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The Science of InfluenceHow to Get Anyone to Say "Yes" in 8 Minutes or Less!
By Kevin Hogan
John Wiley & SonsISBN: 0-471-67051-0
Chapter OneInfluencing Others to Change
This book is about getting people to change ... something-a behavior, an attitude, a product, a service, their relationship to or with you. You want someone to do something different from what they were doing a few minutes ago. You want someone to say "yes!" to you, now. In order for that to consistently happen it would probably be a good idea to know what it is that makes people tick. I want you to know precisely what it is that gets people to not only say "yes!" but, if necessary, say "yes!" all the time!
My life has been aimed at helping people change and to change people. It's exciting, it's fun, and I've been fortunate enough to discover many keys that other promoters of influence have neglected to look for. The process of starting change, getting people to question the status quo, and actually implementing the change in another person's brain is an exciting process.
Short-term decisions of "yes" or "no" are much easier than achieving long-term change. Permanent change is difficult. Period. You go to the same grocery store every week. You go to the same gas stations, attend the same church, take the same route for your daily walk or jog, work out at the same gym ... well, you get the idea. You do the same things every day, and there is nothing wrong with that. Infact, the stability of these behaviors can be very positive indeed! In this book you will learn how to get people to say "yes" to you now ... and over the long term!
Unfortunately, some of the things that people do are in direct opposition with what we want them to do. That's where influence and persuasion come in handy. Some people smoke cigarettes, do drugs, drink too much, beat their kids, rape, steal, eat too much, hang out with the wrong people in the wrong element, take part in self-destructive behaviors, and fail to act on living what they dream their life should be about. People universally agree that these are things that need to change in one's self and in others. Agreement and action, of course, are often not related to each other in reality.
Even when people want change it turns out to be something that people desperately fail at. You'd think that if they want to change it would be easy, right? Of course it isn't that way at all. Why?
The first reason is remarkably simple. Your brain has lots and lots of highways that connect lots and lots of cells. These highways light up with activity every day when you participate in various activities. You think "walk," and you go for the same walk you always do. When you think "drink," you will go drink the same liquids you always do. Your brain is literally wired through all of your previous behavior to do exactly what it has in the past. That wiring rarely changes, except by lack of use of the highway system. However, new wiring (new highways!) can come about through repetition of new behaviors-and through repetition of thoughts, though with murkier results than actual behaviors such as intentionally taking a walk on a different path every day for a few weeks, intentionally eating a new food every day for a few weeks, intentionally taking part in any new behavior every day for a few weeks.
It used to be said that a new habit takes 21 days to form. It now appears that it takes five days to form a new habit that is repeated daily (i.e., to create new neural pathways in the brain). Unfortunately, creating a new habit rarely if ever erases an old habit. That means choice continues to be involved in everyday decisions and change even though there is a new highway. Getting someone to not eat junk food today is fairly easy; getting the person to do it for a lifetime is another thing altogether. Getting the dream date isn't as hard as you might think. But getting the person to say "yes" to a longer-term commitment is another thing altogether.
With this in mind it can be understood that there is no reason to assume that people will be motivated, after today, to perform a newly desired behavior, regardless of what it is. The easy shift back to the strong, well-traveled neural pathways in the brain (which essentially project themselves into your external world) is not only possible, it is likely. Therefore, the person who wants to quit smoking, start eating better, or change any behavior probably won't regardless of the motivational device unless it is consciously and intentionally repeated time after time and day after day for months, at which point it can compete as the more likely to be followed pathway.
The status quo is the status quo for just this reason. That which is familiar is the path of least resistance. This is also why the brain reacts so strongly with "no!" to all but the most familiar requests or behaviors. It takes enormous initial effort to change because one literally must forge new highways in the brain. Once formed, the highways must be strengthened through regular usage and maintained by even further usage.
Do They Even Know What They Want?
Sit down for this one (the second reason change isn't easy): People don't know what they want, don't know how they will feel when they get it, and don't really know themselves. What does this mean for change?
We each have a conscious mind and an unconscious mind. Even with hypnosis, you can't really have two-way communication with the unconscious mind in any effective and reliable fashion, but you can communicate with the conscious mind. Even more interesting is that the conscious and unconscious minds appear to have significantly different personality characteristics, attitudes, and motivations.
The unconscious mind is not a six-year-old child, as has so often been speculated. In fact, sometimes the unconscious mind is far more useful than its conscious counterpart-but not always.
The conscious mind is able to compute, calculate, compare, contrast, and perform all kinds of impressive cognitive functions. The unconscious mind makes rapid-fire choices (though rarely decides between two options) under stress, which are more often right than wrong when there is significant experience in a situation (fighting fires, surgery, combat, etc.). The unconscious also tends to stereotype and categorize people right down to whether someone you meet is like someone you knew in the past and if so assigning them the same traits as the person you once knew. The unconscious mind doesn't "think" per se; it simply "does." It experiences a situation and produces some behavior. Objections in sales situations almost always come from this part of the brain.
To override this behavior would take conscious effort on your client's behalf. That usually doesn't happen. More typically the conscious mind will create a reason for performing some behavior, when it really has no clue why the body is eating, going to bed, getting in the car, or taking an exit.
The unconscious mind simply directs the body to act. Its force is usually strong and difficult to change in the short term. Because, as a rule, the unconscious mind is rooted in deep and old brain function, it doesn't "vocalize" its opinions in a rational way. It simply reacts. Generally the unconscious mind acts in a way that would be consistent with past behaviors in similar situations, meaning that it could save your life or it could overlook important new information and accidentally drive you to your demise. It is a holdover from our evolutionary history. It (the unconscious) appears to drive almost all animal behavior, with conscious mind functions being limited to a few different kinds of animals.
