Tag Archive for: manipulation

Protesting Mainstream Media and Traditional Politics

I’m done with our mainstream media and traditional politics. Why? Because I teach people about ethical influence and I’m sick and tired of all the manipulation I observe. This all bubbled to the surface a few weeks ago when I talked with Jane about the state of the country. I was surprised at how angry I got so I decided to do something about it in my own way. I hope you’ll read on and join me in this protest.

Mainstream Media

I stopped watching MSNBC, Fox, CNN, HLN and OAN because the mainstream media is not factual or unbiased. I thought flipping between these various outlets would give me a balanced view of our country and the issues we face. Instead, all I got was angry at the hypocrisy. The examples are endless so I’ll only share a few to make the point.

Fox skewered Obama for playing golf during his presidency. Funny how the same anchors say nothing about Trump playing even more golf. They praise him as godly but nothing could be further from the truth by his own words, prior deeds and his vast number of accusers on a multitude of issues. Evangelicals and men like Franklin Graham have lost all moral credibility when they talk about him as their Christian president.

MSNBC and other liberal outlets utter hatred for Trump has destroyed their journalistic integrity. They’re hypocrites for their stance on protests. In early spring, when protests were happening because of the economic shutdown in places like Wisconsin and Michigan, the liberal media told us the protests were a danger to all of us. But, those same outlets glossed over the potential Covid threat when the mass protests across the country aligned with their political view. Sorry, either large gatherings are safe or they’re not but you can’t have it both ways.

Is there any need to go on? I’m sure you have plenty of examples of your own. If we all decide to protest the manipulation by turning off mainstream news outlets advertising dollars will eventually dry up. And we know money drives nearly everything.

Traditional Politics

When it comes to politics I will no longer vote for any traditional (Republican or Democrat) candidates because the hypocrisy of both parties is just as bad as the media.

The democrats had the most diverse field of presidential candidates in history and settled on the oldest, whitest, long time politician with his own race issues. Funny thing is, most likely any of their primary candidates could beat Trump at this point. See what happens when you allow your party to rig another primary. It’s apparent the threat of losing the presidential election was more important than the integrity of what the party espouses it believes.

Republicans are no better. Mitch McConnell and the party don’t care about you or me. All they care about is one thing…maintaining their power. We only need to look at the impeachment hearing in the senate to realize this. No witnesses…not one…really? So much for truth, justice and the American way. Well done republicans.

Each side will give you its reasons for why it does what it does and the positions it holds. They’ve all played the game so long they have ready responses to manipulate for anything you or I might bring up.

Government Structure

On the whole, I think our government structure is very good. Despite America’s issues, as a nation we have done more good than harm. We need only look to the world wars to realize this. Had we not gotten involved the world might be a much, much worse place. But that doesn’t mean we should settle for that.

Our problem isn’t the structure, it’s the people in power. Nobody should serve as senator or congressperson for as many decades as so many have. There’s a reason we have term limits for the president and we should for EVERY elected office at every level of government. The only way to change the system is to change the players because they will not institute laws that will ultimately remove them from the power they have.

Democrats have controlled most major cities (mayors, district attorneys, police chiefs, etc.) for decades so why haven’t they instituted needed reforms – police being the biggest – at the local level? Will keeping the same old politicians in place really make a difference just because a democrat sits in the White House? It didn’t when Obama occupied that spot.

Our national debt is skyrocketing and republicans continually stoke fear that big democratic social programs will break the bank. The reality is, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Donald Trump were the ones who spent and printed money like they were playing Monopoly.

Stop voting republican or democrat! At some point we have to get new people and new parties that truly represent the views of most Americans.

To Do This Week

As I wrote at the top, because I teach about ethical influence it’s highly disturbing that the media and political parties are such manipulators.

  1. Stop watching mainstream news. I encourage you to remove any links from your favorites and delete the news apps from your phone. You’ll feel better and be no less informed because what you’re being “informed about” right now is so distorted.
  2. Don’t vote for any republican or democrat in November. It’s not wasting our votes if we send a message that we’ll no longer put up with the status quo and manipulation.

John Lennon sang, “You may say I’m a dreamer,” but I’d rather strive for a dream of my own choosing than the nightmare we’re currently asleep in.

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!

It All Started With This…

It was sometime in 2003, Nancy Edwards, a coworker handed a videotape to my boss, John Petrucci, and me. Nancy had seen it during an MBA class she was taking at The Ohio State University. She said she thought we’d really like it. The video was Robert Cialdini presenting The Power of Persuasion at Stanford’s executive briefing. The video changed my career and life.

