Revolutionary Techniques to Become a Master of Persuasion

Pre-Suasion

A Revolutionary Way to Influence

What separates effective communicators from truly successful persuaders?

Since I read hundreds of books each year, I am always talking about them. Some books are quickly forgotten and others stay with you. And then there are a few books that are so extraordinary that they merit a second read and deserve a prominent place on your closest shelf. Not to impress, but to be there when you need to refer to an idea or refresh your mind.

 

“Every battle is won before it is fought.” -Sun Tzu

 

The book I’m talking about in this post is in that rare category. The author, Dr. Robert Cialdini, is best known for his groundbreaking work, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, which is a perennial bestseller. It’s so good that it’s become part of our collective thinking. From social media to sales to leadership techniques, it’s a classic.

When I heard that Dr. Cialdini wrote a new book, Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade, I couldn’t wait to read it. And I’m certain it’s one you’ll want to read again and again.

I enjoyed the opportunity to ask him about his research and his new book.

 

“If you want to change the world, change the metaphor.” -Joseph Cambell

 

What High Achievers Do Differently

You spent time infiltrating the training programs of numerous companies. What was the biggest surprise for you during this time?

You’re right. As a kind of secret agent, I once infiltrated the training programs of a broad range of professions dedicated to getting us to say yes. In these programs, advanced trainees were often allowed to accompany and observe an old pro who was conducting business.  I always jumped at those opportunities because I wanted to see if I could register, not just what practitioners in general did to succeed, but what the best of them did.  One such practice quickly surfaced that shook my assumptions.  I’d expected that the aces of their professions would spend more time than the inferior performers developing the specifics of their requests—the clarity, logic, and desirable features of them.  That’s not what I found.

 

Research: high achievers spend more time than others preparing before making a request.

 

The highest achievers spent more time crafting what they did and said before making a request.  They set about their mission as skilled gardeners who know that even the finest seeds will not take root in poorly prepared ground.  Much more than their less effective colleagues, they didn’t rely merely on the merits of an offer to get it accepted; they recognized that the psychological frame in which an appeal is first placed can carry equal or even greater weight.  So, before sending their message, they arranged to make their audience sympathetic to it.

 

Surprising findings from Dr. Cialdini:

You are more likely to choose a French wine if you’ve just been exposed to French music.

You are more inclined to buy inexpensive furniture if the website wallpaper is covered in pennies.

You will likely be more careful if you just viewed a picture of Rodin’s The Thinker.

You are more likely to feel someone is warmer if they have just handed you hot chocolate.

You are more likely to purchase a popular item if you start to watch a scary movie.

 

How Seating Arrangements Influence Your Perception

Let’s talk about our point of view. Even the subtle change of seating arrangements or the view of the camera changes everything. What are some implications of this finding?

Imagine you are in a café enjoying a cup of coffee and, at the table directly in front of you, a man and woman are deciding which movie to see that evening.  After a few minutes they settle on one of the options and set off to the theater.  As they leave, you notice that one of your friends had been sitting at the table behind them.  Your friend sees you, joins you, and remarks on the couple’s movie conversation, saying, “It’s always just one person who drives the decision in those kinds of debates, isn’t it?”  You laugh and nod because you noticed that, although he was trying to be nice, it was clearly the man of the couple who determined the movie choice.   Your amusement disappears, though, when your friend continues, “She sounded sweet, but she just pushed until she got her way.”

Dr. Shelley Taylor, a social psychologist at UCLA, knows why you and your friend could have heard the same conversation but come to opposite judgments about who produced the end result.  It was a small accident of seating arrangements:  You were positioned to observe the exchange over the shoulder of the woman, making the man more visible and salient, while your friend had the reverse point of view.  Taylor and her colleagues conducted a series of experiments in which observers watched and listened to conversations that had been carefully scripted so neither discussion partner contributed more than the other.  Some observers watched from a perspective that allowed them to see the back of one or another discussant and the face of the second; other observers’ perspectives allowed them to see both faces equally (from the side).  All the observers were then asked to judge who had more influence in the discussion over its tone, content, and direction. The outcomes were always the same:  These ratings of responsibility corresponded with the visibility of the discussants’ faces. Whoever’s face was more visible was judged to be the more influential.

This means that, if we can get people to direct their visual attention to a person, product, or event, it will immediately seem more influential to them.  People believe that, if they’ve paid special attention to an item, it must be influential enough to warrant that attention.  But that’s not true because attention can be channeled to an item by factors unrelated to its significance, such as distinctive colors, which nonetheless increase observers’ estimation of the item’s significance.

 


Research: directing visual attention can influence perceptions.

