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KF #24. Persuades Archives - How to be Awesome at Your Job

923: How to Upgrade Your Influence and Persuasion with Michael McQueen

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Michael McQueen reveals the keys to persuading even the most stubborn minds.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why data and evidence don’t change minds
  2. How to sell change to anyone
  3. A surprising way to make people more agreeable

About Michael

Michael McQueen has spent the past two decades helping organizations and leaders win the battle for relevance. From Fortune 500 brands to government agencies and not-for-profits, Michael specializes in helping clients navigate uncertainty and stay one step ahead of change.

He is a bestselling author of ten books and is a familiar face on the international conference circuit, having shared the stage with the likes of Bill Gates, Dr. John C. Maxwell, and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. Michael has spoken to hundreds of thousands of people across five continents since 2004 and is known for his high-impact, research-rich, and entertaining conference presentations. Having formerly been named Australia’s Keynote Speaker of the Year, Michael has been inducted into the Professional Speakers Hall of Fame.

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Michael McQueen Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Michael, welcome to How to be Awesome at Your Job.

Michael McQueen
Thank you so much. Happy to be able to spend some time chatting.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to talk about your book Mindstuck: Mastering the Art of Changing Minds because that’s one of my favorite things to dork out about. But first, we got to hear the story of you meeting Bill Clinton when you were 17. What’s the tale?

Michael McQueen
I was 17, there was a group of us Aussies who were being sent to New Zealand for the APEC Summit, which is the gathering of political and business leaders, and we were part of this random youth delegation and had these name badges, like our little code, our security code no really knew what it meant. So, we could just basically sneak into any event, which was awesome.

And so, I snuck into one of the press conferences and I was probably about 15 meters or about 25 feet from Bill Clinton as he gave his address to wrap up the summit, and I’m surrounded by Secret Service agents, and I’m like, “This is cool and I shouldn’t be here.”

And so, it was one of those cool experiences where I feel like if you walk into a situation with certainty, it’s amazing how people don’t ask questions. And I think being 17 probably helped, but, yeah, it was a very, very cool experience.

Pete Mockaitis
So, you actually interacted with him?

Michael McQueen
Oh, no. There must’ve been about 60 Secret Service between me and him. And, in fact, I remember standing there as his motorcade arrived, and just being stunned. I think we counted like 14 armored cars, and I’m like, “How do you get all of that kit to the other side of the world?” I was in awe of the logistics involved in this. But, yeah, I was closer than anyone else pretty much. All the other fancy delegates were all sitting a lot further away. So, I certainly was in the wrong place but it was very cool.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that sounds like there is a mind-changing or influence, persuasion lesson right there when you marched in there with confidence, like, “Of course, I belong here. I’m supposed to be here.” It kind of works sometimes.

Michael McQueen
It certainly does. I feel like it’s this blend of humility and certainty. I feel like if you can nail that in life and in any role, it’s amazing how the doors that will open. Like, walking with that sense of, “I’m not embarrassed to be here. I own my space but I’m going to be courteous and polite and open to what other people are doing and saying.” It’s amazing. I feel like that’s sort of been my life.

Like, I started professional speaking full time at age 22, so I was pretty young. And so, trying to hold your own space and have credibility required that mixture of certainty and humility. And I feel like that’s worth a treat over the years.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Michael, could you kick us off with an extra-fascinating story that tees up this wisdom you’ve got for us in your book Mindstuck?

Michael McQueen
So, I was speaking at an industry association conference, all about disruption and future trends.

And I’ll never forget, at the end of the session, during the lunchbreak, this woman walked up to me at the back of the room, it was a big Hilton ballroom, and she was, and I can picture her now, she was the picture of exasperation. Like, I remember speaking with her, and she said, “I get it. I’m so on board with what you shared. I know that if we don’t change in my company, we’ve got like fight out of the game. Like, I’ve tried so many different ways to try to wake them up to the reality but they’re so fixed and so stubborn.”

And she’d been doing all the things that we’re told to do in all the books but it wasn’t working. And so, essentially, that was the moment where I’m like, “I want to delve into that and look at why is it so tricky to change people when they’ve got a very fixed mindset or stubborn mindset.”

For many of the listeners, some of them have been in leadership, and I met a lot of them. So, if you’re going to manage up, as well you’ve got to try to influence up, as well as influence in a parallel way and in your teams, and so that tricky thing of, “How do you persuade others when they just don’t want to budge?”

So, essentially, this book came from that one story, that one experience where I’m like, “Why don’t smart people change even when they want to and know they should? What causes us to get stubborn?” And that sort of led to the entire process of this book coming together.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. So, she had a deep frustration that she knew it, “We’re in trouble, and I’m telling them we’re in trouble but no one’s having it.”

Michael McQueen
Correct.

Pete Mockaitis
And that is a common experience that many people have from high stakes to low stakes, it’s like this answer is so clear but you’re not having it.

Michael McQueen
I just didn’t know what to tell her because I felt all the things that she’d done is what I would, I guess, advise, generally, but I didn’t really know. And that’s essentially what kicked off this process, I’m like, “I want to have better answers. I want to have stuff that’s useful for clients.”

Because I feel like if I go in and help an organization, or help a group of leaders figure out what’s changing, what their strategy needs to be, the job is only half done if I don’t give them the tools and the techniques to bring people around them on the journey of change with them. And that’s, essentially, where this book has landed.

And I think the challenge is many of us have an idea about what it takes to persuade others that’s about 300 or 400 years old, and this notion has been around since the early 1600s, and it’s this idea that was typified by a guy named Francis Bacon. And Francis Bacon was one of the founding fathers of the enlightenment, and his big idea was that humans are, essentially, reasonable, and if you just give him enough evidence and enough logic, eventually, they’ll see the light, they’ll come to their senses, and they’ll change their mind.

And that whole idea shaped the next 300 or 400 years of academia, of education, of the way we do public policy, and it would be nice if that’s true but it’s just not. And what we’ve found in the last few years is actually the opposite is true. The more evidence and the more data you give to someone who is locked in a certain way of thinking, the more they dig their heels in as opposed to opening their minds up.

And so, we give them all the rational evidence, we’re like, “How can they not see this?” And the harder you push, the more they dig their heels in and the more stubborn they become. And so, that’s a dynamic that’s so tricky to navigate, and that’s really what I want to, hopefully, help readers with this book do.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Michael, that’s a fascinating assertion. Can you share with us the most compelling evidence that confirms that’s, in fact, true? It’s like, “More good evidence does not help. In fact, it often hurts.” Lay it on us.

Michael McQueen
We’ve seen that play out. So, when you expose people to ideas that are unfamiliar or inconvenient, the stuff we just don’t want to hear, we’ll do a couple of things. One of the things we’ll instantly jump to is denial, like, “This idea, I just don’t want to hear it. I would like to think that seeing is believing.” And it’s not true.

If you’re exposed to stuff that you don’t want to see or hear or understand, it’s amazing, your cognitive abilities to just ignore it, or deny it entirely, or you get defensive, you go on the attack sometimes. The big thing we see people do, and this particularly happens in political discourse, and you see this on social media all the time, is they defer. So, they’ll look at, “What are other people like me think about ideas like this?”

And so, there’s almost that sense of tribalism that comes into play, like, “Is the idea from someone that’s on my side or my team, someone I would naturally agree with? Or is it from the opposition?” And it’s almost like we would dismiss the idea if it comes from the opposition as opposed to someone that we like. And so, rather than actually engaging faithfully or honestly with an idea, an idea worthy of consideration, it’s like we want to know who shared it first. That’s the first port of call.

And so, that’s tricky in an organization because sometimes the best and most innovative ideas will come from places where you wouldn’t expect it, and that’s often where innovation emerges. And yet we so often see that stubbornness comes because, like, “Well, how would you know? You’ve only been in the organization for three months,” or, “You’re in the wrong sort of department. You’re not in a department in the company that’s responsible for that sort of critical thinking. You’re in accounts. So, how could you have an idea that it’d be worthwhile considering?”

They’re the moments we miss the best ideas and the best thinking because we’re stubborn and we have an assumption about where the best ideas will come from.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Michael, there’s a lot there. That rings true experientially. I’m curious if we have any cool scientific evidence as well, whether it’s, I don’t know, fMRI scans or fascinating social psychology experiments.

Michael McQueen
One of the most formative ones, and it’s a bit dated now, was what we saw happen with people who wanted to believe that weapons of mass destruction had, in fact, been found in Iraq. And so, back when that was all playing out, they actually exposed people to fake newspapers or fake evidence of that.

And so, when people were already predisposed to wanting to believe that was true, the part of their brain that essentially was a confirmation dopamine release, it’s like, “Yup, absolutely. I already thought this was true. Now, I’ve got evidence to back up what I think to be true.” When they then said, “Actually, sorry, this was actually a fabricated news story. It’s part of an experiment. This is actually not true. We haven’t found the evidence of weapons of mass destruction,” what’s interesting is what people then did is their brain, essentially, went into hunker down in defensive mode.

And so, it’s like they weren’t even able to be willing to consider other things that might challenge what they assume to be true. It’s right across the ideological spectrum.

These same things have been played out. We’ve seen studies where if it’s genetically modified crops, or nuclear power, you’ve got people who might be on the left end of spectrum who would just be as unwilling to listen to really good evidence and really good data. If you look at what happens in their brain scans, the same dynamic evolves. And so, we’ve seen this played out.

In fact, there was a great UCLA study a few years ago that actually measured the response times of people when they’re exposed to information that they just didn’t want to read or hear. In other words, it’s typically political. So, what they found is people responded far more quickly when it was information they didn’t want to hear. In other words, there was no genuine consideration involved.

And so, they’re far more willing to think about and mull over stuff that, initially, they agreed with. It’s almost like they thought they were being objective but, actually, they were reacting in a far more impulsive way, particularly if it was stuff they didn’t want to hear, which indicated that actually there was not a lot of real thought going into it.

Pete Mockaitis
In terms of the reaction times, with what we hear, that’s we agree with versus disagree with, are we a smidge slower or faster? Or is it just massive, like triple, quadruple? Like, what’s sort of the magnitude of the difference we’re looking at here?

Michael McQueen
I think the difference in times is somewhat significant but it’s more about the way our bodies respond to information that we don’t want to hear. So, not only do we react more quickly, in other words, we don’t really consider, but also that sense of we actually get a dopamine release, we get a hit. And so, I think the bottom line is it’s not about just how quickly we respond but it’s about the type of response we have.

So, when we’re exposed to things that we don’t want to hear, not only is it a quick response but it’s a shutting down response, it’s a defensive response, it’s a, “I don’t want to hear this. I want to deny reality.” And yet, when we’re exposed to something we do want to hear, or agrees with what we agree with, not only is it a slower response, but there’s also that sense of we get joy out of the fact that this is confirming something we believe to be true.

In the book, I look at the two main thinking systems or engines that we use, and this will be similar to some things that people have read in other books.

So, the two minds that I look at are the inquiring mind and the instinctive mind. So, the inquiring mind is the part of our brain, or the part of our mind, that lives in the front of our brain, the frontal lobe. It loves logical, linear, reason, thought. It loves evidence. It loves data. This is the part of our brain that Francis Bacon was speaking about.

So, if you look at some of the research from Zoe Chance, who’s a researcher at Yale, she would suggest that we only use our inquiring mind, part of our brain, for like five to ten percent of our thinking. So, where does the rest of our thinking happen? It happens in a part of our brain I refer to as the instinctive mind. And that’s the bit of our mind that’s typically associated with the limbic system. So, in our brain, it’s located near the top of the brain stem.

It’s where our tribal instincts live. It’s where we process emotion. It’s also where the fight and flight reactions tend to reside. So, the tricky thing is if we’re doing 95% of our thinking in our instinctive mind, when you’re trying to change someone’s mind, the question is, “Which mind are you trying to change?” because most of us try to change the instinctive mind, which is where stubbornness lives, but they’re actually using techniques or tactics that appeal to the inquiring mind. They’re using evidence and logic and data, and those things don’t work. We wonder why we feel like we’re hitting our head up against a brick wall.

And I think that’s one of the key things, is that the instinctive mind would rather feel right than be right, and that’s a really difficult dynamic because you’re trying to, essentially, challenge people to do something that is uncomfortable. It’s an inconvenient truth you might be exposing them to. And so, therefore, a lot of the book looks at, “How do you communicate that in a way that doesn’t trigger that defensive response?”

And that’s a skill in and of itself, because if you approached persuasion the wrong way, the right message delivered by the wrong person at the wrong time, will be the wrong message. And so, a lot of persuasion is about trying to find the right time, the right tone, the right posture, with which you can present ideas.

Pete Mockaitis
This is so powerful. And, for me, even personally right now, I had a number of discoveries recently that just blew me away in terms of, so, for example, my sleep has been a little weird. So, I’ve got a full-blown sleep study done, and then they told me that I had sleep apnea. And so, here I am, I was connected to all of these wires and medical technology, all these things, there’s like a full-blown neurologist from Vanderbilt is telling me this.

So, you’d think they would know, you’d think we could probably bank on them. And you know what my first response was, I actually said in the little health chat platform, “Could you show me the footage?” And it took me another day before I realized how silly I was being. They’re measuring all of these things associated with my brainwaves and my breathing and my blood oxygen with a full-blown award-winning sleep laboratory, they give me the assessment, and I said, “I don’t believe it. I got to see the video footage.” And so, I was like, “Never mind. Just tell me what I have to do.” And so, that was surprising to me.

Michael McQueen
In that point, if they had given you the answer you wanted to hear, you would’ve been like, “Bring it on. Awesome. No need to ask any more questions.” It’s like you wouldn’t want to see the footage at all if it was information you wanted to hear. And Daniel Gilbert, who’s a psychologist at Harvard has this great story. He says of like what you’ve described there is the same dynamic that many of us approach the bathroom scales in the morning with.

Like, if you go to the bathroom scales and they give you the number you’re hoping to see, or hoping to get, you’re like, “Brilliant. I’ll get off quick as I can, straight into the shower, get on with the day. It’s a good day.” But if you get on those bathroom scales and it’s not a number you want to see, it’s amazing how you start to bargain with reality, it’s like, “Oh, maybe I put too much weight on one foot or the other. Or maybe I need to hop off and get back on again. Or maybe the scales aren’t sitting flat on the tiles or they need to be recalibrated.”

It’s like we set the burden of proof so much higher for information when it doesn’t match what we want to hear or learn. Whereas, when it matches what we want, it’s like, “Brilliant. Ask no more questions.” And so, that’s so much of how we respond to life, and that’s certainly your experience there, but that’s for so many of us, so many of the things that we have to make decisions about. And so, persuading people in a work context particularly, like you’ve got to take that into account.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, absolutely. And it’s funny how, for me, I just had all these associations, like, “Oh, sleep apnea is for super unhealthy people. I’m not overweight and I go to the gym. Surely, someone would’ve made me aware of this over the course of my life if I just stopped breathing in my sleep,” but, yeah, I was incredulous.

And then a similar situation, I was talking to a physical therapist about some foot pain, and he’s like, “Okay, well, how about we do some one-legged calf raises?” And so, I did and I was getting fatigued in about 12 of them. He’s like, “Okay, so that’s what’s going on. You’ve got some weakness in the calves. We look for about 30 or 40 of these.” And I was like, “You’re telling me the average American male is capable of doing 30 to 40 single-leg calf raises?” Like, “Well, yeah, that’s the standard.” I didn’t believe him. I, straight up, pulled up the scientific journal article, and it’s like, “Wow!” So, it’s just mind-blowing.

And, in a way, this has been a huge upgrade in humility for me because it’s just like, “If I don’t know what’s going on in my own body, like how could I purport to be the authority on, say, a news item in a foreign land that I’ve never been to, and say, ‘Well, this is what’s really going on with the conflict of…’?” Like, what do I know? I don’t even know my own body.

Michael McQueen
Yeah. And I think what this speaks to is one of the most important dynamics we’ve got to take into account when trying to persuade someone to think differently, and this is where doctors who do this well, any medical person you engage with, those two things will last a while. If they approach it well, what they do is they allow you to preserve dignity or save face in the process of having to upgrade your beliefs or upgrade the way you see yourself.

This is where that reflex to get defensive tends to kick off when we feel like we’ve been cornered, or we’ve been embarrassed, or we’ve got no ability to maybe change our mind without thinking we have to acknowledge we were an idiot or we were wrong beforehand. And I think that’s what we so often do. We don’t allow or give people grace or space to, yeah, change their mind while still preserving their dignity and their ego because that’s so many of the reasons.

You have that conversation with someone at work, and you’ve made the case about why things need to change, what they need to do, and even if they agree with you, deep down often they’ll still do is dig their heels in because it’d be like they don’t want to feel like they were told, or they don’t want to feel like it wasn’t their idea. And this is, like, it can feel a bit childish at times but these are actually techniques.

The question is, “Do you want to make a difference or win the argument in that moment?” And if you want to make a difference and see progress, sometimes you’ve got to actually approach this far more strategically and allow for people’s ego because deep down we’ve all got one.

Pete Mockaitis
So, lay it on us, how do we play the game just right in terms of we are trying to change some minds? What are the most impactful practices and tactics and tips you got for us?

Michael McQueen
Well, the first thing that we need to bear in mind is, “What is it that causes people to be stubborn?” And it’s fear. But fear plays out in a way that most of us don’t expect. Because we’ve been told for years that humans are naturally afraid of change. That’s actually not true. Humans are not inherently afraid of change. What we’re afraid of, and this is the key distinction, is loss.

So, the moment that change is associated with a sense of loss, and that can be a loss of dignity as we’ve talked about, maybe a loss of certainty, or loss of power. The moment those things feel like it’s going to be a loss, that’s when we dig our heels in even if what’s been suggested to us feels like a good idea. And so, therefore, rather than trying to sell the benefits of change, we’d be better to minimize or lessen the loss.

And so, a lot about that is allowing people to feel at the end like their dignity is intact or preserved, that they have psychological safety to change their mind without feeling like they’re an idiot, but also giving people that sense of agency or choice, that they feel like they are in the driver’s seat. Sheena Iyengar, who’s a professor at Columbia, says the way the human mind works is that we equate choice with control. So, the moment people feel like they don’t have options, they’ll push back even if the idea suggested to them is a good one.

And so, there’s so much about realizing, “What is it that causes this sense of stubbornness?” And often it is that fear. In fact, one of the dynamics I look at that really plays into this is something I call psychological sunk cost, and most of us are familiar with economic sunk cost, that idea of, “I’ve spent so much money and so much time on this one idea, or this one course of action, even if I know it’s not going to work, and a better option has emerged, I’ll stick with the original one because I’ve spent so much money and time.”

We do the same stuff with our mindset and our thinking. We’ll stick with ideas or beliefs that are no longer serving us and actually might be working against us. When we’ve invested so much of our time and money and our ego, our reputation in them is advocates for those ideas, there’s that sense that we’ll actually allow our past decisions or thinking to sabotage our future. And so, bearing in mind that sense of psychological sunk cost, we need to be careful and allow people to change their mind, again, without feeling embarrassed but also feel like they are the ones in the driver’s seat of that change.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, can you give us some examples of that in practice? So, let’s say you’re the neurologist, you’re going to break it to me, it’s like, “All right, Pete, we found out you have sleep apnea,” in a way that invokes all of these principles well.

Michael McQueen
Yeah. A good place to start would be to ask questions. So, your sleep doctor could say, “Now, have you heard much about sleep apnea? What do you know about it?” And you would then share what you know about sleep apnea, which is it’s old people, it’s overweight people, it’s all the things that, in your mind, that’s your imagined reality.

