfully fly the nest.
I’m trying to teach Abigail a lesson we’d all do well to remember; our attitude affects everything. I’m not so old that I can’t remember wanting to do things other than homework or go to practice. But I have an advantage she doesn’t have, three more decades of experience under my belt. One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is this, where I choose to place my thoughts and the words that come out of my mouth impact how I feel and ultimately behave.
Parents, haven’t you heard this, “I don’t want to go to practice. I’m tired and its boring.” Or what about this, “I hate school.” I know a few well place questions reveal it’s not school she dislikes, it’s the homework. She likes lunch, recess, certain subjects, her friends and going to sporting events. Like I said, she pretty much likes everything but the homework. Perhaps you’re thinking about something you don’t like. Your job? Your significant other? Maybe a neighbor or boss? We all have things or people we’d say we don’t like and yet, there are probably some aspects of the person or things that aren’t so bad.As adults we know this truth; throughout life we will have to do things we’d rather not do and deal with people we’d rather not be around. Let’s take a task for example, maybe cutting the grass or some work around the house. If we approach the chore focusing only on how much we dislike it we’ll never put much effort in and only prolong our pain as we drag our feet and take longer than is necessary.
Oh, how I want her to understand this! I know she’d enjoy life more, do a better job and finish up the things she doesn’t like so much so she could move on to what she really enjoys. Too often we have to learn the hard way and much too much time passes by. Maybe that will be the case for her or maybe through repetition peppered with some good influence techniques I’ll get through to her. I hear people say when kids are young they think mom and dad are the smartest people in the world. When they become teenagers they become the smartest people in the world and we’re relegated to the status of “dumb.” But something happens and they grow up and come to realize their parents were actually pretty smart. After all, they think how could their parents have raised such a great person if they didn’t have some smarts. I look forward to that day but in the meantime I’ll keep sharing what I know to be true, and what’s in her best interest because I love her.Brian
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”

Tiger Woods and Character

Aristotle is credited with saying, “Character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion.” In light of what’s transpired with one of the most well known people in the world this week I thought it would be good to look at character because of its impact on our ability to influence others.

I think you know the person I’m talking about here, Tiger Woods. Unless you’ve been on a secluded island this week it would be hard to have missed the stories that are surfacing about his infidelity. I don’t think it’s judgmental to say what he did was wrong. He’s said as much and if you were on the receiving end of the news his wife had to face I think you’d say what he did was wrong on many levels.

But here’s a truth for all of us – we can’t do anything about Tiger Woods. What we can do is take time to reflect on who we are and how we impact those around us. I can only speak for myself when I say, if I had done what he did very few people would care but that’s not the point. None of us should make right choices because lots of people are watching. We should make good choices because they’re the right thing to do. If we know people are watching then great, use that as extra motivation to do the right thing but never the reason for doing what’s right.

Have you ever thought deeply about your character, who you are? If I didn’t write this blog I’d still be Brian Ahearn. If I didn’t work at State Auto I’d still be Brian Ahearn. If I wasn’t a husband or father, I’d still be Brian Ahearn. All those things, as well as many others, function at two levels in my life.

First, they help shape me. Because I’m married I’m different than if I’d not made that commitment. Being a dad has certainly changed me incredibly. Learning about sales and influence has had a profound impact on me. But the fact remains, I’d still be me if I switched careers, if for some reason my marriage ended or the day my daughter moves out. I will still be Brian Ahearn.

The second level is these things become a reflection of who I am. The fact that I am married says something about what I value. How I raise my daughter also tells a lot about what goes on inside me. But in the end those things are like a map. A map is not the terrain; it only shows you something about the terrain. What we do and how we act shows what we value and reveals our character.

Who I am, who you are, is a very complex thing to figure out. Ben Franklin said, “There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.” Figuring out who you are is very hard but it’s worth pondering because understanding who you are helps you understand why you do what you do. Tiger Woods will have to figure out why he chose to do the things he did, things that could cost him his marriage, tens of millions of dollars and possibly impact his pursuit of immortality as he chases Jack Nicklaus’ golf records. He may be supremely confident and in control on the golf course but there’s something wrong away from the course.

In the end, after all the things that seem to define you are stripped away all you have is yourself, the choices you’ve made and the impact you’ve had on others. None of us is perfect and that’s not what I’m getting at here. We’ve all made mistakes, done things we’d like to change, hurt people and who knows what else. We have to come to grips with those things and thank God the whole world wasn’t bearing down on us as we tried to make corrections in our lives. We should treat Tiger the way we’d want to be treated, talk about him the way we’d want people to talk about us.

