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"INSTANT INFLUENCE will equip you with an array of simple, yet powerful, techniques to persuade others and move them to action. And as you learn, you'll gain fresh insights into the human condition itself. This is the rare book that is both practical and profound."—Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive and A Whole New Mind
"This book is fantastic. I keep a close eye on new business books; this one stands out for its sheer usefulness. Pantalon presents exactly one concept here — but it's a concept that will alter your view of communication and will seriously improve your ability to get things done."—Doug Stone, coauthor of Difficult Conversations
"As someone who writes motivational books, I have to say that Instant Influence is one of the clearest, most user-friendly guides for helping people change that I've come across. Whether you're a parent, spouse, manager, mental health or medical professional - anyone who wants to help someone move from point A to point B - you'll find Instant Influence to be invaluable. The book is based on science but filled with practical, real-life examples for how to implement easy strategies for influencing others in a way that will benefit them and you. Instant Influence can even be used to bring about change in yourself - I'm putting it to work!"—Anne M. Fletcher, MS, RD, is author of Sober for Good, the Thin for Life books, and Weight Loss Confidential
"Many have said that when people know why, they accept the what. Pantalon offers six simple but elegant questions to help individuals influence others by exploring why. Based on rigorous theory and research, the books offers pragmatic ways to lead people to self-influence. Anyone who needs to influence others will be astounded by the impact of these simple ideas."—Dave Ulrich, professor, Ross School of Business, and coauthor of The Why of Work
"When Michael Pantalon first asked me to read his manuscript, I agreed, with the comment that if the book delivered half of what the title promised, it would be totally worth my time. It delivers much more, firing away on all cylinders to deliver an amazingly empowering technique for your personal and professional life. Just open yourself to the possibilities. There is no praise too high for this book!"—Michael Donaldson, Esq., author of Fearless Negotiating and Negotiating for Dummies
"Based on the idea that you are the only person who can really convince you to change — Instant Influence is a mind-bending foray into the motivation behind real behavioral change."—Marshall Goldsmith, New York Times bestselling author of MOJO and What Got You Here Won't Get You There
"Why might you want to get this book? How ready are you to learn the skills to have maximum influence on your loved ones, co-workers, and community in creating powerful, healthy relationships? What might your life look like then? Is it time to read Instant Influence? Absolutely!"—Thomas Crum, author The Magic of Conflict
"This is an impressive and important work filled with enlightening ideas and approach that can influence behavior. Although grounded in theory and braced by research, Dr. Pantalon's book gives the reader practical and useful information that can enrich his or her life."—Herb Cohen, author of You Can Negotiate Anything and Negotiate This!
"The days of professional managers who tell people what to do and expect them to do it are long gone. Success in business today is dependent upon influential leadership that gains commitment and engagement from others by tapping into their motivation. The Instant Influence technique provides a simple, common sense approach to do just that."—James P. Campbell, Fortune 500 Corporate Executive
"By Writing Instant Influence, Dr. Michael Pantalon has done all of us a great service. He will change lives for the better with his insightful and easily applied methods. It is a read that I will recommend to my children and grand children."—Jim Camp, author of Start With No and founder of J. Camp University
"As a lifelong student of how people change mindsets and behavior, I am thrilled to have Michael Pantalon's book at my side. He has made simple the complex business of fostering autonomy and self-motivation in others, tapping into our shared and deeply rooted drive to march to our own drummers."—Margaret Moore, CEO, Wellcoaches Corporation; Co-Director, Institute of Coaching, at McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School
You’ve just left the gym to join your friend Kelly for coffee. When you meet up with her, she glances at your gym bag. “Oh,” she says, “I wish I could be disciplined like you are. I never seem to get to the gym—I haven’t exercised in months.”
Being a good friend, you’d like to help, so you start trying to motivate Kelly to exercise. “It’s so important,” you say. “You’ll look better. You’ll feel better. You’ll live longer…”
“I know,” Kelly says. “Wouldn’t that be nice! I just can’t seem to get started.”
“Starting can be tough,” you say sympathetically. “But you’ll feel so good afterward. You’ll have lots of extra energy to get everything done.”
“Maybe. I’m just always so tired.”
“But exercise perks you up,” you say. “I know. I’m always tired, too, but then I start my workout, and pretty soon I’m wide awake.”
“You’re so lucky. You’re really disciplined. I’m just not.”
Suddenly, you think you’ve come up with a perfect way to fix the whole problem. “Why don’t you book some sessions with a personal trainer? That’s how I got started. I thought it would be really expensive, but actually it’s not. Then you’d have to go!”
“Maybe I’ll try that sometime,” Kelly says, and the conversation turns to other things. You feel bad for Kelly, because you know she really wants to exercise. And you feel frustrated with yourself, because you just couldn’t find the right way to help her take action.