The Psychology of Sales

As I watched Cialdini talking about ethical influence I remember thinking what he taught explained all the sales training we do. The psychology he spoke about gave insight into why some sales techniques worked and some didn’t.

It resonated with me that everything Cialdini shared was based on scientific research from experiments in social psychology. Good advice is a dime a dozen but research, I could confidently get behind that.

I also appreciated Cialdini’s stance on ethics, non-manipulative ways to move people to action. It was this aspect of the talk that would be the catalyst for the career and life change noted earlier.

I began to use the video in some training around my company. We’d watch it then discuss how we might apply the concepts at work.

Ethical Influence vs. Manipulation

I learned Stanford had other excellent resources so I signed up for their mailing list. One day a Stanford marketing flier made its way to my desk. As I flipped the pages Robert Cialdini’s picture caught my eye. Above his picture, in big bold letters, I saw: BEST SELLER

That wasn’t a surprise because it was great presentation. However, what I saw next in the marketing copy shocked me! Call it influence, persuasion or even manipulation.

What?!? Someone in Stanford’s marketing department obviously didn’t watch the video because Cialdini could not have been clearer about ethical influence. Even the person who introduced him referenced “non-manipulative” ways to move people to action.

The ethical part of me felt this needed to be addressed so I emailed Stanford and basically wrote:

“I don’t know anyone who wants to be manipulated nor do I know anyone who wants to be known as a good manipulator. That word cannot be helping your sales but it really could be hurting sales.”

The Phone Call

I never heard from Stanford but one day my phone rang at work and when I answered, to my surprise, it was a representative from INFLUENCE AT WORK, Cialdini’s organization. Chris Cibbarelli was calling to thank me on behalf of Cialdini and the entire organization. Apparently, Stanford notified Cialdini they were changing the marketing of his video because of the email I wrote. How cool was that!

Before we hung up Chris said, “If your company ever needs a guest speaker Dr. Cialdini travels the world to speak about this.” I told her I sat next to the woman who planned our events and booked our speakers so I transferred her. As a result, Cialdini was in Columbus, Ohio several times in the summer of 2004 to speak to insurance agents who represented the company.

Later that summer, my boss and I went to Arizona to attend Cialdini’s 2-day Principles of Persuasion Workshop. Four years later I returned to Arizona to go through the certification process which allows me to teach Cialdini’s material and methodology. Once I was certified, I knew this was what I wanted to do with the rest of my career because I saw the potential to help people professionally and personally.

And the rest is history.

To Do This Week

I share this because last week I stumbled across the Stanford presentation that changed my life and want to share it with you. I hope you’ll invest 55 minutes this week to watch it because it might have a profound impact on you as well.

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

Brian’s book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was a top 10 selling Amazon book in several insurance categories and top 50 in sales & selling. His LinkedIn Learning courses on sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 100,000 people around the world!

From Womb to Tomb Each of Us is a Persuader

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

What is Persuasion?

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

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

Persuasion vs. Manipulation

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

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

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

Relationships are the Foundation

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

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

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

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

No More Manipulation

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

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

Keys to Ethical Persuasion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Full Circle

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

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

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

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

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

Truthfulness Matters…A Lot!

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

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

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

“Truth Telling”

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

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

Lying by Commission

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

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

Lying by Omission

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

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

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

Truth Telling, Trust Building

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

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

To Do This Week

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

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

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

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

Amazon or Amazing? I Missed It, Did You?

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


My Chance Encounter with Robert Cialdini

A few weeks ago, a Facebook friend Michael Halbfish, wrote during an exchange, “I am guessing there is a good story to how you wound up with your current career and working with Cialdini.” Michael is correct and I promised him I would share that story, a chance encounter with Robert Cialdini, in a blog post.

Back in 2002, Nancy Edwards, a former coworker at State Auto, stopped by my office to share a video with me and my boss John Petrucci. Nancy had just watched the video in an MBA class at The Ohio State University and thought John and I would appreciate it. How right she was!

The video was of a 2001 Breakfast Briefing presentation Robert Cialdini, PhD., gave at Stanford University. His topic was ethical influence – how to get people to do what you want without resorting to manipulation.

As John and I watched the video a light bulb came on and we could clearly see how the psychology Dr. Cialdini shared made the sales techniques so effective. We acquired a copy of the video for our own use and I began showing it to employees and talking about ways to incorporate the principles of persuasion into everyday things we were doing at work.

