Tag Archive for: love

Selfishness and Love are Diametrically Opposed

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with someone about relationships. As the conversation progressed I told this person they were selfish and that selfishness was the exact opposite of love.

Telling someone their actions are selfish can turn them off and immediately shut them down to whatever comes next so I approached the conversation in a careful, empathetic way. First, I said selfishness isn’t always something obvious and ugly. Most selfishness doesn’t manifest itself like a three-year-old who demands a toy and constantly says no to get his or her way. Adult selfishness is subtler than that.

I acknowledged more often than I’d care to admit, I’m selfish. I think my selfishness was most manifest when I was competing in bodybuilding. During those years everything revolved around me – what I ate, when I ate, my time at the gym, when I would rest, go to sleep, etc. When I say I was selfish I simply mean I put myself and my needs ahead of Jane and anyone or anything else. I didn’t stray from my routine because first and foremost I was concerned about me. In other words; during those years it was all about me.

When I talk about love being the opposite of selfishness I’m not talking about the love we feel for a spouse, parent or child. As wonderful as that love is it can be fleeting and erratic because our feelings depend on so many things and change so easily. If you only did good deeds when you felt like it you might not do them too often.

The love I’m talking about is putting another person’s good ahead of your own. This kind of love doesn’t depend on feelings but rather choices. I don’t always feel loving towards my wife, daughter or others but I can still choose to put their wants, needs and desires ahead of my own. The choice is to make the other person the priority instead of me.

You might be thinking this kind of love will set you up to be a doormat for others. Some people will take advantage of your kindness for sure but for the most part I think it’s the opposite. When you truly love people, most will reciprocate in some way. Why? Because most people feel obligated to give back to those who first give to them. That’s the principle of reciprocity in action.

Long before Robert Cialdini’s research, the study of social psychology or the emergence of behavioral economics wise people understood reciprocity. The golden rule was given to mankind more than 2,000 years ago and it encourages you to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It doesn’t tell you to wait and see what someone else will do first and then respond. It tells you to take the first step. It’s a step of faith because there’s no guarantee everyone will reciprocate every time. But think about it; when you love you didn’t put someone else ahead of yourself to get something in return. That’s not how love works. You love because it’s the right thing to do. You love because it’s the best way to live life. You love because you want the best for that other person.

I’m glad to say my conversation went well and the person I spoke to was very receptive. I truly believe if more people loved you the way I just described your life would be better. I also believe if you love people that way you’ll make their lives better. It has to start somewhere so why not with you? I encourage you to look for opportunities to do good for others this week. No matter how anyone responds you will get something in return, a wonderful feeling knowing you’re doing life the right way.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE and Learning Director for State Auto Insurance. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed more than 135,000 times! Watch it to learn how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

Look for the Best in Others and Change Your Experience

“You only love me because you make yourself think good thoughts about me,” Jane said one day while in a blue mood. I don’t recall everything surrounding that particular conversation but I never forgot her statement. I replied, “Is that so bad?”

We all experience love differently. We meet someone and “fall in love” but for those who’ve been in long-term relationships you know those initial feelings of love dissipate and change over time. After years you find yourself loving your partner for different reasons than those at the top of the list when you fell for them.

Unlike mere attraction or infatuation I believe love is a choice. To Jane’s statement, I do choose to dwell on her best qualities. I don’t deny there are things she does that bother me, that I’d like her to change, but then she would probably have a much longer list of things I should change! However, that’s not why I keep my mouth shut and choose to focus on the positive. I focus on the positive because I do believe it makes me love her more.

The Apostle Paul knew this to be true when he encouraged the church at Philippi, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”

When it comes to influence and the principle of liking – we prefer to say “Yes” to those we know and like – a way to trigger this principle into action is by focusing on what we have in common with others and offering up genuine compliments. When we focus on these two topics we’re generally looking for what we’d consider the good in another person. Not only do they come to like us more, we come to like them more at the same time. After all, the person who cheers for your team, comes from your hometown, enjoys the same hobbies as you, can’t be all bad, right?

A quick reread of Predictably Irrational by behavioral economist and Duke professor Dan Ariely sparked my thoughts on this post as I looked over chapter 10 on expectations. What we think about something or someone before encountering the item or person can dramatically impact our experience.

Remember the old “Pepsi Challenge” taste test? In blind taste tests people seemed to prefer Pepsi over Coke, including many Coke drinkers! However, when people knew they tasted Pepsi and Coke many people, especially the Coke drinkers, preferred Coke!

