Tag Archive for: persuasion

Just Don’t Do It!

I’ve no doubt you’re familiar with Nike’s famous slogan Just Do It! As someone who spends most of his time communicating through keynote presentations, training, coaching and consulting, sometimes the best advice is Just Don’t Do It!

When I attend conferences and workshops, in addition to learning new information, I pay close attention to the presenters. I do so because I’m always looking for ways to improve my communication skills. The better job I do as a presenter, the more likely audience members are to walk away with ideas to help them professionally and personally. Sometimes what I learn while watching other presenters is what not to do.

I was at a training event recently where it was apparent the presenter knew the material. Unfortunately, he was an awful presenter. Here are a handful of phrases he uttered that caught my attention:

  • “Thanks for coming to listen to me drone on.” Really, that’s what you’re going to do for three hours?
  • “Contrary to popular demand I won’t cover…” If people want it, why not cover it? At least don’t mention it if you’re not because it causes disappointment.
  • “If you’ve zoned out for some of this presentation I don’t blame you.” Then why should we have even come?
  • “In order to break up the monotony I’ll show a video.” How about trying to make it less monotonous?
  • He used example that wasn’t directly related to his subject and told us not only did it fail, he “went down in flames.” Why highlight your failure with an irrelevant example? Instead, how about telling us what you did that worked?

I texted my wife and said I was about ready to gouge my eyes out with my pen. She suggested I handle it like a bad blind date – go to the restroom and don’t go back. I took her advice and slipped out during a break.

Words Matter

In his NY Times bester-seller, Pre-suasion: A Revolutionary New Way to Influence and Persuade, Robert Cialdini builds the case the setting the stage can make a big difference when it comes to influence. Maybe you occasionally lead meetings, facilitate training or perhaps you’re a fulltime teacher. In each case you’re influencing people as you teach them.

I’ve heard professional educators, people in corporate training, open workshops saying, “I know some of you are here because you have to be,” or “I know some of you are here because your boss made you come.” No, no, no!

Approaches like those just noted either implant negative thoughts or reinforce a negative perceptions attendees might already have. Your job as a facilitator is to help them learn and one step in that direction is to put them in a state of mind that’s conducive to learning. To do this, early on in my workshops I typically ask three questions:

  1. Where are you from?
  2. What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
  3. Why are you excited to be here?

The first question is a nice way for people to connect because oftentimes attendees find out they’re from the same geographic area as others in the workshop. It’s a natural conversation starter.

Question 2 begins to change people’s thinking. Some people don’t enjoy their jobs but getting them focused on activities apart from work that they do enjoy puts them in a better frame of mind.

The final question is geared towards changing their mindsets about learning. When I ask why they’re excited the vast majority of people come up with at least one reason and respond with, “I’m excited to be here because…”

If a person can’t come up with something I might ask, “If I can help you get your kid to empty the dishwasher more often would that make our time together worthwhile?” That usually gets a laugh and positive response. Then I make sure to address that for the individual.

When it comes to learning, subtle shifts in the following mindsets can make a big difference:

  • Closed minded to open minded
  • Bored to curious
  • Uninterested to interested
  • Apathetic to excited

Using a little pre-suasion can make that happen. You can accomplish that using the right questions, certain types of music or the right imagery. I think of this as setting the stage. When your session starts off well it becomes much easier to keep people engaged and learning.


Your words matter because they set a tone. At all costs avoid the kinds of phrases I described near the beginning of this post. But don’t settle for avoidance. Whether you call it pre-suasion, setting the stage or creating the right atmosphere, don’t leave it to chance. Think about frame of mind you want people in as your event starts and do what you can to create an environment that’s conducive.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An international speaker and trainer, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini. Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses, Persuasive Selling and Persuasive Coaching have been viewed by more than 60,000 people! His latest course, Creating a Coaching Culture, will be online in the second quarter. Have you watched them yet? Click a link to see what you’ve been missing.

It’s The Economy, Stupid

A theme for Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign was, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Have you ever paused to consider what skills you need the most in daily life? Which will get you ahead at work? Which ones you use more than others? This post is intended to open your eyes to one that’s used every day but seldom studied and practiced even less. No, I’m not talking about listening skills, although that would be a good guess. I’m talking about the ability to persuade; to move people to action, to change hearts and minds, to ultimately hear “Yes!” I would argue it’s a persuasion economy but I won’t call you stupid to make my point.

Every day, all day long, you engage with others and quite often you’re hoping to persuade them in some way. Aristotle said persuasion was the art of getting someone to do something they would not normally do if you didn’t ask. Getting people to do what you want can be challenging because it involves behavior change. On top of that, they can’t read your mind, don’t know what you want and, oh by the way, they have their own priorities.