What went wrong?
In fact, at almost every turn, your efforts were doomed to fail. That’s because you were using what I like to call the tell-and-sell approach: you tell someone your reasons for doing something, then try to sell her on them. Unfortunately, no matter how good your reasons or how heartfelt your sales pitch, the tell-and-sell approach almost never works.
What happens when you try to sell someone on your reasons for change? Usually, as in this example, your efforts go nowhere. The other person might agree with you, as Kelly did, but that won’t spark a desire to take action. That desire—the motivation to act—lives in each one of us. But the only way to unlock it is with our own reasons.
In the example, you told Kelly to exercise because she would be healthier, live longer, feel better, and have more energy. All good arguments, but they didn’t work for Kelly because they weren’t her reasons. Although she agreed with you, she didn’t personalize the reasons or explore how much they meant to her.
You also told Kelly how to take action: hire a trainer. But if she hasn’t figured out why she wants to take action, she certainly won’t care about how to do so.
Three decades of scientific evidence clearly demonstrate that tell-and-sell methods not only fail to motivate; they also lower the motivation level. That’s right. Using the wrong type of encouragement can actually make a person want to do something less.
So what works? Here’s the secret to Instant Influence: people take action when they hear themselves say why they want to. People can tell you all day long that they wish they could do something. But when they tell you why they want to do it, that’s when things start to happen. That’s Instant Influence in a nutshell. Get someone to tell you why he wants to act, and action is almost sure to follow.
There’s a catch, though. Other people can’t simply agree with your reasons for change or parrot back to you the reasons they are “supposed” to have. For example: “It’s good for my health.” “My boss will be happier with me.” “It’s the right thing to do.” They need to dig a little deeper and find their own personal reasons for change, often unexpected reasons that may surprise both of you.
Instant Influence can quickly open someone up to the possibility of change. The actual process of taking action or implementing new behavior may require a bit more time, but this first step is critical.
When you have an Instant Influence conversation with someone, there are four possible outcomes:
You have complete success. Your influencee commits to making a change or to taking a step toward positive action. You’ll follow up by making an action plan (we’ll discuss that in chapter 9) and by continuing to monitor his progress. If necessary, you may want to have a second Instant Influence conversation later on, to revive flagging motivation or to help him further along the path to his next step.
You have partial success. Your influencee opens up to change in a way she hasn’t before, but she still won’t commit to taking action. Give her time to process the conversation in her own way. She may go on to take independent action, or you might need to have another Instant Influence conversation to help her keep moving forward.
You have limited success. Your conversation ends on a civil note, but it appears to you that very little was accomplished. You’ve planted a seed that may need time to take root, so remain open to the possibility that more progress was made than you realize. If you don’t see any signs of improvement in a week or so, you may want to follow up with another Instant Influence conversation, using some of the suggestions in part II to make the conversation more productive.
You seem to have reached a dead end. The person refuses to have the conversation or remains highly resistant throughout. As in the previous scenario, be open to the possibility that more progress was made than you realize. If you don’t see signs of action in a week, you might want to attempt another Instant Influence conversation, just to keep the door open. Chapter 10 offers tips about how to accept the situation and move on when you feel that you have reached an impasse. Don’t give up too quickly, however. People change in their own ways and in their own time. If you’re not attentive, you might miss it.
Throughout the book, I’ll give you opportunities to test your Instant Influence skills. But before you learn how to use this approach, maybe you’d like to find out how good you already are at motivating yourself and others to take action. You may have instinctively been using the Instant Influence technique all along—or you may be realizing that, like most of us, you’ve relied far too much on tell and sell. Here’s a quiz to test your motivational skills.
Imagine that a close friend needs to get a mammogram, but she keeps putting it off. There’s a history of breast cancer in her family, so you know it’s urgent, but she keeps insisting that she’s really busy and will take care of it “next month.” You believe (correctly) that she’s scared and has irrationally concluded that if she never finds out whether she has cancer, she won’t get it. You’d like to help her approach the problem in a more realistic and effective way.
Your goal is to get your friend to schedule a mammogram. Check the boxes next to the statements that you think might help you accomplish that.
I don’t get it. It’s such a simple procedure. How come you don’t want to see the doctor?
What do you think is getting in your way?
Every time I’ve brought this up, we’ve had a twenty-minute argument. Why haven’t you ever just asked me not to mention this topic again?
Look, let’s get real. You don’t have to make an appointment.
Don’t you think you’ll feel a lot better when it’s all over and you know the results?
Can I ask a really stupid question? Why are you even thinking about getting a mammogram?
Would you like me to come to the doctor with you?
Do you think maybe you’re hoping that if you don’t go, nothing will be wrong?