How can this be if they tasted the very same drinks in each taste test? It’s because knowing you’re drinking Coke, especially when you have positive associations with the brand, impacts your experience. Brain imaging studies in conjunction with the taste tests clearly show the brand association impacts a different region of the brand than the taste sensation and results in a change to the overall experience.

As I considered Ariely’s writing, Jane’s statement, and my understanding of the psychology of persuasion, it made perfect sense that our expectations impact our experience. As noted above, there are things I’d like to see Jane change but dwelling on those versus the qualities I love about her would be a waste of time and energy. If I focused on what she needs to change it’s a sure bet I would not enjoy her company as much as I do when focusing on the qualities I love.

Pondering all of this I realized something else I’d done that was helpful; a simple idea I began using years ago. In my iTunes library, among the many playlists I have, is a playlist titled “Jane.” It contains songs that bring back good memories we’ve experienced, songs that make me thing about her in ways that make my heart beat faster. Hearing songs that make us think of our loved ones isn’t a novel idea but perhaps creating playlists to positively influence your thoughts about a loved one is novel for you.

Wouldn’t you agree that listening to music that makes you think positively about your spouse on the way home, before a date night or while getting ready to spend time together would create positive expectations that would make for a better time together? In my experience it absolutely has!

So here’s my suggestion. Science tells us our expectations will impact our experience as will the choice to offer compliments and connect on similarities. Next time you get ready to be with your spouse, partner, or someone else with whom you have a relationship, make the choice to do what Paul said 2000 years ago; focus on the good in whatever way makes sense for you. It will make things better for everyone.


Love is the Ultimate Gift

This post celebrates the second anniversary of Influence PEOPLE. It’s been a great two years and I look forward to many more. I love blogging and social media because it’s opened up so many doors, helped me reconnect with old friends, and allowed me to meet so many new people I never would have otherwise.

One of my best stories is Sean Patrick. I met Sean on Facebook because we had sales training backgrounds and a passion for the science of influence and persuasion. There’s nothing too amazing about that but when Sean came to America last October and stayed with Jane and I for a week it made me realize that never would have happened without the technology we have today and in particular, social media.
I opened by saying I love blogging and social media. Love might be too strong a word, especially when I think about its use as compared to how I feel about my wife and daughter. And my wife, Jane, was the inspiration for today’s post because she’s had me thinking about love lately.
Love engages reciprocity because I believe love is the ultimate gift. As a Christian I’m taught that love seeks the good of another more than it does the giver. In other words, when it comes to love, whatever I do I should do for your benefit, not my own. That’s not to say there may not be a return of some kind because giving engages the principle of reciprocity. When we do a kind deed, a loving deed, quite often people feel like they should respond in some way.
Several weeks ago Stella Collins asked a question in response to my post “The Most Expensive Gift of All – Free.” Her question was whether or not I thought asking someone to “pay it forward” was an act of reciprocity. I believe it is because it simply redirects someone’s desire to “return the favor” and points it toward another person. It allows people to unburden themselves from the feeling of obligation reciprocity creates and helps someone else in the process. I think the world would be a better place if we all did a little more redirecting.
So how did Jane become the inspiration for this post? At the beginning of April, I turned 47, and Jane threw me a surprise party at one of our favorite hangouts in Columbus, The Pub. It was a great night and tons of fun to see so many good friends. The next night we went to a wedding and after a few Newcastles she was able to convince me to slow dance. As we danced we laughed and joked and I felt like I did when we first met 25 years ago. For me it was one of those magical times I’d love to put into a bottle and hang onto forever.
So that weekend made me think about love and reciprocity. I can’t manufacture something like that weekend for Jane but I found myself wanting to give to her however I could. It ended up being simple; finding a card that expressed much of how I feel for her. Because no card can perfectly express our feelings I added a few words of my own to the card. Of course a card with a note can never encapsulate all I feel but sometimes it’s the effort that counts. The point is, because of what she gave I wanted to give back in some way.My encouragement to you this week is to love somebody. That doesn’t necessarily mean romantic feelings but rather look for ways to unconditionally give to another or do something that genuinely benefits someone else without expectation of anything in return. If they feel the need to do something in return then direct them to someone else and have them pay it forward. If we all do this some wonderful things can happen this week.

Brian, CMCT
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.