But learning how to ethically persuade people is worth the time and effort, especially if you want to have more professional success and personal happiness.

Deirdre McCloskey, Professor of Economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago, researched persuasion’s impact on the U.S. economy in the 1990s. In Knowledge and Persuasion in Economics she built the case that this one skill is responsible for 25% of our national income. More than 20 years since her book came out, with the proliferation of the internet and all the changes that came along with it, some estimate that figure at closer to 30% now.

If that’s not enough to convince you, consider what Daniel Pink, author of To Sell is Human, has to say. In his book he cites a survey of more than 7,000 businesspeople in non-sales roles. He wrote, “People are now spending about 40 percent of their time at work engaged in non-sales selling – persuading, influencing, and convincing others in ways that don’t involve anyone making a purchase.” If you’re reading this and happen to be in sales I’d venture to guess that percentage is probably greater than 70% for you. What this means is the typical worker spends anywhere from three to six hours a day using persuasion skills.

As society places less emphasis on manual labor and more on knowledge and idea generation it’s no wonder Carmine Gallo, author of Five Stars: The Communication Secrets to Get from Good to Great, says, “Mastering the ancient art of persuasion—combining words and ideas to move people to action—is no longer a ‘soft’ skill. It is the fundamental skill to get from good to great in the age of ideas.”

Listening is a skill and, hearing impaired aside, we all come with the same equipment. However, I’m sure you know people who are very good listeners and others who are very bad. Persuasion is similar in that it’s something we all do starting at birth (babies cry to be fed, burped, held, changed, etc.) but while some people become very good at it, others are very bad. If you take the time to study persuasion then thoughtfully consider how to ethically put your knowledge to use you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much easier it will be to hear “Yes!”, change hearts and minds, and to move people to action.

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

Why Study Persuasion? You Can’t Afford Not To!

There never seems to be enough time in the day to do all that you want to or all that you need to. So why should you spend your precious time learning about persuasion? Because you cant afford not to!

Let’s start with exactly what I mean when I talk about persuasion. Persuasion is not simply about changing a person’s thinking because if the change in thinking doesn’t lead to a change in behavior have you really gained anything? For example, if you ask your child to clean their room, which do you want to have happen?

  1. Have your child acknowledge cleaning their room is a good idea (changed thinking).
  2. Have your child actually clean their room (changed behavior).

I don’t know any parent who would be satisfied with A. When we try to persuade we want to change behaviors and that’s why I believe Aristotle has given us the best definition of persuasion. He said it was, “The art of getting someone to do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do if you didn’t ask.” Someone isn’t doing something so you interact with him or her in hopes of changing their behavior in some way.

What you may not realize is how much of your day is spent persuading people. In To Sell is Human Daniel Pink cites a survey of more than 7,000 business people in non-sales positions. He wrote, “People are now spending about 40 percent of their time at work engaged in non-sales selling – persuading, influencing, and convincing others in ways that don’t involve anyone making a purchase.” If you happen to be in sales that percentage is probably greater than 60%.

That means if you’re like the typical worker you spend more than three hours a day attempting to persuade others! Over the course your career you’ll spend upwards of 40,000 hours engaged in the act of persuasion at work!!

So let me ask this – if you’re going to do something for at least three hours a day, 40,000 hours over a lifetime (and that doesn’t include time persuading your spouse, kids and others outside of work), wouldn’t it be wise to understand how to do it to the best of your ability? Put another way, can you afford not to become more skilled at persuasion? There’s a lot at stake at work and at home when it comes to perfecting your persuasion skills so I encourage you to tune in next week to find out more.

Fatigue and Persuasion Equals a Bad Combination

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me end with two take away considerations:

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

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

The Adjustment Bureau of Politics and Persuasion

Matt Damon starred in the 2011 movie, The Adjustment Bureau, in which he played the youngest politician to be elected to Congress. In the opening scene he has to address supporters after having lost an election bid for the Senate he clearly should have won.

During his consolation speech he begins to reveal the truth about himself and his campaign. He tells the audience everyone assumed his meteoric rise as a young congressman was due to his authenticity. He proceeds to tell people he’s not been authentic at all and starts by telling them a phrase he had just mentioned about his old neighborhood was made up and used only because it polled well with voters. He goes on to say his tie was chosen from 56 others because of what it signified. Then he tells people his campaign paid $7,300 to find out how to perfectly scuff his shoes to appeal to the widest array of voters. Ironically he was viewed more positively the day after the speech because he’d finally been truly authentic.