Just for the sake of argument, imagine that you’ve already gone to the appointment. How do you think you’d feel then?
I don’t get it. It’s such a simple procedure. How come you don’t want to see the doctor? Not effective. By asking your friend why she doesn’t want to see the doctor, you are encouraging her to rehearse her reasons for not doing something. Instead, you want her to focus on her reasons for doing something. The more she realizes why she wants to get a mammogram, the more likely she is to schedule one. Reminding her why she doesn’t want to get one may make any obstacle she perceives seem bigger than it already is.
What do you think is getting in your way? Not effective. Again, focusing on obstacles only makes them seem bigger. Like most of us, your friend may be conflicted: she is reluctant to take action but also has a strong desire to do something. If you focus on her resistance, so will she. If you focus on her desire to take action, she may be able to focus on it, too.
Every time I’ve brought this up, we’ve had a twenty-minute argument. Why haven’t you ever just asked me not to mention this topic again? Effective. The fact that your friend is arguing with you means that some part of her, however small, does—or at least might— want to make an appointment. Otherwise, she’d either change the subject or firmly tell you to stop bringing it up. If someone suggested that you get trained as a rodeo clown, move to Antarctica for six months, or wire your life savings to some investment website you’ve never heard of, would you argue with him? But if someone suggested a company job-development plan, a vacation in an unexpected place, or a meeting with his financial adviser, you might at least discuss the idea, if only to explain why you don’t want to do it. Asking your friend why she’s arguing about the mammogram might be useful: it could help her tap into that part of herself that is open, even a little bit, to the idea of having the test.
Look, let’s get real. You don’t have to make an appointment. Effective. As I did with the GE executives, reminding people that you are talking about their choice, not yours, is extremely helpful. As we’ll see later in this chapter, we’re all subject to the law of psychological reactance, our tendency to resist being told what to do. In fact, when someone tells us that we have to do something, it may set us up for a virtually irresistible compulsion to do the exact opposite. If we want to take action, it really helps to see it as our own choice, not a necessity. While you might worry about this approach backfiring, you don’t have to: If the other person really doesn’t want to do something, she won’t, no matter what you say. But if even a small part of her wants to take action, this approach will free her to find her own reasons for doing so.
Don’t you think you’ll feel a lot better when it’s all over and you know the results? Not effective. You are telling your friend how you think she’ll feel when the mammogram is over, and you may or may not be right. But by giving her your take on the situation, you’re depriving her of the chance to come up with her own. Helping her imagine the future might actually be helpful (that’s the basis for Step 4 of the Instant Influence technique), but only if your friend’s vision of the future is truly her own.
Can I ask a really stupid question? Why are you even thinking about getting a mammogram? Effective. Now you’re asking your friend to tap into her reasons for doing what you would like her to do. If she discovers her own reasons for making an appointment, she’ll make one. If she knows only your reasons, she’s likely to keep resisting, even if she agrees with everything you say. This kind of question—Why are you even thinking about this? or, Why might you consider it?—is another version of Step 1 of the Instant Influence process. It’s a good way to fan even the tiniest spark of possibility (“Maybe I might do it”) into a glowing flame (“You know, I believe I will do it!”).
Would you like me to come to the doctor with you? Not effective. This generous offer might be helpful later, but it isn’t now. That’s because your friend hasn’t yet committed to making an appointment. If your friend had said, “I know I’d feel a million times better if I just got it over with, but I can’t stand the thought of going there alone,” then this would be a wonderful way of offering your support. But until your friend has figured out the why, focusing on the how won’t help.
Do you think maybe you’re hoping that if you don’t go, nothing will be wrong? Not effective. As with the first two examples, this question focuses on the why not rather than the why. Even if you’re right about this point, your friend may not be ready to admit it. And if she does agree, knowing why she’s scared won’t necessarily free her from her fear. She doesn’t need more insight into why she doesn’t want to make the appointment. She needs more insight into why she does.
Just for the sake of argument, imagine that you’ve already gone to the appointment. How do you think you’d feel then? Effective. Helping your friend visualize what good might come of her action is very useful, because, again, it allows her to tap into her own reasons for making a change. (This is an effective version of Step 4 of Instant Influence.) If imagining that happy day when the appointment is already behind her brings your friend a feeling of relief, then a desire to keep feeling that relief may move her to make the call.
For every “effective” answer you chose, give yourself 1 point. For every “not effective” answer you chose, subtract 1 point.
4 points: Congratulations! You have a real knack for creating Instant Influence and are probably already quite effective at influencing others. If you’d like to develop your abilities further and learn how to apply them in more situations, even some you once thought impossible, keep reading.
1–4 points: You instinctively understand the kinds of questions that get things moving in the right direction, but you’re still missing some opportunities that could make you even more effective. Instant Influence can help you fine-tune your instincts and improve your approach.