The unconscious mind deals with now. The conscious mind deals with the future. The unconscious mind is rigid. The conscious mind is flexible. The unconscious mind is sensitive to negative information. The conscious? Positive. The unconscious is a pattern detector. The conscious is an after-the-fact checker. The unconscious mind is multisystemic. The conscious mind is a single system.
Conscious Mind Unconscious Mind
Future. Now. Flexible. Rigid. Sensitive to positive Sensitive to negative information. information. After-the-fact checker. Pattern detector. Single system. Multisystemic.
Because the brain develops these two substantially distinct minds, it's important to realize that both minds have typical behaviors and those behaviors are often at odds with each other. The conscious mind may want to be accurate whereas the unconscious mind wants to feel good.
Internal conflict in most people is very real and very normal. Typically we consciously have an objective or goal (lose weight, get a different job, start your own business, begin a true personal development phase in your life). However, the unconscious mind learned early on to fear that which is unknown. It's a simple survival mechanism. To walk where we have walked before is generally safe. To stretch our boundaries is often something that seems risky to the unconscious self, and therefore the very idea of these changes can literally feel bad. That gut instinct is probably wrong but that is what the survival mechanism in the brain sends to the body. Fear. Anxiety. Maybe even panic.
The conscious, rational self, which hates the present job, the weak state of personal development, or the fat body, knows that change should take place, but to actually commit to a plan to overcome the status quo where the fear is present is daunting and seemingly counterintuitive.
Therefore it is critical to evaluate the emotions of the moment or the day and discover if there is a legitimate, rational signal that your brain is relaying to you. Or is the brain simply telling you it is afraid, and the fear is false evidence appearing real (FEAR)? If you decide (consciously) that the mind and body are feeling afraid without good cause for the situation at hand, realize that it will take some significant amount of time to overcome the fear of the situation. It certainly won't go away in a minute, an hour, or a day. Typically it is necessary to wire in a completely new set of responses to the current situation and fight through fear and negative emotions every day until new levels of comfort can be achieved.
One of the great problems of trying to know yourself is that you really can't completely know yourself. Study after study shows that complete strangers are almost as good at predicting our behavior as we are ourselves. We think we know ourselves but we really don't know ourselves as well as we would like to. Because of the way the brain works, though, if we don't like what we see ourselves doing and thinking, we can change. It is a slow process and often difficult, but once change becomes the status quo, it becomes rigid. So select well.
Are we really two personalities woven into one person?
I confess, it's a funny thing: The personality of the unconscious mind correlates to a person's behavior and the person's conscious mind correlates to a person's behavior-but the conscious mind and unconscious mind of that person don't correlate to each other! Gulp. That's why people say things like, "I don't know," "I have to think about it," "I'm not sure what I want to do."
People typically look to make sense of themselves and the world around them. Because we all do and say things that truly surprise us, we must construct (fabricate) a narrative (story) that makes sense of those behaviors that conflict with our intentions. The rationales and explanations help us put the incongruency behind us and move on to other things.
What makes understanding ourselves and others even more difficult is the painfully distorted memories we all carry in the three-pound universe. The brain simply isn't a videotape recorder that records events. The brain is a vast array of storehouses and interpreting functions that constantly store, re-store, interpret, and reinterpret our memories and beliefs. False memories are so common that almost every conversation of any length includes reference to at least one memory that never happened.
Recognizing these two defective elements of the human experience (our suspect memory and the dual nature of our personality(ies)), one can understand the arguments, the fights, and the butting of heads that take place in relationships and communication in general between people who have lived through the same events and remembered and interpreted them so differently.
Recent research does show that there is some predictability in how we will respond to other people. For example, a person who is fond of her sister will tend to be fond of people who exhibit behaviors similar to those of the sister.
How do you actually come to know yourself? Pay attention to your behavior in any given situation and you learn who you are. And, of course, even that is suspect because we don't see ourselves as clearly as we see others. As mentioned, research reveals that we are better judges of others' future behavior than we are of our own. We tend to see ourselves in a much better light than we see others, and that light creates a halo effect around what most of us believe about ourselves. We tend to see others more accurately.
Real estate agents observe the lack of sense of self-knowledge in others every day. They listen while their clients describe the exact house they want. The agents then show them several houses that their clients love and one that they eventually buy that has little in common with what the individuals detailed just hours or days before! Real estate agents figured it out a long time ago: Buyers have no clue what they really want.
And when we do see ourselves behave in some fashion, we often have no idea why we did what we did. A research project had women approach men on a somewhat dangerous footbridge and start a conversation. The same women later approached men seated on a bench away from the footbridge. The results were that 65 percent of the men who were approached on the footbridge asked for a date, while only 30 percent of those on the bench asked for a date. Arousal was attributed incorrectly to the woman on the bridge instead of the actual anxiety-provoking feelings that the man felt on the bridge.
Unfortunately, we don't have the ability to access the reasons we do these kinds of things, and observation helps only to some degree. Our need to find a reason for behavior, any reason, helps us make sense of our world and make us happy, even if it isn't accurate.
And what about those faced with difficult decisions in life? Beginning or ending a relationship? Buying a business or not? Buying your product or service!?
The research is compelling.
Excerpted from The Science of Influence by Kevin Hogan Excerpted by permission.
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