Tag Archive for: parenting advice

A Skill Displayed at Birth

Our daughter Abigail turned 23 years old this month. It’s hard to believe because I still remember standing at her crib thinking, “I can’t believe you’ve been with us for 100 days.” And here we are more than 8,300 days later! As I reflected on her birth it occurred to me that persuasion is a skill we all display as soon as we exit the womb.

What’s the first thing babies do when they enter the world? They cry. They do so because they can’t express their needs any other way. They cry when they want to be fed, burped, held, changed or any number of other things. They feel their needs and seek to get those needs met through other people.

Aristotle said persuasion was the art of getting someone to do something they wouldn’t normally do if you didn’t ask. That’s a great definition for us as we learn to speak but babies don’t come into the world with any language. Despite lacking verbal skills, they keep trying to influence people.

As we grow we begin to learn other ways besides crying to get our needs met. Some of those learned methods are more socially acceptable than others. A short list of acceptable behaviors includes:

  • Offering help in exchange for help.
  • Saying please and thank you.
  • Asking instead of demanding.

As children grow some socially unacceptable behaviors many also manifest themselves. Those might include:

  • Throwing tantrums
  • Threats
  • Physical harm

Here’s the reality when it comes to behavior – what is reinforced will be repeated. If parents, teachers, friends or others reinforce unacceptable behaviors a child will keep going back to those behaviors for one reason and one reason only – those behaviors get the child what they want.

That approach shouldn’t surprise you. Getting what they want, no matter how it happens, may seem like a great strategy to kids in the short-term. However, it’s a poor long-term strategy for the vast majority as they grow into adults because no one wants to be around adults who throw tantrums, issue threats or resort to violence to get what they want.

This is where understanding the principles of persuasion becomes so important. The principles of reciprocity, liking, consensus, authority, consistency, scarcity and unity are hard wired into our brains. Each has its roots in our development and survival as a species and that’s why humans have come to rely on them more often than not. In one sense they are a force of nature.

Think of the principles of persuasion this way – they help people process information more efficiently which makes communication easier. The easier it is to process information the more likely it will be that it’s acted on.

If you’re not getting what you want, or feel your current approach is taking a toll on your relationships, then maybe you should consider a change and take time to study human behavior. After all, it’s easier to swim with the waves and run with the wind than it is going against those forces of nature.


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.


Restricted Freedom and Persuading Others

Recently on a flight home from a training session I did what I normally do on a Southwest flight – I grabbed the first available aisle seat upon boarding. After I settled in, the flight attendant asked if I wanted to move back a row. She was in the emergency row and reminded me I could not recline my seat. I declined because I normally don’t recline my seat anyway.

A few moments later I began to regret my decision because the thought crept in, “What if I want to recline?” Suddenly having my freedom restricted caused angst even though the restriction was on something I hardly ever do. Scarcity was at work on me! This principle of influence tells us we want things more as they become less available and it doesn’t just apply to goods and services; it applies to our freedom of choice.

A good bit of scarcity’s work on our psyche has to do with not losing out on opportunities because that restricts our freedom.  If you’ve raised kids undoubtedly you’ve seen this. Isn’t it the case that more often than not they want whatever they’re not supposed to touch, taste, smell, watch, listen to or play with?

That doesn’t go away as adults. The moment someone tells us we can’t do something there’s a natural impulse that rises up in us, “Who are you to tell me I can’t…?”

As persuaders, we’d do well to remember this because there are times when our well-intentioned communication backfires because our restrictions only make the other person want the restricted thing even more! There are times when we’d be better off taking a wait and see attitude rather than jumping in with a command – don’t, you can’t, you’d better not, etc.

If you have to make such statements you’d do well to help the other person internalize why the restriction is actually in their best interest. This taps into the principle of consistency. People typically don’t resist their own beliefs, values and reasons, so helping them form those will go a long way toward them believing the restriction is actually good for them.

Here is a very personal example. As a parent I believe it’s in my daughter Abigail’s best interest to abstain from sex for many reasons. But those are my reasons not hers and that means they might not last very long. When she was a freshman in high school she met a nice guy, who was a senior and although they were not “boyfriend and girlfriend” they were more than just friends. A short time after going to college he said it would probably be best if they didn’t keep going like they were and Abigail was crushed. Perhaps you can remember the feeling from your first love.