And your doctor will go, “You know what, that’s actually pretty common. Most people think that’s not uncommon at all.” So, you’re preserving dignity. In other words, you’re not wrong, you’re not weird, but what you might be surprised to learn is that, actually, there’s a lot of people who have that. And even if that doctor could share a story about an ultra-fit person who’s even younger than you…

Pete Mockaitis
“Yeah, show me an Olympic Gold medalist, please.”

Michael McQueen
Correct. Suddenly, you’re like, “Oh, okay. Now I can change my thinking without being embarrassed.” So, that’s one way you can do this. Another really simple way you can affirm people’s autonomy or agency and their dignity is by asking for their advice, asking for their input.

In fact, there’s some great research I came across in the book that looked at if you want to get a new project pushed through at work, and you ask your boss to give advice, even if you know already, like how it’s going to look, what the pricing point or the pricing model will be, or the design for the brand, or whatever it is, by asking your boss for advice and giving their input, typically, they’ll often land in a very similar spot to where you’re going, even if you incorporate just a few elements of what they’ve suggested, they’re going to be, I think, like 50% or 60% more likely to say, “This is a great idea.”

Whereas, if you go to them with, like, the lock and loaded proposal, what’s their first thing, they’re going to start picking holes, they’re like, “What about this? And I don’t know if you’ve really considered this perspective,” because it’s not their own idea. And so, even just by giving people that chance to give advice or input, it can make a huge difference and them feeling able to embrace an idea that they actually know to be good, being you gave them the ability to acknowledge that in a way that they feel safe, psychologically safe in doing.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s funny because, in some ways, it’s hard to know what someone’s issue, beef, defensiveness, hangup is in advance, but you gave us some categories there in terms of loss, loss of power. Give us some more categories and maybe how we might deduce what the potential hangup that gets people not wanting to listen to what we got to say.

Michael McQueen
Well, I think one of the key things we got to be aware of is if people think an idea is so unfamiliar in that that they’ve got no common reference point with where they’ve been, how they’ve thought, who they are, and what you’re wanting them to move towards, there’s a lot of uncertainty involved in that. And so, trying to find a common frame of reference in presenting your ideas is really effective. In classic rhetoric, they call it the common place, and that’s where you got to start when you’re trying to persuade or influence anyone.

And an example of this would be I was speaking in Hamburg, Germany a few years ago at a global Rotary summit. So, Rotary International, they just do the most amazing things.

So, I was speaking at this conference all about the future of the organization, how to make sure that they continue to stay strong and flourishing. The tricky thing is you look at some of their most mature markets, so certainly North America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, these are markets where the average age of a Rotarian is, like, 75, 76, in some cases, it’s older even. And so, they’re aging out and they realized they’ve got to change fast.

And so, I was, essentially, trying to present a change message to these groups of Rotarians who love Rotary, who love the brand, who are committed to it, they’re all volunteers. And the thing is the moment you suggest change, there’s often that pushback, like, “That’s not the way we do things. There’s a lot of tradition at Rotary,” like a lot of organizations in that same sort of category.

And so, what I wanted to do is find a common place. And so, if you look at Rotary’s core ethos, the phrase that’s been their core message from day one is, “Service above self.” And so, I was able to frame change as that. So, I was saying, “I get it. There are many of our clubs, you’ve got things working the way that you like. You’ve got a certain rhythm and pattern, and almost a liturgy that you have in your clubs, a tradition of the way you go through meetings.”

“But if that means you’re not relevant to younger people, it might be serving your needs and the club you want, but it’s actually robbing the organization of future relevance. Service above self means maybe changing our clubs to be less what we want but more about being relevant to those we’re looking to engage.”

And by starting with something that was common place, “That we all agree that’s the issue, that’s the goal, but actually what we’re doing in practice is we’re creating things that’s more about serving ourselves and our needs as opposed to growing membership,” and that was really effective. Instead of what could’ve been a very prickly situation trying to present change and argue a case for change, then became something different, like, “We’re in this together.”

I saw a similar example recently. One of the things we’re finding in Australia right now is this push to using AI to do marking of assessments in essays, particularly for senior students. But a lot of teachers have this natural resistance, this pushback to using artificial intelligence, it’s like, “No way. We’re people-based. It’s all about humans, human engagement, particularly for marking assessments.”

But I had a really compelling example that really shifted the thinking for one school in particular. They were trying to have this debate of, “Do we use AI or not?” And they used the equity argument, they said, “What we need to be realizing is that in an English essay,” and they actually asked for a show of hands. The English teachers, “When you get an essay, you can tell pretty quickly if it’s a guy or a girl that’s written the essay, can’t you?” And they all, like, raised their hands, like, “Of course. Typically, guys’ handwriting is just woeful. Whereas, the girls have slightly better handwriting.”

And they said, “We’ve actually got often an unconscious bias when we are marking assessments that we’re not even aware of. And if we can make sure AI doesn’t have that unconscious bias, we’ll actually be making assessments more fair, which benefits the students.” And rather than making the case for efficiency or saving costs, when they put it in the frame of equity and student first, it was something that the teachers were already on board with, they were willing to consider it.

And I think that’s that challenge, is “How do we find that common place?” the thing that we’re sharing common as a value, start there with a discussion, and then go from there.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s really cool. The common place, what we share, reframing it with a value. That’s awesome. And I remember a time, I was doing a Myers-Briggs workshop for some senior executives at a sausage-casing company. I was very excited because they had executives from all over the world flying in. They’re having their big meeting, and I was a part of it, I was like, “Oh, this is really cool.”

But then there was a crisis in the world of sausage casings. They had a factory with exploding sausages, so I showed up raring to go, and they said, “Pete, we’re so sorry. We’re going to have to reschedule because they’ve got this factory with exploding sausages.” And I was upset, I was like, “First of all, what are you all going to do about it? You’re not on the factory floor. And is this even an executive-level issue? Shouldn’t you have the manufacturing guru?”

And so, I was really sort of, “Hey, man, I came all the way out here. I got things to do. I feel this is maybe kind of rude. I was fired up, I planned everything, so my energy would be just at its peak right when I’m delivering the goods for you,” and then they say, “Well, let’s change everything around.” But she delivered the news to me so masterfully, she’s like, “You know, what you’re going to share is very important, and I want to make sure that everybody can give you their full attention. And right now, we don’t have any of that because they’re all freaked out about these exploding sausages. But I think if we get a chance to address or handle this, and then regroup in four hours, it’ll be great.

So, I was totally cool with it because she reframed it in terms of my value, like I really am all about the impact. And so, that was cool when we hit it from my common place as opposed to, “Hey, look, you’re the contractor, we’re the executives, and we’re going to do it our way.” That wouldn’t land so well for me.

Michael McQueen
And what’s interesting about her is I imagine she would’ve done that intuitively. And the reality is people who are highly persuasive often don’t know what they do that works and why it works. And that’s what I wanted to do in this book is try and decode that because when you look at someone who is highly persuasive, it can be like they’ve got this magic sauce, this ability to just get through to people and diffuse tense situations, and get people on board. You’re like, “How do they do that?”

And so, for those who’ve got that naturally, they don’t even know how it works or why it works, so those of us who are trying to learn, it often can be like very opaque, dark magic almost. So, I wanted to demystify that and make it, like, hopefully, really simple. Like, even some very tactical things that I’ve put in the book, one of them I learned from a guy named Michael Pantalon who’s at Yale University, and he uses a technique they call motivational interviewing, but it’s a little bit sort of clinical in the examples he uses.

So, I’ve sort of reframed that and talked about it as the rate and reflect process. So, if you’re trying to get someone to shift their thinking about an issue or an idea, the rate and reflect process is simply about asking two questions in a very specific order. And I’ve seen this play out beautifully personally in relationships, interpersonal ones, but also with clients as well.

So, the first question you ask is, “Hey, so I’m just curious, from one to ten, how likely or willing are you to…?” and then fill in the blank. So, I get them to say, “Give a number between one and ten, how open are they to your idea or perspective or the thing you’re asking them to consider?” And often, if they’re stubborn or resistant, they’ll give you a two or a three. Very few people will give you a one or a zero. They want to, at least, appear to be a little bit open minded but they’ll give you maybe a two or a three, and that’s okay.

What you do next is the second question, it becomes, “Hey, so I’m just curious, how come you didn’t give a lower number?” And in that moment, the whole deal changes because now the focus isn’t on, like, “The eight or the ten reasons I don’t want to change, or I think what you’ve suggested is rubbish,” it’s like there’s a part of me, even if it’s just a small part of me that thinks there’s value in what you’re suggesting, and that’s where you start the conversation.

And, I saw this play out in a personal relationship. Recently, one of my best mates, like a group of us fled away for a weekend and one of the guys said, “Hey, so let’s have an honest conversation, just go around the group. I’m curious, like one to ten, how your marriage is going?” So, went around the group and everyone shared their numbers, like, a really vulnerable honest insight into life for them at the time.

And the last guy in the circle is one of my best mates, and he said, “Ah, yeah, probably like a three out of ten right now,” and he started to get quiet, upset, and just share some of the stuff that was going on. It was pretty heavy stuff. So, we spent, like, 40 minutes just chatting about that as a group and encouraging him and hearing him out. But it was this really negative spiral, it wasn’t going great.

And so, I’m like, “I’ve got to turn this around. Maybe I’ll try one of the techniques from the book but just in an organic way so it doesn’t feel like I’m turning it into a teaching exercise.” So, I was like, “Hey, I’m just curious, so you said you’re like three out of ten. How come you didn’t give a lower number?” And in that moment, like everything changed. It was like I was speaking to a different person who was in a different marriage because he’s like, “Well, not everything is bad. There’s some great stuff. Like, we make a great partnership as parents.”

Like, in that moment, it didn’t negate all the other stuff we talked about but it shifted the frame, and that was focusing on what were some of the good things, and then building on that. And it was just one of those moments where I thought, “This stuff really works. Like, it can change the entire direction, the flow, the momentum of a conversation if we use these techniques well.” This is as useful in a marriage, or a partnership, relationship at home where we’ve got kids, or work, but it’s really designed to be pretty practical. That’s my goal.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, we previously interviewed David McRaney who talked about this kind of an approach utilized in street epistemology and other contexts.

And I think it is super effective in that it goes directly to the person’s personal stuff in terms of it’s like we go right to, “Hey, I made an honest assessment, and it was the totality of the evidence on one side was considered.” And you’re asking, “Hey, go ahead and read that forth for me. All right.” So, it’s very efficient.

I think that something about the one-to-ten scale in conversation can feel, to me, a little bit like, I don’t know, clinical or, “We’ve put you into a survey box form,” and I just sort of don’t like it. If someone says that to me, not like I’m going to throw a fit or fall into a rage, but just like, “Ugh, I don’t like this question and how we’re talking here.” I don’t know, it almost feels like a little bit dramatic, a little bit dehumanizing, depersonalizing. Is there another way I can get the magic without the numbers?

Michael McQueen
It can feel very formal. I think you’re exactly right. You need to choose the right relationship to do that. So, if you’re speaking to, like, a superior, who might be three or four levels higher in the company, and you’re in their office, say, “So, I’m just curious, from one to ten…” that probably wouldn’t go down great. So, there are certainly environments where that will work but others where it won’t.

But I think one of the most effective things that will work across the board is to really start trying to build high trust, high affinity, and that’s regardless whether you’re managing up or managing down. So much of influence or persuasion has got to start with trust and that sense of affinity. And this goes back to what Aristotle talked about two and a half thousand years ago. We got logos, pathos, and the big one was ethos. Ethos was that argument by character, or argument by credibility and trust.

And so, the person who’s done the best research in this over the last few years, I think, can be worth listeners checking out is a guy named Paul Zak. And Paul Zak has looked up, particularly how we build trust with other human beings and why that trust becomes the key foundation for influence. And so, what’s interesting is we look at what builds trust with other people, it’s actually really simple stuff. It can be as simple as us just being really upfront and self-deprecating, being very vulnerable, very authentic.

But, also, one of the things that Paul Zak’s work has looked at is the importance of synchronicity, getting in sync with the people you’re trying to influence. I’ve heard over the years, and you probably heard this, too, like, “Match the body language with the person you’re speaking with. If they cross their legs, you cross your legs. And if they scratch their ears, you scratch yours.” To me, I’ve always felt that’s very contrived and very icky, really. It had never set well with me.

And I was chatting with Paul recently, I said, “How do you do synchronicity in a non-icky way?” And the thing that he said I thought was so interesting is if you’ve got a high-stakes conversation, one of the best things you can do is go for a walk with that individual. Because what happens when you’re walking side by side with someone, eventually, you’ll match their cadence and their pace. You get in sync with them. And in that moment, they will be far more open to communicating with you rather than if it’s opposite each other at a board table or a coffee table.

And I actually saw this play out recently with a client who had a high-stakes conversation the next day after the event I was running, and I’ve shared this research about going for a walk and how powerful that can be for disarming tense situations. And she tried it, and emailed me the next day, and she said, “The difference this made was massive. Like, the other person went into this discussion ready for a fight, ready for a debate. And the moment I started walking, it just changed the entire tone.”

And so, a lot about this is just, “How do we build that sense of we’re on the same page together, not trying to combat each other, or beat each other in an argument but we’re trying to make progress together by sharing different opinions?” And so, I think the importance of building affinity, that is not so clinical. It’s actually something anyone can do. And self-deprecation, self-disclosure, incredibly powerful. In fact, one of the studies I love that we’ve got in the book was one from Kip Williams, who’s a social psychologist.

He did an analysis of legal cases, and looked at, “When was the moment when a jury turns to favor one side’s argument over another?” And what he found was typically was when one side, one attorney, came to the table sharing all the weaknesses, the things that might give the evidence that worked against their case.

Pete Mockaitis
I can see the procedural television scene in my mind’s eye right now, Michael, “Look, my client is a dirtbag, but being a dirtbag’s not a crime.”

Michael McQueen
But that whole thing, like the moment they do that, and the key was you have to acknowledge if there was information that didn’t sort of make your case for you, actually worked against you, you have to acknowledge it before your opponents had a chance to bring that up because what it did in that moment is that it disarmed the jury. Instead of sitting there, listening for all holes in your argument, it was like, by being upfront, just like, “Hey, you know what, this is not cut-and-dry black-and-white. There’s nuance here, but even with that nuance, I want you to consider our case.”

It presented you as a fair-minded, open, objective, honest, trustworthy person. And we can all do that. Like, the reality is life is nuanced and complex. And one of the best things we can do is when we’re approaching other people, acknowledge that, call it out. And something about that posture disarms the other person. It means you’re far more likely to have a fruitful conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, Michael, tell me, any other valuable gems you got to drop on us before we shift and hear about your favorite things?

Michael McQueen
Well, I think the gem that I love, I came across recently in an interview with Gretchen Rubin, and she was talking about the importance of listening. It only occurred to her recently, and she shared this in the interview, she said, “There’s something about the fact that the words listen and silent are made up of the same letters.” She said, “I can’t believe I never noticed it before but that’s actually profoundly insightful.” And it is.

And I feel like so much of what we do when we try to go in and change people’s minds is we go in with our arguments without actually having taken the time to listen and genuinely understand maybe what those points of resistance are, and where the other person is actually coming from. And I think that’d be the last encouragement I give, is that the truth is people who are listened to are far more likely to listen. And so, do we actually give people the dignity of our attention? Do we listen to them long enough to understand their perspective before we go in trying to change their mind? So, that’d be certainly one encouragement I’d give.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. Now, could you share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Michael McQueen
One of the quotes I came across writing this book that was most impactful for me was from Andy Stanley who’s a leadership expert.

He said, “In any relationship, when one person wins, the relationship loses.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And could you share a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Michael McQueen
Yes, one that I came across, actually, from a university back in Australia, named Monash University, what they did is they got a series of students, so university or college students, to put on some headphones and listen to a standup comedian. So, the first group listened to the standup comedian, and it was just the audio track of the comedian. And what they’re looking for in the experiment was the levels of laughter, so how they engaged with the content. And so, the researchers were monitoring that, the volume of laughter, the intensity of laughter.

The second group listened to the same standup comedian set but with canned laughter over the top. And, as you would expect, the laughter increased because that’s just the way canned laughter works, that’s not particularly earth-shattering. What’s interesting is the next group, the audience that were listening to who are laughing at canned laugh, they described a persona, an identity.

So, as those who are listening, in this third group, said the people who are laughing are actually just like you. They agree with you politically, for instance. The laughter increased significantly. Now, as you can probably guess where this goes next. The fourth group were told the people who are laughing at that standup comedian were people they wouldn’t agree with, they were from the other side, the other end of the political divide.

And what was interesting is the level of laughter of those people listening to that standup comedian was actually at about the same level or a thatch lower than the first group where there was no canned laughter at all. And so, it’s almost that the moment we thought other people are laughing at something and they weren’t like us, they weren’t from our tribe, it’s like, “I can’t laugh. Even if I think the joke is funny, I will not laugh because someone who’s not like me thinks this is funny.”

And I thought it just really showed how powerful those tribal instincts are, and it’s often how dangerous in terms of the way we think, the way we approach ideas that can be.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

Michael McQueen
On Being Certain by Robert Burton. And it’s a book looking at this notion of what Robert Burton calls the feeling of knowing, “How do we get to the point of certainty where we just know something to be true but we don’t know how we got there?”

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite tool, something you use to be awesome at your job?

Michael McQueen
There’s one called SaneBox. And SaneBox uses AI to, essentially, curate your emails so that you can make your inbox far more manageable.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Michael McQueen
Daily habit for me is journaling, an old-school journaling like with a pen and paper.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a key nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks; they quote it back to you often?

Michael McQueen
Yeah, one would be something I encourage people to do, which is to unsell instead of upselling your ideas. And it’s sort of goes to that thing we talked about before of being self-deprecating, and what’s the posture with which you share ideas. And so, for instance, if you preface an idea you’re going to suggest to someone with, almost this notion of, like, “Hey, I’m maybe way off here. I’m not sure,” or, “This is just my sense on things.”

It’s amazing how by sort of underplaying it, you encourage the other person to lean forward and be more willing. Whereas, if I’m, “I’ve got this brilliant idea. Wait till you hear it.” What do people instantly do? They get defensive. And I find that even from a speaking perspective, I’ll get speaking inquiries, and if I’m not the right fit, sometimes I’ll say to a client, “Hey, you know what, thank you for thinking of me but I actually don’t think I’m the right fit for your brief but I can think of another speaker who’d be great.”

In that moment, like it’s phenomenal how it happens, they’ll start and say, “No, no, no, we think you’d be brilliant. Here’s why.” They’ll start selling themselves to you, I’m like, “Well, we were going with this conversation where I had to sell myself, and now it’s flipped.” There’s something about just personally not being too needy, just like being really open and honest, but also unselling rather than upselling, it changes the entire posture of the conversation. I find that unselling versus upselling frame really helpful.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Michael McQueen
So my website is MichaelMcQueen.net. We also have a website for the book, which is Mindstuck.net. And one of the tools I’d encourage people have a look at on there is a thing we call a book bot. And so, it’s an AI bot using ChatGPT tech, and, basically, we put the book into a ring-fenced version of ChatGPT so you can ask the book some advice.

So, if you’ve got a situation at work, or in your personal life, you can put in as a question, it’ll search the content in the book and come back with advice or coaching as to how to persuade or shift the dial. So, if people have a look at Mindstuck.net and there’s information about the book bot on there. So, check that out. That might be useful.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And do you have any final challenges or calls to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Michael McQueen
I just think I’d be mindful for all of us, and I put myself in this category. Like, who do you find hard to listen to? How often do we get to that point where we find it difficult to take on an opinion that is uncomfortable or outside the box for the way we see the world? And deliberately try and expose yourself to people who just think really differently to you. There’s such value in that. And as uncomfortable as it can be, bear in mind that that posture of curiosity and humility, that’s how we think best, that’s how we learn.

