Tag Archive for: Richard Petty

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.