So character, who we are at the deepest level, is the most powerful persuasion tool we have. It can take a lifetime to build good character but it can be lost in a moment. It’s precious and we should treat it that way. One way I found to help me was writing a personal mission statement. You can read about that in a prior Influence PEOPLE post.

I’ll leave you with this suggestion – rather than spending lots of time talking about something that you cannot change, something that really is of very little impact on you, use the time to reflect on yourself and change for the better. As Gandhi encouraged people, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”

Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”

Arouse an Eager Want

Question: Would you rather do something of your own free will or be forced? I’m going to guess all of you said you’d prefer to exercise your free will. That’s not to say we all can’t stand a good kick in the seat of the pants every now and then. I’m thinking of my old high school football coach as I type that! We can always be pushed to do a little more than we think we’re capable of but that’s not what I’m talking about here. What’s important is this difference; if I’m forced to do something I’ll probably stop doing it the moment the force, or threat, is removed. However, if I do something of my own free will I’m likely to continue in that behavior, especially if I enjoy some benefits.

Dale Carnegie also understood that people want to exercise their right to choose and that’s why he encouraged readers to arouse in the other person an eager want. It’s usually fun and enjoyable to do things when we want to do them but quite often people don’t want to do what’s asked of them. So how do you make someone want to do the thing you’re asking of them? A few thoughts come to mind.

In sales we jokingly say everyone’s favorite radio station is WIIFM. That stands for “What’s In It For Me” and it’s where everyone’s attention is tuned in almost continually. Let’s face it, first and foremost people think about how they will be impacted by things. I once heard a psychologist build on the WIIFM concept by adding everyone’s favorite song to the mix, a derivation of Willy Nelson’s classic, “You were Always on My Mind.” Paula Butterfield, addressing a leadership group at Franklin University several years ago said people’s favorite song was, “I was Always on My Mind.” Every person you meet is thinking, “How will this affect me?” That means you have to think about how to put things in terms that will appeal to them.

Understanding the other person and what they want, hope for, desire – what motivates them – is key. While this seems simple, how many times have you seen people try to motivate others in ways that motivate themselves? It’s not about YOU, it’s about them. If making more money is your thing that’s not necessarily someone else’s carrot. The same could be said for title or position. Not everyone wants to be a VP, company owner, head coach or some other highly visible position. For some people that motivation is easily seen and tapped into but when it comes to others you have to pay close attention. What do people talk about? What do you observe in their office or home? For some people the motivation is a sense of belonging, knowing they’re making a difference, family, hobbies, etc.

Once you know what that motivation is, your next step is to align your request with it somehow. This is the concept of consistency; the principle that says people are likely to act in ways that are consistent with what they’ve said or done in the past. If another person sees how what you’re asking ties into what’s most important to them then they’re likely to tackle it with more enthusiasm and more likely follow through. That’s the principle of consistency at work. For example, many kids don’t enjoy the work that comes along with college but they might have career aspirations. Tying in how coursework or grades might help them realize their dreams will make them a little more eager to do well.

Sometimes making something seem special, something not many people can have, or do, is what does the trick. This taps into scarcity, the principle of influence that tells us people are motivated to action when they fear losing an opportunity. This isn’t new to the human condition. Mark Twain wrote of Tom Sawyer in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, “He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it – namely, in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain.” This came about because Tom didn’t want to paint a fence. He convinced the other kids to do it when he made it seem special. All of a sudden they all wanted to do it.

So we’ve now covered three fundamental techniques for handling people:

  1. Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.
  2. Give honest, sincere appreciation.
  3. Arouse in the other person an eager want.

In the weeks to come we’ll explore Dale Carnegie’s six ideas to get people to like you. In the meantime, I’ve love to hear your thoughts about arousing an eager want in another person so feel free to leave a comment below.

Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”

An Influence Shortcut – What do you have to believe?

This week’s guest post is from Mike Figliuolo, Managing Director of thoughtLEADERS, LLC – a leadership development and training firm based in Columbus, Ohio. He regularly writes on the thoughtLEADERS blog (http://thoughtleadersllc.blogspot.com/). I know you’ll enjoy what Mike has to share.
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”
Many times in business, we try to influence people with facts. Massive piles of data, reams of analysis, and countless presentations try to get people to buy, sell, or do something. We spend countless hours trying to influence others to take action because we have no direct authority over their decisions.