And so, I’d just encourage people, look at your sphere of influence. If you’re surrounded by people who sort of think the same way you do and have the same perspective on life you do, that should be a bit of a red flag. Try and really keep your inputs as diverse as possible. That’s the best way to think well.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Michael, thank you. This has been a treat. I wish you much fun changing minds.

Michael McQueen
Thank you so much. Lovely to chat.

890: The Five Laws to Asking for What You Want with Laura Fredricks

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Laura Fredricks shares battle-tested tips to confidently ask for what you want.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to respond to “I’ll think about it.”
  2. Why you want to talk only 25% of the time
  3. Persuasion pitfalls to avoid

About Laura

Laura Fredricks is an author, speaker, and consultant who trains and coaches individuals, businesses, and nonprofits. Her latest book is Hard Asks Made Easy: How to Get Exactly What You Want. Through her previous six books, Fredricks has helped hundreds of global executives, industry trailblazers, marketing and communication leaders, boards, fundraisers, entrepreneurs, teenagers, artists, philanthropists, and everyday people achieve their best professional and personal lives possible.

Since 2005, Fredricks also has taught at New York University School of Professional Studies.

Resources Mentioned

Laura Fredricks Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Laura, welcome to How to be Awesome at Your Job.

Laura Fredricks
Welcome, welcome, to you, too, Pete. Glad to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m so excited to chat about your book, Hard Asks Made Easy: How to Get Exactly What You Want. It sounds super useful. But, first, I want to hear, as the ask expert, what are some of the wildest asks that you’ve come across in your days?

Laura Fredricks
It was two kids that wanted a dog and parents weren’t having it. They weren’t having it. So, I came across them and they came to me, and, of course, they’re doing all the stuff. So, I said, “What are you doing?” “Oh, we’re making the bed where the dog could go, and then we’re baking cakes for them, have the dog get them.” And they were doing all these extraneous stuff. It was hysterical.

So, I said, “Well, one thing you could do is wake up early every morning as if you’re going to walk the dog, because you know what’s on your parents’ mind. We’re going to get the dog and we’re going to be taking care of it.” I said, “Sure, you’re responsible so wake up early. Get that powder and go. And then you got to ask for the dog. You can’t just keep saying, ‘I want a dog. I want a dog.’ That’s not an ask.”

“Say, ‘Look, mom and dad, we wake up early every morning. We’ll take care of the dog. This is really important to us. We think it’s going to be great for the family. Can we go out this Saturday and look for a dog? Please, it’s important.’” And they did, they got the dog, and away we go.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Laura Fredricks
I did something sneaky in there, Pete. It’s all what we’re going to talk about. Every ask, two sentences, and a question.

Pete Mockaitis
That is absolutely something I’m going to ask you about. It’s funny because I can imagine this is in my future. Our kids have made reference to wanting a dog.

Laura Fredricks
It’s coming.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, tell us, any particularly surprising or fascinating discoveries you’ve made about us humans when it comes to asking during the course of your research and career and writing on this stuff?

Laura Fredricks
A lot. And this is the number one thing. Confidence wins the day. The more confident you are, the more likely you are to get what you ask for. I get this ask all the time, Pete, “Do women make better askers? Do men make better askers? If you’re at the top of your field, does that make you a better asker?” It’s all about confidence. And so, one of the things I try to do is create confidence in preparation first, and then actually asking. But you will get more of what you want by just a confident delivery.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. I was going to ask specifically how you define confidence. So, you say a delivery that comes across as confident.

Laura Fredricks
Correct.

Pete Mockaitis
So, whether you believe you deserve it or whatever is not so much relevant?

Laura Fredricks
No, it is. Because when you believe it, you deserve it, you look confident, there’s no way you can look any other way. So, that is the stepping stone to being confident. You have to be 100% sure that this is what you want, what you need, and what you deserve.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. There we go. Now, let’s dig into the book, Hard Asks Made Easy: How to Get Exactly What You Want. What’s sort of the big idea or main thesis here?

Laura Fredricks
There are five laws of asking.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Laura Fredricks
I can walk you through them if you want.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, let’s do it.

Laura Fredricks
Good. So, I always like to do it this way. Pete, tell me one thing that you need this week or this month.

Pete Mockaitis
I need my team to chug ahead on, frankly, a pretty boring, repetitive project.

Laura Fredricks
Okay. Okay. Good. So, here we go. And that’s a good one because I just did an interview with someone, actually, which is really exciting, and she needed more sponsors for her show, so we walked through that one, which was great. But this is asking a team to keep going even though it’s not exactly exciting work. Did I get that right?

Pete Mockaitis
Mm-hmm.

Laura Fredricks
Okay. So, here we go, Pete. Law number one, know exactly what you want with numbers and dates. So, knowing that, how would you ask your team? Numbers and dates.

Pete Mockaitis
I need all 890 of these episodes converted over for dynamic ad insertion by September 25th.

Laura Fredricks
There we go. Perfect. Perfect. Perfect. Okay. Notice you didn’t say, “By fall,” “By the end of the summer,” by whatever. That, really, “Now, I’m crystal clear of what we need to do. I’m your team member. I’ve got a good idea.” Good. Now, law number two, stay with me, write the old-fashioned way, or type it on your phone but it has to be brain to physical here, 15 things your team is going to say to you.

So, I’ll help you out. “Don’t have that kind of time,” “Can’t make that deadline,” “Why do you need it by that date?” “What’s in it for me?” “Do I get extra pay?” “I’ve got these other tasks to do,” “Where is this on my priority list?” Okay, I just gave you seven. Now you fill in.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure. Well, my team is so fantastic that I think they’ll probably say, “Oh, hey, well, we’ll try. I mean, yeah, we’re going to do our best but I don’t know. I mean, that’s kind of a short deadline.”

Laura Fredricks
“Well, what happens if we don’t make the deadline?”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Laura Fredricks
Okay. “Can we get extra help if we don’t make the deadline?” “Once that’s done, what else am I getting?” You get the point, 15 things. And we do this because of this reason. The number one reason people don’t ask, it’s not to hear, everyone here knows it’s not fear of rejection. It’s they’re afraid they’re going to hear a response they’re not prepared for.

And so, law number two, get you prepared. First step is 15 things you think they’re going to say, and then you go back, and what will you respond to each of them. That gets you right into the beginning of the show we talked about, law number three – deliver with confidence. Now, your listeners can’t see but every time I do an important interview, like the one we’re doing now, I stand. You’re standing, too. Why? It’s confident. No one exists in my universe right now other than you, Pete. Nobody.

Pete Mockaitis
Why thank you. Felt good.

Laura Fredricks
My voice is up, my energy is great, this is it, but people just step over this, like, “Oh, I got this. I’m good. I know my boss.” Just like you said, “My team is great. They love me. We love them. It’s all fine.” But we’re not delivering with confidence.

Law number four. Clarify what you think you heard. So, let’s say, one of the responses, which is very common, not that your team would give it to you, but let’s say they do, “Oh, Pete, you know, I got to think about it.” What would you say?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, it’s funny, I suppose when I’m thinking about something, usually, there’s something pretty specific under the surface that I need to think about in terms of, like, “Well, I’m wondering if I have that capacity given that there is a vacation scheduled.” And so, often “think about” really means gather some more information and do some research to bring a little bit more certainty to an unknown.

Laura Fredricks
Right. So, the thing about that, which is a very common response which we’ll have to prepare for, is your only job is to find out the “it.” What is the it? Now, you went down and said, “There’s research. There’s something to contemplate on,” there’s always something. But you need to find out in that moment what it is.

So, anyone hears I have to think about it, this is what you say to your team member, “Thanks so much for sharing. This is great.” This is my words, use whatever, “To the extent you feel comfortable, can you share with me what you’re thinking about?” And here’s the most important part, “I’m here to help you,” and you bring it back in. It’s not I threw something at you, you threw a response back, time is going to take care of it. There we go.

“To the extent you feel comfortable, can you share with me what you’re thinking about? I’m here to help you.” And you know what? They tell you. And exactly the reason might be that you just said, “Well, you know, here we are. It’s August 3rd, I have the last two weeks of August off. I don’t think I can make the September deadline.” And now we know what it is. It’s the timing.

It could be, “Well, I’ve done 90% of this project. I don’t think I should do any more. I think this other teammate should do it because I did 90% of it.” You don’t know what the “it” is, so figure out the “it.” And then law number five, and this is very important, right there and then, plan your next move while you’re talking about it.

Because if it’s, “That’s great. Go back. Think about it. We’ll circle back. August 3rd will be closed.” August 15th becomes August 30th, and too much time goes by. So, you could say, “Great. Work it out with your teammate. Friday 10:00 o’clock, let’s meet again and finalize this.” And now you’ve taken a big topic and you’ve condensed it, and you’re going to get an answer in a short amount of time.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Beautiful. There we have it. The big idea is those five laws, and you just laid out what are those five laws. And I think the part that’s vibing for me the most is the idea of we fear more getting a surprise question that we can’t answer than we do getting a no. And I think that resonates, well, for me. I guess maybe you’re suggesting it’s universal.

Because if I get a question I don’t know the answer to, I feel, I don’t know what the word is. I feel kind of like a loser in terms of, “Okay, guys. So, you’re coming in here asking for a special favor, and then in reply, I have a very basic clarifying question to ask of you, and you have no idea. That feels kind of disrespectful to me who’s being asked that you don’t have your act together. And so, that’s what I’m feeling.”

Laura Fredricks
It does. It does. And, also, like you said the word, surprise is correct. I always say, “You don’t want to have that deer-in-the-headlights look, like whatever.” That’s why I did law number two of writing down the 15 things because you’re pretty much going to hit the parameter of where it is. And many people in leadership positions, this is the reason why they don’t ask.

Think about it. You don’t get to be CEO, you don’t get to be in the C-suite, you don’t get to be the VP out of the sky. You’re prepared, you’re good, you’re knowledgeable. You’re the one to have that role, and a lot of times they don’t step up and ask for that same reason.

Pete Mockaitis
Because if you’re the vice president of whatever, and you ask the CEO, and the CEO asks you a sensible question, and you’re like, “Ugh, I have no idea,” then you’re sort of worried, like, “Uh-oh, maybe I’m not going to be the next CEO because the CEO now thinks I’m dumb and unprepared.”

Laura Fredricks
You’re supposed to know it. You feel judged.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. And I suppose when you do these 15 things, you can have the polished version of “I don’t know” at your disposal.

Laura Fredricks
Well, what you can do, and I recommend to everyone, like use this as a positive moment. We’re kind of on audio here but the visual matters. When you hear something you don’t like, normally, your body language tanks and you just give it away. Just say, “You know what, that’s a great question. Let me circle back. How about Friday 2:00 o’clock? I’ll have the answer. We’ll go from there.” Use it to your advantage. Use it as a leverage point. Don’t let that take you away. If response number 16 came and you weren’t ready, keep that list. That becomes number 16.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so I like the clear formulations here. So, we got our five laws. You’ve also got three rules and a formula. So, let’s hear these, too.

Laura Fredricks
Yes, I do. Well, these all came from… asking has always been left from luck, chance, and time. If I ask enough people, one person is going to say yes. If I spend so much time with Pete, he’s going to naturally know what I want. And that’s how asks had gone, and I said, “I have to put organization, structure, and focus because when people have a path, they’ll follow it, and they’ll do it. Without steps, they’re not going to do it.”

So, my three rules, which are pretty easy but you’ve got to follow them, is be prepared, be personable, be present. And the preparation is what we did in the second law, but it’s also beyond doing your research. Really get to know a person. This comes to play when people want another job and they want to network, and they want to find a reference, and they want to find someone who might be in the company that they’re about to go in, where they’re a candidate for.

So, first of all, if someone is going to say, “Hey, I know this person, and it might be good for you. I kind of know them, kind of don’t,” there’s a lot of questions you need to ask, “Do you know anything about them? Do you know their interests, how they like to be communicated with? Are they kind of a person who is relaxed, likes jokes, very formal?”

All that stuff you can gather, makes you prepared for when you want to use that person as a reference should you ever become one of the top candidates. Just be prepared. I think people step over, it’s like, “I know Pete. He’s a good guy. The conversation will go well.” It won’t. Be prepared.

Second is be personable. And what I mean by this is, it’s one of my mantras that I love, your tone is as important as your words. Everyone who comes to me, it’s like, “What’s the right words? What’s the magical formula to ask?” And I can do that, but I always practice with them, “How do you sound? Take your phone, record your voice. Do you like it? Are you using one or two words way too much?” Your tone is as important as your words.

And then the last is be present. And I say listening with presence matters so much. Now, it’s gotten a little bit easier since a lot of us still do a lot of communication on Zoom, so we can look at our computer screen and focus. And you’ve prepared all your guests like me, to have no distractions, cellphone off, landline off, windows closed, the whole bit. The same applies when you’re going to ask. You have to be present. Nobody exists but the person you’re asking.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Understood. And can you also share with us the 75% to 25% rule?

Laura Fredricks
Yes. That gets to listening with presence. How many times, think back, that you had a conversation or even someone asked you where they’re overtalking it, they’re selling it, they’re pitching it, they’re selling it again? And by the end of the conversation, you don’t know if you’re supposed to think about something, you don’t know if you’re supposed to respond to something, and it was a great conversation but you’re kind of clueless.

So, I say, especially when you’re in the ask, it has to be they talk 75, you talk 25, which gets us to the ask formula of two sentences and a question. You end on a question so that the person you ask speaks next.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, two sentences and a question, and the goal there is that you’re not overtalking, and they do the next speaking, as opposed to dead silence, “Okay, now what?” So, can you give us a few examples of sentence, sentence, question, sentence, sentence, question?

Laura Fredricks
Sure. Sure. There’s a person I knew who wanted, she was the vice president and the CEO position came up. She’s in Colorado and she contacted me. And, again, people can go too heavy on what they accomplished so that they should naturally rise to the next position. And I said, “Listen, let’s do this in preparation. Let’s frame your interview. Let’s frame your ask. Go in there, and here we go.”

First always, “Thank you for your time. This is great. It’s a wonderful opportunity and I’m really looking forward to it” sentence number one.” Number two, “I’m here today to share with you my three points of taking this company to the next level in the next year,” sentence number two. Question, “Is this a good time to talk about it? I’m really excited about it.”

So, this is a job interview. Now, what did I do? Two sentences and a question. We’re going to get to asking for the job in a minute but I like this prep first. I like saying, “I have three things to share with you,” because what does that do, Pete? That means I’m waiting for number one, I’m waiting for number two, I’m waiting for number three. It focuses the conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely.

Laura Fredricks
Now, we’ve advanced why I am going to be the best CEO because I’ve already thought of how we’re going to advance the company. Listen to the back and forth, they’re going to talk about the stuff. And so, at the very end, saying, “I hope I’ve answered all your questions. This is so important to me in my career,” and here we go, “I’m asking you now to consider me as the next CEO. Can you do that?”

Nobody asks for the job. They talk around it. But when you ask for it, there’s laser focus that you are the person who really wants this. You’ve put a lot of time and energy into it. You’re going to advance us and you actually asked for the job.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. “Can you do that?” and they’re like, “Sure. I can think about that.” Or, I guess they’ll say, “Well, no, actually, someone else is going to get it. So, sorry about that.”

Laura Fredricks
And that’s fine but at least you planted a major seed that this is something they really, really want, especially if you’re moving up in the company. There can be way too many assumptions that, “They know me. They’ve seen my work. We’ve gone out. They know my plan,” and when it comes to this moment, you have to treat it as if they kind of know you, kind of don’t, but you have to be the person who asks for the job because you want the job.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Can you give us another demonstration of the two sentences then question?

Laura Fredricks
Sure. Sure. Let’s go back to the interview I just did. The woman said, “I need more sponsors,” which we know from law number one is not an ask. I said, “Give me an example.” She wanted Coca-Cola to be a sponsor for 25,000 by September 1st. Okay, that’s what we wanted. Okay, it was kind of a framed ask. It could be any sponsor. It could be a local bank. It could be whatever but we used Coca-Cola because everyone knows it.

So, anyway, we go in and say, “You know what, first of all, what’s in it in for them?” “I’ve studied your company, and a lot of people tune into my podcast, and I think this can be a tremendous partnership. What I’d like to talk to you today is about Coca-Cola being a $25,000 sponsor by September 1st. Can we talk about it now? What else do you need to know before you make this important decision?”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Understood. And so, they’re clear on, “Well, here’s what I need. I need to know your demographics, your dah, dah, dah.”

Laura Fredricks
Precisely. You’re right down the runway, “It’s 25,000 by September 1st.” And then you get into everything else. Here we go, “I’m not the decision-maker. The budget is over. We don’t support podcasts.” Then you get into the 15 things, and you’re going to respond.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And let’s do one more example.

Laura Fredricks
So, there’s a lot of people that need more personal time now or through the end of the year, or they want a promotion, or they want a raise, but I’m going to go with personal time because more people are coming to me, that’s as important as raises and promotions.

So, here we go. And when you speak to your boss, you’ve got to remember, they don’t remember how much vacation personal time you have. I think they think it’s emblazoned in there, like, an Excel spreadsheet but they don’t know. So, go in there and say, “You may be aware or not that I have 10 personal days in calendar year 2023. I’d like to ask for three more personal days that I can use in September. And if we have to count them against my 24 time, that’s okay. Is this something that you’re ready to decide now? How can I help you make this decision?”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, there we have it. Well, so I like that we got right into a lot of the pro tips on the formulation of the ask. Can we maybe back up a little bit and talk a bit about that asking reluctance. We talked about the fear of not knowing what to say. You’ve also formulated what you call two devils and three temptations when it comes to asking. What are these?

Laura Fredricks
Well, the two devils are assumptions and expectations, and that can just sabotage, even your thinking, about asking. So, there’s a lot of assumptions. Let’s go back to the person who wants to be CEO. They can do a lot of assumptions of, “I’ve been here X amounts of years. I’ve taken this company here. Everybody knows me.” And, like, in what we ever say, “It’s going to be a slam dunk,” but that’s way too much assumptions.

Or, “The more time I spend with someone, the more likely they are to know that I want their business.” This happens a lot in sales, a lot in real estate, “Take the person out for a thousand times, and they know that that person is going to buy the house from them.” Assumptions. Wipe it away.

Expectations. This comes a lot in personal relationships, especially, when we expect someone to know, “You need to clean the house more.” We expect someone to know, “It’s your turn to do food shopping.” We expect someone to know, “We have been on vacation. We’re going to take the biggest one we ever have.” Wipe away expectations and assumptions. You do need to ask and you can’t rely on those two.

And then my three devils, I mentioned them before, and they surface all the time: luck, chance, time. “If I ask,” and I hate this, “ten people, one person will give me investment.” Chance, “Well, my chances are pretty good because I just went out with them last time, and they’re going to know, and they’ll just do it, but I’m going to take my chances. I’ll sit back and wait.” And time, fall back on the other one, “The more time I spend with people, the more naturally they’re going to know what happens, and I don’t have to ask. It’s just going to happen.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Understood. Well, tell me, Laura, any final things you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Laura Fredricks
Yes, there’s a couple things that I like. Just keep in mind, anytime you ask, it’s a conversation, and anytime you ask, it’s an opportunity. A lot of times, people can ask because they feel like they’re taking something away, the person is going to have less than they had before, but always think it’s an opportunity. They’re going to say yes, no, maybe, move on, but I’m guaranteeing you, if you don’t, there’s someone right behind you who’s going to ask that person. So, remember, it’s an opportunity.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, now could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Laura Fredricks
“The quality of your life depends on the quality of questions you ask yourself and others.” I made that up and I like it. It’s my guiding principle.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Laura Fredricks
I look a lot towards two things – The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Advancing Philanthropy, just because I know the mindset of people with a lot of money, what they’re doing with it, why they’re giving it, why they’re not because that comes up in a lot of asks. Most asks have a monetary element to it, so I monitor those two. And, also, I’m an avid reader, I read The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post every day.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite book?