Sometime after that Abigail and I were driving somewhere and the subject of sex came up so I asked her, “Why do you think it’s wrong to have sex before marriage?” Right away she said, “Because the Bible says so.” So, I asked, “Why do you think the Bible says so?” Immediately she replied, “Because God says so.”

I probed more, “Why do you think God says so?” She was stumped so I asked, “Remember how bad you felt when he broke up with you? All you did was hold hands and have intimate conversations. How do you think you’d feel now if you’d given yourself to him?” I could see from the look on her face that she got it in the deepest part of her being.

I went on to tell her when God, the Bible or her mom and I ask her to refrain from things it’s not because we don’t want her to have fun. On the contrary, we love her and want her to love life and enjoy it to the fullest! With more experience under our belts we know the pitfalls of the decisions many teenagers make. We talked more about sex, marriage and relationships and as we did so she was generating her own reasons for her behavior.

Will she always do what her mom and I think is best or right? No, but then again, we’re not the final arbitrators on right and wrong, good and bad. And it’s been interesting to watch her grow up and make choices at her young age that are far better than we made at that age…and perhaps well into our 30s.

So, the takeaway for you is this – be careful about what you restrict and how you go about it. When you do have to make certain restrictions be sure to help the other person generate their own reasons because that will lead to better, longer lasting behavior.

P.S. I wrote this during the flight home and not being able to recline was a non-issue.

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


Cialdini “Influence”
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influence from the experts? Check out the Cialdini “Influence” Series featuring Cialdini
Method Certified Trainers from around the world.

They’re Among Our First Words


If you’ve raised kids then you’ll surely remember the first words spoken by your children. For many the first word was “mama” or “papa.” I’ll bet a couple of words that followed rather quickly were “no” and “mine.”
The picture is clear – your cute, cuddly, loving child gives you a defiant stare one day and says, “No!” to your request. Or you ask them to share and you hear, “Mine!” Quite often tears followed.
You’re taken aback because you assumed only other people’s kids acted like that, not your sweet little Johnny or Susie. But alas, you’re child is no different and has displayed a part of humanity that’s within all of us. You see, kids who do this aren’t bad; they’re simply reacting to the psychological principle of scarcity.
This principle of influence tells us people want more of what they can’t have and more of things they perceive to be going away. When your child says “no” or “mine,” they’re reacting to what they perceive to be the threat of loss.
“No” usually comes after we’ve asked them to do something and they think they’ll lose the freedom to do what they want. For example, going to bed means losing the freedom to stay up and watch television.
“Mine” comes when we want them to give up something they think is theirs. An example would be; we want them to share the toy they’re playing with but that means they can’t play with it as much as they want. Sometimes they’re not even playing with the toy but once they feel they can’t play with it then they want it all the more.
This doesn’t change much as we grow older. I noticed this in myself not long ago. Our neighbor converted from a regular fireplace to gas and gave us his leftover firewood. He’d always allowed us to take whatever wood we needed but since he wouldn’t need it any longer we moved it from his yard to ours.
We used some throughout the spring so there wasn’t too much left and then one day Jane said another neighbor came and took some wood with her permission. I felt the sting of loss. In my mind I thought, “What?!” It was a selfish thought and as I analyzed why I felt that way this thought occurred to me – if we’d never “taken” the wood and just kept grabbing what we needed I never would have felt like I was losing something. Our neighbor giving it to us and then our moving it to our yard made it feel like it was mine. There it is, that word, “mine.” Suddenly someone else taking some wood – something they’d always done with our neighbor’s permission – made me feel like I lost something.
Quite often we label this as selfishness. Telling someone they’re being selfish probably isn’t the best way to motivate them to change. It’s like telling someone who performed badly, “You suck.” Would you feel like changing if you heard that all the time? Instead of changing you’d probably resent the person saying it. So what can you do?
First, recognize it in yourself. When we see our own shortcomings that usually makes us soften our approach to others.
Second, recognize the reaction you feel is a natural psychological phenomenon. Being motivated by scarcity, like many of the principles of influence, served a survival purpose at one point in time. It still serves a purpose today because there are certain opportunities we want to take advantage of before they go away.
Third, move away from the selfish label and use it as a learning opportunity.