We’re knee deep in the political process in the U.S., so I thought it was time to share a little about persuasion in the political process. Damon’s revelation about his campaign is more real than you might imagine.

Over the years I’ve participated in many “marketing studies” and quite a few have centered on politics. During these political studies people are literally gathered together for the sole purpose of finding out which phrases resonate best with voters. Mind you, during the selection process participants are paired down so the pollsters understand if the phrases will work best with white, middle aged, conservative males making a certain amount of money or minority voters having a certain educational background, or soccer moms.

By a show of hands or in written format those conducting the marketing ask participants which sentence in each pair appeals the most. Examples might include:

A. A strong national defense
B. A strong U.S. military

A. Family values
B. American ideals

Let’s assume most people like A in both pairs.
Before you know it you will hear politicians talking about how “a strong national defense” is important and how the other party doesn’t care about “family values.”

I hope you’re seeing the picture that’s being painted. Very little of what you hear from people running for Congress, the Senate or president comes from their own words. What you’re getting is a republican or democratic made up persona designed to appeal to the most voters.

Part of the reason republican outsiders like Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina have gotten so much attention from the masses and media is because they’re not run of the mill puppet-like politicians who’ve been airbrushed to appeal to voters. For the most part – love ‘em or hate ‘em – they are presenting their real selves. To a lesser degree (only because he’s been in politics a long time) Bernie Sanders has a similar appeal for many democratic voters.

Most career politicians spout the “same old same old.” You only have to watch a few debates to hear the same politically correct jargon and talking points intended to appeal to the base.

For example, it always sounds as if every governor led the greatest comeback his or her state had ever seen. The skeptic in me always thought things were so bad with the economy in 2008 if you couldn’t boast about lower unemployment, increased spending on schools, new programs, etc., in your state then you would have been a terrible governor! Blah, blah, blah. The rising tide of an economic recovery helped every state look much better when compared to six or seven years ago.

So what are we to do? Pay attention to what’s said and see if you can confirm key facts. It’s amazing how politicians will tell us things that are not true or are a twisted version of the truth to support their points.

No candidate is perfect and none will hold your opinions or values on everything. In all likelihood there will be two or three core issues for each voter that will determine who they vote for. It may be healthcare reform, the economy, immigration, ISIS, foreign affairs, etc. No matter who you vote for there may be inconsistencies with their positions on other issues but then again each of us are inconsistent to one degree or another. Just make sure whoever you vote for is the person they present themselves to be and not some campaign consultant, poll-generated image designed to appeal to vote getting. Vote for a real person…if one happens to be running.

What’s in a Name?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” That famous quote comes from William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet. Juliet utters that line to Romeo as she makes the point that no matter his name (he was a Montague and his family was at odds with Juliet’s family, the Capulets) he is still the man she loves.

It’s a well-known line that does contain an element of truth because the rose would smell every bit as sweet no matter what we called it. However, if we renamed the rose something like “The Dogcrap Flower,” very few people would be willing to even sniff it.

This understanding came to light recently when I approached an individual about an idea I had. I wanted to rename something but I knew this person was heavily invested in the current name. Here’s how I approached the conversation:

Me – Have you ever had Patagonian Toothfish?

Other – (making an “ewe gross” sound) No, I

don’t think I have. Sounds kind of gross.

Me – Have you tried Chilean Seabass?

Other – Yes, I love it.

Me – Did you know they’re the same thing? (I hear a chuckle). Nobody was buying Patagonian Toothfish because it sounds bad so they renamed it Chilean Seabass in the 1970s. I bring this up because I think we have a naming problem.

From there I described the problem and the other person agreed rather quickly to explore the name change.

Aside from an example like that, names, words and labels matter a lot! And it doesn’t always matter what the dictionary has to say about what a word means because ultimately we give meaning to words. Understanding your audience and their interpretation of words is what matters most. Here are a few examples.

Thug – a violent criminal (Merriam-Webster)

We heard this word used repeatedly in connection with the recent Baltimore riots. It’s true that those who looted and destroyed were violent criminals. However, many people came down hard on those who used the word – including Baltimore’s mayor and President Obama (both African-American) – because in society the word has become more closely associated with African-Americans. There was a time when the word was used to describe Irish immigrant criminals, gangsters in the 1920s and 1930s, and even former Detroit Piston center Bill Lambier. But the connotation in today’s media is so heavily skewed towards African-Americans that it’s becoming a race-related word.

Niggardly – hating to spend money, very small amount (Merriam-Webster)

In 1999 David Howard used this word when referring to the budget for Washington D.C. and was relieved of his position after a race-related complaint. Eventually he took a different position working for the city and said he learned from the incident.