0 points: Your good instincts and your less effective statements are canceling each other out. Reading Instant Influence can help you recognize the kinds of questions that are genuinely effective at producing action and steer you away from questions and statements that only get in the way.
Negative score: You’d like to help but don’t yet know how to do so effectively. Don’t worry. Once you’ve mastered the principles in Instant Influence, you’ll find it much easier to move people to action, and you’ll also discover new ways to motivate yourself.
Instant Influence is based on three principles:
No one absolutely has to do anything; the choice is always yours.
Everyone already has enough motivation.
Focusing on any tiny bit of motivation works much better than asking about resistance.
These principles derive from the work of such pioneering social psychologists as Jack and Sharon Brehm, Martin Seligman, Leon Festinger, and Daryl Bem, researchers whose theories have been confirmed by literally thousands of studies. So let’s take a closer look at the science of Instant Influence.
The first principle—“No one absolutely has to do anything; the choice is always yours”—is a response to the law of psychological reactance: if someone tells you to do something, you probably won’t feel like doing it, even if you might otherwise have wanted to. Widely studied by Jack and Sharon Brehm since 1966, this law has long been the bane of managers, health-care professionals, and parents. In fact, the harder the other person tries to get you to do something—the more he yells at you, insists, threatens you with dire consequences—the less you’re going to want to do it, and the less likely you are to actually do it.
Ever since the Brehms identified this key aspect of the human personality, they and other researchers have conducted thousands of experiments, first to investigate whether the Brehms’ initial insight was accurate and then to understand this response in more detail. Obviously, there’s not room here to review the massive amount of research carried out on this topic, but let me share with you some of the most interesting studies.
In an experiment that has since become famous, researchers invited college students to survey a number of group problem-solving tasks and to rate them high, low, or neutral interest. They were then given time to engage in any task they wanted during two sessions separated by a short break, as experimenters monitored their preferences. However, during the break, “confederates”—student-researchers pretending to be participants—strongly encouraged the subjects to pick certain tasks and to avoid others as they entered the second round.
You’ve probably guessed what happened next. The tasks the subjects were encouraged to avoid became the very ones that interested them most. In fact, based on their actions, they were even more interested in these “forbidden” items than in the ones they had previously rated “high interest.”
Now, at this point you may be thinking, Sure, forbidden fruit is sweetest. Of course the students wanted to do what they were told not to do! But what if the students had been interested in certain tasks and were then instructed to do them? Would they avoid these simply because they had been told to choose them?
In fact, that’s exactly what happened. This study, along with numerous follow-ups, showed that people were likely to avoid what they had been told to choose and to choose what they had been told to avoid. This was true even if they had previously shown interest in something. Telling people to choose an activity—even one they liked—almost guaranteed that they would then avoid it. That’s how much people dislike being told what to do.
Once the law of psychological reactance was well established among scientists, researchers went on to look at it in more detail. Were there some types of messages, for example, that might have an effect opposite the one intended? In 2005, social scientists James Price Dillard of Pennsylvania State University and Lijiang Shen of the University of Wisconsin at Madison conducted an experiment with 202 UW Madison students. They divided the students into two groups and gave each a different message about the benefits of regular flossing. Although the two messages offered identical information, each was worded differently.
One group was asked to read what was deemed a “low-threat” message focusing on the students’ autonomy and right to decide for themselves:
… [M]ost people would agree that flossing is worthy of serious consideration…. [G]um disease can lead to other severe problems: heart disease, stroke, diabetes, pneumonia, [which] means that you might want to think about making flossing a regular habit.
If you floss already, keep up the good work. And if you haven’t, now might be a good time to start. In fact, you may want to try it today. It’s easy, why not give it a try? Set a goal to floss every day for the next week, starting today.
The second group of students was given a “high-threat” message that stressed the have to rather than the want to.
… Any sensible person can see that there is really no choice when it comes to flossing. You simply have to do it…. And the fact that gum disease can become the basis for other severe problems such as stroke and pneumonia makes it just stupid not to floss every single day of your life. So if you floss already, don’t stop even for a day. And if you haven’t been flossing, right now is the time to start: today.
Do it because you have to. Floss every single day…. Set a goal for yourself to floss every day for the next week, starting today.
As you might have guessed, students who heard the low-threat message were significantly more likely to floss than were the students who heard the high-threat message. I find this astonishing. Shouldn’t a rational person respond to the content rather than the threat level of the message? After all, everyone agrees that flossing is a good idea, and learning about consequences as dire as pneumonia and stroke should strike fear into the heart of even the most careless person. But in fact, the effective message was the one that stressed the students’ autonomy, not the consequences of not flossing. More important than avoiding pneumonia or stroke, apparently, is feeling that we are in charge of our own destinies.