Around the same time I signed up for Stanford’s video catalog. In 2003, I received a catalog and noticed the headline for Dr. Cialdini’s video:

Call it Influence, Persuasion

Or Even Manipulation

I was shocked because he was so clear about non-manipulative ways to persuade people. I was so bothered by Stanford’s marketing that I sent them an email. I told them I didn’t know anyone who wanted to be manipulated nor did I know anyone who wanted to be known as a good manipulator. I concluded the email telling Stanford that one word – manipulation – couldn’t help their sales but it sure could be hurting sales.

I never heard from Stanford but some time later my phone rang and it was Chris Cibbarelli, a representative from Robert Cialdini’s organization INFLUENCE AT WORK (IAW). She said she was calling to thank me. Apparently Stanford was changing the marketing of Dr. Cialdini’s video because of my email!

During that call, Chris asked if State Auto ever had guest speakers and let me know Dr. Cialdini traveled the world to talk about ethical influence. I told her we did have speakers for agency events. As fate would have it, the event planner was in my department so I transferred Chris to Robyn Harper. One thing led to another and in the summer of 2004 Dr. Cialdini was a guest speaker at several agency conferences we hosted.

That same summer John and I traveled to Arizona to attend Dr. Cialdini’s two-day Principles of Persuasion Workshop. After that I persisted with John for more than three years to allow me to get certified on behalf of Dr. Cialdini so I could teach the workshop.

In January 2008, I spent a week in Arizona with Dr. Cialdini and the staff at IAW going through the certification process. The process culminated in March 2008 when Gregory Neidert, PhD., a partner at IAW, came to Columbus to audit my first workshop.

That’s the story of my chance encounter with Robert Cialdini. Here we are nearly 10 years later and I’ve hosted more than 50 workshops, have been blogging for more than seven years and have been using Influence PEOPLE to help people attain more professional success and personal happiness using the principles of influence.

As Paul Harvey used to say, “And that’s the rest of the story.”

You Teach People How to Manipulate Others

I attended a networking event/cocktail hour recently and was engaged in conversation with the woman I was seated next to. She asked what I did and I told her I was a sales trainer for an insurance company. She asked if I had a background in education and I told her I did not. She proceeded to quiz me on how I could be a trainer or educator without formal training as an educator. I say, “quiz” because rather than feeling she was interested, I felt more like I was being cross-examined, as if I might be unqualified for the job I’ve been doing successfully for more than 20 years.

As the conversation proceeded, I mentioned that I have my own business where I teach people about the psychology of persuasion. She said, “So you teach people how to manipulate others.” I’m sure she noticed my face change as I replied rather forcefully, “No, there’s a difference between manipulation and persuasion.” She said she didn’t think there was any difference because persuasion was only about getting people to do what you want which in her mind was manipulation. In my mind that’s like saying there’s no difference between the person who uses a knife to cut into a steak and a surgeon who uses a scalpel during an operation.

If you’ve read Influence PEOPLE for any length of time, you know I’ve addressed manipulation before but it’s worth going into once again because there’s such a misconception out there.

My first question to those who think persuasion is manipulation would be this – is there any way to get someone to do what you want without manipulating them?

I hope you answered yes because if not, then we live in a world where everyone is simply out for himself or herself with no regard for anyone else. Think of the consequences:

We don’t get our kids to study because it will help them in life, only because it allows us as parents to brag about their grades.

Wherever you work, no one should buy your product or service because you only sell it to make money without regard to how it impacts others.

You don’t marry someone because you love him or her and want to make him or her happy; you just want to take happiness from them.

I could go on and on but you get the picture. There are people who do what I just described because there are always people who are out only for themselves and don’t care about anyone else.

However, I bet most of you reading this aren’t like that. You want your kids to do well in school because it will make their lives better down the road. You probably work for a company where you really believe people will be better off with your products or services. And the person you’re with, you probably do want to help him or her live a happy, fulfilled life. Do you get anything out of what I just described? Sure you do, but is what you get your driving force? Probably not.

Here’s the reality; every day we encounter people who are not doing what we’d like them to do, what we know they should do, or what might make them better off. For example, in my line of work – insurance – people are happy they have insurance if they have a car accident, their home burns down or a loved one dies. You hope you never have to use your insurance, and you’d rather not have to buy insurance, but you know you might need it one day and you’re thankful it’s there when something bad happens. Is a salesperson helping you understand this reality manipulating you? I don’t see it that way.