The thing is, many times all this effort is a total waste of time and energy. We try so hard to get someone to act by bludgeoning them with data. Another dynamic that surfaces is the “influencee” asks tons of questions about minute details because they know such data is available and the analysis is possible. Allow me to try to stop this insanity.

Repeat after me: “What do you have to believe?” It’s the greatest shortcut ever (and one of the most powerful ones to boot). I’ve covered aspects of this dynamic before in another post (http://thoughtleadersllc.blogspot.com/2008/01/getting-to-yes-does-it-change-answer.html) but this one bears some further elaboration.

When we sell our services to our clients, some of them want to quantify the return (and they should absolutely consider this point in their purchase decisions). Unfortunately, the nature of what we train people on is hard to quantify by virtue of the fact it covers soft skills (leadership, communications, strategy, etc.). That being said, we’re still able to demonstrate to clients that they get a phenomenal return on their training dollars. How? We use the “what do you have to believe?” technique.

Here’s how it goes:

  • Let’s assume a specific training event costs $500 for one person to attend. The course is focused on productivity (doing less irrelevant analysis, holding shorter and more effective meetings, etc.).
  • The client says “So if I spend that much money, am I making a good investment?”
  • I then ask “Do you believe if you send someone to this course they will be able to save 60 minutes of non-productive time per month?” to which the client resoundingly answers “Of course!”
  • I then say “Then the conversation is over.” The client says “Huh? I don’t understand.”
  • “Look, let’s assume the fully loaded compensation of the person you send to training is $100,000 per year. That equates to $50/hour ($100,000 / 250 days / 8 hours). The payback period of the training fee is 10 months. Your 1-year ROI is 20% ($600 saved / $500 invested).”
  • “Oh. Okay. I get it. It is a good investment.”
  • “No. It’s a GREAT investment because in year 2 you also save $600. And year 3 and so on. And you get those future savings with no additional investment. Doing a discounted cash flow of that time savings makes your return tremendous. On top of that, you have to realize the person will now do PRODUCTIVE work in that saved 60 minutes and that work has value we’re not even calculating here.”
  • “Okay. Let’s do the training.”

We got there with a simple “What do you have to believe?” The client very much believes they’ll save 60 minutes a month (which is a very low hurdle to get over). If they believe that, then the rest of the argument holds up.It’s basic break even analysis. I could go out and conduct massive research studies on all participants who have ever attended our training. I could develop statistical models to prove exactly what the ROI is. Doing all that work is a total waste of time. All the client REALLY wants to know is if they’re making a good investment. If we can show them they’re making not a good investment but a GREAT investment, any additional analysis done with the purpose of influencing them is wasted energy.Take a look at some of the decisions you’re trying to influence. Can you get to a compelling recommendation by simply asking “What do you have to believe?” I’ll bet you can. I hope I just freed up some time for you to spend on more value-added activities.Mike
Managing Director, thoughtLEADERS, LLC

Blink to Win Friends and Influence People

How can you become more influential in the blink of an eye? This week I’m going to show you how can you use a concept from Malcolm Gladwell’s best selling book Blink in conjunction with Dale Carnegie’s classic How to Win Friends and Influence People to become a more persuasive person. And the best part is this; it’s so simple it will take no more than 10 seconds a day!

In Blink Gladwell discusses a psychological concept known as “priming.” He cites several studies that clearly show people’s behavior can be influenced by mere exposure to words, even though they are totally unaware of it. I encourage you to pick up the book and read for yourself how NYU students became more, or less, patient depending on certain words they saw. Or perhaps you’ll be more interested to read about people acting older just because they read a few words associated with the elderly.
One other fascinating study showed people were smarter by focusing on smart things immediately prior to playing the game Trivial Pursuit.

So here’s how I’ve used Blink in conjunction with How to Win Friends and Influence People to be more persuasive. In order to be persuasive you have to put into action what you know. Unfortunately we forget a lot of the cool stuff we learn. Although I read and study a lot because I teach a variety of sales courses, I have to admit, my memory is not the greatest. Even though I’ve taught Dale Carnegie’s material dozens and dozens of times I could not recite all of his tips from memory. To overcome this I’ve taken his tips and dropped them into a recurring task in Microsoft Outlook so now, every morning when I log on at work, the task opens automatically and I’m exposed to Dale Carnegie ideas. I don’t read all of them each day — remember, I said just 10 seconds — I just take them like a vitamin, one a day.