 

Your What Depends on Your Where

I love the personal example you share about the geography of influence. When you wrote on campus, it was radically different than when you wrote at home. It immediately resonated with me, too, because I’ve seen styles change when writing at a courthouse, in a corporate office, or at home. Based on your research, to maximize effectiveness, what recommendations would you share?

When I began writing my first book for a general audience, I was on a leave of absence at a university other than my own.  Of course, I filled my campus office there with my professional books, journals, articles, and files. In town, I’d leased an apartment and would try to work on the book from a desk there, too.  But the environment around that desk was importantly different from that of my campus office–newspapers, magazines, tabletops, and television shows took the place of scientific publications, textbooks, filing cabinets, and conversations with colleagues.

Writing in those separate places produced an effect I didn’t anticipate and didn’t even notice:  The work I’d done at home was miles better than what I’d done at the university because it was decidedly more appropriate for the general audience I’d envisioned.  Surprised, I wondered how it could be that despite a clear grasp of my desired market, I couldn’t write for it properly while in my university office.  Only in retrospect was the answer obvious.  Anytime I lifted or turned my head, the sightlines from my on-campus desk brought me into contact with cues linked to an academic approach and its specialized vocabulary, grammar, and style of communication.

 

Research: what you say or do immediately before the appeal affects success.

 

It didn’t matter what I knew (somewhere in my head) about the traits and preferences of my intended readers.  There were few cues in that environment to spur me to think routinely and automatically of those individuals as I wrote.  From my desk at home, though, the cues were matched to the task.  There, I could harmonize with my audience much more successfully.  So here’s my recommendation for leaders:  When writing for any particular audience—clients, colleagues, employees—put a photo of a typical member of the audience in the corner of your computer screen as you write.  That photo will be an automatic, unconscious reminder of your audience and their communication styles, which will allow you to write in a way that is aligned with those styles.  I do that regularly now, and it works for me.

 


Writing Tip: put a photo of a typical audience member on the corner of your screen.

 

Relationships Determine the Result

The Power of Admitting A Mistake

Admit Mistakes
This is a guest post by friend and mentor Bruce Rhoades, who retired after having run several companies. He often helps me with strategy. I am delighted that he is a regular contributor.

The Power of Admitting A Mistake

Confucius said, “If you make a mistake and do not correct it, this is called a mistake.” Yet, many times when a mistake is made, people try to pretend that it did not happen. They attempt to justify the wrong position or try to cover it up, which leads to additional mistakes. This situation reminds me of another quote — “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”

 

“If you make a mistake and do not correct it, this is called a mistake.” -Confucius

 

Quite often, more damage is done to credibility, relationships, trust and integrity by the actions taken after the original mistake. This is true in personal relationships and especially true when a leader makes a mistake. How many times have we seen high-profile people get prosecuted, not for the original crime, but for the attempt to cover it up by lying?

Of course there is another choice when a mistake is made—admit it, learn from it, correct it and apologize to those that were adversely affected. There is power in properly admitting a mistake.

 

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” -Albert Einstein

 

Why Admit a Mistake?

Rather than try to ignore or cover up a mistake, there can be many personal and organizational advantages to properly admitting a mistake.

 

“When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”


Personal Advantages:

  • Averts the need to continue to defend a difficult or incorrect position.
  • Increases leadership credibility.
  • Avoids additional mistakes trying to cover up or “adjust” for the original mistake.
  • Reduces personal stress and tension.
  • Provides a “reset” from others in both personal and professional relationships.
  • If you take responsibility for a mistake on-behalf of others who participated, it builds loyalty.

 

“Admitting and correcting mistakes does not make you look weak; it actually makes you look stronger.” –Bruce Rhoades

 

Organizational Advantages:

  • Provides a learning situation for you and others.
  • Builds trust—others see that you are human, honest and truthful.
  • Allows quick correction, which saves time and resources.
  • Gives others a chance to express views and provide new information.
  • Shows others that they are valued and that their input counts, which builds collaboration.
  • Increases the organization’s ability to try new things then quickly stop those that do not work, which helps establish an innovative culture.
  • Sets the tone for risk-taking, open communication and makes you more approachable.
  • Provides concrete examples to reinforce critical aspects of culture: decisiveness, truthfulness, openness, integrity and quick correction.
  • Removes the “elephant-in-the-room” situation where everyone knows about the mistake, but no one talks about it.
  • Helps offset the bad feelings for those that may have wasted their time.
  • Decreases “pocket-vetoes” when others see the mistake, do not confront it, but simply do not implement.

 

“As a leader it is a mistake to think that you need to have all the right answers all the time.” – Bruce Rhoades

 

When Admitting Mistakes Does Not Have Power

Questions to Shape Self-Improvement

Questions for Your Personal Development
This is a guest post by friend and mentor Bruce Rhoades, who retired after having run several companies. He often helps me with strategy. I am delighted that he is a regular contributor.