Laura Fredricks
To Kill a Mockingbird hands down. It’s my favorite book then. It’s my favorite book now. and, Pete, one of the wonderful things is I got a chance to see Jeff Daniels be featured as Atticus here in New York City. And what’s so wonderful and sometimes terrifying is that the lines, the original lines from the book, in the play made people gasp because they’re timeless. We’re still dealing with these issues. And so, to write that kind of book and still have it so relevant so many decades later is just amazing.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And a favorite tool, something you use to be awesome at your job?

Laura Fredricks
A couple because I’m on the road a lot, I use Egnyte because then I can access any of the documents I have, any of the press releases, on and on, and I like that a lot. Oh, my MailChimp, I could not live without that because that gets out my newsletter. And if anyone wants to be on my newsletter, it’s laura@expertontheask. Send me your email and I will put you on. I do a newsletter once a month, and it’s called 2S 1Q, two sentences and a question.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s right.

Laura Fredricks
So, those are my best. And then I invest in a lot of good lighting because it’s sometimes very difficult in a New York condo to get the right lighting, so I always invest in good lighting.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Laura Fredricks
Read The New York Times religiously every morning, and my other two, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post because external forces govern internal decisions. You have to know what’s going on locally, regionally, nationally, internationally because they affect every ask you can do, won’t do, or need to do. And I also want to know what’s on people’s minds when people are asking. People don’t think about your ask in an incubator. They know what’s going on in the world and it’s on their mind so you have to be prepared for that.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And is there a key nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks; they quote it back to you often?

Laura Fredricks
I gave one before, “The ask is a conversation,” “Your tone is as important as your words,” and, “Listen with presence.”

Pete Mockaitis
And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Laura Fredricks
Two ways ExpertOnTheAsk.com or simply my name LauraFredricks.com.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a final challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Laura Fredricks
Make more asks. Don’t hold back. Use the five laws. Honestly, they really, really work. Be prepared. Be personable. Be present.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Laura, this has been a treat. I wish you much luck with all your asks.

Laura Fredricks
Thank you. Likewise, my friend.

870: Becoming More Memorable and Persuasive with Diana Kander

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Diana Kander says: "If it's not memorable, then it's mediocre."

Diana Kander reveals the simple secret to creating more memorable impressions and persuading others to say yes.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Precisely how forgettable you really are
  2. The simple secret to becoming more memorable
  3. Why you don’t want to start with a self-introduction

About Diana

Diana is a serial entrepreneur who entered the United States as a refugee from Ukraine at the age of eight. By her early thirties, she’d launched and sold millions of dollars’ worth of products and services. Today, she is an innovation consultant, keynote speaker, and New York Times bestselling author whose books have been taught in over one hundred universities. She can juggle, do a handstand, though not at the same time . . . yet.

Resources Mentioned

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Diana Kander Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Diana, welcome back to How to be Awesome at Your Job.

Diana Kander
Pete, I’m so excited to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I’m excited to be chatting again. I remember, it’s funny, we’re talking about being memorable, and we’re just chit-chatting about how I remember a lot of the things you said the last time, even more than the average guest, even though they’re all swell and awesome. So, yeah, you’re walking the talk here, so I’m excited to get into some of your insights.

Diana Kander
Pete, I came here with a present for you. I’d hoped it would be here in person, but the mail service is not my friend this week. But you’ve done such an incredible job with this podcast, and when you’re on YouTube, you get those YouTube Awards. And in podcasting, there’s no awards, like nobody sends you anything in the mail. And so, maybe it’s presumptuous of me, Pete, but I made you this 20-Million Downloads acrylic plaque. Imagine me holding it. Here we are.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you.

Diana Kander
And so, I’ll send it to you after the show for you to put on your desk, but what an incredible feat for you to accomplish.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you. Well, that is so thoughtful. Wow, I appreciate that. I’m looking forward to placing that prominently. And I wonder, because we’ve had other episodes about how to, I don’t know, get people’s attention, or be persuasive, or cold email, or break into warm-up relationships, or whatever, and I don’t get very many cool gifts. I get a lot of pitches but it’s a pretty rare gift, and I didn’t even know this is coming. We said yes to you just because you’re fantastic and we want to hear what you have to say, so, but this is just pure gravy, so thank you for that.

Diana Kander
Yeah, bonus. Gravy is where relationships are made, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
Quoted already, there you go. Well, it’s fun. We’re already warmed up but I had to know about your 2023 goal of doing the splits, because we talked about your plank insights last time, which was fun. So, I want to hear about you and the splits. How is that going?

Diana Kander
Every year, I pick an impossible physical feat. So, I teach people how to be more curious and innovative in their lives. And the way I push myself out of my comfort zone is I pick something that feels impossible for me to apply those skills to. So, between the plank, I did a handstand, I did pullups, and then this is these splits, and it’s going pretty good. Not even out of my comfort zone. It just takes a little bit of practice, and the right tutorials, and commitment.

Pete Mockaitis
So, now, when it comes to the splits, what are the primary muscles that got to get real flexible? Is it the hamstrings? Is it about all of them?

Diana Kander
Oh, boy. Yeah, it’s quads and hamstrings.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Diana Kander
And your goal is to not tear anything while you’re trying to get to it. But, for me, the splits felt like an impossible goal. I’m over 40, I have never…I can’t even sit in a straddle. Some people might know that, like, with your legs. Even the little part, like gymnastics for my kids, I can’t do it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Diana Kander
And so, it felt like, literally, “Is this even possible for an older person like me?” And, in fact, it is.

Pete Mockaitis
So, you’ve done it?

Diana Kander
I’m getting close. I have till the end of the year.

Pete Mockaitis
So, you’re way ahead of schedule.

Diana Kander
I’m feeling pretty confident.

Pete Mockaitis
So, you feel like it’s just a matter of time.

Diana Kander
That’s it. It just takes time and determination.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, now, I want to know, as these muscles loosen and your range of motion improve, do you experience less pain or better posture or other benefits? What I’m getting at, Diana, is do we need to have a stretching episode for How to be Awesome at Your Job, or is that not at all that…?

Diana Kander
I know that you’re a big fan of The ONE Thing, Pete, and I thought this was going to be my one thing, that if I learned how to do the splits, I just imagined, like, a world of just general flexibility and posture. And I will tell you that that is 100% not the case. Like, I have no additional skills, like nothing else is stretch-ier. It’s just this one teeny tiny thing that I can do.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, now we know, but it’ll be still cool.

Diana Kander
Still very impressive and I can do it anywhere, unlike pull-ups, like I need a lot of things to be right.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, when you say it like that, I’m imagining you’re just chatting with someone you just met, you say, “Hey, check it out, I can almost do the splits. Watch this.”

Diana Kander
I could it at the airport, yeah. People asking, people know I’m working on it, they’re like, “Can you do it?” I’m like, “Let me do it right here for you.”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s lovely. Lovely. All right. Well, we are talking about, you’ve got a book here, a fresh one, Go Big or Go Home: 5 Ways to Create a Customer Experience That Will Close the Deal. And I loved it when you were sharing with us, “Hey, I got this book,” you did part of our work for us in terms of, like, well, you know what, not all of our listeners are really in the world of sales or customer relations or customer experiences, but you’re like, “Hey, how do make your presentations memorable or how to double your closing rate for pitches.” Like, “Oh, well, that sounds great.”

So, lay it on us, any fascinating discoveries you’ve made while putting this together?

Diana Kander
Yeah, if we want to talk about being memorable, Pete, I think it’s important to understand how forgetting works first. So, let me tell you the research. An hour after you do your pitch, your presentation, you’re trying to get a new job, you’re presenting something, and you’re trying to get a big decision, an hour afterwards, they will forget 50% of what you said. And the week afterwards, they will forget 90%. And, unfortunately, you don’t choose the 10% that’s left. It’ll be like what shirt you wore or how many times you said uhm. Like, it’s a random 10% of the presentation.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Diana Kander
So, the only way to mess with those statistics, to have them remember more of it, is to have them have emotional peaks during the presentation. So, emotion is directly tied to our memory. That’s why you can remember almost everything about 9/11, or, a happier note, your wedding day. You can remember the weather, like every special part of that day. But you can’t remember a month before that what happened, anything about what happened that day.

So, if we can tie our presentation to some kind of peaks in their emotion, then we’ll have a lot more luck having them remember it and pick us. Then we’re talking to them on a subconscious level and we’re saying, “Hey, this just feels right.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, emotional peaks, that sounds great. I mean, fundamentally, how can I get someone else to have an emotional peak?

Diana Kander
Yes, how do you do it?

Pete Mockaitis
I’m thinking that Hollywood is awesome at this. We got the musical scores, and the shots, and the lighting, and the multimillion dollar budgets, and the most talented actors in the world, and the director saying, “No, no, no, no, no, no, that’s not good enough. Let’s run it again,” and have accents, I guess, in my own mind’s eye. So, how do we do that when we’re just humans talking to each other?

Diana Kander
That’s exactly it. Think about how you can remember lines from movies. Like, can you remember a line from a presentation? No.

Pete Mockaitis
Only a few.

Diana Kander
So, how do you get it in there and get it sticky? And so, in the book, we outlined a framework that spells out the word MAGIC, so five different things that you can do to create that emotional connection. And I’m happy to go through some of them or all of them with you today.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, so I think that I’m in, in terms of let’s hear those five things. I’m thinking, have we established sufficient why? That’s one of my little internal guidelines I’m thinking about. Being memorable sounds great. Being persuasive sounds great. Any other compelling reasons why being memorable and having emotion transmitted will be fantastic for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Diana Kander
Let me tell you how this book came together. So, I got a call from a CEO, his company creates experiences for, like, stadiums, universities, and he said, “I want to write a book about our company and what we do.” And I said, “Good luck, buddy. I do not want to be a part of this effort.”

Pete Mockaitis
“Oh, do you want me to write that for you?” Okay.

Diana Kander
And he said, “Okay, I get it. Will you at least come take a tour?” And I said, “Yeah, I’ll come take a tour.” And I show up, and he’s walking me through this really impressive facility, and then he says, “Look, that’s the world’s biggest 3D printer.” And I was like, “That’s pretty cool.” He said, “We use it to build the world’s biggest 3D printed thing for the Raiders new torch.” You know, they have a torch in their stadium?

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Diana Kander
And I was like, “How did a company out of Kansas City win this huge deal?” And he said, “Oh, we have a move. Like our typical close rate is 45%, but when we do this move, we’ll close 90% of deals.”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, this is what I love. Therefore, Diana, lay it on me.

Diana Kander
And I was like, “Okay.” And so, he explains what they do, and I was like, “This sounds amazing.” And I started interviewing employees at the firm, customers of theirs, other people who do move-like things, and I’d become obsessed with this idea. And by the end of it, I’m begging him to let me co-author this book about this method they do so that I can share it with as many people as I can. And so…

Pete Mockaitis
What’s the move?

Diana Kander
He did to me, you know. It’s about connecting with the person that you’re talking to on an emotional level. And you can do it even if you never even meet the person, and it’s about using these tools that are at your disposal that most people neglect, and because they’re not memorable, they are just mediocre. They blend in with everybody else who’s pitching or trying to get the attention of the people that they’re pitching.

Pete Mockaitis
Ooh, it sounds good. Now, Diana, before we get too excited, I’m wondering if there’s any nervous folk in the audience, saying, “Wait a minute, Diana, is this manipulative if I’m stirring up emotions in another person deliberately?”

Diana Kander
Yes. I don’t think it’s about being manipulative. I think it’s about showing exactly who you are. I think that a lot of times we want to connect with other people, we’re excited about the thing that we’re trying to sell, but we don’t know how to communicate that. We can’t be like, “Pete, this is an exceptional book, and you’ll have to know about it.” Like, that’s just mediocre. So, how do we connect soul to soul, Pete, like, establish deeper trust and connection with people in a way that just our words alone can’t do?

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Got you. So, I think maybe some fundamental principles associated with, “Hey, it’s something you really believe in. It’s going to be for their best interest and for their benefit. You’re not a flimflammer or a con artist.” Okay, so assuming that’s true, let’s proceed.

Diana Kander
Okay, let’s assume that’s true. So, the framework spells out the word MAGIC. Do you want me to give you all of them? Let me open up the book. M, you make something surprising; A, you analyze them on a deeper level; G, you give the pitch in the right order; I, you include a 3D object; and C, you co-create together.

Is it embarrassing that I had to open up my own book to read those five short statements to you? I just wanted to get them right.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, no, no, I dig it. I think that will facilitate Googling it everywhere, when they’re, “Who was that guest that Pete had who was so amazing, and there’s magic, and it was…?” So, that’ll be useful. It’ll trigger the keywords just right. So, yeah, let’s go through it. How do we make it surprising?

Diana Kander
All right, Pete. Make it surprising is doing ordinary things in unordinary ways. It is finding little ways…

Pete Mockaitis
For listeners, she’s sipping from a How to be Awesome at Your Job mug, which you have had printed because they don’t exist in my world.

Diana Kander
Yeah, I made my own mug. I love schwag so much, Pete. I love schwag, I have an account at the place where I made your award. I love schwag so much I made my own How to be Awesome at Your Job schwag.

Pete Mockaitis
That is fantastic. Thank you. And now I want one. And I’m wondering, so when it comes to schwag, you didn’t print 300 of these.

Diana Kander
I didn’t.

Pete Mockaitis
You did one. So, first of all, it’s very practical, who lets you do just one?

Diana Kander
You got to find ways to do ordinary things in unordinary ways. So, for instance, people who are applying for jobs can find creative ways to convey their information. I’ve heard of people who put their resumes on a cake, or in a box of donuts, or in a chocolate wrapper, lots of food items. But you basically communicate the same thing you would communicate otherwise, but in new and unique ways. And that could include having some kind of sight or sound or color. Does that make sense?

Pete Mockaitis
That is so good. You know, back in the day, when I was doing tons of case interview coaching for aspiring consultants, there was a guy who was awesome. He was having trouble getting attention from, I believe, it was McKinsey & Company, and it’s one of these good selective consulting firms. And for his birthday, he sent a cake to the office that had some of his contact information, and it said, “All I want for my birthday is an interview with McKinsey.” And they didn’t respond right away, but they got around to it and he got the job, so that was cool.

Diana Kander
That’s amazing because it was memorable. And this could be as simple as, when you send an email to somebody, to send a video instead, or maybe use some kind of music. Just changing what people are expecting, it could be as simple as changing your signature line in your emails to be something that is surprising, unexpected for them.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. And very practical little piece here, where can I get schwag printed on a one-sy, two-sy basis instead of, “Oh, buy 500 mugs”?

Diana Kander
Zazzle.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Diana Kander
Do you know that website?

Pete Mockaitis
There you go. I do now. Thank you. Zazzle.

Diana Kander
Oh, yeah, I have a block membership for those, and it’s official.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, we’re surprising, we are doing something that is unexpected, and it’s maybe physical. Just for funsies, could you give us a couple more examples?

Diana Kander
Yeah, I think it’s all about researching the person. So, for instance, we started this interview and I had that award, but in order to come up with a thing that I wanted to surprise you with, Pete, I had to listen to a bunch of your old podcasts, and I had to think about, “What would Pete care about? What would be valuable to him?” And so, it’s about really just being thoughtful and starting the conversation off by saying, “This interview is going to be different than your other interviews,” and just making them feel that teeny tiny tweak.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, indeed. I dig it. I love it. And that takes some hustle, some effort, some time and energy. And I guess you could have help to assist you with some of that in terms of background legwork research, but a part of that I guess really does need to be from you.

Diana Kander
You have to care so you can’t do the move on every project. You can think about if you have a sales process, how to add pieces of magic that are consistent but it still requires this move. This special kind of connection with others, requires you caring and doing a little bit of extra in order to make them feel special.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s good. That’s good. And what’s funny, and I think I get a lot of the opposite in terms of…well, I get a lot of pitches, and it’s a blessed place to be.

Diana Kander
Sure.

Pete Mockaitis
Better than the first few where we were pounding the pavement, asking lots of people and only a fraction said yes. Now, this is, “Oh, so many incoming pitches,” but they say, “Oh, I love your show,” it’s like, “Hmm, do you? I don’t know if you’d listened to my show at all, particularly because this is so not relevant.”

And so, that’s a real bummer when it’s just straight up, I don’t know, lying or inauthentic. And so, yeah, so you do that and it’s surprising. It’s very cool. Could you give us some more examples? We got a cake, we got 20 million downloads, we got the mug.

Diana Kander
It depends on what you’re doing. So, if you’re trying to get a job, again, it’s about getting somebody’s attention in a meaningful way. If you’re trying to create a memorable presentation, surprise could be something funny that happens that’s just different than how most speeches start. We believe in this idea of the golden window, which is you have 30 seconds that they’re paying attention and their brain is asking themselves, “Do I know what this is like? Like, have I seen something like this before?” And if the answer is yes, they’ll pull out their phone.

So, if in that first 30 seconds, you can do something that says, “This is different. You need to pay attention,” because if you think about it, Pete, like what your body does when you’re surprised, you kind of make this, “Huh!” face. You’re open, your hands are open, your eyes are open, your mouth, you’re just taking in as much content as possible. And that’s what we’re doing to them, we’re making them surprised, and then they will pay attention to the next part.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, for the start of a speech, you might give a counterintuitive fact.

Diana Kander
Absolutely. I start my speeches on curiosity with a picture of Snoop Dogg, and I say, “How many people in the audience know who this is? And what’s he up to these days? What job is he doing?” And now I have all eyes, all attention on me because they’re like, “What’s happening? I thought I was learning about strategy in business.” And they are, but we’re going to get there in a very fun way.

Pete Mockaitis
I like it, Snoop Dogg. I’m impressed even more, Diana. Just more examples. In the context specifically of a speech or presentation. Snoop Dogg, they didn’t think that was coming up. What else?

Diana Kander
Adding elements of music like nobody’s expecting, like a soundtrack behind you. Some people include funny videos or memes, just anything that disrupts, like, “This is going to be educational, this is going to be boring.” “I have education for you,” anything that you can make surprising.

Pete Mockaitis
Now, I’m thinking about another speaker, this is hilarious. He was all mic’d up and they were reading his bio, it was like, “So and so, he’s presented in so many countries,” or done whatever, and he just said, “Oh, my, that’s impressive.” It was like, “We know you wrote the bio that they’re reading right now.” That just tickled me. I guess I’m in the speaking world but that just tickled me because it was surprising, like, “Nobody does that.” And, sure enough, it got me in a receptive mode.

Diana Kander
Yeah. And let’s talk about some of the other elements of MAGIC because this can be stacked, so the more of them you can do at once, so, for instance, I got your mug on How to be Awesome at Your Job and that is a 3D object, which we’ll talk about in a second, plus the element of surprise. So, how do we combine some of these together?

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. All right. Well, let’s hear about the A.

Diana Kander
Okay. So, A is analyze them on a deeper level. Most people, when they’re pitching somebody, are doing demographic research, which is, “How long have they been at their company? How big is their company?” Just like imagine creating a human-shaped wallet, that’s what you’re doing. You’re just figuring out what the wallet looks like, but you’re not getting to know them as a person.