Now think about what that might mean in the workplace. If you’re trying to motivate a reluctant employee to stop using his cell phone on company time or to show more initiative in taking on extra projects, you might think that threatening to fire him, fine him, or otherwise punish him would be highly effective—your own workplace version of “you have to.” Far more effective, though, is helping an employee discover why he wants to comply with the no-cell-phone rule or to expand his workload. Surprising as it may be, respecting your employee’s autonomy and leaving the final choice up to him—when coupled with the Instant Influence approach—is likely to be the most effective strategy. The same principle goes for parenting. Counterintuitive as it might seem, our kids respond far better when they know they don’t have to do something.
Often, I’ve noticed, we try to influence others by telling them all the terrible things that will happen if they don’t do what we want them to do: “You have to take on more responsibility around here, or I may need to let you go.” “You have to lose weight—you’re setting yourself up for diabetes.” “You’d better get your grades up, or you’ll never get into a good college.” Most of us have tried this type of scare tactic at least once in our lives, and we’ve usually met with frustration.
As the high- and low-threat-message experiment makes clear, most people don’t respond well to threats. Sometimes they’ll argue with you outright: “You can’t fire me when Joe is doing even less work—and he comes in late all the time!” “My grandfather ate worse than I do, and he lived to be ninety-two!” “I can so get into a good college!” Sometimes they’ll tell you they don’t care: “Well, go ahead and fire me, then!” “Hey, when your time comes, it comes.” “I don’t want to go to college anyway.”
The law of psychological reactance is hard to disobey. Luckily, there’s an easy solution, whether we’re trying to motivate others or ourselves. Avoid the have-tos and the threats, and focus on the want-tos and whys that create Instant Influence. Sure, sometimes you might need to impose consequences. But don’t use consequences to try to influence someone; other types of motivation work better.
The second principle of Instant Influence is “Everyone already has enough motivation.” It’s based in part on research on depression conducted by clinical psychologist Martin Seligman in 2005. One of the most debilitating aspects of depression is the lack of energy and the sense of hopelessness that seem to short-circuit any behavioral change before it begins. If you tell a depressed person that he’ll feel better once he gets out and does something fun, he’ll likely tell you that he doesn’t have the strength and that it won’t help anyway.
Seligman wasn’t convinced. Perhaps depressed people did have enough motivation to make positive changes in their lives—maybe they just needed to access it. So he gave 577 mildly depressed people an online questionnaire about what they might like to do if they were not depressed.
The people in this study had all described themselves as inactive and not engaged in the world around them. They saw themselves as lacking the energy or motivation to get out and enjoy themselves, and they felt sad and frustrated about their shortcomings. Seligman asked them to keep a daily log for a week—not about what they did or even about what they planned to do, but simply about what they would do if they had more energy.
Notice that Seligman had set up a situation in which his subjects couldn’t focus on the how (“How can I enjoy myself when I’m so tired?”). That might have gotten people thinking of all the reasons they couldn’t take action. Instead, he tried to access motivation by asking people to focus on what they might want. (As you’ll see in chapter 3, might is one of the most useful words in the Instant Influence vocabulary.)
Amazingly, simply by noticing what they potentially might like to do, these depressed individuals discovered that they were motivated after all. After just one week of thinking about their potential desires, they reported being more active in the world. They also said they felt happier and less depressed.
The third principle of Instant Influence is “Focusing on any tiny bit of motivation works much better than asking about resistance.” This is inspired by the work of social psychologist Leon Festinger, who in 1957 explored the notion of cognitive dissonance. Festinger realized that we often have two clashing, or dissonant, ideas about who we are. We believe, for example, that we are depressed and unmotivated, but then we hear ourselves saying, “If I weren’t depressed, I’d love to go to the movies,” or “If I had the energy, I’d like to meet my friend Sarah for coffee.” How can we rectify this dissonance between our statements about ourselves and our behavior? One way is to go out and have fun. Then our actions and our statements about ourselves match. Hearing ourselves say what we want to do helps us find the motivation to do it.
Most of my trainees and coaches greet this insight with skepticism. They can’t quite believe that simply saying “I’d really like to do X” will actually make it more likely that the person will, in fact, do X. I assure you that dozens of well-respected studies have verified this point, magical as it may sound. The reason we’re so surprised, I think, is because we’re used to hearing people say “I should do X,” and that, of course, has virtually the opposite effect. The more we think we should do something, the less likely we may be to do it, particularly when the law of psychological reactance kicks in. That’s why Instant Influence is so powerful. It helps people identify their reasons for wanting to do something, and, with that, positive action is almost sure to follow.