Questions to Shape The Year Ahead

It is that time of year when many people assess the past year and make plans for the next one. Businesses develop strategies and goals, individuals write resolutions and families plan vacations. Many individual plans involve possessions, places and events.

One of the most important, but perhaps difficult, topics to assess is personal improvement. If you are happy with yourself and your current situation, everything else will seem better. Since it is sometimes more difficult to “see yourself” and develop actions for self-improvement, here is a list of questions to help identify some candidate areas for improvement.

The list covers many topics to generate ideas. I suggest that you simply read the list, make lots of notes as you go and not try to develop or prioritize actions until later. Suggestions for next steps are discussed at the end.

 

“If you are happy with yourself and current situation, everything else will seem better.”  –Bruce Rhoades

 

Questions to Ask Yourself

Learning and Growing

What new skills would I like to develop for work or for personal satisfaction?

Am I listening to different perspectives and diverse viewpoints?

What should I read to expand my horizons?

What new challenges should I undertake?

Do I have a role model to observe?

 

Appreciation and Gratitude

What am I thankful for?

Do I tell those I love that I love them?

What are my opportunities to tell others what I appreciate about them?

Do I celebrate the success and happiness of others?

How often do I praise or compliment others?

 

“Do I celebrate the success and happiness of others?” –Bruce Rhoades

 

Relationships

Am I satisfied with my relationships? Kids? Colleagues? Family?

How can I be a better partner — one that I would like to have?

Are the boundaries I have set with others the right ones?

Where should I be a more positive influence?

Are the people that demand my time the ones who I really want to use my time?

Are there relationships that I need to repair or let go?

Which relationships do I want to grow?

Do I feel and express appropriate emotion?

How and where can I be less controlling or bossy?

How can I improve my attentiveness and listening?

How do I want to be remembered?

 

“Are the boundaries I have set with others the right ones?” –Bruce Rhoades

 

Leadership

What culture do I want to create for work, family and friends?

What kind of role model am I? What attributes do I want others to emulate?

How can I bring out the best in others? At work? With family? With friends?

Are my actions consistent with my talk?

What opportunities do I have to make a difference in someone’s life?

How can I help others to grow? Who?

How can I be a better team member?

What are my opportunities to teach?

 

“What kind of role model am I?”  –Bruce Rhoades

 

Balance

The Genius of Opposites: Extroverts and Introverts

Genius of Opposites

How Introverts and Extroverts Achieve Extraordinary Results Together

 

  • “I don’t understand extroverts. She is so out there.”
  • “I don’t know what he is thinking. What is bothering him?”
  • “How do I break through to her?”
  • “Was that a conclusion or is he thinking out loud?”

 

As an extrovert married to an introvert, I have long been interested in what makes an effective partnership between very different people.  I’ve learned that I’m far from alone and that many successful duos are two people with different styles and approaches. Whether a married couple or a business partnership, it is possible to adapt and develop a winning partnership. Learning to leverage each other’s strengths and capitalize on your differences can improve your results.

Author and speaker Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, PhD is known as the “champion for introverts.” I recently talked with her about her research and her new book, The Genius of Opposites: How Introverts and Extroverts Achieve Extraordinary Results Together.  She has developed a system designed to help opposites stop emphasizing the differences and instead drive toward results.

 

“Relationships are most successful when opposites stop focusing on differences.” -Dr Kahnweiler

 

Famous Opposites

Would you share a few examples of famous opposites?

Sure, there are many. The Wright Brothers, Venus and Serena Williams, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, Penn and Teller, Siskel and Ebert, Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.

 

Sticking Points

What most bothers introverts about extroverts and vice versa?

There are a lot of disconnects on both sides. Introverts think extroverts are changing their minds and don’t have clear thinking when they toss out ideas. But they are just releasing their energy, and they get charged up that way. They are just downloading ideas.

Introverts also wonder why extroverts need so much going on. They think extroverts don’t have enough self-discipline to just be there and get work done. Introverts judge that a lot. But extroverts like more stimulation, and the juggling makes them energized and engaged. They get their work done, just in spurts.Jennifer Kahnweiler headshot

Other misfirings in their wiring? Being private (introverts) vs. being an open book (extroverts) causes challenges. Introverts want to get to know you slowly and warm up to you. Extroverts feel excluded when introverts don’t share and get tired of pulling answers out of introverts who don’t offer much info during conversations.

Introverts crave quiet time for recharging, creativity and decompression and are frustrated when extroverts don’t let them have it. Like a teenage boy, my introverted husband Bill keeps a sign on the door that says, “Do Not Disturb.” He means it, too!

