Tag Archive for: Invisible Gorilla

“I Know, I Know” – The Illusion of Knowledge

If you have a teenager, or have raised one, then no doubt you’re familiar with the phrase, “I know!” It seems like no matter what you say the response is almost always the same, “I know!” You might say, “Clean your room,” and it’s met with, “I know!” Or how about this, “You need to study before you can go out,” and they say, “I know!” If only we were as smart as our kids because they seem to know everything. I recently read an interesting book, The Invisible Gorilla, by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons. In it they talked about something called “the illusion of knowledge.” This describes the tendency of people to think they know more than they really do. For example, almost everyone who drives a car would say they know how a car works, but they really don’t. It’s readily apparent when raising teenagers that we are all subject to the illusion of knowledge to one degree or another. When it comes to getting people to do what you want – and hopefully avoiding the dreaded “I know!” – I have a persuasion tip that can help. Here it is; stop making statements and start asking questions. Pretty simple and yet very effective. Questions are more effective when trying to persuade another person than making statements, because asking questions engages the principle of consistency. This principle of influence tells us people generally feel better about themselves when their words and deeds match. Psychologically it’s hard on most people when they appear inconsistent to others and as a result they feel bad. Have you ever had to back out on your word and felt bad? We all have and we sometimes feel a little bad even if our reversal is completely justified. We usually go to great lengths to avoid feeling bad so we live up to our word. When you ask someone a question and they say “yes,” social psychology studies show the likelihood that they’ll do what they said they would goes up significantly. And it’s not very hard to do. Here are some examples: Statement – I need the board report by Friday.
Question – Can you get me the board report by Friday? Statement – You need to empty the dishwasher.
Question – Will you empty the dishwasher? While it’s a simple concept it’s sometimes hard to put into practice. In fact, most of the principles of influence are easy to understand because people can easily recall a time when they unknowingly used a principle successfully or responded to someone who used a principle on them. However, knowing and doing are two different things and when I lead the Principles of Persuasion workshop, participants always struggle to actually put the principles into practice. My advice is to take some time periodically to think about how you’re communicating; analyze a conversation after the fact to see where you might have used some questions rather than making statements. Or better yet, before you hit the send button on your next email do a quick reread specifically to see where you could change statements to questions. I started this post talking about kids and the illusion of knowledge. While the point of this week’s article wasn’t the illusion of knowledge, reading about it triggered my thoughts for this post and I can highly recommend the book. One last thing to tell you, engaging consistency through questions will also make it much harder for your teenager to say “I know!” in response to your questions. If you’re like me that alone would be worth the price of admission. Brian, CMCT
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.