Finally, praise your child when they
do the right thing. That might be sharing or it could be simply
doing whatever you ask even if it comes at a small cost to them. If your
request happens to cause an emotional outburst try to empathize with them about
making a hard choice.
These small changes can make big differences in how your child responds to you. You may not get the desired result right away but don’t give up. Take the long view and trust that taking these four simple steps will lead to much better communication between you and your child and that will pay big dividends in the long run.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Influencers from Around the World – Child-Like Influence

It’s always a treat to hear from Australia’s only Cialdini Method Certified Trainer® Anthony McLean. Anthony is the founder of the Social Influence Consulting Group. I follow him on several social media sites (Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter) and can tell you he’s doing outstanding work! If you’re a parent you’ll really appreciate this week’s post.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT® 
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.
Child-Like Influence
Have you ever watched a child walk into a new environment such as a park, a playground or even a new school and wondered at how quickly they are able to integrate into the group and make new friends? I have three children and have noticed that my youngest, Ryan, never has a problem making new friends. No matter where we go, he always ends up talking to or playing with someone new. My eldest, Samara, possessed this skill when she was younger but now as a pre-teen it doesn’t come that easily to her anymore. Why?
The thing that Ryan does that Samara has stopped doing is always being willing to make the first move (reciprocity). He will walk up to a child on a swing and say hello. If someone is playing on a climbing gym he will go and join in and mimic the climbing style until he can master the apparatus for himself. As an ever more self-aware pre-teen, Samara is less likely to take the first step to talk to someone new. Instead she will look around for those she already knows and in a new environment that is not always possible.  So she sits back and waits.
It is with this simple observation that I started to reflect on persuasion and why some people are successful at it while others find it harder. Now I’m not suggesting there is just one factor involved, but a fundamental tenant for success is that great persuaders are nearly always willing to go first.
Just like Ryan, they will take the first step to say hello to someone and not wait for someone to say hello to them. They will offer their services and invest in others, often without being asked, thereby commencing a relationship where none existed before. They will uncover the things they have in common with others and use this common ground to forge a new relationship.
As a child, I moved to different schools several times, once in primary and once in secondary school. Both times in a sea of unknown faces I knew I needed a friend, and that they must be out there. Without exception I look back on the friends I have made in life and realize that those I approached were often the most like me (liking). They played the same games I did. They were my age. But it still took someone to take the first step. Sometimes it was me, sometimes it was them. Either way I am glad one of us made the effort.
So the implication for you is, regardless of where you are in the world, if you want to influence someone, take a leaf out of the book of a small child. Put your fear aside and make the first move.  If someone is walking toward you in hallway, if you look down and say nothing chances are they will do the same. But if in that same hallway with that same person you look up and say “Hi!,” chances are they will immediately smile and say hi back…but you have to go first!
Look around and find those who are most like you and start there. Uncover the things you have in common and start a conversation, you never know where it might lead.
Of course you don’t have to do this, but as I am now finding out with my daughter, if you don’t, it will quite possibly lead to comments like, “Nobody wants to talk to me,” or “Nobody wants to hang out with me.” As I am now gently pointing out to her, if you don’t make the first move chances are nothing will change. So stop complaining, get off the chair and do something about it. While this is often met with rolling eyes or protests of complaint, she is always happier at the end of it. 
Through this blog, Brian has brought you many great tools, concepts, ideas and research to help you influence others. The key to it all, though, is you must be willing to give it a try! 
Good luck and I will look out for you next time I am in the sandpit of life!

Parenting and the Garden of Eden


Our daughter Abigail is just finishing her
junior year of high school. It’s hard to believe before the year is over she’ll
be 18 years old, officially an adult in the eyes of the law. I still remember
looking at her in her crib thinking, “I can’t believe she’s been with us 100
days already.”


