This blog is provided by Brian Ahearn, the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC, as a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future. This interview Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade aired on 9/3/19.
When it comes to influence I believe it’s all about PEOPLE. I write that because we don’t try to persuade things. Dale Carnegie had it right when he wrote, “Dealing with people is probably the biggest problem you face, especially if you’re in business.” The more you know how to ethically influence people the better your chances are for success at the office and happiness at home.
When it comes to PEOPLE I encourage you to think about the about the Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical. Let’s take a quick look at each component of PEOPLE.
Who says influence is powerful? Here are what a few well known people from history had to say about persuasion:
“Persuasion is often more effective than force.” Aesop, Greek Fabulist
“If I can persuade, I can move the universe.” Frederick Douglass, American social reformer, abolitionist, writer, and statesman
“The only real power available to the leader is the power of persuasion.” Lyndon B. Johnson, 36th President of the United States.
In addition to those intelligent people, we have more than 70 years of research from social psychology, behavioral economics and more recently neuroscience, to tangibly prove how powerful persuasion can be.
Unless you’re Tom Hanks in Castaway you interact with people every single day. Quite often in your communication with others you make requests hoping to hear “Yes!” Nobody goes it alone, especially the highly successful. Jack Welch, former General Electric CEO said, “Nearly everything I’ve done in my life has been accomplished through other people.”
Here’s something I love about persuasion; it applies at work and home, a 24x7x365 skill. At work you try to persuade your boss, direct reports, coworkers, vendors and customers. At home influence helps with your parents, significant other, children, neighbors and anyone else you come in contact with.
In virtually every communication you have there will be opportunities for you to do seemingly little things just a bit different to potentially reap big rewards. For example, wouldn’t you be interested to find out what the Cancer Society did to increase their volunteer rate 700% in one area of town or how Easter Seals doubled the number of donors? Both were accomplished by doing a few, nearly costless things differently to employ a little psychology.
The problem is, all too often people miss the opportunities that are right in front of them. However, once you begin to learn the language of persuasion you’ll be amazed at how often you spot the opportunities to engage psychology to leverage better results.
What exactly is persuasion? The definitions I hear most often are “to change someone’s mind” or “to convince someone of something.” Those might be good starts but they’re not enough. In the end you want to see people change their behavior.
With a focus on behavior change I think Aristotle, the famous Greek philosopher, put it best when he said, “Persuasion is the art of getting people to do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do if you didn’t ask.”
Sometimes your interaction with another person is “one and done” but quite often it’s an ongoing relationship. In those relationships you don’t want to go back to the drawing board time after time. No, you want to have communications that change people’s thinking and behavior for the long haul.
Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower understood the power of persuasion to create a lasting effect when he said, “I would rather persuade a man to go along, because once I have persuaded him, he will stick. If I scare him, he will stay just as long as he is scared, and then he is gone.” Done right, persuasion can have a lasting impact on others.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, manipulation is, “to treat or operate with or as if with the hands or by mechanical means especially in a skillful manner.” That’s not so bad but another definition for manipulation is, “to control or play upon by artful, unfair, or insidious means especially to one’s own advantage.”
Manipulation makes most of us bristle because it connotes taking advantage of someone. I’m confident in writing this next statement – no one likes to be manipulated. I’m reasonably certain the vast majority of people don’t want to be known as manipulators either.
When it comes to the difference between ethical influence and manipulation I like the following quote from The Art of WOO (Richard Shell & Mario Moussa), “An earnest and sincere lover buys flowers and candy for the object of his affections. So does the cad who succeeds to take advantage of another’s heart. But when the cad succeeds, we don’t blame the flowers and candy. We rightly question his character.”
Your ability to ethically influence others will be a big determinant when it comes to your professional success and personal happiness. Knowing that, and knowing how much you use this one skill each day, doesn’t it make sense to get better at it?
Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible, iHeartRADIO, and NPR One. Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.
About the Author
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An international speaker, 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 topic of ethical influence.
Brian’s first book – Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical – is available online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and most other online sites.
His LinkedIn Learning courses Persuasive Selling, Persuasive Coaching and Building a Coaching Culture: Improving Performance through Timely Feedback, have been viewed by more than 70,000 people! Keep an eye out for Advanced Persuasive Selling: Persuading Different Personalities this fall.