In other words, as both Seligman and Festinger discovered, we seem to have a strong desire to align our statements about ourselves with our actions. We grow very uncomfortable if we feel that we don’t know ourselves as well as we thought we did. And so we’ll take all sorts of extraordinary steps just to prove that we really do know who we are.
You can see how this need for consistency might help us use Instant Influence successfully. Once a person makes even a tentative statement about what she wants, such as, “I might want to be on time for work someday,” she’s set up a cognitive dissonance that she can’t resolve until she’s actually on time. Until her actions match her statements, she can’t count on herself to know who she is.
For most of us, it’s painful and upsetting to find holes in our self-image. The only way to resolve the discomfort is to fulfill our own idea of ourselves. Therefore, if we can get a person to express even the tiniest desire to take action, at least part of her will want to align her behavior with her statements.
Keep in mind that this works only with wants, not with oughts or shoulds or supposed-tos. “I’m supposed to be at work at 9 a.m., but I’m always late” isn’t cognitive dissonance. You see yourself as a disobedient person who comes to work late, and you do come to work late. You may not like who you are, but you know who you are. However, if you say to yourself, “I want to get to work on time,” and especially if you say why you want to (“I’d be less stressed”; “I could stop feeling guilty about my coworkers covering for me”; “I’d be able to drink the coffee while it’s still fresh”), then your behavior is far more likely to catch up with your statement. You must really want to get to work on time because you’ve just given all these reasons why you want to, and so now you do. You breathe a sigh of relief, and the cognitive dissonance disappears.
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that not everyone agrees with the theory of cognitive dissonance. In fact, some social scientists, like Daryl Bem, think it’s the other way around. Instead of starting with attitudes (“I want to be on time”) and moving to behavior (“Look, I just was on time”), Bem thinks that behavior is the key (“Hey, I was on time yesterday”) and that our attitudes catch up later (“That must mean I like being punctual. Since I like it so much, maybe I’ll just keep doing it”).
Bem’s approach also feeds into Instant Influence. If you can get someone to engage in a behavior—even a tiny baby step—you’ve got something to build on. Once a person recognizes that he has done something (come to work on time, started running every morning before work, made more healthful food choices), you can help him find the motivation to keep doing it.
Instant Influence often starts with tiny steps. As you saw in the introduction, I didn’t try to get the GE executives to commit to my approach. I just asked them to agree to listen to it. I figured that once they agreed to listen, they might be willing to learn and even embrace the program. If your friend is reluctant to schedule a mammogram, forget the mammogram itself; ask her why she might want to look up the doctor’s number and write it down. She may think the question sounds odd, but encourage her to answer it anyway. Perhaps she’ll say, “Well, if I ever do want to call, I guess looking up the number now will make it easier,” or “At least I’ll have the information if I need it.” Meanwhile, if she does become motivated to write down the number, that one little action makes a big statement: “I am someone who is considering having a mammogram.” And someone who is considering having a mammogram might actually go ahead and have one.
Likewise, if you’re having a hard time looking for a job, don’t start by trying to schedule five interviews. Choose a much smaller step, such as spending ten minutes browsing an online job site. (We’ll talk more about defining an appropriate first step in chapter 3.) Making even the tiniest start toward a goal often helps us discover huge reserves of motivation for sticking with it and moving forward.
You can modify Step 1 of the Instant Influence technique to focus on actual behavior. Instead of asking, “Why might you change?” you could ask, “Why have you already taken [some action that represents a tiny step toward changing]?” Or, as I asked the GE executives, “Why did you even agree to show up for this meeting? Why didn’t you blow it off like Frank did?” In other words, “Since you are here at the meeting, you must want to be here, so why do you want to be here?”
Similarly, you might ask your friend, “Why do you keep arguing about whether you should have a mammogram? Why haven’t you ever just asked me not to mention this topic again?” In other words, “Since we’re arguing about the mammogram, you must be considering having one, so why are you considering having one?” If you’re having trouble looking for a job, you might ask yourself, “Why am I even thinking about getting a new job? Why haven’t I forgotten all about it?” People’s actions often show that they have far more motivation than they are aware of. We can use the evidence of those actions to help them find even more motivation.
Talking about even the slightest hint of motivation works much better than asking about resistance. With all due respect to the scientists involved in the cognitive dissonance dispute, I personally think that sometimes attitude comes first; other times, behavior. Instant Influence draws on both approaches, thereby giving it the greatest chance of success.
Instant Influence isn’t just based on well-tested science. It has proven itself in various private and professional settings as well.
Before: Psychiatric patients hospitalized at St. Barnabas and Union Hospitals in the Bronx, New York, were routinely told in a very high-threat manner that they absolutely had to follow up with aftercare and other treatment recommendations or else they would get even sicker and would have to reenter the hospital. That high-threat approach produced a compliance rate of only 13 percent, and many patients came back to the hospital repeatedly.