I’ve learned so many things raising her,
especially when it comes to coaching and influencing others. We’ve been blessed
because she’s a wonderful person with an unbelievable heart for people.
This may seem like a paradox but we have
almost no rules and yet we almost never have to discipline her. You might think
someone with no rules would be a loose cannon, especially during the teen
years, but it’s been exactly the opposite.
Pondering this made me think how prohibiting
certain things can sometimes have the opposite of the intended effect, making
the person want to break the rules all the more. It reminds me of God
prohibiting Adam and Eve from eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and
Evil. Once the tree was deemed off limits, Eve viewed something that was there
all along – the tree smack dab in the middle of the garden – in a new and
different way.
For those who’ve raised kids you know the
moment you tell them they can’t do, touch, taste, or listen to something, that
seems to be all the want.
I believe scarcity is at the root of the
issue. This principle of influence tells us people want more of what they can’t
have.  So tell a kid they can’t watch a
movie and their curiosity is piqued as they begin to wonder, “What’s so bad in
the movie that mom and dad don’t want me to see it?”
When comes to parenting I really knew we were
on the right track several years ago when my mom relayed a conversation to me
that she’d had with Abigail. My mom was talking about rules when Abigail would
get her license and Abigail told her she really didn’t have any rules. Of
course my mom insisted she did and Abigail replied, “No grandma, I really don’t
have any rules but I wouldn’t do anything
to break my parents trust
.” Wow! I don’t think I could have asked for any
more than that.
How did we get to that point? I think two
things contributed significantly – time and communication.
As an only child we devoted lots of time to
Abigail. Jane gave up a successful career in insurance to stay home and raise
her. Losing her income necessitated other sacrifices too but they were all more
than worth it.
I made it a priority to be around as much as
possible to attend school events and participate in lots of father-daughter
activities like the YMCA’s Indian Princess program. When Abigail graduated from
that program we participated together in taekwondo for many years. It was
normal for us to hop in the car and go do something together multiple times a
In the midst of all that time together I made
it a point to talk with Abigail a lot
and always gave her room to share her thoughts and feelings. As my good friend, and life coach, Dennis Stranges once said, I helped her find her voice so she felt free to
share whatever was on her mind and whatever was going on in her life.
When you have conversations like we had you go
beyond rules – do this, don’t do that – and spend time talking about the whys
behind the things we’d ask her to do or refrain from.
As she showed good judgment we kept extending
responsibility and emphasized that we’d continue to give more as she displayed
more responsibility. It feeds on itself in a very positive way and everyone
When I say we don’t have rules there are certainly
things we don’t want her to do, such as have sex, drink, try drugs or
participate in other activities that could be harmful to her. However, rather
than lay down rules, she knows if we ask (not tell) her to do something or
refrain from something that we have her best interests at heart. Consequently
things that worry so many parents during the teen years have been non-issues
for us.
So my advice to parents would be threefold – 1)
spend lots of time with your kids, 2) communicate with them, and 3) try
refraining from rules and instead discuss the whys behind what you ask of them.
The earlier in their lives you begin the better but it’s never too late to
start. And remember; give them the freedom to express themselves, even if you
don’t fully agree with their likes and dislikes. Doing so will build trust and
that’s where they’ll be open to what you have to share and that’s where you
might be able to persuade them into good behavior rather than trying to force
Brian, CMCT®
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Acquiring Happiness

I’ll ask for forgiveness upfront because this post isn’t about the science influence. It’s about an exploration of feelings which do influence our choices but this is based solely on a recent experience of mine. Our daughter, Abigail, got her temporary driver’s permit in early August and will get her driver’s license in December. The game plan has been to keep my 1998 Pontiac Grand Prix in good working order – despite rust – so we could give it to her when she was old enough. She’s been a very good, responsible kid and we think she’ll continue that pattern behind the wheel. This summer Jane and Abigail started looking at cars in anticipation of me giving Abigail my car. Not too long ago they came across two really nice vehicles; a 2008 Buick Lacrosse and a 2008 Pontiac Grand Prix. Both were very nice cars and after some online research I felt both were about the best deal I’d get locally. Jane’s heart was set on the Buick but I favored the Grand Prix. The dilemma was that each had attributes the other didn’t. Bottom line; if I wanted the big car luxury feel the Lacrosse was the way to go but if I was looking for a sporty, powerful car then the Grand Prix was the right choice. I settled on the Grand Prix, much to Jane’s dismay, and without going into all the details I’ll tell you two big factors were that I’d had so much good luck with my first Grand Prix and the 2008 Grand Prix had 16,000 fewer miles than the Buick. I think I’m a pretty simple guy because I really don’t want for much. I could have continued driving my old car and been content with it for quite a few more years. Jane and I have lived in the same home for more than 20 years and are very happy. Many things that were original in our home were fine by me but, like many people, once Jane made changes to the house I really liked our home even more. In a similar way, I drove a newer vehicle all of a sudden I felt myself wanting it. Getting a new car was fun but it was a tiring process. It wasn’t just the warm August day that had me tired later on, it was the decision making process, spending a good bit of money, and knowing my choice wasn’t the one Jane wanted. In her defense she was very gracious and told me multiple times she wanted me to get what I wanted because I’d be the one driving it. So why didn’t I feel more excited when I left the lot in my new car? Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy driving the car! However, I was conscious of the fact that I wasn’t really excited, or at least wasn’t as nearly excited as I thought I’d be. I know I was more conscious of all of these feelings because I happened to be reading a book called Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert. Happiness is a subject I wrote about a while ago in a post titled The Secret to Happiness. Here was the strange thing, the thing that really made me happy that day. We happened to be celebrating Abigail’s “Special Day” when I closed the deal on the car. Her special day is a random day once a year where I take the day off and Jane and I give Abigail breakfast in bed, some gifts and then do some of her favorite activities. It was unplanned that I’d end up getting a car on this day but because it worked out I was able to tell Abigail my old car was now her car on one of her favorite days of the year. Here’s what truly made me happy that day; Abigail’s Facebook post said, “Well, since my dad got a new car today, i get his old one! Sooo i have a car now! (: woo hoo”. It would have been easy for her to look at my new car then the one she’s getting and feel some discontentment, but she didn’t. I knew she genuinely appreciated getting the old car and for some reason, even after getting a new car my joy was because I made her happy. The Lord was right when he said, “Tis better to give than receive.” Here’s the really cool thing; we can all be a little happier if we look to give to others. I write about influence and persuasion so I must point out that giving engages reciprocity, the principle of persuasion that tells us those you give to will feel some obligation to give back to you at some point in time. But that aside, the feeling you get having made someone happy, especially someone you love, is more than enough return. There’s no “thing” my daughter could give me that I couldn’t go out and buy myself but you can’t buy happiness and even if you could, it would be more expensive than any of us can afford. Brian, CMCT


Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Consensus or Authority? Fad or Fact Might be the Difference

Ever since Abigail was little we’ve had a tradition of going to Panera Bread for some good food, drink and father-daughter talk. We usually each get sesame seed bagels with butter but she likes her bagel warmed up in the microwave whereas I prefer mine toasted. She’s my kid but we are a little different.

A few weeks ago we stopped by Panera for lunch before Abigail headed to watch her high school play. As we ate and talked she was telling me about a book she was reading for her youth group, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teenagers. I was interested to hear what she had to say because The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is one the most impacting books I’ve ever read. She informed me that adults who write books for teens just don’t get it. I asked why and she went on to say, “If kids did all the things adults told us to do we wouldn’t be kids, we’d just be little adults.” You can imagine the interesting conversation ensued.

Our time together got me thinking about motivating people to change their behavior, and in particular I was thinking about teens. I suspect every person reading this is familiar with the phrase “peer pressure.” It’s just a different term for what is known more commonly as consensus or social proof in psychology. Whatever you call it here’s what it describes; to varying degrees we all look to others to find our cues on how to behave. In other words, we are influence by the power of the crowd. And when people are unsure of what to do consensus becomes an even more powerful tool to persuade others with.

Another principle of influence that comes into play when there’s uncertainty is the principle of authority. When we’re not sure what to do quite often we look for the advice of those who are more knowledgeable than we are. More often than not following the lead of experts helps our decision making.

What Abigail seemed to be saying in a roundabout way was teens don’t necessarily look to adults – authorities – on how to live and act. She’s right, teens take most of their cues from each other and that’s why when we were young mom or dad would ask us, “If everyone else was [fill in the blank] would you?” And we all knew the right answer, “No mom, I wouldn’t [fill in the blank] just because everyone else is.”

Quite often people ask me, “If consensus and authority both apply when there’s uncertainty is one better than the other when it comes to persuasion?” My answer is a firm, “Yes, but it depends.”

In general, if there are facts and stats from experts that apply to the situation you’re facing then bringing authority to bear is probably the right call because it’s hard to argue with empirical data. However, if the situation is more a question of taste or preference then you’d do well to look for ways to bring consensus into the conversation because people feel more comfortable doing what others are doing.

For example, when it comes to investing your money you’re probably better off asking what financial advisors have to say rather than what the neighbors are doing. Consensus will still be a motivator but not nearly as strong for most people as is the word of an authority.

Another example might be fashion. When it comes to fads what everyone else is doing or wearing will be more persuasive for most people as opposed to talking about what a particular fashion designer or magazine has to say. Again, it’s not that those authorities won’t impact decision making. They certainly could but they’re not likely to be as motivating as consensus.