Whatever day of the month it is, I simply read the tip for that particular day. For example, if it’s the 16th of the month I scroll down and read, “Let the other person feel the idea is theirs.” While I may not have all 30 tips committed to memory I know because of priming that mere exposure to Carnegie’s sound advice will positively impact my behavior. Over time it starts to become second nature to to avoid arguments, focus on people’s names, dramatize ideas, etc. In essence I’m doing it without even thinking about it.

Below are Dale Carnegie’s tips and to the right you’ll see how some correspond to Dr. Cialdini’s principles of influence. I encourage you to copy the list and put it somewhere that will allow you to see it daily. Do so and you too can become more influential…in the blink of an eye.

Fundamental Techniques in Handling People
1 Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.
2 Give honest, sincere appreciation. Liking
3 Arouse in the other person an eager want.

Six Ways to Make People Like You
4 Become genuinely interested in other people. Liking
5 Smile. Reciprocation
6 Remember their name. Liking
7 Be a good listener & encourage others to talk about themselves. Liking
8 Talk in terms of the other person’s interests. Liking
9 Make the other person feel important. Liking

How to Win People to Your Way of Thinking
10 Avoid arguments.
11 Show respect for other’s opinions and never say, “You’re wrong.”
12 If you are wrong, admit it quickly & emphatically. Authority
13 Begin in a friendly way. Reciprocity
14 Get the other person to say “yes” immediately. Consistency
15 Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
16 Let the other person feel the idea is theirs. Consistency
17 Try to see things from the other’s point of view.
18 Be sympathetic to other’s ideas and desires.
19 Appeal to the nobler motives. Consistency
20 Dramatize your ideas. Contrast
21 Throw down a challenge.

Be a Leader: How to Encourage People to Change without Giving Offense
22 Begin with praise and honest appreciation. Liking
23 Call attention to mistakes indirectly.
24 Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing. Authority
25 Ask questions instead of giving direct orders. Consistency
26 Let the other person save face.
27 Praise the slightest, and every improvement. Liking
28 Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to. Consistency
29 Use encouragement and make the fault seem easy to correct.
30 Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest.

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! “

My Best Parenting Advice Ever!

This week I’m going to share what I consider to be my best parenting advice ever. I only wish I would have figured this out sooner!

I’m the parent of a teenager now. Our daughter, Abigail, will start the 8th grade next week and it’s amazed me how much change has taken place in the last year. Simply incredible! If you have a teenager – or lived through that stage with one – then I’m sure you can relate. Not only are they physically maturing, their likes and dislikes are changing right along with their personalities. One of the biggest challenges is getting them to do what we ask them to do, especially when it’s good for them.

Abigail has always tested very high on standardized tests when it comes to listening. When we read through The Chronicles of Narnia, all seven books, then restarted the series, she amazed me when she asked me to reread a section. I reread a sentence and she said, “I don’t remember that the first time [we read the book].” Bear in mind, we’d read the book months before and she picked out one word she didn’t remember hearing the first time. I share that so you’ll know, she’s got great ears and ability to listen – when she wants to. Therein lies the parenting challenge.

The Dilemma

One day I came home, and she’d left to spend the night at a friend’s house. Unfortunately, she left the house in total disarray. There was Sloppy Joe mix still in the pan, Mac ‘n Cheese in the pot, dishes in the sink. I called her, read her the riot act, and told her there would be a consequence when she came home. Moments later I received a text saying she was sorry and offered up her phone as punishment. I thought, “The criminal doesn’t get to set their sentence,” so I came up with something much better!

I had a book I wanted her to read over the summer, Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl. If you’ve not read it, I highly recommend it. Frankl was a Jewish psychiatrist in Germany when WWII broke out. He survived three years in four different concentration camps and wrote about his experience from a clinical point of view. My takeaway from the book was this; no matter what’s taken from us, no one can ever take away our freedom to choose where we will place our thoughts. With that power we are free and can endure almost any hardship. I thought that would be a valuable lesson for Abigail to learn early in life.

The Resolution

When she got home, I told her no TV or computer until she read the book. Of course, she didn’t like that, but I reminded her the discipline would be short if she buckled down and read it in a day or two. On the other hand, it could last quite some time if she dragged her feet and complained. She got through the book in three days and then we talked about it. Now I have a point of reference when she complains because her “hardships” are nothing compared to Frankl’s.

This blog is about influence so you might be wondering how I’m going to tie this into influence. Here’s my influence strategy – I told Abigail next time she disobeyed it would be another book of my choosing. As you can imagine, we don’t share the same taste in books. She’s into the Harry Potter and Twilight series and my preferences are more inclined to learning and self-improvement. I also told her I would set out the next book as a visual reminder. Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive is sitting on the dining room table as I type!


