Monday, August 18, 2014

The Pain of Regret and What to Do about it

Last week, the world lost one of its best-known comedians when Robin Williams ended his life after struggling with severe depression. Williams was beyond famous; he was beloved. We lose famous people all the time but I cannot recall seeing such an outpouring of gratitude, sympathy, and a sense of loss on social media as I saw with his passing. I wonder if he’d have known how big an impact he had on so many people, and how deeply they felt connected to him, if it would have made a difference in his last moments.

This post isn’t about Robin Williams but his passing brings to light the reality about how much we experience the pain of loss. Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize winner, and Amos Tversky studied this phenomenon and concluded humans feel the pain of loss – an application of the principle of scarcity – anywhere from 2.0-2.5 times more than the joy of gaining the very same thing. 

And here is a sad but true reality – we will eventually lose everyone we love or we will be lost to those who love us. There is no way to avoid the pain of loss known as death.

There is however a pain we can reduce or remove – the pain of regret. Unfortunately all too often we have this pain heaped on top of the pain of loss. You may have already experienced it or seen others deal with it. The pain of regret comes out in statements like these:

I wish I would have…
I should have…
I could have…
I regret that I didn’t…

The list could go on and on. We are so pressed by life, too often by our own choices, that we don’t give ourselves enough to those who mean the most. In the midst of loss and the pain of regret people see more clearly that loved ones and those who’ve impacted their lives in meaningful ways are far more important than a new house, cleaning the car, spending a few more hours in the office or checking the text that’s coming in at that moment.

So what are we to do? As human beings we must never forget we have the capacity to choose! We can choose to spend less time at work, to not worry so much about the house, to realize washing the car can wait, to know the world won’t end if we don’t check our text every few minutes.

I’m sure many people wish they’d have told Robin Williams how much he meant to them, the joy his movies brought into their lives, the laughter he gave them that brightened their day. But they can’t now. The past is over, nothing more than a memory now, and the future is not guaranteed. All you have is the moment you’re living in right now so what will you do with it? Will you take the time to hug your spouse or kids a little tighter, a little longer and tell them you love them? Will you reach out to someone you’ve not talked to in a while say, “I’m thinking of you and appreciate you?” Maybe you could thank your parents for all they invested in you. I could go on and on but you get the point. Connect with someone in a meaningful way because it will benefit both of you.

Life is short. I’m already 50 years old and 25 didn’t seem that long ago. God willing, I may look back at 75 and think, “Wow, those last 25 years went by faster than I could have imagined!” I don’t want to live with regret. Losing anyone I love will be hard enough but I want to look back and know I spent my time on earth well. My hope is you can do the same.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT® 
Chief Influence Officer

Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Influence PEOPLE - A New Video

This week is a short post to share a new video I recently put online. The clips are from a keynote presentation I gave this past May in Cleveland, Ohio. The event was the annual I-Day Convention sponsored by the Insurance Board of Northern Ohio (IBNO). I hope you enjoy it.

If you're getting this post via email click here to watch the video on YouTube. 

Is your organization interested in learning how the science of influence can help move your initiatives ahead? I can help! Contact me about keynotes, training, coaching or consulting.

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

Monday, August 4, 2014

No battle plan survives contact with the enemy

There’s a saying in the military that’s attributed to Helmuth von Moltke, a German Field Marshall in the 1800s – “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” Why plan for battle then?

The late Bill Walsh, former pro football head coach of the San Francisco 49ers and Hall of Famer, was known for scripting out the first 15 plays his offense would run to start the game. Quite often the script was out the window depending on what happened during the first few downs of the game so why prepare a script?

In many martial arts, practitioners go through forms or katas that simulate fight sequences against multiple opponents. It’s highly unlikely that any fight ever unfolded as laid out in a kata so why practice such sequences?

In each case it seems as if the best preparation is a gamble, a potential waste of time and effort, so why go through the motions? Because there’s value in planning beyond the plan. Things may not unfold as planned but soldiers, athletes and martial artists are more prepared for different eventualities than if they never trained and planned at all.

How confident would you be in your country’s ability to defend your homeland if they didn’t train and plan? How confident would you be about victory if your favorite sports team had no game plan? How confident would a martial artist be if they never thought about and practiced defending against multiple opponents and then found themselves facing several attackers?

The same thought process applies in persuasion. Many of the concepts I teach in the two-day Principles of Persuasion workshop® take time and preparation. You see, being an effective persuader isn’t about being a silver-tonged devil in the moment any more than success on the battle field is just about weapons, or being a good athlete on the football field, or kicking high in martial arts. All of those things are helpful but the best in each succeed because they prepare and train.