Back to Abigail and books for teens; what should authors do? Why not collaborate with teens to produce something for teens? The authority could give some guidance but by and large the material would come from peers. As adults we were all teens and our desire is good – we want to help teens avoid some of the mistakes we made. The problem is kids think we don’t understand them because, “You were a teenager like a million years ago!”

Here’s my advice – don’t fight the wave, look for ways to ride it safely to shore. That comes with understanding who you’re trying to persuade and which principles will be most effective. Start looking for ways to do that and it’s a good bet you’ll enjoy more success than you currently do.

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

Parenting Made Easier with Influence

Today, December 6, is our daughter Abigail’s 15th birthday. I can still remember looking at her in the crib thinking, “I can’t believe she’s been with us a hundred days.” Wow, does time fly! In just over three years she’ll be heading off to college and no matter where you are in the world you might hear me crying because I’ll miss seeing her every day.

To say that raising Abigail has been one of the biggest joys in my life would be an understatement. The only person luckier than me will be the man who spends the rest of his life with her. She is beautiful, fun, intelligent, has a great sense of humor, thinks deeply, is athletic and so much more. Jane and I have been very fortunate because for the most part she’s been an easy kid to raise. However, I also know some of that ease has been due to good parenting and that’s the focus of this week’s post.

I’m no child psychologist or parenting expert by any means but I have learned enough about psychology to effectively use the principles of influence in the process of raising Abigail. I believe that’s been incredibly helpful so what I’d like to do is share a few things I’ve tried and hopefully it will stimulate some ideas for you.

Liking – It’s not our job to be Abigail’s friend but it’s no secret that if your kids like you they’ll be more apt to do what you ask. We go out of our way to make sure she knows how much she’s loved and that certainly helps us as parents. For a really good parenting idea check out my post on something we call Special Day.

Reciprocity – Most parents give kids an allowance and we’re no exception. An allowance however doesn’t engage reciprocity because it’s a reward, not a gift. To engage this principle you need to be the first to act.

One way I effectively used reciprocity this summer was to give Abigail a raise in her allowance before I asked anything of her. I didn’t say, “If you’ll cut the grass I’ll give you a raise,” because she would have declined (she hates cutting the grass!). What I did was give her a raise then about a week later asked her to cut the grass. She protested a little until I said, “Abigail, I gave you a raise in your allowance and didn’t ask you to do anything. Can’t you help me out?” She cut the grass.

Consensus – This one is always at play with teenagers but most of the time parents are fighting against it because of “peer pressure” and Jane and I are no different. Rather than go into detail on on how we’ve handle the pressure to conform I’ll refer you to the post I wrote on helping teens deal with peer pressure.

Authority – It’s always good to have an outside expert come to your aid. One situation that comes to mind is eating dinner together. It’s become all too common for families to not eat dinner together and when they do it’s often in front of the television. I won’t tell you we eat together every night but we do most evenings because we know it’s a great way to stay connected. Referring to a simple fact from an expert, like most happy families eat together, helps deflect the common question, “Can’t we eat in front of the TV?”Here’s a funny, but not totally ethical, story. When Abigail was very little she didn’t like certain foods and our pleading with her didn’t help. One day Jane acted like Abigail’s doctor was on the phone. As soon as she said, “Abigail, Dr. Klinger says you need to eat your vegetables,” she ate them. Not ethical but effective because even as a little girl she knew he was an authority.
Consistency – I spend a lot of time talking to Abigail and have ever since I can remember. When something we ask her to do goes well I make sure to point that out because it acts as a mile marker down the road. The reason I do that is because it makes the next request easier. For example, I can say, “Abigail, you know I love you right? And you know mom and I want you to be happy and have fun, right? Last time we asked you to do [fill in the blank] it turned out well, didn’t it?” See where I’m going with this? I’ve built on a series of consistent “Yes” responses to get her buy-in. She knows we love her, that we want her to enjoy life and know we’ve given good advice in the past. Reminding her of those things makes it easier for her to say “Yes” to whatever we’re asking of her currently.
Scarcity – We try not to pull the threat lever too often but that is a legitimate use of scarcity. As parents we’ve all had to say, “If you don’t [fill in the blank] you’ll lose the privilege to [fill in the blank].” I do think effectively using the other principles of influence greatly reduces the need to have those kinds of tough talks with your kids. One area I was able to use scarcity was with club volleyball last year. Abigail wasn’t big on the idea of playing but I let her know if she didn’t there was probably no way she’d make the high school team. Knowing she was going to a new school where she didn’t know anyone we all agreed being on the volleyball team would be a good way to start the high school experience. Although she would have rather done things other than club volleyball she went ahead and played.
Please don’t think that using the principles is a surefire guarantee to hear “Yes” every time because it’s not. What I can tell you with confidence is that your children will say “Yes” more often if you effectively use the principles of influence – and all of this is backed by science and the understanding of human psychology. I encourage you to give it a try. It’s made our lives easier and I know it can do the same for you.PS The reason for the 4:38 AM post this week is because that’s exactly when Abigail came into the world 15 years ago. Happy Birthday Abigail, Love Dad!!
Brian, CMCT
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.