Bastard – a person born to parents not married to each other (TheFreeDictionary.com)

We can probably all think of someone we know who was born to parents who never married. If you used this word to describe that someone you’d probably get popped in the mouth or get an earful of condemnation for being insensitive. Most people in that situation would have no problem talking about their parents never marrying but would not take kindly to the label.

There was an urban legend about the Chevy Nova not selling in Spanish speaking countries because in Spanish Nova means “no go.” There was no truth to the story but it too belies the point that a name can have a profound impact on the listener.

What does this have to do with persuasion? A lot! Understanding your audience – what words will help and what words will offend – and keeping in mind your ultimate goal will help you craft your persuasive message.

Do we want to see race relations improve in this country? I believe the vast majority of people would say yes.

Tossing around the word thug, when you know how it will be perceived, is not something a smart persuader would do. If an African-American mayor and president can’t avoid controversy then neither will you.

Budgets may be tight but the wise persuader would not use the word niggardly – no matter how the dictionary defines it – because they realize someone will be offended and their message will be lost.

If you want to help tackle the issue of children being born out of wedlock you best not refer to those children as bastards because you’ll offend so many people that your desire to help and good ideas will never be heard.

Yes, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet but rename it incorrectly and almost nobody will take a sniff. The words we use can make all the difference so make sure your words work for you, not against you.

Influencers from Around the World – Three Lessons from Arnold

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


Influencers from Around the World – Alex Ferguson’s Persuasion Secrets of Managing Manchester United

If you’ve followed Influence PEOPLE for any length of time then you’re familiar with Sean Patrick. You know Sean hails from Dublin, Ireland but what you may not realize is he’s moved to London. You can connect with Sean on LinkedIn or Twitter. Sean owns his own sales training and coaching company SPT (Sean Patrick Training), Ltd. I’m confident you’ll enjoy what Sean has to share this month.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.
Ferguson: Persuasion Secrets of 
Managing Manchester United

In May 2013, Sir Alex Ferguson or SAF as he’s
otherwise known as, stepped down as manager of Manchester United.  He had just won his 13th Premiership title,
the most successful and highly decorated manager in English football.  This ended his 26th season in charge of one
of the biggest sporting franchises in the world.

During his time at Old Trafford he won 38
titles including two UEFA champions league trophies. Ferguson took control of
the club at a time when player status was more important than winning titles,
over the course of four seasons and under severe pressure to deliver, he
transformed the club from the inside out.
He employed countless talent scouts to find the best youth players at
grassroots level and developed an academy that produced one of the most
successful teams in English football history.
Every season a major development was installed inside the club that
cemented United’s ability to find and retain the best playing staff.  Ferguson was well known for having his finger
on the pulse in every area of the club.
Only Matt Busby, a legendary former United manager had any such
influence across the entire club.
So how did he do it?  Ferguson was well known for his ability to
psychologically influence the players around him and rival managers.  Ferguson believed that the key to success was
to make sure that every player put in 100% during training.  He never allowed a bad training session as
this proved a player would find mediocrity acceptable, he knew bad habits form
quickly.  He ensured that every player
who under-performed at half time became aware of their poor performances thus
the legendary motivational skills reared itself in the dressing room.
Former rival manager Jose Mourinho claimed
Ferguson was the master of the ‘second game’, sing the media to motivate his
team and to begin, as he put it, ‘to play the next game before it starts’.
The club and everyone around him knew he was
the authority figure.  If a player tried
to take over the dressing room or put in a poor performance he was either
swiftly removed from the club or was given a severe face-to-face screaming
which had become known as the hairdryer treatment.  His authority was without question embedded
into the organization. Over the course of his 26 season reign he made difficult
choices and this came in the form of releasing established world class players
such as Roy Keane, Jaap Stam and David Beckham to make room for untested
younger players such as Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo who became medal
winners at United.
There was another side to Ferguson, he was
liked and respected.  He was treated
respectfully by senior management and back-room support staff and reciprocated
respect by demonstrating fairness and his ability to empathize.  These skills were tested during the season of
1995-96 when maverick player Eric Cantona attacked an opposition supporter
Kung-Fu style and consequently given a heavy suspension lasting several
months.  Over the course of this period,
Ferguson mentally coached Cantona, firstly to retain his services and secondly
to mentally motivate and prepare the player for his return.  Subsequently, Cantona blossomed to become a
model player and became club captain helping United secure more silverware.
This method of psychologically preparing and
motivating players culminated in United’s first UEFA Champions league title in
1999.  They faced a tough fixture against
Germany’s Bayern Munich.  At half-time
United were trailing, he reminded his players that if they lost the match they
would not as much be allowed to touch the trophy, just amble past at a safe
distance wearing their losers medal.  One
of the players later recalled that Ferguson’s inspirational speech turned
fearful men into world-beaters.  During
that same season, United became the first side from a major league to win the
treble of Champions league, English Premier league and League cup in a single
Ferguson understood the importance being
consistent. One of his key skills in improving the preparedness of his players
was his use of story telling and being to talk to each player
individually.  He liked to change the
themes of his team talks with regularity.
“I once heard a coach start with ‘this must be the 1000th team talk I’ve
had with you’ and saw a player quickly respond with ‘and I’ve slept through
half of them!’  If a player was to sit
out a game, he gave a personal and very frank conversation that conveyed
empathy and instilled confidence in the player.
Ferguson emphasized on the use of instilling
confidence on the training pitch.  “There
is no room for criticism on the training field’.  ‘There is nothing better than hearing ‘well-done.”
Cialdini “Influence”
 Would you like to learn more about
influence from the experts? Check out the Cialdini “Influence” Series featuring Cialdini
Method Certified Trainers from around the world.