So what does preparation look like in persuasion? It starts with learning the science of influence. With more than 60 years of research in this field we can turn to studies that clearly tell us which principles of influence to use and when. This understanding will lead to more consistent success than relying on someone’s good advice, what worked for them or your best hunch.

Another way preparation leads to success comes with homework; learning as much as you can about the person you’re trying to persuade. The more you know about someone before you meet with them the easier the persuasion process will be for a couple of reasons.

You can invoke the principle of liking by connecting on what you have in common or offering up genuine compliments. Scanning Facebook, reviewing a LinkedIn profile, or a quick Google search might be all it takes to find the commonalities or things to genuinely compliment.

To effectively utilize the principle of consistency you want to tie your request to what someone has said or done in the past, what they believe, their values, attitudes, etc., because people like to remain consistent in those areas. Again, many of these can be uncovered simply by doing a little research in advance of your meeting.

Will your next attempt at persuasion go as planned? Probably not. Will you be better off having done some planning and preparation? Almost assuredly! So here’s my advice – next time you have something important you want someone to say “Yes” to, do a little homework beforehand and then allow yourself to see the situation unfold in your mind’s eye in different ways. These seemingly small things could have a big impact on the outcome.

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

Monday, July 28, 2014

No Pain, No Gain – A Sports and Persuasion Motivator

It’s almost August and football season is right around the corner. All across the country football coaches from Pee Wee leagues up through the NFL are exhorting players to push themselves to be the best they can be. Many will go through grueling workouts; some enduring “two-a-days” and a familiar cry from coaches will be “No pain, no gain!”

I remember my high school football coach repeating that phrase many times during my three years of varsity football. The meaning was simple – sacrifice now and reap the rewards later. Lifting weights, running wind sprints, repeating drills, and long practices in the hot summer sun would all be worth it when we achieved victory on Friday nights under the lights in front of our parents, friends and community.

In persuasion, “no pain, no gain” has a different meaning but can lead to success just as is did on the gridiron. When trying to influence others it’s good to know this simple concept – people are more motivated by what they stand to lose (pain) versus what they might gain. This is a form of scarcity.

The late Amos Tversky, a cognitive and mathematical psychologist, and Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist, studied this phenomenon of human behavior. In fact, Kahneman won the noble prize for his work in this area in 2002.

Here’s what Tversky and Kahneman learned – people experience the pain of loss anywhere from 2.0-2.5 times more than the joy of gaining the same thing. So imagine you find $100 bill on the way to your car after work. You’re elated! You drive home with a broad smile, feeling great about your good fortune. You pull into the driveway and walk into your home with extra spring in your step. As soon as you see someone you begin to tell him or her about your good fortune. You reach into your pocket to pull out the big bill…and it’s gone! How do you feel at that moment? Odds are you feel much worse than however good you felt when you found it. And here’s your litmus test; you left the house in a good mood without a $100 bill, got home without the $100 bill, but now you feel bad…really bad!

Why is this important to know? Sometimes you have a choice about how you’ll frame a request – highlight the gain or highlight the loss – and that small decision could be the difference between a “Yes!” or “No!” quite often.

In one study of homeowners by the University of California, people were given energy saving ideas. One group was told if they implemented the recommendations they would save an average of $180 on their electric bill over the next 12 months. Another group was told they would lose $180 during the next 12 months if they didn’t adopt the recommendations because they would overpay on their electric bill.

It’s the same $180 but when the group that was told they would lose heard this, 150% more decided to implement the energy saving recommendations. That’s a pretty significant difference just by changing the way information was presented. It costs no more to say it either way but the end result was huge.

What does this mean for you? Next time you present to someone think about how you might highlight potential loss instead of what someone might gain. For example, if you’re in financial services encouraging someone to save a bit more could make a huge difference in their retirement.

Gain Approach – Bob, if you can find a way to set aside 1% more of your income that could mean an additional $250,000 by the time you retire.

Loss Approach - Bob, if you can’t find a way to set aside 1% more of your income that could mean losing $250,000 by the time you retire!

The financial rep employing the loss approach will be more successful over the long run and clients will appreciate the advice when they hit retirement because they’ll have much more in their bank accounts.

I’m not encouraging you to be a negative Nellie but I am encouraging you to use language that scientific research has proven will be more effective in helping you hear “Yes!” That’s what this blog is all about – making small changes in your persuasion approach with people in order to generate big differences.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT® 
Chief Influence Officer

Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.