The 4 Most Dangerous Words for Personal Growth

I did a virtual keynote earlier this year and saw a comment that concerned me. Well, the concern wasn’t actually for myself, rather it was for the people who made the comment. Why was I concerned? Because they said the four most dangerous words for personal growth – “I already know that.”

With a college degree, 30+ years in business, having read countless books over the decades and having the good fortune to study under Robert Cialdini, it would be easy for me to fall into the “I already know that” trap. But I’m self-aware enough to remind myself I know far less than I think I do.

I’ve worked with thousands of people over the years sharing the science of influence. I can confidently say, virtually everyone who claims to know what I teach doesn’t at any meaningful level. Without a doubt, people intellectually understand the concepts I share. That’s because I’m describing human behavior and they’re human beings. They either think of a time a particular principle of influence was used to get them to do something or they recognize times they used (mostly unknowingly) the principles to get a yes response. 

The reality is, we’ve all been influencing since we were born and we’ve been influenced just as long. Does that mean we know how to influence effectively? Not necessarily. 

Let’s take breathing as an example. We all breathe. We’ve done so every day since birth! Does that mean we know how to breathe in optimal ways? No. There are ways to breathe that will help you relax, slow your heart rate, help you stretch your endurance, etc., and most people don’t know how to breathe to achieve those specific results. The same goes for effectively influencing people. 

Fortunately, there are four words that can counteract “I already know that.” Those four words are, “What can I learn?” You might have some baseline understanding of a subject but there’s always more to learn. That’s true because there’s so much to learn and new information is continually being discovered.

My encouragement to you this week is very simple; keep asking yourself, “What can I learn?” This applies to subjects, people and situations. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you discover.

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

Brian’s book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was named one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by BookAuthority. His LinkedIn Learning courses on sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 100,000 people around the world.

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