And what you really want to do is psychographic research, which is understanding their values and what they really care about and things that are tangible, like on the surrounding edges of what they actually do for a living because that will help you connect with them much more than anything that you talk about in the presentation.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Diana, now I want to know what are my values that the public doesn’t know so much.

Diana Kander
Well, you heard earlier when I was like, “Well, Pete, you love The ONE Thing.”

Pete Mockaitis
I do.

Diana Kander
You do. And now I can talk about my content in terms that resonate with you, if that makes sense.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, it’s so funny, that didn’t actually resonate with me as much, not that you’re wrong, I really do love The ONE Thing. But I guess I love The ONE Thing so much, it’s like, “Yes, of course, every human being…”

Diana Kander
Everybody loves it.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s just as it should be for all of humanity. Shout out to Jay Papasan. Listen to that episode where we talked about The ONE Thing. So, yeah, it’s funny, I’d even recognize that as distinctly me because it’s like the water that the fish swims in.

Diana Kander
I will tell you, Pete, a lot of people still don’t know what The ONE Thing is.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s true. It’s true.

Diana Kander
They don’t know about it. So, it’s about understanding this person and what they care about, like I know you care a lot about systems and productivity, and you’re exceptional at creating systems around this show on how to make sure that you have a really good show that doesn’t take up a lot of your time away from three kids. And these are all points for me to communicate, like how we value the same things.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. It’s true. Well, yeah, it’s funny, that might not have surprised me in terms of, like, yes, like, “Wow, you figured that out about me,” but I was sort of dialed into like, “Yes, clearly, we are on the same page here. Proceed.” So, it was a positive impact, if not a surprising one, yeah.

Diana Kander
Do you know how jury consultants work, Pete? Have you ever heard of this job?

Pete Mockaitis
Just a little bit. Only from the movies.

Diana Kander
Okay. So, you go into a trial, and at the trial, they’ll start with 48 people sometimes that they have to narrow down to 12.

Pete Mockaitis
Voir dire.

Diana Kander
Yes. And as soon as they come up with this list of 48 names that they hand to the lawyers, the lawyer scans it, and sends it to, I’m not going to say guy in a van, but, today, guy in an office that now starts doing what is called psychographic research on each one of these people by looking at their social media profiles, like everything about their lives, their criminal records.

I’m not saying you need to do that about your business contacts, but you would understand them at a deeper level. But you would be surprised at how much information is available, articles that they write, things that they care about, that could just be little hooks for you to bring up as conversation points during your interaction.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s really good, and I suppose I did not know that, although it makes total sense now that you say it. I just sort of assumed they were looking at the broad strokes in terms of, “Oh, this is a woman. That is going to be good for us.” “Oh, this is an elderly person. That’s bad for us.” But you’re saying, “Oh, no, no, no, we go deeper that surface level. Uh-oh. Whoa!”

Diana Kander
And it usually takes, like a lot of people think that takes a lot of work. No, it takes, like, 15 minutes if you’re looking in the right places to find. And we’re looking for moments of connection. We’re looking for a good reason, you know, not to get them off the jury. But it’s pretty much the same thing that you would do in a conversation with somebody, Pete, where you’re like, “Oh, where did you grow up?” but you’re doing it ahead of time before you’re actually in the meeting.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s cool. And in your experience, folks generally like this as opposed to, “Whoa, that’s creepy, Diana. How do you know all this about me?”

Diana Kander
Yeah. Well, you don’t show up, and you’re like, “Ah, Pete, I see here that you live at this address, your house is worth this much, and your children’s names are so and so.” Like, you don’t want to try to freak them out. You got to be cool. But you find ways to, in a cool way, make it a part of the presentation, whatever you’re pitching.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, we’ve got that. How about the G?

Diana Kander
The G is you give the pitch in the right order. So, Pete, most people, and they mean well, but this is how most presentation starts, they say, “Hey, let me tell you a little bit about myself, then I’ll tell you about my company, and then I’ll tell you why you should choose the thing that I’m recommending.” And that is the opposite order in which you’re supposed to pitch.

We do it because we think that we need to establish credibility, but they don’t really care about us or anything we have to sell until they believe that we understand them and how they see the world. So, every presentation has to start with them, and communicating to them that you see the world in the same way that they do. Does that make sense?

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, it does. And now I’m thinking about webinars because the formula…

Diana Kander
That’s exactly it.

Pete Mockaitis
…is always the same thing, it’s like, “Well, let me tell you about my story.” It’s so funny, it’s like, “Yeah, I don’t care about your story.”

Diana Kander
That’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
But what they’re trying to do is, “See how I’m relatable and like you. Like, I, too, had dry eyes, or this pain, or a business that was floundering, or I was overwhelmed by looking at different marketing approaches.” So, I get that that’s what they’re trying to do. I don’t find it as grand but I think what you’re trying to reconcile is, I think what you’re saying is the point is less like, “I went to Harvard, and that’s an impressive school, and I got really good grades, and I’ve been in this industry for 20 years.” It’s, like, that’s not so interesting. But if you also love The ONE Thing, or whatever, that that is conveying that you’re telling me about yourself but you’re, more so, conveying we see the world similarly.

Diana Kander
Yeah, and I think that we do that by starting with them and not us. So, your listeners know very little about me right now, actually. They do not know that I’m a refugee from the Soviet Union. I was born in the Ukraine. These are all interesting things but they have nothing to do with them and what they’re trying to do in their lives.

I want to come in just bringing a lot of value. And at the end, if I’ve done my job of showing them why this can really help them at work and in their business, then I’ll tell them some stuff about me, then they’ll want to know, like, “Who’s this person that I now care about? What are some interesting things about them?” That is the place to bring in stuff about yourself and your origin story and why you’re passionate about this. But at the beginning, it’s just like it’s glazing over and nobody’s listening.

Pete Mockaitis
And the way I am able to share that is I’ve done my research, the deep analysis, previously, and so I’ve got that. So, you gave me, hey, The ONE Thing, and I like The ONE Thing. Could you give us some other key sentences that you’ve seen make a world of good impact when shared early? You could say, “Hey, this was the audience, this was what someone said and they loved it.”

Diana Kander
Yeah, I think the best way to start early is with a question. So, if you have an audience, especially one that you can interact with, the best way to start is by asking them a kind of question that makes them reflect on their own lives where they tell you. So, for instance, when I start the “Go Big or Go Home” keynote, I’ll say, “What does it feel like when somebody’s pitching you? Like, you go to your door, and there’s somebody sitting there with a clipboard, and they’re like, ‘You’ve been pre-approved.’”

And so, they talk about, “Ugh, it feels icky.” And then I say, “Well, what is the sound? Can we make a sound out of that feeling?” And so, then we, as a room together, make the sound, and it sounds like, “Ow, blech,” you know, a terrible sound. Now, all of us, we are pitching on a daily basis, and what we want to be is like a magician. So, what is the sound that you would make when a magician performs their trick and does so flawlessly?

Pete Mockaitis
“Ahh!”

Diana Kander
Yes, that is how we want people to feel about us. We want them to feel that sound. And so, now, we as a group, have done something together. We’ve made that gross sound, we’ve made that ahh sound, we are on the same page, and now we can move on to something interesting or maybe even more surprising, but now we’re doing something together as oppose to me coming in, and being like, “Let me tell you about my sales experience and how this is a method that could really help your company.” You’re like, “Okay, I’ve heard this.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, and it’s so funny that the sound about an emotion is really resonating because I’m thinking about David Allen, Getting Things Done, we’ve had him on the show a couple of times. He’s great. And he talks about, when you have a list of stuff, a to-do list, or whatever, and you look at it, you just go, “Ugh!” And that’s one of the things I remember most of all the things he said in the hours of David I’ve listened to and read, is the “Ugh!” because I feel it, and I think it later.

And then he brings me for home, he’s like, “Well, part of the problem is you haven’t clearly identified the next action or started your to-do list with clear verbs associated with, well, ‘What does mom mean on your to-do list?’ It’s going to lead you with an ‘Ugh!’ because it’s unclear, that’s one of a dozen things.” And here, now, I feel connected to David and what he has to say. So, I’m with you on the sound emotion.

Diana Kander
Well, that’s surprising. Most people communicate their ideas with words not sounds. And so, that’s another way for us to combine some of these elements together.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And the I?

Diana Kander
The I, include 3D objects. So, there’s some crazy research, Pete, about how our brains memorize. So, we’re not talking about understanding what your learning method is but I’m talking about remembering, and we all remember visually. And so, you’re going to remember something that’s a picture much more than you will just text alone, but you’re going to remember 3D objects even more than the picture.

And so, I have this example during the keynote where I talk about a product which is called the poo trap, and it is this harness that you put on your dog, that captures the poop at the moment it comes out of your dog, so just imagine that. So, I’m describing, I read the description, but then I show you the photo, which I had to put up on the screen now, but it’s like this S&M-looking contraption for your dog with a bag at the end.

And then everyone laughs, and I’m like, “Look, this photo is so much more memorable than the description,” and I go to my bag on stage, and I’m like, “I’m going to pass around this 3D version of the poo trap. Let’s see which you remember the most,” and they’re like, “Oh, my God!” So, how do you bring your ideas into the physical world?

I’ll give you another example. My friend, Abe, is a cancer researcher, and he goes to these conferences of cancer researchers, and he has this incredible work about how to get your T-cells to fight cancers themselves, like how to arm your T-cells so that you don’t need chemotherapy and you don’t need radiation when you have cancer. But when he goes to these conferences, like everybody’s working on something miraculous, so it’s hard for him to get people’s attention.

So, what he did was had another friend of ours, his kids go to my kids’ school, and we had another mom from our kids’ school make a 3D model of a T-cell fighting a cancer cell, it’s just like a big blob with plastic icicles coming out of it and some lights, like it’s a 3D rendering of science. But he puts it on a table, and he goes to a cancer conference and just flips it on, and everyone flocks to him because they want to know what the thing is.

Pete Mockaitis
“What is this thing?” Yeah.

Diana Kander
It’s different. It’s different. This is about standing out. It’s about being memorable. It’s about piquing somebody’s interest. And it has sparked so many conversations that are so valuable for his research, all because he brought this intangible idea into the 3D world.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s juicy. And so, now I’m thinking, I have almost signed up and gone to ATD, the Association for Talent Development conference a few times.

And so, as I’m thinking, if I were to have a table as an exhibitor, and so, “Hey, I’ve got a podcast about being awesome at your job,” I might just have a big ole microphone at the exhibition booth table. And that’s kind of weird and different, and it’s just like, “So, what’s up with the microphone? Like, that’s all there is, huh? That’ll do it?”

Diana Kander
Or it just depends on how creative you want to be but anything that is a representation of what you can create. I spoke to this group of insurance sales folks, and one of them talked about bringing a jar full of pennies with him to appointments. And it’s not a big jar of pennies but it’s this much a month that protects your family in case this horrible thing happens. And you look at it, and you’re like, “Well, I could part with a jar of pennies like that.” And so, it’s just about taking any part of your presentation and making a physical element of it, just something to bring people to you.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, lay it on us some examples of if things feel abstract, like happiness, joy, a fulfilled employee who wants to stick around longer because they’re engaged and motivated, what are some of the things?

Diana Kander
So, like when you’re pitching, when you’re pitching, Pete? Is that what we’re talking about?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, sure. I’m just thinking to make a 3D object out of the intangible, what are some cool ideas or examples of how that’s done?

Diana Kander
Sure. So, one way is to make 3D objects about them, so it has nothing to do with your product offering, just your enthusiasm for what they do. So, the mug, the plaque, these are all examples of my enthusiasm to be here with you today. Second, you can show a 3D, something physical that is an example of what you’re talking about.

So, people that I’ve helped get jobs before, they have printed out their number one reference, referral, on a thick piece of paper and left it. And it’s different than emailing it to somebody. Do you know what I mean? Like, one really thick piece of cardboard with this valuable testimonial. They’ll be like, “Do I throw this away? I don’t know what to do with this,” but they’ll handle it, and so it’ll go into a different part of their brain.

Somebody else that I worked with, she went to a presentation and she brought a bunch of tacos with her, and she said, “Our city has the best tacos, and taco stands for…” and then she had something for each of the letters, like tenacious, audacious, I don’t know. Each one of the taco letters stood for something, but they were representative of what she would bring to the job, and it was very competitive. Then, again, she got it.

Pete Mockaitis
That is cool. And I’ve got a buddy, Kevin, who was presenting, like, “Hey, this is what could be possible if you sort of let our organization just take care of this whole event,” because there was a coalition, it was complicated, a lot of infighting, whatever. And so, he had some large card, like you might find in a preschool, large cardboard-like bricks, and so it looked like red bricks.

He’s like, “So, hey, this is how many people we have right now but our projections are, with this estimate and these funds and the initiatives, we’ll be able to have this many people. We’re going to build it up so it’s six times bigger.” And so, you could put that on a stacked bar chart on a slide, sure. But sure enough, it’s like, “Ooh, that’s a lot of bricks,” just hits people even though it’s the same thing but it’s in 3D.

Diana Kander
Pete, yes/and. So, what I would do in that case is I would bring something that is elaborate that they would not have money to spend on their event but would be cool. So, like as an example, one of those cameras that spins around you and produces really fun social media footage

Anyway, you would bring something that’s like, “We would never be able to afford that,” and be like, “Yeah, you can. Let me show you how to afford this thing. It would be really cool for your event because we’re going to run it a little bit different.” So, like, something that is aspirational, you know.

Pete Mockaitis
And, Diana, I’m curious, since you are an innovation and creativity expert, if folks are thinking, “That’s a really cool concept,” and they’ve only got two ideas and they feel pretty lame, how would you recommend they creatively generate some better ones? Should we hire you for consulting, Diana? Is that right?

Diana Kander
I think it’s about trying to work with people and brainstorm, like, what would work best in the situation, and just volume, volume of ideas. I really believe in creating top ten lists. I think we may have talked about this last time, but we often stop at the first or second idea for something. But if you can push your brain through creating ten different ideas, like some of them will be terrible, but the best one will probably be in the middle, and you would have prevented yourself from getting there by stopping at the first or second.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. All right. So, now, what’s the C?

Diana Kander
The C is co-create together, and we have this really interesting piece of research that was done. This woman followed Hollywood executives around and CEOs as they were getting pitched. So, these are people that are getting pitched a lot of times. And her quote is that people think that just having a good idea will sell itself, and they are wrong because these people who are getting pitched a lot, they kind of try to put you in a box as soon as you come into the room, and stereotype you in some way. And the only way for you to get out of that box and to close the deal is to ask them to co-create a piece of that presentation with you.

So, what that means is we can’t have a fully-baked idea that we go in with. We can have kind of parameters of what we think the idea is, but if we can get them to co-create with us, like, suggest their ideas, kind of like you’ve been doing today, Pete, you’re sharing your experiences, making it a richer experience for everybody else, then that is a true art of seduction.

So, this woman who followed all these executives around, the people who had the best chance of winning the pitch are the ones that had an element of co-creation in it, not ones that are just like razzle dazzle them.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Can you give us some examples of how that might be articulated?

Diana Kander
Yeah, we have examples in the book of how people come with an idea up to 50% and then they say, “What do you think? How do we solve this problem? Let me articulate the problem. How do we solve it together?” If you’re doing a presentation, it’s about having chunks of the presentation where people get to interact. They are voting. They are responding. They are doing something to be a part of the experience in a way that if I were to do this again, it would never be the same exact experience.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, is it sort of like, “Hey, we see there’s four options. Vote here”? Or, how does that sound?

Diana Kander
So, one of the things that I do at the end of my presentations is I will create a top ten list with the audience. So, I say, “I know how this stuff is important in your work but I don’t do what you do every day. So, can we come up with a list of ten things that are like ahas, or takeaways, or things that you would want to share with the rest of the audience?”

And now, they are co-creating the presentation with me. It’s my framework but then they give examples from their own lives, and they enrich the content even better, and give everybody else ideas in the specific industry that I’m talking to.
Pete Mockaitis
And, ideally, those will be all the more precise and specific to their experiences, whether they are in the food and beverage industry, or industrial mining, or whatever.

Diana Kander
That’s right. And for the people listening to your podcast, they have a job, they’re pitching to their boss, if you come in and you feel like you have to have all the answers, they’re not going to be as bought in as if you say, “Let’s solve this problem together. I’ve done this much legwork, I’ve got this much figured out, I’d love your feedback on what you think about this part, or this part, or help me brainstorm here.” And if you genuinely care about their opinion, they’re going to be a lot more invested in the overall outcome.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, Diana, tell me, any final do’s or don’ts you want to put out there in terms of being memorable and persuasive?

Diana Kander
I think that thinking about how to create more magic in your life is the key to building better relationships. It helps you get gifts for your spouse and your kids. It helps you improve existing relationships and build new ones.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. All right, Diana, now let’s hear about some of your favorite things. Could you start with a favorite quote?

Diana Kander
I’m going to give one from the book, which is, “The only way to connect with people in a way that no one else can is to do research that no one else will.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yup. And a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Diana Kander
We talked about this study in the book about how they put people into an fMRI machine, and they can actually predict your decisions 11 seconds before you can rationally understand them, which means that we’re making decisions in our gut, and then it goes up to our brain where we rationalize why we’re so smart and we made that decision.

But our body is a much older system than the rational brain alone. Like, almost all of our decisions are made on an emotional level in our gut. And so, if you know that about a person, then you want to be able to speak to their gut, and connect with them on that emotional level, because if you just try to stick with logic and reason, you’ll never break through to that very important level.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, you know, Diana, I’ve heard that many times before, that we make decisions emotionally and then rationalize them later. This fMRI 11 seconds is new to me, so thank you. Can you expand on the protocol for this study, that they say, “Hey, do you want to do this or that?” and they could see, “Ooh, the brain is lining up on excitement here and dread there, therefore, they’re going to pick A”? Is that how it goes down?

Diana Kander
That’s exactly it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Diana Kander
And there’s an additional study where they asked people, you know, that study, “Coke or Pepsi? Which do you prefer?” And when the cans were blind, you can’t tell which one is which, people overwhelmingly prefer Pepsi. But when you can see the brand logo, people overwhelmingly prefer Coke. And in the fMRI machine, they can see that when they get excited about Coke, it is their emotional-like memory chunks that are lining up, and Pepsi does nothing for those. I don’t know how they got in there but it is the emotional connection.

Pete Mockaitis
You mean the actual can inside an fMRI machine, it is a picture?

Diana Kander
No, their brains. The brain. But it is our emotional connection to certain things that gets us excited and drives us to action. And if you want to get a yes in a room, you want somebody to pick you, you want them to do what you’re recommending, then you have to talk to them, you have to spike those emotions in some way.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite book?

Diana Kander
So, related to the topic that we’re talking about and doing research, there’s a book by John Ruhlin called Giftology that I really got a lot of. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it.

Pete Mockaitis
I don’t think so.

Diana Kander
Okay. Well, it’s on how to give really meaningful gifts. And we ended up interviewing John for our book, but it is, like, the gospel on how to give professional gifts in a way to create connection with people.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And a favorite tool?

Diana Kander
I have to talk about Notion, which is my new second brain. I used to write down everything everywhere, and now I have literally all my thoughts and ideas in one place, and I’m so grateful for it.

Pete Mockaitis
And I might just follow up here a little bit. I’ve used Notion just a smidge. But can you tell me why is Notion superior to, like, an Evernote, or a Bear, or the Notes, Memo app that’s native to phones?