After: After a single one-hour session of Instant Influence conducted for psychiatric patients by undergraduates, compliance rates increased by 250 percent and continued to improve from there as both hospitals made Instant Influence a standard part of patient care. For a while, the hospitals actually stopped using the approach, because too few patients were returning and they were losing money. Since 1994, however, the program has been going strong.
Probationers and parolees
Before: Probationers and parolees are notorious for not complying with their court-ordered requirements for staying out of jail. Some people even say they’d rather go to jail than have to deal with parole/probation officers, who typically present requirements in a very high-threat way. For example, “If you don’t do what I say, you’re going to prison.” The alternative—leniency—is no better; probationers and parolees often break the terms of their sentence and go directly to jail.
After: Since Connecticut began using Instant Influence in its probation and parole system, return rates have dropped significantly, prison populations are down, and probation officers are reporting increased job satisfaction. Department chiefs are even using Instant Influence to improve their own performance as well as that of their staff: managers and employees are now more punctual, take fewer sick days, turn reports in on time, are better prepared, and tend to volunteer more for special assignments.
Managers and human resources staff
Before: Just about every manager I train has stories of frustration. How can he manage the resistant person who cuts him short, has an answer for everything, or does the bare minimum to avoid being fired?
After: After every Instant Influence training session, I get several e-mails saying that it has made a world of difference. They especially love seeing that look in an employee’s eye just before she announces her reasons for doing what the manager has spent weeks unsuccessfully trying to get her to do.
My own coaching clients, consulting clients, and patients
Before: Even I didn’t know what to say to people when they told me no. I wanted to help them change, but if they were resistant, I didn’t know how to help them progress.
After: All of my Instant Influence clients and patients have made significant progress, even if some of them still have more work to do. I’m far more effective as a coach, consultant, and therapist now that I understand that change must come from within.
Sometimes, no matter how many statistics and personal examples I cite, trainees, colleagues, or coaching clients object to the idea of Instant Influence. They believe it won’t work, or they may have some philosophical or practical difficulties with the approach. Here are some common objections and my responses to them.
“Confrontation is necessary.” Yes, sometimes it is. In a dire situation—an intoxicated person trying to drive, an employee making a decision that could cost the company money or you your job—you may need to use physical, social, or economic force. You just don’t have time to let the other person find her own reasons. Confrontation also may be necessary on emotional grounds. Sometimes it’s less important to get someone to change her behavior than to tell her how you feel. Although it’s hard to motivate someone while also expressing your feelings, you may need the emotional honesty or satisfaction that comes from a direct confrontation.
In either case, confrontation won’t work forever. In the long term, when the danger is less immediate, your best bet is Instant Influence.
“This is manipulative.” It can be. If your influencee is vulnerable or confused, you may be able to convince him that he really does want what you want.
But the goal of Instant Influence is not to manipulate people. It’s to help them tap into their own potential reasons for taking a particular action. If you’re honest about what you want, then all the cards are on the table. That isn’t being manipulative; it’s giving someone a chance to discover choices they didn’t know they had or wanted.
“I don’t want to be the other person’s therapist.” You shouldn’t be. If you think someone really needs a therapist, don’t try to meet that need by using this process. You might, however, use the process to motivate the other person to seek professional help.
“I won’t have enough time with the other person, just one or two minutes.” Ideally, you’ll allow at least seven minutes for this process. But sometimes one or two minutes is enough. I’ve known people who have turned a major corner in their lives by being asked just one of the Instant Influence questions. Asking brief but effective questions that move the other person even a little is better than being ineffective or doing nothing. At least you’ve given them something to think about!
“Other ways work better.” Sometimes, sure, that’s true. For some people, incentives, rewards, or punishments might be more effective motivators than this particular technique. And for some people, a combination of this technique and external rewards or punishments is most effective. If the other approaches you’re using aren’t working to your satisfaction, though, Instant Influence may help.
“Why should I even have to do this?” Often, people feel frustrated by how long they’ve been trying to get someone to change. The idea of learning a whole new approach can be daunting, annoying, or simply discouraging.
If you’re ready to write someone off, you can forget about Instant Influence and simply terminate the relationship. But if that’s not an option, or not the option you choose, then putting in a little more effort by using a proven, effective technique might make a difference. If you try this method and it doesn’t work, at least you know that you did the best you could.
“It won’t work, and I’ll be worse off than before.” In most cases, this approach does work. But if it doesn’t, the only way you’re “worse off” is that now you have a clearer picture of your situation. You now may be more ready to accept that your difficult employee, your unreasonable boss, or your stubborn partner really isn’t going to behave the way you’d like him to. Once you’ve given it your best shot, you can move on to accepting your situation and figuring out what you’d like to do next. (We’ll look at acceptance in chapter 10.)