Influencers from Around the World – A Nightmare on Persuasion Street

This month our Influencers from Around the World guest post comes from across the pond from my old Irish friend Sean Patrick. Sean owns a sales training company, Sales Training Evaluation, and writes a blog, Professional Persuader. Sean is a big fan of Dr. Cialdini and attended the Principles of Persuasion workshop I led when he visited the States in October 2010. Always thought-provoking, Sean’s post this week is no different.
Brian, CMCT 
Helping You
Learn to Hear “Yes”.

A Nightmare on Persuasion Street
Persuasion is one of my life long loves.  It is constant learning and working out practically what makes people say “Yes.”  There are many types of persuasion principles and methods and one of those is coercion. When I refer to coercion, I mean two things; unethical use of persuasive techniques and emotional tampering.
The world is a changing place and has changed dramatically over the past three to four years, in particular. People realize we have moved into a new reality in which economic uncertainty is here to stay. As a result many bury themselves into fantasy land with the help of the internet and television soap operas.
Television has become one of the most potent forms of persuasion abuse in recent times. Politicians remind us constantly that we are all ok, that we’re being looked after, and that the sons and daughters of our countries are doing the right things by sacrificing themselves to affront a common enemy. As this all goes on we remain ignorant of the true facts even as our pension funds, life savings and home values erode to nothingness.
What I have just described is known as the “Lucifer Effect.”  What makes people accept brutality and evil as normal? The Lucifer Effect raises this question and also delves into the psyche of perpetrators of abuse or coercion. Throughout history we have been conditioned to accept one rule of thumb as being our normal even if other people in different countries vehemently oppose our ideals. Yet we gladly accept that what is normal should not be questioned in case we are ridiculed or have our loyalties questioned.
Human character is a dynamic thing, it transforms on the basis of different chronologies. What makes normal, law abiding, educated and healthy people become raving stewards of hate? When we look back in time at the inquisitions of the Catholic Church, The Third Reich, Rwanda, the abuses of the U.S. military in Abu Ghraib, Iraq and similar episodes in Afghanistan, what we see are normal law abiding citizens becoming perpetrators of sadistic evil.
This is where social proof in the influence process comes in. Robert Cialdini’s principles of persuasion are subliminal and powerful! In all of history’s foibles you can spot the persuasive mechanisms at work. Even today in North Korea, the power of the crowd plays an important role in keeping the population at large from uprising against a despotic regime.
It isn’t just politics where the abuse of influence is at work, we can see it every day in the mainstream news media, the press, soap operas, Hollywood films, advertising, and even religion. Once you’ve become accustomed to seeing the six principles it becomes more and more apparent how each principle is embedded in the context in which it is given.
Finally, where we see dehumanization at work we need to ask questions about what is really going on, and we can do this by seeing exactly how much effort is being put into the persuasive mechanism and how much others really want us to buy into it. Usually, such efforts are preceded by what I call the “Carrot and Stick” approach. This is the highly coercive act of offering a solution to a perceived problem by provoking a public reaction.

Hitler’s genocidal policy began through the introduction of a re-education of school children. Educational propaganda is nothing new and is intentionally designed to form dehumanization towards the common enemy.  This necessarily doesn’t need to be targeted towards people; it can be attitudes towards finance, work, immigration, foreign policies, centralization of government etc. A manipulation of public attitudes is definitely affected by this principle.
I’ve become more intrigued about this principle that was coined by Philip Zimbardo and to this end the fascination of watching the trial of Anders Breivik in Norway keeps reminding me that there is a greater degree of understanding needed when normal people become evil.

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Tiger Woods and Character

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”