Monday, January 25, 2010

Make the Other Person Feel Important

We’ve been making our way through Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People as a way for you to become a more influential and persuasive person. The week we come to his last tip in the section of the book titled “Six Ways to Make People Like You.” The advice we’ll explore is, “Make the other person feel important.”

Are you important? I hope you said “Yes” to yourself! I’m important and you’re important. There’s never been another person quite like me or quite like you. We’re all unique individuals. Even identical twins, the most genetically close people in the world, are unique. Our importance may not be something people read about like the President of the United States, a famous actor or actress, an author or a well-known athlete but nonetheless we are important. Just ask your spouse, kids, parents, friends or coworkers.

Remember the classic Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life starring Jimmy Stewart? Stewart plays George Bailey, a man who has a crisis of faith when $8,000 is misplaced and he fears his business will close. He’s so distraught he contemplates suicide because he thinks it would have been better had he not been born. Thanks to the angel Clarence he realizes that was foolish thinking because small town George had a huge impact on the lives of people in his community.

I share this not to build you up or inflate my ego but because it leads to this – you and I are important and so is every other person you come in contact with…whether or not they realize it. That’s right; many people live their lives like George Bailey did for a few hours, feeling unimportant. But, if you and I believe they are important and treat them as such, great things can happen!

Let me share one quick story. I know a single lady in her 60s who is an important person. She’s divorced, has two grown kids and a couple of grandkids. She has a regular job and struggles to make ends meet like most people these days. She likes working in her yard and around her home and she’s always willing to help others. She’s a nice person, a nice neighbor to those who live near her. She’s not done anything that will make her famous but she’s important nonetheless. Who is this person? My mom, Ann Strausburg. If it were not for her I would not be here and you wouldn’t be reading this. My wife Jane might be married to someone else and my wonderful daughter Abigail would not have come into existence. From my limited perspective my mom is very important and I’m sure from God’s view, because He knows her full impact, He’d say she’s incredibly important!

I hope everyone treats my mom with the kind of respect she deserves. I bet you hope the same for your mom, dad, grandparents, kids or anyone else who is significant to you. If we hope that then we should do that. Every day as we meet people if we make them feel import they’ll sense that. Of course they’ll like us for it too.

Don’t you enjoy it when people treat you like you’re important? It can be humbling at times but I know I enjoy it and I bet you do too. If we enjoy it then why not spread the joy and allow others to feel the same way? Here are a few simple things anyone can do to convey a sense of importance to another person:

  • Show respect – Respect comes easily through good manners with phrases like, “Yes please,” “No thank you,” “Excuse me” and “Please forgive me.” These are simple and none assumes anything from the other person.
  • Use their name – As I shared in the article A Rose by Any Other Name, the sweetest sound to any person is the sound of their own name. People feel important when identified by name because it humanizes them.
  • Golden Rule – Treat people the way you’d like to be treated or the way you’d like someone to treat a loved one. This kind of behavior tends to come back to you. Earl Hickey calls it karma.
  • Fine Reputation – We will explore Carnegie’s advice to give the other person a fine reputation to live up to later in this series. For now know this; conveying belief in another person can help them achieve more than they thought possible and make them feel more important than ever before. Give that gift.

We make requests of people every single day because we need other people. Recognizing that fact, this blog is intended to help you learn to hear “Yes!” The more friends you make, the easier it is to influence people and hear “Yes!” But it’s not just about getting what you want. It’s about building relationships and enjoying our lives more because of those relationships. Make another person feel important today and that’s one step in the right direction them and for you.

Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”

Friday, January 22, 2010

Interview with Dr. Cialdini's Organization INFLUENCE AT WORK

I had the good fortune of recently being interviewed by Dr. Robert Cialdini's organization, INFLUENCE AT WORK. Below is the lead in to the interview from his blog, Inside Influence Report.