Diana Kander
Because you can create, like, let’s say you have an idea, you can create pages within that idea, so it’s not everything just one straight line. So, for instance, I have, let’s say, marketing for my company, and then I have a newsletter hub, a webinar hub, so each of those is a hyperlink to another page. And in that other page, you can create tables, and you can create that do math for you, and you can create content ideas, and you can add documents and links to…it’s all saved in one place. I don’t know what to tell you but I do know that, now, I have three tabs open on my Chrome. And before Notion, it was a thousand.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And a favorite habit?

Diana Kander
It is drinking 100 ounces of water every single day, Pete. And I’ll give you a rule that helps me do that. I think you have to have rules to help you do the things that you want. And I promised myself that I will drink two glasses of water before having a cup of coffee in the morning, so that helps me in the morning. And then every time I go to the bathroom, I drink a glass of water. I don’t know if you’ve heard the Tiny Habits book.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, BJ Fogg, he’s great.

Diana Kander
And now it’s like a cycle that doesn’t end.

Pete Mockaitis
So, what is the impact you have observed of drinking 100 ounces of water per day versus just whenever you’re thirsty?

Diana Kander
We don’t fully understand how much impact just having enough water in your system does for your nutrition, like, just washing toxins out of your body, staying healthy, having the ability to have more energy throughout the day, being able to go to sleep on time. Like, it’s an unbelievable amount of benefits that you can get.

Pete Mockaitis
And speaking of hydration and sleep, do you have a hydration cut-off time?

Diana Kander
Oh, definitely, like 7:00 o’clock. I stop the cycle.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And is there a key nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks; they quote it back to you often?

Diana Kander
I think a way to sum up this conversation is if it’s not memorable, then it’s mediocre. And I think we overestimate how much of an impact we make on others. And our goal shouldn’t just be to do our best job, but it is to be memorable. And when we make that the focus, we’ll bring a totally different game to the challenge.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Diana Kander
I am very prevalent on LinkedIn. I would love to connect there. And you can go to my website, DianaKander.com. And, oh, Pete, I brought a gift for all your listeners, not just for you.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, boy.

Diana Kander
I care about them. I want to connect with them. It’s a pretty good gift, actually. If you want a copy of the book but you don’t want to buy one, just email me diana@dianakander.com, and I’ll send you a digital copy of Go Big or Go Home so that you can benefit from the lessons. You just got to tell me why you want it, and it’s yours.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Diana Kander
As I think about your audience, Pete, I think the number one thing I would say is dig your well before you need it. Make sure that you have the relationship. Like, things are happening at a very fast pace. Things are changing, you’re going to need relationships in your life for whatever the next thing is, so make sure that you’re investing in all of those individuals so that you can help them or they can help you later.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Diana, this has been a treat. I wish you much bigness and fun.

Diana Kander
Thank you so much, Pete.

844: The Six Words that Dramatically Increase Your Impact with Jonah Berger

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Jonah Berger says: "By understanding magic words and their power, we can increase our impact in every aspect of life."

Jonah Berger reveals how to massively increase your persuasiveness through simple shifts in your language.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The simple two letter shift that makes you more persuasive.
  2. The easiest way to look–and become–smarter.
  3. A tiny speech habit that’s undermining your impact.

About Jonah

Jonah Berger is a Wharton Professor, internationally bestselling author, and world‐renowned expert on change, word of mouth, influence, natural language processing, and how products, services, and ideas catch on. He has published over 70 articles in top-tier academic journals, teaches one of the world’s most popular online courses, and accounts of his work often appear in places like The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Harvard Business Review. Millions of his books, Contagious, The Catalyst, Invisible Influence, and most recently Magic Words, are in print in over 35 countries around the world.

Berger has keynoted hundreds of major conferences and events like SXSW and Cannes Lions, advises various early‐stage companies, and consults for organizations like Apple, Google, Nike, Amazon, GE, Moderna, and The Gates Foundation.

Resources Mentioned

Jonah Berger Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Jonah, welcome back to How to be Awesome at Your Job.

Jonah Berger
Thanks so much for having me back. I appreciate it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I had so much fun chatting with you last time, and I know you’re going to have a boatload of wisdom reading through your latest book Magic Words. I’m just going to dig right in because I think you have too much great stuff in the time we have. So, could you start us off with perhaps one of the most particularly striking, surprising, counterintuitive discoveries you’ve made while putting together this work?

Jonah Berger
I think the most surprising thing to me is the bigger question, which is that everything we do involves language. And I put in almost in there because there are things we do, like breathing, that don’t involve language but almost everything we do involves language. We write emails, we build PowerPoint presentations, we make phone calls, we make presentations, we talk to either through face to face or through digital means, everyone in our lives, words are how we convince others, they’re how we connect with loved ones, they’re how we hold audiences’ attention.

We spend almost every waking moment of the day using language in one way or another. Even our own private thoughts rely on language. And yet while we spend a lot of time using language, and sometimes we think about what we want to communicate, “So, I’m making a presentation today. Okay, my goal is to get people to support this initiative, and so I’m going to talk about it in a way that will get them to support it.”

We think a lot less about the way we use those words, and that’s a mistake because subtle shifts in the language we use can have a huge effect on our impact. Certain words can increase persuasion by 50%, certain language patterns are much better at holding an audience’s attention, and the words we use can even impact social connection with the ones we love.

And so, the big idea behind Magic Words is kind of we can use language better, whether at home, or at work, whether convincing clients, holding attention. By understanding how language works and how we can use it, and understanding the power of magic words, we can increase our impact in every aspect of our lives.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Jonah, that’s so much good stuff. Could you give us an example of a subtle-shift or two in language that has a huge impact?

Jonah Berger
Yeah, let me give you a really simple one. So, often, when we’re trying to get people to do something, whether at home or at work, we often use verbs. And what do I mean by that? Well, we say, “Hey, can you help me out?” We use the verb ‘to help’ to ask for help. Similarly, if we’re a nonprofit and we’re having a get-out-the-vote campaign, we might send mail to people’s houses, saying, “Please go vote.” Vote is an action that we’re hoping that people will take.

But it turns out that a subtle shift, even a couple of letters in those type of appeals can greatly increase the likelihood that people do what we want them to do. So, let’s take something as simple as helping. A number of years ago, some scientists at Stanford University did a study at a local elementary school where they made a mess in a classroom and they asked students for help cleaning up that mess.

And for some students, they used the typical approach, they said, “Hey, can you help clean up?” as we often do. But for another set of students, they changed their question very slightly, they said, “Hey, can you be a helper and clean up?” Now, helper, I don’t have to tell you, it’s very similar to help. It’s just adding the word E-R at the end, but that subtle shift led to a 38% increase in the portion of children that helped.

And it’s not just kids in classrooms, it happens with adults in a variety of different domains. So, in another study, when individuals are trying to get folks to vote, they changed the pitch they used in the mailers to people’s houses. Some people got the traditional pitch, “Hey, please go vote,” others were asked, “Would you be a voter and go vote?”

Now, again, voter and vote are even closer, they’re just adding an R to the end of it, but there, asking people to voter, to be a voter, increased the percentage of people that turned out to vote by over 15%. And you might be sitting there going, “Well, okay, help, helper, vote, voter, what’s the difference?” And the key insight here is that by turning actions – voting, helping – into identities, being a voter, being a helper, can make people more likely to take those actions. And the reason why is the difference between things like identities versus action.

So, imagine I told you about two people, I say, “Hey, I have two friends. One of them runs and the other one is a runner.” If I told you about those two people, which one would you guess runs more often, the person who runs or the person who is a runner?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, it’s funny, the identity is a runner, it sounds like they run more. And even when I did, you reminded me, when I did my first triathletes, I didn’t even think – triathlons – I didn’t consider myself a triathlete yet, I was like, “Well, I mean, I walked the last half of the run portion, so am I really a triathlete?”

Jonah Berger
“I did a triathlon but am I triathlete?” Notice the difference. And so, what you’re pointing out is that these identities, they seem bigger and more long-lasting, “Someone who runs, yeah, once in a while they go for a run. Someone who’s a runner, well, that’s a part of who they are. That’s an identity.” And so, we all want to hold desirable identities, we all want to see ourselves as smart, and athletic, and knowledgeable, and helpful in a variety of different things.

And so, actions, like voting or helping, yeah, those are good things, I want to do those things, but if those actions are an opportunity to claim a desired identity to be a voter, to see myself as a voter, to see myself as a helper, well, now I’m much more likely to do those things because the identity is more desirable than the action.

So, if we want to motivate people to do something, frame actions as identities. If we want to get people to do one of these things, frame them in that way. The same thing goes with the negative side. Losing is bad, being a loser is even worse. Cheating is bad, being a cheater is even worse. And so, research shows in a classroom context, for example, you want to get students not to cheat, don’t ask them not to cheat, say, “Don’t be a cheater.” It greatly decreased the percentage of people that cheated.

And so, I think this has implications not only for kind of motivating others or getting them to do what we want, but also even how we describe ourselves or others. So, on a resume, for example, we could say we’re hardworking or a hard worker. We could describe a colleague as being innovative or being an innovator. Just like with running and runner, it’s going to seem more like a stable trait, like it’s who you are if it’s described as an identity rather than an action.

So, again, a subtle shift in language, just a couple of letters, can increase our impact in a variety of ways.

Pete Mockaitis
That is so good, so good. And, well, one, it sounds a lot easier than when I try to do with my kids to tell them I have a mission for the super cleanup team, which kind of works. I’m going to try…

Jonah Berger
Yeah, but that’s a desirable identity, cleaning up. Cleaning up is not that fun, but being a member of the super cleanup team, well, hold on. If being a member requires that I clean up, maybe I’ll clean up because I want to be a member.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, now I’m thinking about identities, so I guess there’s don’t litter, don’t be a litterbug. They just invented that word. And, likewise, is it Home Goods who had that ad campaign about, like, you’re a thrifter or be a thrifter. And it’s funny, it’s like, “I don’t know if being a thrifter is a desirable thing.” And I guess it depends who your segment is.

Jonah Berger
Exactly right. So, LL Beans has this campaign “Be an outsider.” And “Be an” looks like Bean, but not everybody wants to be an outsider, not everybody wants to be a thrifter. But the type of people that interested, your target segment, probably does. Most people want to be a listener. Being a listener is not a bad thing. And so, being a leader is not a bad thing. So, rather than ask people to listen or lead, ask them to be a leader, ask them to be a listener.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, within the book, we’ve got six such principles, and here we’ve talked a good bit about activating identity. Can you share with us what are the other key principles?

Jonah Berger
Yes. So, let’s step back for a second. So, as you noted, there are six key principles or types of language. I actually gave one example of one type. There are other examples of that type, but just to talk about the types for a second. They actually can be organized in a framework called ‘the SPEACC framework.’ That’s S-P-E-A-C-C. I’m not clever enough to come up with a word that starts with K so I’m stuck with two Cs at the end.

But that stands for the language of similarity, posing questions is our P, E is emotion, A is agency and identity, and the two Cs are confidence and concreteness. And each of these are a type of language that we can use to increase our impact. So, we just talked, for example, some about the language of agency and identity. They are the identity-activating identities but the same is true, more generally, with other types of examples there.

There are some nice work, for instance, that shows that when we’re stuck on a tough problem, rather than thinking about what we should do, think about what we could do makes us more creative, it makes us a better problem-solver. Even if we don’t end up doing one of those things that we came up with that we could do, because sometimes things that we could do aren’t actually good solutions, but by thinking about what we could do rather than what we should do, we think about a broader range of possibilities, and that helps us reach a better outcome overall.

And so, a subtle shift in language there can help make us more creative and a better problem-solver. Or, think about something as simple as the word ‘you.’ Again, only three letters here, ‘you’ it seems like a very small word, but lots of research that I and others have conducted shows that ‘you’ is extremely powerful.

Work I’ve done on social media content, for example, shows that the word ‘you’ increases engagement. If we want people to click on, like our content, engage with it, or open an email, words like ‘you’ in a subject line holds people’s attention, acts like a stop sign, suggests something as relevant for them, and encourages them to pay attention.

At the same time, ‘you’ can also be damaging if it’s used in the wrong ways and the wrong context. Often, if you look at customer support pages, for example, pages that use the word ‘you’ more often, people find them less helpful. If someone says, “To fix your computer, you need to reboot and do this,” someone might be sitting there, going, “Well, I need to do all this work, why is it my fault?” ‘You’ can suggest blame in a negative way.

And so, ‘you’ isn’t just a word. It’s a word that can do a lot of work and we can use it to increase our impact.

Pete Mockaitis
Ooh, that’s powerful stuff. And I’m thinking, when I see social media posts or news items in the headline which says something like, I don’t know, “The War in Ukraine: What You Need to Know,” I resent it because, I’m like, “You don’t know who I am, publication. Thank you very much. Like, you have not researched me. You have not segmented me. Everybody has different sets of needs, values, preferences, wishes with regard to this news article, so that’s pretty freaking presumptuous of you to say this is what I need to know. Thank you very much.”

Jonah Berger
Well, yeah, good. So, what you’re talking about is how ‘you’ can evoke reactance. So, we find in online reviews or in word-of-mouth, if someone says, “I like this,” we’re like, “Okay, you like it.” If someone says, “You’ll like this,” we say, “Well, how do you know I’ll like it?”

And so, yes, if someone knows you, or if the content is relevant to you, then you can sort of act as an intensifier, might make it even better. If I like playing basketball, “Six tips you can use to be a better basketball player,” well, suddenly, I’m even more interested. Whereas, if it’s like, “Six tips you can use to be a better water polo player,” which is not relevant to me, I might have that reactance.

And so, again, I’m not suggesting that ‘you’ is great in all situations, but it’s a powerful word that we can use with great impact if we understand it.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, I’d love to dig into a few of the additional principles here. How about asking the right questions?

Jonah Berger
Yeah. I love the area of questions. I think it’s fascinating. And I’ve talked about questions a little bit, I talked about questions a little bit in my last book The Catalyst, and the more I’ve learned about the power of asking questions, and the more research has come out about questions, you really realize they’re useful in so many different ways.

I think many of us think that questions are a tool to collect information, and they are. Questions do help us collect information, but they really do a lot more than just help us collect information. So, one area that I think we’re mistaken about the use of questions is asking for advice. And so, often when we’re dealing with a tough problem that we can’t solve, or a difficult situation, we try many things. We often don’t ask people for advice.

And why? Well, we assume they’re busy, they won’t know the answer, or, even worse, they’ll think less of us. So, in a work context, “Am I really going to ask my boss for their advice on something? Maybe they’ll think ‘Why don’t you figure it out yourself? Why don’t you know that already?’ It makes it seem like I don’t know something.”

And so, some research looked into whether asking for advice was a bad idea, and so they ran a number of experiments in which people asked for advice versus didn’t, and they looked at the outcomes. And they found something really interesting, which is we all think that asking for advice is going to hurt us, it’s going to make people think we’re less intelligent and less competent, and all those things. That’s not what happens. In fact, the exact opposite happens.

Asking for advice makes us look smarter and more competent, and has a variety of benefits for how we’re perceived. And the reason why is really simple. People are self-centered. People think that they give great advice. We all think our advice is good. And so, when someone comes along and asks us for advice, we go, “Wow, they’re a pretty smart person, they knew to ask me for advice, they must be smart themselves.”

And so, asking for advice makes us seem better not worse, more competent not less competent. And that’s just one example, but it’s not just about asking questions, about the type of questions we ask. Certain questions are better than others, and there are certain situations where types of questions can be more effective than others as well.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, lay it on us.

Jonah Berger
Sure, yeah. So, let’s talk about what types of questions to ask. And often, when we ask questions, we ask questions to be polite. So, I can’t remember back to the beginning of this call but you probably said something, like, “Hey, how are you?” And I probably said something like, “How are you?” And we both asked a question. “How are you?” is a question, but that isn’t actually a question that has a big impact. It is a question but it’s more being polite. It shows that we’re a polite person but it doesn’t have as big of an impact.

Researchers looked at hundreds of social interactions, everything from speed dating and workplace interactions, and they found a particular type of question was very useful. It made people like the others they interact with more, and, in a dating context, even made them want to go on a second date. And that type of questions was what are called follow-up questions.

And so, a follow-up question goes something along the lines of this, if someone says, “Oh, yeah, I really enjoyed that presentation,” we could say, “Yeah, I did too.” Or we could say something like, “Oh, neat. What did you like about it?” If someone says they’ve had a tough day, we could say, “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.” Or, we could say, “Oh, what made it so difficult? Tell me more. I want to understand more about what happened.”

Questions that follow up on what someone said show a few things. First of all, it shows that we paid attention. You can’t ask a follow-up question if you didn’t pay attention to what someone said. But, second of all, it shows that you care. You care not only enough to pay attention, but you care enough to ask for more. It shows that we’re responsive, and because we’re responsive, it makes people like us more.

And so, it’s not just about asking any question, sure, we can ask questions to be polite, and that’s fine, but the more we’re asking questions to be responsive, to show that we care, the more they’re going to lead people to like us more.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. I dig it. Well, now could we hear a little bit about conveying confidence? And you say – I love your table of contents – “Why Donald Trump is so persuasive no matter what you think of him?” Lay it on us, Jonah.

Jonah Berger
I’ve enjoyed writing popular press books because it’s a little bit like that old Michael Jordan quote, like everybody buys sneakers. Like, you’re entitled to your own viewpoint, but unless you want half the world to hate you, you probably shouldn’t get too deep into politics.

And so, I want to frame this discussion by saying whoever you support, whatever you believe in is great, but, yeah, whether you like someone or not, Donald Trump, in particular, you can’t deny that he is amazingly good at selling ideas. Whether you like him or you hate him, he’s done a fantastic job of making a large set of people believe what he has to say.

And so, if you like Donald Trump, you’re probably saying, “Great. It’s wonderful.” If you hate Donald Trump, you’re saying, “Oh, God, why is he like that?” But I think a smarter strategy is to step back and say, “Well, what makes him so effective?” It’s easy to complain about him. What makes him so effective? Why is he so persuasive or convincing? What does he do that makes him so impactful?

One of the speeches he made when he first announced his candidacy, he said something like, “I’m going to build a great wall. Nobody builds walls better than me. I’ll build them very inexpensively. Our country is in trouble. We don’t have victories anymore. We used to have them. We don’t have them anymore. When was the last time anybody saw us beating China in a trade deal? I beat China all the time. All the time.”

Now, critics listened to that speech, and said, “Oh, God, this is ridiculous. It’s overly simplistic. It’s empty. It’s filled with bluster.” And, yet, less than a year later, he was elected president. So, what did he do? What does he do in his speeches that make him so impactful? And it’s not just him. So, if you look at folks like Steve Jobs, if you look at startup founders, they get a lot of attention.

If you look at leaders that everybody listens to. If you listen to so-called gurus, they often do one particular thing, which is they speak with a great deal of certainty. When they talk, other people listen because they seem like what they’re saying is obviously true.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, “We’re going to win so much, we’re going to get tired of winning.”

Jonah Berger
Oh, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s as certain as you can get.

Jonah Berger
“I don’t know what that means, but I like it, right?” Who doesn’t like winning? Who wouldn’t like winning more? And if you dig a little deeper, you might say, “Well, what does ‘winning’ mean? How are we going to get there?” But, forgetting that for a second, because that’s what most of us are doing when we’re listening to something, if someone says something we like is going to happen a lot, we go, “Great.” That’s what we’re paying attention to.

And so, Trump is just one example of someone who speaks with a great deal of certainty. And you alluded to this a little bit yourself. Something isn’t just true, it’s certainly true. It’s definitely going to occur. It’s obvious. It’s unquestionable. Every time, this is clearly what’s going to happen. It’s guaranteed. It’s unambiguous. He uses a lot of language that is really certain.