Now, people can certainly resort to manipulation. One definition is “to manage or influence skillfully, especially in an unfair manner.” Today we don’t think about “skillfully” because the word is associated with “unfair” and taking advantage of others.

Consider this; if you learned that saying “please” and “thank you” made people more likely to do what you want, would you say “please” and “thank you” most of the time? Certainly you would! You can call using those words “good manners” but the fact remains, we appreciate it when people are polite and we know people respond to us better when we’re polite. Consequently polite people tend to get what they want more often than impolite people. But that doesn’t mean polite people are manipulative.

It’s a fact that when we help others they’re more likely to help us. Does being a nice person who likes to help others make you a manipulator? Not necessarily. Certainly some people learn this and use it to their unfair advantage but others do it because they’ve learned life is easier when you give and respond to giving. This starts early in life when we teach our kids to say “thank you” after someone has done something for them. Are you just teaching your kids to manipulate? I don’t think so.

When we talk about the principles of influence we’re talking about psychological triggers that people naturally respond to. The principles are neither good nor bad, they simply describe how people typically think and respond. How we use them reveals something about our character. When it comes to this I like the following quote from The Art of Woo:

“An earnest and sincere lover buys flowers and candy for the object of his affection. So does the cad who only seeks to take advantage of another’s heart but when the cad succeeds we don’t blame the flowers and candy, we rightly question his character.”

Learning how to influence others isn’t manipulation but can certainly be used by a cad to take advantage of another so let me end with this:

Be truthful, look to give, and try to genuinely help people. If you live your life like that you’ll reap much more than you sow because people will appreciate you and want to help you in return. That’s not manipulation, that’s living life in a way that benefits everyone, including you.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.


Influencers from Around the World – Beware of the Bogus Authority

To kick off the New Year, our Influencers from
Around the World series starts with Sean Patrick. Sean is originally from Dublin,
Ireland, but now resides in London where he works in sales and sales management.
You can connect with Sean on LinkedIn or Twitter. Sean also owns a sales training and coaching
company, SPT (Sean Patrick Training), Ltd. Always thought provoking, I know
you’ll enjoy Sean’s point of view on “authorities” and their content.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT® 
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Beware of the Bogus Authority
I’ve just finished a well-written book by
Georgia attorney Loren Collins called Bullspotting.
It was a nice segue from another brilliantly written piece by Massimo Pigliucci
called Nonsense on Stilts. As you can
probably tell, the book attacks the nonsensical logic behind some of today’s content
that craftily bypasses the critical filters of its followers, making absurd
claims believable. 
Ironically, the author himself was a proponent
and follower of such people who disseminated misinformation. This got me
thinking about how dangerous it is when we open up to pseudo-authority. This
isn’t just a phenomenon that exists on the fringes; it is everywhere.
In business, we have the same problem but not quite
to the same extreme. Misinformation is like a mind virus that quickly infects
those who really need information to back up their status quo. We’re living in
a time where content is everywhere; it’s like drinking from a fire hose. What
kind of misinformation am I referring to? Half-truths mainly, or tactics that
worked for the author on one very lucky occasion but are now claimed as a
There’s also the other kind, the kind where we
think we know about a subject because we read one article or in some cases, the
first couple of paragraphs.  Our ability
to contaminate information further has to be taken in context. Our ability to
recall accurately goes through a process of bending, shaping, remodeling until
we think our warped view is exactly how we saw it. And bogus authority figures
really know this sharing of half-truths is immensely powerful, so we can dot
the lines ourselves as part of the journey to finally agree with the author’s
In business a client base is like a portfolio
of investments and treating them as such will create long term of value and
recurring revenue. Our job as salespeople is to go deep and create ongoing
change and help clients solve their next problem, and the next and so on. We
strive to drive results with practical solutions and provide serious impact
continually on the relationship. 
Great sales people earn higher fees via
commissions because of their ability to create huge impact and provide value. One
of the key areas in providing value is overcoming the hurdle of misinformation
that clients buy into. As I noted above, most people who consume so much
information on a daily basis fail to employ quality control.  
Over the years as a coach, one of the misdemeanors
that some of my clients were guilty of was dining out on so-called
authoritative content on sales topics and stuff that overlapped into self-development.
What the information consisted of mainly was of brain candy quality. 
The kind of content I’m referring to is the
stuff that isn’t earth shattering (but is marketed as so) and if you sat and
thought long enough you’d probably have come to those conclusions without any
help from the author…and you would have dismissed them!
As people who sell, own a business, or provide
professional services, it’s up to us to engage the client in a way in which we
become the authority and the go-to-favorite of the client. We can achieve this
by proving concept, demonstrating value, helping a client take ownership of a
problem by providing deep insightful information that is contextually relevant
to their most pressing problems.
Focusing on conversations that move things
forward are essential in setting boundaries and prove to the client that we
have a proprietary approach in getting grounded and having more clarity in
aligning themselves with their key priorities.
In this age of content creation and re-creation,
we are deluged by pure nonsense most of the time or at the very least someone’s
biased, one-sided view on matters. This is dangerous if we fail to act
objectively. Thanks to the internet, everyone is now an “expert” and we sit
there in a glassy eyed daze agreeing with what’s being presented to us, largely
because it passes through our filters — 
but only if we let it.