INFLUENCE AT WORK has over 25 CMCT’s worldwide. These CMCT’s are the only trainers endorsed by Dr. Robert Cialdini and allowed to facilitate the Principles of Persuasion (POP) Workshop®. All CMCT’s must go through rigorous training in order to earn and maintain this prestigious certification. Our goal in this CMCT spotlight feature is to help readers become more familiar with our CMCT’s background, expertise, and insights. Click here if you are interested in more information on our CMCT’s. If you would like more information on our POP Workshops, click here.

This month we are featuring Brian Ahearn, CMCT a corporate trainer for State Auto Insurance Companies from Columbus Ohio. He has been studying Dr. Cialdini’s research and the influence process for 7 years.

Helping You Learn to Hear "Yes!"

Monday, January 18, 2010

Talk in Terms of the Other Person's Interests

Last week we took a look at Dale Carnegie’s advice on how to be a good listener and encourage others to talk about themselves. I shared a half dozen simple questions you can use to get the conversation started. They were non-threatening, generic ice-breaker questions. This week we’ll look at some advice that goes hand in hand with what was shared last week – talking in terms of the other person’s interests.

So you broke the ice and you’ve been paying attention to what others are saying. You might get lucky and find they share some of the same passions you do. Life is looking pretty good when that happens because when you find you have something in common it’s easy to form relationships. That’s because the principle of liking tells us we have a tendency to automatically like people who share common interests with us.

For example, I’m passionate about fitness, martial arts and sales. If I come across someone who has a keen interest in one of those areas it’s easy to talk for hours! But, what if you or I run into people who don’t share our same passions?

Let’s say you meet someone and quickly find out they’re into extreme sports. Feeling you have nothing in common, what can you do? Actually it’s pretty simple; allow them to talk about extreme sports. Just ask questions, show genuine interest and look at it as a learning experience. You could start by saying, “Wow, I’ve never had the desire to go bungee jumping. What made you decide to try that?” There’s probably a great story behind that first jump, full of excitement and emotion. As the person relives the events that lead to the first jump, and the jump itself, they’ll probably feel many of the same exhilarating feelings they experienced before. That’s good news for you for a couple of reasons.

First, they’ll start to associate those feelings with you. Everyone likes to feel good, right? Of course they do and when people feel good around you they tend to like you and want to be around you more. That’s a great way to start a relationship.

Second, being tied in some way to those feelings will make you more memorable. That’s also great for you because the individual is likely to remember you and your name. Have you ever seen someone you met before but you didn’t approach them again because you were embarrassed that you couldn’t recall their name? Being memorable makes it less likely someone will avoid you because they can’t recall your name.

Talking in terms of the other person’s interests isn’t that hard. It just takes the willingness and patience to be a good listener and the smarts to ask a few good questions. The willingness and patience are the hardest things for most people for a few reasons.

  • We want to be known. If someone goes on and on we begin to wonder if we’ll get our turn. If you find you’re with someone who never gives you that chance, odds are they aren’t the kind of person you’ll seek out for relationship. If it’s a business relationship then don’t lose sight of the goal – improving business.
  • We’re not very good listeners. Most people don’t listen with the desire to understand; rather they listen to respond so they can get their two cents in. Put on top of that all the distractions we have in modern life and it takes more effort than ever to really be a good listener.

If you can be a good listener and talk in terms of the other person’s interests it can end up being fun because you get to know more about another person and you might learn about something new. I encourage you this week to become other-focused and engage people on their terms based on their interests. Do so and you’ll win more friends and influence more people.

Helping You Learn to Hear "Yes!"

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Group Dynamics and Influencing People

This guest article was written by Adrienne Carlson. Adrienne welcomes your comments and questions below on the comments link or direct to her email address:

A close friend and I had a discussion recently about how much of an effect our formative years have on the way we think and act as adults. We debated about the lasting influence the choice of school and college can have on a child. And although we found ourselves agreeing that the kind of education we had did in some way contribute to the kind of people we are today, we also realized that there were others who had the same education that we did, but who have totally different interests and attitudes in life today.

This made me wonder about the composition of a group and the influence that it has on each of us, and vice versa. Every group has a mix of people who are subject to common factors and in a similar environment at a point of time. But each of its members turn out differently and use (or choose not to use) their education and experience in different ways. Some are influencers and the rest become the influenced. The power factor may swing like a pendulum at times, but at any given time, there is always a set of a few people who influence the rest of the crowd.

