Sometimes it’s not what you say but how you say it that can make all the difference. And sometimes it’s not what is said but who said it that makes all the difference.I bet most of you would agree that our children are vitally important to our future. After all, at some point each of us will be retired and the fortunes of our investments and the direction of our country will be in the hands of the next generation – our children.The late Whitney Houston said as much in her enormously popular hit song, Greatest Love of All. The song opens:I believe the children are our futureTeach them well and let them lead the wayThere’s another well-known quote that goes like this, “He alone who owns the youth gains the future.” Any idea who said that? If you’re like most people you probably didn’t know it was Adolf Hitler. I’m guessing despite the reality that children are our future and that you might have even agreed with the quote, it probably doesn’t sit well with you now that you know who said it. Sometimes the messenger can make all the difference! If Whitney Houston had sung, “He alone who owns the youth gains the future,” and Adolf Hitler had said, “I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way,” we’d all feel exactly the opposite about the quotes.This comes to mind because a church in Alabama used the Hitler quote on a billboard to advertise their youth group! There may be truth to Hitler’s words but no one with any gumption about how to persuade would try to use Hitler’s words in a positive way because he’s considered one of the most evil people to ever walk the planet. Would you want to send your kids to a youth group that’s quoting Hitler?In persuasion the principle of authority tells us it’s easier for people to say yes to those who have superior wisdom or knowledge. To effectively use this principle of influence you need two things – expertise and credibility. Without both you’ll never succeed. For example, Bernie Madoff has expertise. Despite his pyramid scheme, he does know about investing. But would you trust him with your money? I hope not!On the flip side, you probably have friends you’d trust your life with … but not your money, because they have no expertise when it comes to investing.Whether it’s investing, taxes, legal advice, etc., we want people we can trust and those we view as having expertise if we’re to do what they suggest.Authority can also be borrowed. When I present I use lots of quotes from well-known people. I do so for a couple of reasons.First, if I say something, people might agree with me, but if Dale Carnegie, Ronald Reagan or Dr. Martin Luther King say it, people will more easily agree because their reputations precede them.Second, my use of quotes shows I’m well-read and that does add to my personal authority. If people view me as well-read then they naturally assume I’m smarter for it and are therefore more willing to listen to what I have to say.However, when I choose to use a quote I’m conscious of what it says AND who said it. Many infamous people have made true statements (even a broken clock is right twice a day!) but I would almost never use them because the reaction would be the same as your reaction to Hitler’s quote.Here’s the bottom line if you’re looking to be a master persuader. Keep your reputation intact so people trust you and continue to develop expertise in your chosen field. When you need to borrow authority, make sure the quote and messenger will both be acceptable to your audience. Do these simple things and your ability to get to yes will go up rather dramatically.Brian Ahearn, CMCT® Chief Influence Officer influencePEOPLE Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.
I owe Albert Mehrabian, Ph.D., an apology. I suspect a lot of other people do as well. Dr. Mehrabian is a Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He garnered widespread attention for his research in the area of non-verbal communication in the 1960s. If you’re in business then it’s very likely you’ve been exposed to his work. Here’s what you might have heard or read: In face-to-face communication only 7% of your message is based on what you say. Your tone of voice accounts for 38% and your body language is 55%. On the phone it’s 13% words and 87% tone of voice.This prompted many people – me included – to place too much importance on tone of voice and body language during communication training. It’s not bad to work on those areas to make your communication more effective. The problem is that it has us putting too much emphasis on tone and body language.It’s amazing how a story told from a speaker platform, mentioned in a book or noted on a blog is simply taken as gospel. After all, that well-respected speaker, author or blogger wouldn’t make such a glaring mistake … would he or she? I certainly did.I’ve come to understand nearly everyone of us has misinterpreted and misapplied Dr. Mehrabian’s work. This came to light a few weeks ago when I wrote about The Importance of Congruent Messages When Persuading. At that time I also saw a social media post from a friend that prompted me to read more about Dr. Mehrabian and his work. Here’s what I found.Dr. Mehrabian’s work very specifically had to do with communicating feelings and attitudes. If subjects felt there was inconsistency between a person’s words and tone or body language then they took more of their cues from the tone and body language. An example would be an apology. Two people can use the very same words and one person might be whole-heartedly believed while the other might not. It’s easy to utter the words but if the apology is not sincere it’s very likely the tone of voice, facial expressions or other body language might convey a different message. You can probably think of a time where someone said the right words but you knew they didn’t mean it because of other cues you picked up on.On the other hand, if you go to a presentation about home ownership you’re probably not assessing – consciously or unconsciously – the believability of the message based on the speaker’s tone of voice or body language. If you contend with anything it will most likely be the facts (words) he or she uses during the presentation. There’s little in the way of attitude or feelings to be assessed in such a fact-based presentation.So now what? By all means, don’t discount tone or body language when communicating because both can enhance your presentation tremendously. As I’ve worked on voice inflection and body language over the years I know my presentation skills have improved significantly. But don’t forget, content is king in most presentations. You don’t want to leave a meeting and have people remember what you wore but not what you said. After all, the reason for a meeting or presentation is to convey ideas so everything you do should enhance the message. Let me conclude by saying I’m sorry, Dr. Mehrabian, I really am. I’ve learned a good lesson and hope you can forgive me. If you could hear me and see me I’m sure you could tell my tone of voice and body language are in line with my apology. My 7%-38%-55% messaging is congruent.Brian Ahearn, CMCT® Chief Influence Officer influencePEOPLE Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”. Cialdini “Influence” Series! Would you like to learn more about influence from the experts? Check out the Cialdini “Influence” Series featuring Cialdini Method Certified Trainers from around the world.