And in a variety of contexts, research shows that certainty is good. Work on financial advisors, for example, shows that people prefer more certain financial advisors, even though those financial advisors that are certain aren’t any more accurate. Even in some cases where they’re making more extreme judgments, people like them more and want to choose them more because they seem so certain. If someone seems really certain, it’s hard to not want to go along because they seem so confident about what they’re saying.

Contrast that, though, with the way most of us communicate. So, I’m an academic and I’m terrible with this. I do this all the time. I often say, “Well, I think this…” or, “It seems like this will happen,” or, “Maybe this is true,” or, “This might work,” or, “Probably this will happen.” As a consultant, as a speaker, we default to those tics all the time. Those are called hedges.

What hedges do is they make it clear that we’re not so sure, like they hedge. They don’t say, “This is definitely true.” They say, “This might be true.” “Is it going to rain tomorrow?” “It’s definitely going to rain tomorrow.” “It might rain tomorrow.” “Is this a good strategy?” “It’s certainly a great strategy.” “It might be,” or, “It’s probably a good strategy.”

The problem, though, and I’m not saying that hedging is never good because sometimes things are uncertain, but the problem is that hedges reduce our impact. They undermine our impact because, while not only do they share our opinion, they simultaneously say we are not sure about our own opinion. And if we’re not sure, it makes people think we’re less certain or less confident, which makes them less likely to listen to us.

And so, if our goal is to communicate uncertainty, great. Maybe there are times for hedging. I’m not saying we all need to be like Donald Trump. There are certainly times for hedging, but if we want people to listen to us, or we want people to be persuaded, we need to ditch the hedges. Unless we’re using them strategically, unless we’re using them on purpose, don’t just say it because it’s convenient. Don’t just say it because it’s a verbal tic when we’re filling in space. And, second, when we do need to hedge, there are some types of hedges that are more persuasive than others.

So, contrast, for example, if I said, “This seems like a good strategy,” versus I said, “This seems, to me, like this is a good strategy.” If I said, “This might work” versus “I think that this might work.” In some cases, I’m saying something is generally uncertain, “It seems” or “It might work.” In another, I’m adding my personal perspective. And we can call these general and personal hedges.

Personal hedges are saying, “I’m adding a personal pronoun, I, me, my, to whatever I’m saying.” And it turns out that adding these personal pronouns in actually makes us more persuasive because it makes us seem more confident. If I want to show there are some uncertainties, and rather than saying, “It seems like this will work,” “It seems, to me, like this will work,” the listener goes, “Okay, well, you’re a little bit uncertain, but you’re willing to say that it seems, to you, to attach it to yourself, and so because of that, you seem more confident and I’m more likely to do what you suggested.”

And so, if we have to hedge, let’s hedge in a way that doesn’t undermine our impact or what we’re trying to get across.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, Jonah, you got me thinking, like you could totally say, “That is definitely a major risk,” and you haven’t said it’s certainly going to happen. You said it’s a risk. Risks, by definition, have a probability. Or, “That absolutely could be a huge opportunity for us. It could be an opportunity. We don’t know how it’s going to turn out,” but you can throw those adverbs and that intonation of certainty on something even when there’s uncertainty.

Jonah Berger
It’s definitely one of the paths we should pursue.

Pete Mockaitis
Definitely.

Jonah Berger
Rather than saying, “It’s not clear what path we should pursue,” saying, “It’s definitely one of the paths,” or, “I’m very certain about a narrow…” And so, what you did right there, and this is probably what you’re trying to do, but you did it very nicely, is you shrank the world but you added certainty. We’re always certain about something, there’s always something there we’re certain, but we may not be certain about the big picture, we may not be sure that a particular strategy is going to work, but we may be very certain about a part of that strategy. We may be certain that this strategy is worth considering.

And so, there are ways to add certainty in a way that doesn’t make it seem like the entire world is obviously clear. And so, I think, again, in times where we want to be clear that there is uncertainty, and there are two sides, and we need to be careful and all those things, and, yes, use hedges. I’m not saying not to. But in times where we want to be persuasive, let’s be careful about hedging just because it’s convenient.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Certainly. Now, can we hear a bit about leveraging concreteness?

Jonah Berger
Yes. So, to talk about this, I’ll share a story of mine, which there are a couple personal stories in this book, and this one is one that really helped interest me in a range of the topics in this book. So, a few years ago, I was coming back from a consulting project, I think it was in Dallas or something in the area, and I was in an Uber on the way to an airport to fly back home. I was very excited to go see my family, and I got the text message that every traveler dreads, which is “Your flight has been delayed.”

And as often the case, they had rebooked me on something, and it was the next day, it was a connecting flight, it was, like, 36 hours later, it was a terrible, terrible option. So, I call customer service and tried to improve the situation. And after sort of talking back and forth with them for 10 or even 12 minutes, the situation was not much better, and I was frustrated.

So, I get off the phone, and the very nice Uber driver had been forced to listen to what I had to say, said, “Oh, it sounds like you’re really frustrated,” and I was like, “Yeah, but it’s got to be tough being a customer service representative, like you do is hear from people like me all day who are frustrated and want to get home and are stuck and are sort of annoyed, and it must be a difficult job.” And he goes, “Yeah, but my daughter is actually a customer service representative, and she loves it.” And I go, “What do you mean?”

And he was like, “Well, she loves the job and she’s so good at it that, actually, they’ve now gotten her to train other people to talk to customers.” And I sat there, going, one, “That’s really interesting,” and, two, “What is she doing that makes her so effective?” Just like Donald Trump, like we can sit there, going, “I like him,” or, “I hate him,” or we can sit there, going, “Something he’s doing is working. What is it?”

And so, with a great colleague, Grant Packard, of mine, great, great friend and colleague, we went and got hundreds of customer service calls and analyzed the language of those calls to look at what increases customer satisfaction. And we also have data on whether people purchase again from the firm. So, are they happy once they get off that call? And does that call lead people to come back and buy things from the firm in the future?

And, obviously, problem-solving matters. So, yes, it matters whether they get me on a better flight, whether they find my bags, whether they solved the problem, but we looked at controlling for that. Does the language, can the language you use shape customer satisfaction? And I think there’s a key challenge that comes up in customer satisfaction. It comes up in a variety of areas of life. It’s not just customer satisfaction. It’s also when we’re talking to a group or even chatting with a spouse or a friend.

We want to signal that we’re listening. We’ve talked about this a little bit already, but when someone calls customer service, we don’t just want to solve their problem. We want to show them that we care. When somebody at the office talks to us about something, we want to show them that we’re interested in what they have to say. And so, how can we use language to show listening? We can shake our heads, yes, but how can we use language to show listening? How can we use language to show caring?

And it’s good that companies care about us, because when you’re on hold, they often say things like, “Oh, your call is so valuable to us. Thanks for staying on hold.” Twenty-five minutes into you sitting on hold, and you’re sitting there, going, “F you. If my call is valuable to you, you would answer the phone in less than 25 minutes.” So, they want to show they care but they don’t know how to.

We found, though, that a certain type of language shows listening. And that type of language is what we can describe as concrete language. And so, what does concrete mean? Well, if you can touch something, if you can feel it, if you can smell it, if you can see it, it’s concrete. A table is concrete. Trees are concrete. A cup is concrete. A strategy? Not so concrete. Soon, the word soon, not so concrete. The word tomorrow, well, that’s more concrete. I have a sense of when tomorrow is. I don’t know exactly when soon is. Beautiful? That’s a nice word but not very concrete. Striking red color, very concrete. I can see that color in my mind.

And so, we found that using concrete language increases customer satisfaction, makes them more satisfied at the end of the call, makes them more likely to buy more from the firm. Rather than saying something like, “Oh, we’ll get you a refund soon,” “Your money will be there tomorrow” is a much more concrete way of saying the same thing because the challenge often, as a customer service representative, and anyone trying to help someone else out, is we tend to use sort of language that works in all situations, “I can help you with that.” “I’m happy to solve your problem,” whether that problem is a delayed flight, a lost bag, anything at all.

And while that kind of Swiss Army language works in a variety of situations, really good for us, it doesn’t show someone listened. It’s so general that it doesn’t show someone we heard what they said. But concrete language, similar to what we talked about already, shows that you paid attention, that you understood what was said, and that you care enough to do something about it, it shows listening. And so, as a result, it has a variety of benefits, both in customer satisfaction but in other domains as well.

Pete Mockaitis
Ooh, Jonah, that’s so good. And I’m thinking about my own customer service experiences as the customer. I really like that concreteness when they say, “You’re the third person in line on the end. Your wait time is approximately nine minutes.” It’s like, “Okay.” Like, I really understand these expectations. And, contrarily, I get really irritated with these chatbots who act like they can solve any problem but, when push comes to shove, they really can’t, which is why I’m there in the first place.

It’s, like, if this were an easy problem, it would be loaded into the interactive voice response, the IVR systems of the push button or whatever, and I would’ve already solved it via automated portals. So, when I’m talking to a human, it’s thorning, like, we got some nuances about a changed billing/shipping address, and that’s why I need to go down the route of talking to someone. So, it is quite irritating when I get the general language, which isn’t even true, “I could help you with that.” I was like, “Well, we’ll see. We’ll see, chatbot, if you got the right stuff, but I have my doubts.”

Jonah Berger
I certainly agree, and I think everyone would like, when they call customer service, to be heard and to be listened to, to feel like someone cares. And as a customer service agent, you only have so many degrees of freedom. You can’t create a flight that doesn’t exist. But just as someone listens to a colleague at work, or a spouse at home, by using the right language, you can make it clear that you listened, that you heard, and that you care, which can, on the margin, make things better.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, Jonah, tell me, anything else you really want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about your favorite things?

Jonah Berger
No, I think the only thing I would say, which we sort of started out talking about in the beginning, is we all use language all the time. Language is how we convince clients and customers, language is how we change the minds of bosses and colleagues, language is how we connect with our loved ones at home. By understanding the power of magic words, we can use language in these situations more effectively and in all areas of our life.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, now could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Jonah Berger
I think one quote that I like a lot is from Albert Einstein. I’m going to get it probably a little bit wrong here, but he says something along the lines of, “If you can’t explain something simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” And I think it’s really easy to think things are complicated. Many things are complicated but part of the job of a good communicator is figuring out how to meet their audience more than halfway and simplify it. And so, I always found that quote quite motivating even though if I don’t always achieve what it sets out to do.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite book?

Jonah Berger
One of my favorite books is a book called Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. It’s a great book on communicating, and I find myself going back to it again and again over time.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite tool, something you use to be more awesome at your job?

Jonah Berger
I have started using voice to text more in a variety of areas of my life, whether writing emails, whether writing articles, not just texting on the phone. It’s not always perfect but it does an amazing job of allowing us to sort of dump more thoughts out quickly, which I think is really great. One thing to be careful of, the modality we communicate through, the medium we communicate to, speaking rather than writing does change what we say, and so we need to be a little bit careful. But I think it’s a great productivity tool and a good way to express ourselves.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Jonah, I got to follow up here. I’ve been disappointed with Dragon NaturallySpeaking. How are you rocking and rolling? Is there a particular piece of software or is it built-in into the MacOS?

Jonah Berger
I’m just using whatever comes with Microsoft. So, whatever comes with Microsoft Word, whatever comes with Outlook, I’m using that. And I’m not saying it’s perfect. I’m not expecting perfect. I am amazed that it captures, generally, what I’m saying, and it gives me a place to start and sharpen some thoughts.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And if folks want to learn more or get in touch with you, where would you point them?

Jonah Berger
Oh, yeah. Well, Magic Words is available wherever books are sold, so Amazon, Barnes & Noble, wherever you like to go for books. You can find me at my first name-last name-dot com, so just JonahBerger.com. There’s a bunch about the book there, a bunch of free resources. One page, there’s guides and the like. And you can also find me at @j1berger on Twitter or on LinkedIn.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Jonah Berger
Yeah, think about how you can use language more effectively. We all have things we want to communicate but we often think less about the specific words we use, and there’s a lot of opportunity there. So, by understanding magic words and their power, we can increase our impact in every aspect of life.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Jonah, this has been a treat. I wish you much fun and many magical words.

Jonah Berger
Thank you so much.

833: The Four-Step Process to Influencing People and Decisions with Andres Lares

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Andres Lares reveals the surprising psychology behind decision-making and shares a four-step process to influence others.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to tap into the hidden driver behind most decisions
  2. The critical steps that set you up for greater influence
  3. What to say when you’re losing the other person

About Andres

Andres Lares has been the Managing Partner and CEO of Shapiro Negotiations Institute since 2017. Prior to this role, Andres served various roles including Chief Innovation Officer where he led the company’s development of technology and content. For over a decade Andres has advised professional sports teams in the NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL on contract negotiations, trades, and other critical negotiations. He has been featured in publications including HBR, Forbes, CNBC, Entrepreneur, and Sports Business Journal.  Andres guest lectures at conferences and institutions around the world and teaches a course on negotiations at Johns Hopkins University.

Resources Mentioned

Andres Lares Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Andres, welcome to How to be Awesome at Your Job.

Andres Lares
Thank you for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m so excited to hear your insights on persuasion. Could you kick us off with a particularly striking, fascinating, mind-blowing, counterintuitive discovery you’ve made in this domain? No pressure.

Andres Lares
Yeah, no pressure, huh? So, yeah, this is kind of like if I give this up and there’s no really reason to listen to the rest of the podcast…

Pete Mockaitis
Keep it short, yeah.

Andres Lares
Exactly. So, people would be done in one minute. So, there is one thing that really struck me. So, when we got into this, I’ve been doing this for about 12 years now, and pretty early on, the thing that struck me and sticks with me is, essentially, kind of a quote that we use in our trainings that’s been around, really, since Aristotle. He was kind of teaching this many years ago, and perhaps not enough people listen. But it’s that, “People make decisions emotionally, and then they justify them rationally.”

And that has really stuck with me. We have done an enormous amount of research that indicates that is definitely the case all over the world, regardless of culture and language and everything else, so that really has stuck with me. So, that’s it, we’re done, we can pack up and go.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I really want to dig into that. So, I’ve heard that and that seems sensible. Can you unpack that with some of your research and some examples of what that really sounds like in the internal dialogue and practice?

Andres Lares
Yeah. So, really, where does it come from? And, really, where it comes from is kind of heuristic, all the shortcuts in our brain that we take because we have to. And so, there’s a lot of this that’s covered in one of the books that I have enjoyed, and it has impacted the most ever, is Thinking, Fast and Slow, and no surprise it’s a Nobel Prize winner that wrote it.

And another that would’ve won one if he was around, but it was one of those things that, because there’s so much that we have to compute in our brains in a short period of time, we really, essentially, are struggling and taking as many shortcuts as we can. So, what does that look like? So, I’ll give you an example that we often talk about.

So, this is a study done many years ago, and, actually, you know what, there’s a couple. So, the best one, I’ll shift gears here and convince myself of another one. So, here’s a perfect example of a shortcut and how emotions drive things. So, many years ago, there’s a study done at Harvard, and it was at a library or, essentially, where folks didn’t realize what was going on but it was a study that people were in a copy machine, a line to the copy machine.

So, again, just the context here, a line to the copy machine, you really are doing nothing else while making copies. Well, in this study, they basically had actors approach real people and ask three different ways in order to butt in the line. So, the first was, “Can I go in front of you?” and so that was the first thing they asked.

The second one, they said, “Can I go in front of you because I’m in a hurry?” And the third one, they said, “Can I go in front of you because I’m in a hurry? I need to make a lot of copies.” So, that’s the three, so you’re asking someone. So, now, the percentages here will tell you how long ago this was. I don’t think they would stand at the time. But, in the first example, basically just asking to go in front of you, 60% of people approved.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s so nice of them.

Andres Lares
I know. And so, that’s how I know this was not done recently. In the second, they literally said, “Because I need to make copies,” and 93% of people let them in front. And then when there’s kind of a reason that was a little bit more reasonable, which would be the fact, “I need to make a lot of copies. In addition, I’m in a hurry,” it went up only to 94%.

So, what’s happening there, right? Just simply the word because, and someone sharing a reason with you, is enough. It’s compelling enough for your brain to think, “Oh, yeah, that’s probably a good reason. Then go.” Even the actual reason itself rarely even matters that much. Now, you can’t always do this, and there’s different circumstances will provide different results.

But similar studies have been done all over the place and with adjustments of all types, and there’s always that aspect where our brain is taking that shortcut and it almost doesn’t matter what comes after the word because, “I hear because, there must be a reason. It must be good. Go ahead.” And so, as an example, and there’s millions of them where people make emotional decisions.

And I’ll give you one more that I particularly enjoy. This has been done with jellybeans and things like that. Imagine this big jellybean, one of those where if you pick the number of jellybeans in a container, you get a prize. Imagine that. And so, they said, “You have a choice, in this one there’s 10 jellybeans and one is red. And if you picked the red one, so one in ten chance, you will $100.” In another one, they said, “Look, in this case, there’s a hundred jellybeans. Eight of them are red. If you pick a red one, you’ll get a $100. Which would you choose?”

Now, most people, more than 50%, again, all over the world, will choose the second. Now, why did they choose the second? The first one has a 10% chance. The second one has an 8% chance, eight out of 100%, one out of ten. But what happens is, well, one is kind of a denominator issue where the math may be a little bit more complicated for folks in the moment. But the second is, emotionally, they feel like they have eight cracks at that red jellybean to make the money rather than the one crack.

And so, that feels more important than the denominator, how many jellybeans there are, and so they pick it. So, those are two kinds of very different examples of that at play.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, now I’m thinking about counter examples just to put this to the test. I think I’ve often been in a situation where I do exactly that. I want something or I don’t want something, I just like something, I don’t like something, and then I find a way just to rationalize it afterwards. Sometimes, what’s interesting, I find that I fail.

Like, for example, when I saw the…it took me a long time with the iPad. I said, “Okay, I’ve had some good experiences with Apple products – the iPhone, the iMac, the MacBook Pro. I like all three of them. I really see their place in my life. But for the longest time, the iPad is just like, “I don’t see how I need this. I have got a laptop which can do just about all those things and more.”

And so, I think I went for years without an iPad. Friends, roommates, others had iPads, loved them, and I kept looking at it, thinking I wanted it but it just didn’t click for the longest of times. I guess I was not able to martial the logical reasons until I had just enough experiences of being on a plane and not being able to open up my laptop all the way to actually be able to view it and sit it on the thing, because I’m a tall guy, and try to get it a comfortable angle.

And then I thought, “Well, okay.” And then I think there are some lower price options, it’s like, “I don’t need the newest one, and, yeah, I’ve got a birthday coming up.” So, the things all kind of align. But I found that intriguing that. You tell me, am I abnormal or is there a certain threshold that has to be met here? It’s like, “I could have desire but be unable to bring enough logical justification,” even though I’m so good, I think, at rationalizing and justifying a lot of things in order to get me to do the thing that I want or don’t want. What’s going on on the second layer here?

Andres Lares
So, when I hear that story, my first reaction is, “It was the emotion that drove you.” So, what I hear in that story was, “It wasn’t until I was cramped like this in an airplane where I was thinking, ‘What am I doing here? I’m on this four-hour flight across the country, and I can’t do anything. It’s frustrating,’” whether you want to watch Netflix and just relax or you want to get some work done.

And that’s the moment where kind of how you felt in that moment was the true compelling kind of emotion that enabled you to get the iPad. In my opinion, that’s part of what happened there because that’s really what drives it. And then you can justify, “Okay. Well, iPad is the best because I’m an Apple user and it’s going to sync in very well,” or whatever.