Now if you have been an influencer from your early days because of your popularity, you don’t really want to give up your authoritative status. But you must realize that your influence is based only the group that you are with at present. If you change groups, either of your own will or because you’re forced to, the dynamics change and you must reorient yourself to suit the new group’s needs and priorities. And even though you’re used to being the influencer in your previous group, you may not have as much influence as you would like in your new group because there may be people who are more powerful than you. So to become an influencer, you need to get among the top few in the group.

Very few people have what it takes to be influencers, no matter how many groups we change. But for most of us, we have to try really hard to change our status with every group change we make. We may be popular or high achievers in school, but when we move to college, it takes time and effort to achieve the same kind of influence that we enjoyed in our younger days. It may even be the other way round – people who are nobodies in high school go on to do really well in college or later life.

The point is, no matter how much of an influence you currently have on people and situations, the dynamics keep changing within the context of the group. New people come in and old ones go out, and with each change, it is important that you realign yourself to fit in with the interests of the current group. This constant evolution is what makes you a truly influential person, one who can get people to follow your leadership without saying no.

Helping You Learn to Hear "Yes!"

Monday, January 11, 2010

Be a Good Listener and Encourage Others to Talk about Themselves

What subject do you know more about than anyone else in the entire world? Yourself, of course. No one else knows everything you've been through, what you think or how you feel at any given moment. They don’t know all your likes and dislikes. They don’t know about your past, your present or your future hopes and dreams. Nor do they know about all the experiences you’ve had, the things you’ve overcome during your lifetime. Those are some of the things that uniquely make you you and those same things – and more – make everyone you meet unique and interesting too.

So, if you ever find yourself unsure about what to say when you meet someone new, simply focus on them. In Dale Carnegie's words, "be a good listener and encourage others to talk about themselves." When they share things they love or enjoy they’ll feel good as they talk and they’ll associate those good feelings with you. That’s a winning formula for making friends and influencing people.

You might be reading this and be thinking to yourself, “But I’m not good with small talk.” No worries because I have several questions to help get you started. These questions will be easy for anyone to answer, should not be sensitive and will help the conversation flow naturally. The key after asking questions is to pay attention for things you have in common, or areas of interest, so you can make a connection with the person. The more they see themselves in you the more they will like you.

So, in no particular order here are several questions you can use as conversation starters to encourage others to talk about themselves.

Where do you live? Even if someone lives in the same city as you there are suburbs and neighborhoods that differentiate parts of town. Asking about this can help you connect because you might currently live in the same area or have friends or family that do.

Tell me about your family? Notice I didn’t ask, “Are you married?” or “Do you have any kids?” Both of those questions can be sensitive for people who want to be married or would like to have kids but don’t currently. Asking about family opens them up to talk about parents, siblings or other relatives. If they are married or have kids it’s likely they’ll talk about that.

Where are you originally from? This can be really interesting. For example, I was born in Hawaii. I didn’t live there very long but when it comes up it always sparks interest. Because I went back on my honeymoon then again 20 years later I can talk somewhat about the islands and people find that interesting because most have not been there.

Do you like to travel? This is a natural follow up to “Where are you originally from?” Someone may not have been born in a place you find interesting but that doesn’t stop them from visiting interesting places. When they relate having been to Europe, Australia, China or some other location they will probably recall a good time…and begin associating the good feelings with you.

What do you do for a living? It’s unfortunate that polls tell us most people don’t enjoy their jobs but still, when you spend 40 hours or more at work it is significant enough to warrant conversation. Quite often what seems to be mundane to them might be very interesting to you. And, when you don’t happen to know a lot about their line of work and ask questions they get to feel like an expert.

What sports or hobbies do you enjoy? This one is a big one for most people, especially in America. Many fans are literally fanatical about their teams. My wife Jane is a great example. She’s a Steelers fan through and through. Every Sunday she makes her favorite dip for her chips and has a Diet Coke. If it happens that the Steelers are not on a local station then we’re off to a sports bar so she can watch them play. And yes, she wears the jersey or other team related items to let the world know she’s a Steelers fan. You can’t go wrong by asking her about the team and so it is with other people.