 

A Model for Bringing Us Together

Opposites can form a strong partnership if they follow your ABCDE model. How did you develop this approach? Is one part more difficult for an extrovert or introvert?

I interviewed over 40 sets of opposite partners and key themes emerged. I asked them to explore the successes and struggles they had in working with their opposite partner. Because they spoke with me or wrote me separately, some unique perspectives emerged. I also read about figures from sports, entertainment and science. I learned that the success factors crossed over fields and roles.

I think the challenges we face in opposite pairings are equally difficult for introverts and extroverts. And if we are honest about it, we each drive each other crazy from time to time!

Extraordinary Results

“Genius opposites do not just ‘happen’.” -Jennifer Kahnweiler

 

How Opposites React to Stress

How do opposites react to major stress?

New Leaders – Get Good Information and Build Relationships

Customer Care Or Human Resources
This is a guest post by friend and mentor Bruce Rhoades, who retired after having run several companies. He often helps me with strategy. I am delighted that he is a regular contributor.

New Leader Challenges

Achieving a new leadership position is both rewarding and challenging. It acknowledges that you are someone who can make a difference, lead others and get things done. On the other hand, it is perhaps another step toward more responsibility and provides greater visibility of your actions and style.

Whether you are new to a department, new to a company or just received a promotion; the challenges are very similar. It is important to establish your style, values and culture effectively and quickly. As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression. So what are some techniques to quickly establish your leadership style and lead effectively?

Much of my career has been serving in interim executive positions or as interim CEO for various companies, where I often entered the organization as the “new guy” in charge. Here are the fundamental areas that I have found helpful for your initial focus to be an effective leader:

  • First Impressions
  • Information Gathering and Relationship Building
  • Open Communication
  • Decision, Delegation and Empowerment
  • Action and Accountability

In this post, I will discuss techniques for:

Information Gathering and Relationship Building

Open Communication

The techniques in these areas will establish the foundation to develop a culture of decisiveness, empowerment, accountability and action. I will discuss these attributes in a future post.

First Impressions

Whether you are in a new leadership role as executive, department manager, product manager, or team leader, people will watch closely to understand your style. A few of the things people will evaluate include:

  • Are you decisive? How do you make decisions?
  • How do you take action?
  • What do you tolerate?
  • Do you hold people accountable?
  • Can you be influenced? Will you listen?
  • Are you approachable?
  • How do you react to bad news?
  • Do you focus on big picture or detail?
  • Can you be put off, pocket-vetoed?
  • How do you deal with good or poor performance?
  • How do you think about customers; how do you treat them?
  • How do you gather information?
  • What are your values?

As the organization’s employees and customers observe these traits, it is important to remember: They will listen to what you say, but it is what you do that counts the most to establish culture.

 

“What you do, not what you say, is what establishes culture.” -Bruce Rhoades

 

So, where do you start? I suggest you initially focus on the following characteristics as the most important:

  • Gather reliable information
  • Communicate openly
  • Be decisive
  • Delegate and empower others when possible
  • Encourage action
  • Require accountability
  • Satisfy customers

To lay the groundwork for these cultural practices, you must first have good information, form relationships at all levels and communicate openly. The next two sections provide some techniques.

 

Information Gathering and Relationship Building

Before a new leader is able to decide, initiate action or communicate intelligently, he/she needs good information quickly. It is vitally important to have information from different perspectives and different levels in an organization. Just getting information from one person/place can lead to narrow, sub-optimized decisions. Here are some mechanisms to obtain good information and simultaneously form relationships:

  • Skip-Level Meetings: Go to department staff meetings at all levels of the organization, starting with your direct reports, if you are a manager. This also works for project team leaders. You may simply listen during the meeting, but a simple round table discussion also works very well. Popular questions are: what is working; what is not working; what is frustrating; what should we stop doing; what decisions are holding up progress?

 

“It is vitally important for leaders to have information from different perspectives and levels.” -Bruce Rhoades

 

There are several benefits to skip-level meetings. Not only do you get good information from “the front line,” but it is also a good place to find things that people can be empowered to fix, thus setting the tone for delegation, action and decisiveness. Two fundamentals: 1) Always listen and question; 2) Be cautious not to manage around the team leader.

  • “State of the Union” Meetings: These are short one-on-one meetings for a person to give you a summary of the situation for a group, team, department or project. It does not have to be a polished presentation, just a discussion from an outline that covers: priorities, issues, decisions needed and what to start, stop or keep doing. Basically, let the person tell you what they are doing, what is going well and what needs attention. Again, look for opportunities for decision and action.