Monday, August 25, 2014

Which restaurant to choose in Boston or anywhere else

About a month ago, Jane, Abigail and I enjoyed a long weekend in Boston. Boston has been one of my favorite cities ever since I ran the Boston Marathon in 2004 and 2005. If you’ve never been there I highly encourage you to go! The mixture of old and new architecture, interesting pubs and restaurants, Boston Commons, Cheers, and the Freedom Trail are just a handful of cool things to do.

We spent a good bit of time at Faneuil Hall, a well-know market where there are street performers, historic sites, interesting shops and lots of restaurants to occupy your time. While we were enjoying an unusually cool, beautiful summer afternoon walking through the market, I overheard a young man say to his girlfriend, “When you see a restaurant without a line and the others are crowded you don’t want to go there. There’s a reason it’s not crowded.”

I doubt someone had to teach him the psychology of persuasion for him to understand the reality that crowds usually signal a good place to eat whereas empty tables typically mean the food and/or service must not be so hot. What he described was the principle of consensus in real time – we look to others when trying to decide on the best course of action. We can be influenced by what many others are doing or smaller groups who may be similar to us. Either way, to a great degree, we base our actions on the observation of others. And this is only heightened when we’re unsure what to do.

It’s not uncommon at all for us to make quick decisions based on the principles of influence just like that young man. That shows how easily, and quite often unconsciously, we’re influenced by the principles. Here’s another example. Several weeks ago I wrote about a study by the University of California. Homeowners were given energy saving ideas and one group was told if they implemented the recommendations they would save about $180 on their electric bill in the coming year. Another group was told they would lose $180 over the next 12 months if they didn’t adopt the recommendations because they would overpay on their electric bill.

Whenever I share that study and then ask people which group they think was more likely to implement the energy saving ideas, everyone says the group that was told they’d lose the $180. And they’re correct! The “lose group” had 150% more people take action than the “save group.”

Again, like the young man in Boston they intuitively got it. Yet time and time again we see people highlighting the benefits of some change rather than pointing out what people might lose if they don’t go along with what’s being asked or recommended. They’re bungling away an opportunity to effectively persuade using the principle of scarcity!

I’m guessing you’re reading this blog because you want to be more effective when it comes to persuasion. So the real question for you is how you will use your knowledge of the principles. It’s not enough to understand the principles (head knowledge); you have to put them into action ethically and correctly.

For example, some people respond to “thanks” by saying, “That’s how we treat all of our customers.” That’s a major bungle because that’s not effective use of consensus. Telling someone you’re treating him or her just like everyone else after you’ve done something to help him or her only diminishes the special feeling we all want. Better to say, “We were happy to do that. We appreciate your business.”

Back to our young couple. If they were like most people milling around Faneuil Hall they were probably tourists and in the absence of a recommendation from a local they didn’t know the best spots to go for dinner. I don’t know where they ended up dining that night but odds are, if they were willing to wait for a seat at one of the more crowded restaurants they probably had a better experience. And that goes not only for Boston but anywhere you’re looking for a good spot to eat.

P.S. Dr. Cialdini has a new book coming out that he's coauthored with Steve Martin and Noah Goldstein, Ph.D. The book is called The Small Big and can be pre-ordered here.

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

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”.