Some people don’t like to watch, they want to participate so it’s good to ask about hobbies. When people hang glide, sky dive, water ski, golf or do any number of other activities it’s because they’re passionate about it. Ask them and they relive a little passion and that’s good for you.

So there you have it, another solid tip to help you make friends and influence people. Like any advice, it will only have a positive effect if you actually do it. I challenge you this week to ask a lot of questions then sit back and “be a good listener and encourage others to talk about themselves.” Do this and you'll see a positive response coming your way.

Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”

Monday, January 4, 2010

So There's a Knock at the Door...

I had an interesting experience recently. One evening, around 9 p.m., there was a knock at the door to my home. Nothing interesting about that except that I was surprised because our front lights were off and that usually signals no one is home. However, because the knock sounded different I thought perhaps it was a neighbor so I turned on the lights and opened the door.

The face was not that of a neighbor. Instead there were two young men, activists for an environmental issue, combing the neighborhood. I have to admit, had I known that’s what I would have been faced with I would not have opened the door. Once I’m at home I’m usually not too social because it’s family time or I’m trying to get things done.

Nonetheless, because I’d already opened the door I wasn’t about to say, “If I’d have known it wasn’t a friend or neighbor I would not have answered the door. Good night.” I thought about it but I’m not that rude. That meant I was obligated to listen to their presentation.

There’s a proverb in the Bible that says, “The first to present his case seems right, until another comes along.” In other words, there are two sides to every story. However, as I listened to them talk about river water being polluted because of the strip mining of mountain tops I thought, “Who could be against this?”

Since they were asking for signatures on what seemed to be a good cause I obliged. Of course, holding the clipboard and seeing the names and addresses of my neighbors made me feel more compelled to sign. That’s the power of consensus at work. We feel drawn to move with the crowd, especially when the crowd is composed of people just like us. Neighbors qualify big time in that regard.

Now to the very interesting part of the story. After I signed the petition the individual who’d done most of the talking asked for a donation. Mind you, as I already stated, I didn’t want to listen to a solicitor at 9 p.m., let alone make a donation so I politely declined. The response to my declination was something along the lines of, “We’re not looking to break anyone. Any donation will do. Most neighbors are giving anywhere from $36-$48.” Again, I said, “No” followed with, "goodbye."

Next I walked over to my computer and started typing this. I understood exactly what was going on and felt it was a little manipulative. I’m guessing many people would have gone through a similar thought process. You hear about a good cause and think a signature to support it is no big deal. There was no mention of financial support being needed at any time during the presentation. However, after signing the petition it was very hard for me to resist giving a donation.

Why was it hard to refuse to monetarily support their cause? Because of the pull I was feeling from the principle of consistency. This principle of influence tells us people want to behave in ways that are consistent with what they’ve said or done in the past as well as remain true to their beliefs and values. Because I’d signed the petition I was implicitly saying the legislation they were proposing was good and should be pursued. I wasn’t thinking it takes money but if I stop and consider I know it does. So when I was asked to “put my money where my mouth is” it became very, very hard to refuse.

Throw on top of that more consensus pressure – not only did my neighbors sign, supposedly they were donating $36 to $48 – and that made it even harder to say no.

Even though I completely understood the psychological forces at work I still wrestled with my decision. How about people who had no idea what was going on? I think many people probably felt trapped and donated not because they wanted to but because they felt compelled to.

So what’s the moral of the story? First, be careful about what you agree to. Something as simple as signing a petition can lead to other unintended consequences.

Second, and more important, trust your gut. Your “gut feeling” is usually an accumulation of things you can’t quite put your finger on but are taking in through many of your senses. The good news is you don’t have to rationalize every feeling. If you feel trapped and uncomfortable with what’s being asked of you, just say “no.” You might feel awkward in the moment but you’ll probably feel much better when you look back on your decision.

Helping You Learn to Hear "Yes!"