I had in interesting Facebook exchange not long ago. Someone posted a picture of an attractive young woman wearing a t-shirt that had the following message on the front, “To be old and wise you must first be young and stupid.” To be honest I didn’t pay attention to the rest of the post, which read, “Reinvent yourself with enhanced awareness, renew yourself with enhanced tolerance and regenerate yourself with enhanced wisdom.”Focused on the picture and the saying imprinted on it I light-heartedly commented, “But if you’re too stupid when you’re young you may not live long enough to become old and wise. : ) ”My Facebook friend replied, “@Brian: You mean ONLY stupid people die young?? Just to refocus your observation on the quote which is my thought – it is not on the t-shirt.”I replied one last time to let him know I didn’t think only stupid people die young. Of course, the more stupid things you do, the more risk you run of harming yourself, but even people who make good decisions experience bad things. This week’s post isn’t about Facebook or the stupid things young people sometimes do. What stood out to me after the exchange was the following communication problem that’s all too common – the message was incongruent.You see, the picture of the attractive lady stood out and in my mind the message on her t-shirt had nothing to do with my friend’s quote, which was what he really wanted to convey to readers. Again, his quote was, “Reinvent yourself with enhanced awareness, renew yourself with enhanced tolerance and regenerate yourself with enhanced wisdom.” If there was a connection, then how many others missed it too?When you’re trying to communicate with someone, perhaps even trying to persuade him or her, you’d better be sure every part of your message is congruent. For example, if I conduct a sales training session for business professionals I’d be foolish to not dress in a suit and tie or sports coat at a minimum. If I went to a training session dressed as I do on the weekends my appearance will detract from my message. People have expectations about how a sales trainer will dress just like you probably have ideas about how a minister should look at a wedding or a lawyer in a courtroom. When there’s a mismatch people can lose focus and the last thing you want is someone focused on how you look rather than your message.We also have expectations for the environments we find ourselves in. We don’t act the same in church as we do at work, a bar, or in a college classroom. We conduct ourselves differently in each place and acting like you’re talking in church to a room full of college students will lose them faster than they can update Twitter.When you want to communicate a message make sure everything has a purpose and that every part of the message builds to your main point. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say after a training session, “It was pretty good but he kept going off on these tangents that had nothing to do with the workshop.” If you have stories to share, make sure they add to the message and don’t detract from it.Practice helps and perfect practice makes perfect. Do you ever ask someone for feedback on a presentation before you give it? Running through your presentation with another, as you would if your audience were right there, will help you in multiple ways. One big way is to make sure the person sees how everything ties together. If you have to stop and make the connections for them then you might want to rethink your approach.The same can be said of writing. Have someone proof read your articles and blogFree webinar! Would you like to learn more about influence from the experts? Check out the Cialdini “Influence” Series featuring Cialdini Method Certified Trainers from around the world. posts. Have them challenge you and if something doesn’t make sense, ask yourself if there’s a better way to convey the message. Again, if you have to take extra time to explain what you mean then that should be a signal that other readers might not get your point either.Communicating a message is like traveling to a destination. Usually the shortest, most direct route is best. If you want to get there in a hurry then limit your excursions and make sure everything is working together like a well-oiled machine. The extra time and effort will be worth it when people go, “Ah, I get it.”Brian Ahearn, CMCT® Chief Influence Officer influencePEOPLE Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”. Free webinar! Would you like to learn more about influence from the experts? Check out the Cialdini “Influence” Series featuring Cialdini Method Certified Trainers from around the world.