Sean Patrick

Persuasion isn’t One of the Seven Dirty Words

The late comedian George Carlin had a hilarious routine about the seven dirty words you couldn’t say on television. I won’t repeat the seven words, but I will say this; persuasion wasn’t one of those words! Having shared that, I realize some people link persuasion to sales and therefore have a negative reaction to it. I get it. After all, most people try to avoid salespeople like the plague because they feel they’ll be sold something they don’t want or need. However, let me say emphatically that ethical persuasion is not manipulative selling.

This is top of mind because not too long ago I had an interesting exchange with someone regarding persuasion after watching their video presentation online. The title of their presentation was How To Convince Your Clients, When Appropriate, To Have a Social Media Presence. After watching it I posted a comment on the website:

“I was disappointed because I never felt like you shared ways to persuade someone that using social media could be beneficial. Most of the commentary was about making sure the people you speak to already see some value but quite often we know businesses could benefit (even if they don’t see that currently) so I was hoping to hear insights into how to manage that discussion.”

His reply started off this way:

“I never try to persuade people to do anything. It is like trying to sell glasses to a blind man. You should never have to convince. You move on to people who get it, and in doing that the people who are not yet will become convinced as they see people they know, like and trust start to use social media.”

Really? You “never try to persuade people to do anything”? I wish I had his wife, kids, clients, boss, etc., because life would be easy. That’s one of the most foolish statements I’ve seen on the web in quite some time. We are persuading people every day. Whenever you ask someone to do something they’re not currently doing – kids and homework, spouse and chores, boss, and a raise, turning prospects into customers – you’re attempting to persuade. And like it or not, what you say and how you say it can make all the difference between yes or no.

I agree that some people are more ready to buy or change and some people are never ready. His example of selling glasses to a blind man would be old school, manipulative selling because in a situation like that the salesperson only cares about making the sale regardless of the need for the product. That’s unethical and not what I’m talking about when I write about or teach ethical persuasion.

Many people are in a ready state to buy or change but have multiple people attempting to convince them their product, service, or idea is the right one for them. In those cases, it’s usually the person who does the best job persuading that gets the yes answer.

Some people may not seem like they’re in a ready state but change their minds when someone persuades them otherwise. Here are two examples:

Steve Jobs. He created products no survey group said people wanted or needed. However, once he created a new product then said something like, “A thousand songs in your pocket,” everyone saw the possibilities and wanted it.

Life insurance. Most people who fail to buy life insurance don’t make that poor choice because they don’t need it. People don’t buy coverage because emotionally no one wants to think about death. Too often they convince themselves “it will never happen to me” or “I have plenty of time for that” so they focus on more pressing issues. I doubt a widower ever cursed a life insurance salesman for persuading the deceased spouse to purchase a life policy.

Aristotle said persuasion was “the art of getting someone to do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do if you didn’t ask.” If everyone were doing what we wanted we’d never have to persuade. Instead, we could sit back and enjoy life as it unfolds but you and I know that’s not the case. Not a day goes by where everyone does what you want because they just “get it.” Knowing that you might want to sharpen up your persuasion skills a bit otherwise you’ll have a hard time getting people to do what you want.

So let me end with this – persuasion isn’t a dirty word. Persuasion is a skill where you understand how people think and act then adjust your communication accordingly. Like so many other skills it can be used for good or bad but that says more about the person attempting to persuade than it does the act of persuasion itself.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

When a Sale isn’t a Sale


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