I hope what you’ve learned in this chapter has persuaded you to give Instant Influence a try. Let’s continue to chapter 2, which will show you how to reinforce autonomy, the best possible preparation for an Instant Influence conversation.
AFTERWORD How I Finally Cleaned Out My Garage I was working with a group of skeptical trainees—rehab counselors who were used to dealing with repeat offenders. They didn’t believe that anything could motivate their clients to change. I tried to encourage them to find their own reasons for using Instant Influence, but they were having none of it. Finally one of them said to me, “Hey, Mike, how about we try this method on you?” How could I refuse? The problem was, I had taught them too well. The task I picked for the exercise—cleaning out my garage—was one I had been avoiding for at least two years, maybe three, and it made me intensely uncomfortable to even think about. I don’t know why I picked it—misguided dedication to the teaching process, no doubt—but suddenly I was being pressed by eager students who could see just how uneasy I was becoming. “Okay, guys,” I tried saying when they got to Step 3: Why didn’t you pick a lower number? “I think you’ve got the idea.” No, they insisted. They wanted to try every one of the six steps, right to the very end. They kept asking me to complete Step 5: Why are those outcomes important to you? Why did I want to clean out my garage? It’s probably an indication of how deep the issue went that I don’t actually remember the reasons I gave, but here’s what I do remember: when I got home that afternoon, somehow I started cleaning out my garage. My wife’s sister was over for a barbecue, and she and my wife and I all started cleaning up together. The kids, who had been on a play date with friends, returned home and joined in. A chore that I had been dreading turned into a family celebration. Now here’s something even stranger: it didn’t stop there. We went from cleaning out the garage to building one patio, then another. My wife’s sister kept coming over to help out, and a couple of sets of neighbors did, too. All that summer, we were barbecuing and patio building several nights a week. It was like our own little block party, except at the end of the summer, I had a clean garage and two beautiful patios. The depths of our influence can be mysterious indeed. Whether you use Instant Influence at home, at work, or out in the world; whether you use it with your colleagues, your employees, your loved ones, or yourself, there’s one thing I guarantee: if you trust this process and allow it to run its course, you will be amazed where it takes you. I invite you to make the most of this process—and this book—as you continue your journey.
Excerpted from Instant Influence by Pantalon, Michael Copyright © 2011 by Pantalon, Michael. Excerpted by permission.
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Posted August 29, 2014
This book was recommended by a friend several months ago, and I just got around to reading it. I was so wrong--I should have read it 3 years ago when it first came out!!! Michael is a great writer who makes his message so clear and easy to understood. I will use this for myself, be buying this as a gift and recommending it to my clients.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 21, 2012
A quick, easy and interesting read. The examples are great. Although I am still working on getting the questions down, I do see a shift in the way I approach people and how they respond to my requests.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 24, 2011
I began this book with much enthusiasm then it kind of dwindled once I started to read about how this concept is actually implemented. The reason is at first I began to recognize this concept as being reverse Psychology and nothing more, being a Psychology major I tend pick these things up. But I gave it the benefit of the doubt and continued to read and later in the book took noticed it is a somewhat different. This concept of getting someone to do something they don't want to do I decided to try on my son. However him being 10 when I asked him the most basic question. Why would you not want to help rake the yard for your father after he cuts the grass? Yes my husband refuses to use the mowing bag. But that's another story. So my son answered with "I don't know." So back to the book I went. What am I supposed to use after that response. The problem with this technique is that you basically need to memorize, remember or learn how to use specific grammar in a specific way to accomplish this. Memorizing is not something I am good at, at all. This book might work well for people in administrative type positions but how does it work with the typical people in your life. Pantalon gives many examples how. But I just can't see myself turning this into Spanish and using it with my half-baked sister who is giving me the most problems in my life at this moment and does not speak English. Pantalon explains throughout the book how this technique can work with anyone.
My son did eventually rake the grass but not until the next day so I am not sure if this worked. How do you know if it works? Some people are slow so maybe they did decide to have a change of heart and maybe it had nothing to do with what you said. I can see how building some one up can be a good thing which is one of the ideas behind this concept. From experience I know Pantalon is correct that some people tend to drag around the baggage from the way they were treated by the last or even all supervisors they have come across, keeping them stuck in that feeling sorry for themselves or not good enough attitude. But do you really want these people around? What is not to say they will eventually turn back to that attitude in time. Pantalon explains how he was one of these people however again not everyone is alike. I found this book to lead me into thinking and even doubting how one person would react over another and another to this concept. I would say Instant Influence is thought provoking that's for sure and uses a technique that might feel comfortable or come easier to some and not to others.
Posted June 16, 2011
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Posted January 13, 2014
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