Helping Teens Balance Peer Pressure and Authority Figures

A week ago Abigail graduated from the 8th grade. To most people that’s not a big deal, unless you happen to be a parent. Like most things kids do – sports, school plays, and moving on to the next grade – they’re not terribly significant events in and of themselves but they help shape who we are and who we become.

What’s significant about Abigail’s situation is that entering high school next year will be a HUGE change, much more than for the typical kid. You see, she’s gone to the same school her whole life, Polaris Christian Academy, with basically the same group of friends. There were only a dozen kids in her class and just four girls including Abigail.In the fall she’ll attend Westerville South High School which means she goes from the small, private Christian school environment to the huge public school; from a tiny class to one that will have more than 400! And did I mention that none of the kids she knows will go to her new school? It could make for a lonely, difficult time.In early May she posted on Facebook, “Another awards chapel were im the only one left in my row, 9 yrs of that, hmm getting kinda tired of it :/” As a parent, seeing something like that breaks my heart. Consensus, that desire to be a part of the crowd, is an incredibly strong psychological force, especially for kids. Not being a part of the group is tough for kids because they’re fighting physical pain when they’re excluded from a group. That’s right, being excluded from a group registers in the brain as physical pain! Watch this short video of Dr. Robert Cialdini as he explains this interesting scientific finding.So how’s a parent to deal with this? I believe there’s potentially good and bad in everything. Some “good” things become bad when we abuse them and some “bad” things turn out to be good for us if we deal with them the right way. As a parent one of my responsibilities is to help Abigail learn this truth so she can overcome obstacles and enjoy life to the fullest.All of this started me thinking and I noticed something about her personality. While all her friends were doing things together when they were younger Abigail worked for four years to earn her black belt in taekwondo. When her girlfriends all went out for cheerleading she didn’t because it wasn’t for her. When they all played basketball over the winter she passed to play club volleyball where she didn’t know anyone. While her friends were all on stage for the plays the last few years Abigail decided she’d rather be backstage working the lights.After thinking about this I told Abigail I was proud of her. She didn’t quite get it but I explained that she showed strength of character to be okay with not being a part of everything everyone else did. If she can deal with not partaking in the fun activities her friends were doing and if she can deal with the feelings of being singled out because she didn’t get awards when most other kids were recognized then I have confidence she’ll be her own person as she takes this big step in life and moves into a totally foreign environment in high school. On a similar note; several years ago while at camp Abigail didn’t finish all her food so the camp counselor said she’d have to sing in front of the other campers. She doesn’t like to sing so she dug her heels in and said she wouldn’t and despite the fact that her mom was sitting there watching, and embarrassed I might add, Abigail didn’t give in.Again, I saw this as a learning opportunity. After that incident I told Abigail that mom shared the story with me about what happened and that I was proud of her. She had a hard time understanding that one too. I explained that she shouldn’t just do what everyone asks her to, or tells her to, and that the camp incident was good training. I followed that up by telling her she’d have to accept the consequences that come with saying “No” to people and there would certainly be consequences for saying no to an authority like a teacher.I hope you see where I’m going with this. As I wrote earlier, consensus can be a powerful psychological force at work on us and sometimes it can lead us to do things we ought not to. By the same token authority is a powerful influence as well. Sometimes we do things because someone we perceive to be an authority tells us to. Part of learning to navigate life as an independent adult is knowing whom to say “Yes” to and whom to say “No” to.
So here’s my encouragement to those of you who are parents. Understanding how the principles of influence can be used against you or your kids is just as important as learning how to ethically use them. Talk to your kids about this because it will give them the tools necessary to make better, more informed choices. You’ll be glad you did.
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

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!”