I like to believe at 45 years old I’m still a little smarter than she is even though most teenagers think mom and dad are idiots. I reminded her, “No matter what I win because, either you do what I say, or you’ll be smarter.” Now that’s a win-win for me and whether or not she realizes it, it will be a win for her in the long run too. I encourage you to give it a try!

Brian Ahearn

Brian Ahearn is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE. An author, TEDx speaker, international trainer, coach, and consultant, Brian helps clients apply influence in everyday situations to boost results.

As one of only a dozen Cialdini Method Certified Trainers (CMCT) in the world, Brian was personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s first book, Influence PEOPLE, was named one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by Book Authority. His follow-up, Persuasive Selling for Relationship Driven Insurance Agents, was an Amazon new release bestseller. His latest book, The Influencer: Secrets to Success and Happiness, is a business parable designed to teach you how to apply influence concepts at home and the office.

Brian’s LinkedIn courses on persuasive selling and coaching have been viewed by more than 500,000 people around the world!

Golf Advice from Corey Pavin

Who would you believe when it comes to golf advice, me or Corey Pavin? When it comes to golf I think my resume is pretty good – I broke 90 a few times and I’ve meet Jack Nicklaus. I’ll grant you Corey Pavin has more room to boast — 1995 U.S. Open Champion and top five finisher in The Masters, The PGA Championship and The British Open. But should that really make a difference?

Here’s the scoop. My wife Jane is BIG time into golf. I joke with people and say the only difference between her and Tiger Woods is nine holes a week…and a really big paycheck! Several years ago I shared something with her that I often share in sales training when we talk about attitude and focus.

When I’m teaching about attitude I ask how many participants play golf and lots of hands go up. Next I ask, “When you come to a hole with water, what do you think?” Inevitably I hear, “Don’t go in the water.” So I ask another question, “Where does your ball usually end up.” You guessed it, “In the water!” Then we talk about the power of focus and how our brains don’t really process the “don’t” in a statement because the brain focuses on the object, which happens to be the water for most golfers. To cure the problem I tell them they have to focus on what they want, which might be, “Go left, aim left.”

This post isn’t about golf so I’ll get to the point. I shared that training tip with Jane one evening and about two weeks later she was reading a golf book I’d gotten her and said, “Listen to what Corey Pavin says…” She proceeded to tell me exactly what I shared two weeks earlier! I said, “I told you that,” but she denied ever hearing that advice come from my lips. “Don’t you remember a couple of weeks ago when I told you about my training class?” A blank stare and more denials from her so I said, “Oh, if I say it, it’s not true but if Corey Pavin says it then it’s true?”

That was a true statement because sometimes it’s not what you say, it’s what people hear. Why did she believe Corey Pavin and forget what I’d said? Because he was an authority, a recognized expert when it comes to golf and I’m not. He and I can say the same thing but people will believe him more because of who he is and what he’s accomplished.

Have you ever come up with an idea and seen it fall flat but then someone else shares it and it’s a success? Don’t feel bad because it happens all the time in business and at home. Sometimes we have to swallow our pride and recognize the idea or message will be received better if it comes from someone else. I believe what goes around comes around and you’ll eventually be recognized for your good ideas and advice but it can take time.

Parents, you can tell your kids to eat their veggies all you want but if Lebron James, Tiger Woods or Tom Brady tells them to eat their veggies, who do you think they’ll listen to more? The sports figures of course.

When our daughter Abigail was little she was a fussy eater like most kids. We could ask her, tell her or threaten her to eat all her food to no avail. But she was always good at the doctor’s office so Jane used to tell her she had the doctor on the phone and he said she better eat all her dinner…and bang, the plate was clean! He was an authority, the doctor, and she knew to listen to him.

Now that Abigail is older and works out with her mom I knew she might not work as hard as she should so I got in touch with an ex-Ohio State football player at the gym. I asked him to have a talk with Abigail and he did so the first day she went to the gym. She sometimes doesn’t listen to mom but she listens to him because he’s an authority in her eyes.

I think you get the point. Sometimes to get what you want you’ll be better off to let the message come from another. In future posts we’ll talk about how to enhance your authority so you won’t have to turn to others.

P.S. Now when I want something I start with “Jane, Corey Pavin says…” Sometimes it works but I think Jane’s on to me.

Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”