Then the logic will kick in and kind of work through all the details. But that first desire, or that shift from desire to actually doing it, I think that probably happened on an airplane where you said, “Enough is enough. I need this thing.”

Pete Mockaitis
That is interesting. I guess I thought when the iPad was first unveiled, I had some desire, like, “Ooh, that looks cool and shiny. I like it. I want it. But I don’t really need it. Where does it fit in into anything?” So, I guess maybe, in your model, what’s happening here is I have insufficient desire until I had a new emotional experience of, “I’m very uncomfortable in this seat and want to have more comfort in the seat.”

Andres Lares
So, it’s interesting because I think that is a none kind of money version of what we often see, which is that folks will want stuff. There’s something that you want that’s got some strength. But avoiding something you don’t want has even more strength, and that happens with money, right? So, we see someone, $100 for sure versus 50% chance to win 200 or zero. Mostly you will pick 100 because what happens is they miss out. And it happens even more strongly if it’s a loss.

And so, I think what’s happening there is the fact that, “Hey, this thing is shiny,” whatever you want. The thing that’s compelling but the level of how compelling it is when you actually then face a negative emotion, where it’s like, “This is really frustrating, and I could get rid of this frustration if I bought a tablet, and that tablet happens to be an iPad,” I think that’s the one that’s going to be more compelling, which is why that happened. And so, when it’s nice and shiny, that’s compelling but it’s typically not as powerful as the other.

Pete Mockaitis
And then I’m curious about sort of business-to-business type decisions. Like, I think, in a way, at least if you are a director at a publicly traded corporation, for example, you have a legal obligation to look out for the shareholders’ best interests. And so, it seems like there are some solutions that, it’s like, “Oh, this should produce ROI.” So, in some ways, like we’re really “supposed to” think extra super duper logically about the financial logical consequences of a thing. Are emotions still running the show here, too?

Andres Lares
So, I mean, yes, but there are some things that remove some of that, right? So, for example, if you’ve got a decision that takes a long time. So, the longer you put something through a decision-making process, and the more people are involved, although group-think does happen, but more people, more time. There’s a bunch of these variables that will do that, so in the moment.

If you think about…let’s move to a totally different world. Let’s go to a grocery store, and that’s another example, the grocery store. Why is it that there’s gum and snacks while you wait to pay? So, those gums and snacks are also in another aisle but they’re bought significantly less. But in that moment where you’re just waiting and you’re sitting around, it’s going to take three more minutes, which feels like 15 where you’re waiting for the next person to pay, you make this kind of emotional decision of, like, “Oh, yeah, this is what I need.”

And so, what happens is I think that’s kind of taking advantage of that. Now, over time, if you saw that in the aisle, you wouldn’t have gotten that piece of gum, or you wouldn’t have gotten that candy bar. And the same thing would occur with corporate decisions. If you’re the director of the company, if you make a decision over a couple of weeks, it’s less and less emotional. Now, emotions are still at play.

I remember kind of finding this stat which still shocks me to this day that the first and last, as far as like those two, typically, in an RP type process where it’s a little bit informal, or in a fully informal kind of bidding process, the first and last are selected more than 50% of the time, even when there’s more than four or five vendors. So, it’s imbalanced in the first and last. And, again, that’s another way where we’re emotional beings, and the first sets the tone, the last is the one we’re most likely to remember.

And so, the first sets the tone, and others don’t necessarily stack up to it, or they say some things that are unique, or the last does something that’s impressive in any way, they’ll last with us, and you pick them. But it’s unbelievable that you may not be picking the best partner for your company. You’re literally picking who went first or last potentially. And even worse, we don’t know it. And even if we do know, we often can’t do anything about it.

Now, of course, there are ways. So, writing things down, decision-making processes, taking time to digest and think through it, creating a criteria, there’s things you can do but it is amazing how emotional we are as beings.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that is so shocking and striking, I almost feel to construct a counter narrative that explains it, such as, “Well, the first person, they really got their act together. They got some hustle. That is a high-performing organization that moves quickly, and that’s an advantage so they deserve stuff. And the last folks, boy, they really put some fun into this. They took their time. They did their research and their homework and their preparation. And so, the first and the last may disproportionately, in fact, be superior potential partners.” I might be stretching here, but that’s where I kind of go.

Andres Lares
In the cases where there’s no choice, I think we see it happen too, but it happens just about everywhere. So, another one is called the winner’s curse often. So, if you think of like a bidding system, typically the person…and this happens in sports. We do a lot of work in sports. And if you think of an athlete goes to a team, oftentimes, and this happens in baseball perhaps in more than any other sport. It’s okay, you’re willing to pay $10 million a year for 10 years.

I’m willing to pay more, if you’re willing to pay more, then you go back and forth. Then you find the person that wins is, essentially, cursed because they win, by definition, by overpaying for that player. And so, again, and that’s typically emotional. When we’ve been in the trenches with teams, that is because they get caught up in the deal making, or because it is a blurriness, it is an emotional piece because, I would say, 99.9% of the time when we meet with the teams and we’re kind of involved in these kinds of decisions, they have written down a number as a walkaway that’s lower than they end up paying.

So, they end up going well above what they said they would, what they think is reasonable, and so that is where the justification comes in. “Oh, I am going over but things have changed,” you know, fill in the blank. Now, of course, there are times when things have actually changed. Maybe you start a negotiation early. Now, five other players get signed, now the market has moved up. That, of course, is a possibility.

But very rarely is that the reason that’s happening. It’s deal fever. We’re in it, we spent so much time, and there’s a sunk-cost fallacy, “I’ve spent this much time on it. It’s only this much more,” and that’s where the justification comes in and, really, it becomes more emotional rather than if you’re objective, you’d say, “Look, the max I was going to pay is probably ten years, 10 million a year, and it’s better for me not to do that than it is to pay more.” We just very rarely come across that.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, Andres, we’re having so much fun jumping all around the psychological world here. Maybe let’s get to the fundamentals here. Your book Persuade: The 4-Step Process to Influence People and Decisions, we’ve already got some tasty tidbits from it. But what would you say is the core message, thesis, big idea of this one?

Andres Lares
So, it’s a four-step process to influencing others.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Just like you said.

Andres Lares
Exactly, that’s it. Build credibility, engage emotion, demonstrate logic, facilitate action. So, really, it’s building credibility, people will not care if you’re not deemed credible. Think of a toothpaste commercial. Every toothpaste commercial has someone whether is or looks like a dentist, that’s because they don’t have credibility without that kind of the dental-looking attire. And so, that’s an example, and a crude one, but it is an example.

Then engage emotion. As I talk to people, people make decisions emotionally, and then they justify them rationally. Then comes demonstrate logic. Now, of course, there is a time and a place for logic. So, it isn’t that you just never do it. It’s that you typically and most compellingly do it after you build credibility and engage emotion.

And then, finally, the fourth is facilitate action, which is if you can think of all the situations where you say, “Is this a good idea?” and your teammate says yes, your colleagues say yes, “Okay, are we going to move forward?” “Yes, we are.” And then, all of a sudden, you check in two weeks later and nothing has happened. I think just about everyone can relate to that.

And so, facilitate action is about creating an environment where it’s as likely as possible that the behavior that you want to be taken will be taken.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, it sounds good to me. Lay it on us then, let’s say we want to do some great persuading, can you maybe give us some example demonstrations for how we’d step through each of these pieces from building the credibility to engaging the emotion, to demonstrating logic, and to facilitating action?

Andres Lares
Yes. So, let’s try to pick something that potentially anyone can relate to. So, you’re working with a colleague at work, so potentially, let’s say, they’re not necessarily someone above you or below you. They’re kind of a lateral position, and so, hopefully, this is generic enough that it works for everyone. So, the first thing is you want to think about, “Okay, do I have credibility with this person? I’m trying to convince Pete to do something, okay, so how am I going to do it? Well, first is, does Pete know who I am? Does he think that I’ve got good ideas? What is his perception of me?”

And so, let’s assume that it’s a neutral perception. Met a few times and not much there. So, the first I think about, “How do I build credibility?” So, the build credibility might be simple things. So, spending time with someone, unless you actively do something very negative. Generally, spending time with someone helps you to build rapport, trust, and credibility.

But also, you can give yourself a few things. So, when you bump into Pete, and there’s an opportunity to say, “Hey, I thought of you the other day when I read this article. I’ll send it to you by end of the day tomorrow.” That’d be an example of manufacturing an opportunity where you, in this case, you should genuinely have thought about the person and think that article might make sense. And then I sent it to Pete in the time that I said I would.

Well, now, you’re starting to create not only that connection based on thinking of the person, but also a sense of reliability, “I said I would do something by end of the day tomorrow, and I did.” So, you can do a few of those things, and you start to get the ball rolling. And, of course, any time you drive value, you write good ideas, things they can nibble on at work, anything that is important and valuable to the other party would help build credibility.

So, then comes emotion. So, let’s say, in this case, you’re working on a project together, and, again, to pick an example most people could relate to, Pete has this as priority seven and I have this as priority two. And so, my job is to try to convince you to bring it up to maybe not two but certainly higher than seven.

Well, then you think of, “Okay, what’s the emotion that we’ll trigger?” So, let’s pick two examples. Well, one would be achievement, “Pete, this is one of the reasons I asked you in particular to kind of be involved in this project is because I know that this is going to get a lot of attention for the senior leadership team, which is a really important project.”

So, this was done very well. Again, it has to be true. This is genuine. If it’s disingenuous, then please don’t use the model. But if you go back to that, okay, so if that’s the case, and there’s a sense of achievement, doing a good job in this, and that includes time, but also high quality, a sense of achievement that it’ll be better for everyone, and so that could be an example.

Another one could be fear, the other way, “So, I’m a little bit worried, Pete, that we’re a little behind schedule. Being behind schedule right now is not a big deal, but if we were to end up being late, I think this could be a disaster for both of us. I saw one of our other colleagues late two months ago on a similar project, and they ended up getting…” fill in the blank, right, as whatever the repercussion would be.

So, that would be an example of fear or achievement. There’s a lot of them. Then the next might be demonstrating logic. So, there, what is the logic you could say? So, “One of the things that I’ve found is, because we’re currently meeting once every two weeks, by the time we actually get to the next meeting, we’re forgetting what we covered. So, I think rather than doing it once every two weeks, and this will take eight weeks to get these meetings, if we were to meet a couple times in one week, I actually think we could pump it out faster.”

“So, rather than our estimation of 20 hours total, we could probably do it in 10 or 15. Would you be open to considering something like that and we’re kind of done it faster for both our sakes?” So, something like that would be a logically compelling argument, that, “Hey, I’m going to save you time and more efficient and get this off your plate faster, so you can get to other priorities.”

And then, finally, facilitate action might be to provide them with options. So, providing with options could say, “So, two ideas that I have are, one, do you want me to do this piece and you do that piece? Or would you prefer the other way around, I focus on this priority, focus on that part? What would you prefer?”

And you, ideally, be offering a set of options, and you might be thrown a third, but you’re willing to accept any of them, so they’re all acceptable to you, but that way the person feels, and do in fact, have some control over the result because we surely know that when you come up with a collaborative solution, they’re more likely to become committed, rather than if I say, “Hey, Pete, here’s what I need you to do, and here’s when I need it done by. Please go and execute and come back here when you’re done.”

So, that would be a bit of a generic example but, hopefully, give you some sense of how those four phases would come into play.

Pete Mockaitis
I appreciate that, yes. Well, now could you maybe give us a couple of top do’s and don’ts within each of those domains? So, when it comes to building credibility, for example, what are some great things we can do versus not do? In your book, you’ve got a few sections, “The Influencer’s Toolbox.” I love toolboxes, so if there’s anything that’s leaping to mind that’s extra handy, lay it on us.

Andres Lares
Yes, so do’s and don’ts. So, I’d say for credibility, the do is…well, something else, some of the don’t is, “Do not skip this step, this is potentially the most important step.” If you think of kind of your life right now, and how much you get bombarded with messy, whether it’s emails at work or calls and spam calls, and all the stuff that’s going on, it’s easier to just ignore something than it is to deal with it.

So, credibility is the thing that stops you from ignoring it. It’s what cuts through and it helps to cut through the clutter, if you will. And so, I think I see this a lot in…we’ll take away a little bit from kind of the job piece, and I’ll go to sales for a second. This is a perfect example in sales. Often, I see a rush through to get to sale, and they skip the personal, the credibility-building, the trust-building, they get right to the sale.

And so, what happens is when you miss that first part that even allows you to get there, so people just don’t care, “You’re just selling me something, and I don’t want to be sold to. I want to be part of the buying process.” So, the credibility piece is the don’t is don’t skip it. It can be easy and oftentimes you wonder, “How important is this?” Well, it’s really important.

For emotion, as far as do’s and don’ts, so it’s got to be, I think, the don’t again would be it has to be genuine. And so, really, the emotion is about thinking about, “Okay, what is…?” So, here, for example, we’re doing fear and scarcity. I’ll give you an example of a don’t would be, although it can work, it’s sleazy and doesn’t work long term, that’s why you see at commercials late at night, “This deal is only good for the next 15 minutes. If you call now, you get three easy payments rather than four easy payments.” It’s that constant.

Now, the thing is, where most of us are far enough to know that once this commercial ends, this commercial will run again tomorrow night, and the next night, and the next night. It’s a fake exploding deadline. And so, I think there, when you think of fear, when you’re thinking of scarcity and those things, especially if they’re negative, it’s got to be genuine. In that example I gave, the consequence. It has to be a real consequence, that actually you saw someone faced because your credibility will be lost if it’s made up. And so, it’s a don’t again in emotion.

And then for logic, I think do tell stories. The best way to communicate evidence, logic, data. Oftentimes, when I’m doing this big chart and graph, and that is helpful, it’s important for visual learners but then take the extra step, tell a compelling story of how that potentially helped another client, or why you should get a raise, or whatever it is. But if you can tell a short and compelling story to communicate the same message as you could be sharing in another way, you will be more effective in the former.

And then, finally, facilitate action, I would say some do’s are consider providing options, for sure. And then, well, the one other thing is consider a safety net. So, safety net meaning, again, I’ll go to the crude late-night informercials because they use a lot of psychological warfare on all of us, but it’s the money-back guarantee.

And the constant of that is, “How many people actually buy that product and then send it back?” Very, very, very small number of people in almost all cases. But just the mere fact that if we purchase it and we’re not satisfied, we can then send it back. That makes us more comfortable to purchase it in the first place.

So, an example in business, certainly sometimes there can be a warranty of some sort. That’s an example of almost any product that’s sold in the B2B space or B2C space, but if you could remove some of the risks for another party, you’ll make it more likely that they move forward.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Thank you. Well, I also wanted to get your take on some body language pieces. Are there any really reliable cues or indicators that we can feel somewhat confident about when we notice, and what do they mean?

Andres Lares
So, what I’d like to do is slightly tweak that, if you’re okay with this, and say the thing that you can count on is to only make decisions when you’re getting a consistent message from the body language. So, that’s the only thing that’s reliable. What do I mean by that? I cross my arms like this while having a conversation. Technically, that is not the best sign, but on its own, it means nothing. It happens to be particularly cold in this room, and so that could be just literally a physical response that I’m being cold.

But, now let’s take me crossing my arms like this, turning a little bit away from you, so I’m actually facing another direction, and, potentially, say, I slow down my smiling and now start having facial expressions that are more neutral or potentially negative, then you can really start to read into that. That’s kind of a pattern at that point.

And so, what you want to see is consistency with the tone, what’s being said, and the body language. And if there are more than one, typically two or three that tend to lean negative, you want to change what you’re saying, change the environment, ask a different question, think of another approach, whatever it may be.

But I would say, so the do’s and don’ts, the do’s is look for consistency, look for multiple things that point in the same direction, negative or positive. Lots of smiling, open hands, leaning in would be the positive. Crossing arms, turning away, less smiling would be the negative ones but you want those to be consistent and multiple if you’re going to read anything into it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And so, in terms of a real-time adjustment we might make, what are some of the options there?

Andres Lares
So, two of the most common, one is kind of, “Oh, did I say something … Do you have any questions? Did I say something that maybe was off a little bit?” And so, in my opinion, lots of people recommend that. I think that can be something that is doable but that can take a lot of confidence. It’s almost like calling someone’s head on it, “Oh, no.” And there can be a little bit…but that is something that people do.

But generally, I would say is try to ask a question or try to change where your conversation is headed. So, I’ll give you an example, potentially, this would happen. Let’s say in an interview. Let’s say you’re in an interview for a job, and so you see that, someone has crossed their leg, turns away, and starts, all of a sudden, you see eyebrows changed a little bit. It’s a little more negative. Then, whatever you’re saying you might try to finish it kind of rather quickly.

And then, seeing that, “Pete, I’d love to tell you more about that, but I did have a couple questions for it, if you don’t mind. Is this a good place I can ask you some,” and then say, “Okay, tell me more about…” then fill in the blank of questions you have ready. “So, you were saying something,” or the opposite. If you’re asking a lot of questions and the person’s kind of doing those negative things together, they may be signaling to you the fact that, “You know what, you’re kind of done asking questions. Now it’s my turn. I want to get to know you, and it’s been too one way.”

So, essentially, what you’re reading is whatever you’re saying or doing in the moment, they’re not particularly appreciating, so any pivot from that, and then see how the body languages react. After a minute or two, are you still seeing that negative body language? One other thing I would say, and this gets into NLP and things that are a little bit less science-based or that are a little bit more controversial. But there definitely is growing evidence that you can do something that is called mirroring, which should be to try to also move towards the body language that is more positive and they’ll kind of follow you.

So, for example, if I noticed that you’re tilted a little bit this way, and you’re kind of leaning back a little bit, I would first mirror. So, I would tilt a little bit the same way, I would try to speak at the same pace as you are, so whether it’s a lot faster and then really, really fast, or slower. And then what I would do is, over time, over the next few minutes, I would start to kind of tilt my head this way, I would start to lean in, I would start to open my body language.

And so, what you can do is you can also shift that way. So, not only what you’re saying and the tone of your delivery, but if you actually mirror their body language that’s potentially negative, in particular in this case, and then start to move towards more positive body language, they should follow you.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Good deal. Thank you.
Well, now could you share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Andres Lares
I think a few that come to mind. So, one I particularly like that one of our facilitators often says is, “Much is lost for the want of asking.” So, to remind us that if you don’t ask for it, you can’t get it. You don’t always get what you ask for, but if you don’t ask, you don’t get it.

I think there’s another one which is often attributed to Epictetus. I’m not sure if, necessarily, it was in fact him or not, but it’s, “God gave us two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we speak.” I think that is a good reminder, and just kind of the value of listening, asking questions and listening. So, I like those.

And there’s one more. Harry Truman, I believe is credited with this, but it’s, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that really counts.” And I think that one is brilliant. So, those are three that come to mind. You asked for one, I gave you three. I hope that’s okay.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. Thank you. And could you share a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Andres Lares
So, I would hate to kind of duplicate but I’d probably go back to the copier study, the jellybeans study, some of these. Those were the originals and they were done the first time, and I find it particularly interesting that was done 20, 30, 40 years ago, in some of these cases, and so much has changed in the world but they continue to be…when they’re redone and adjusted, they continue to have the same results. So, all those, kind of reminding us of human nature and how if often doesn’t change.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And could you share a favorite book?

Andres Lares
I would probably go back to Thinking, Fast and Slow. I think from, certainly from a nonfiction perspective, that would be my number one. It’s a big read, but really an incredible one.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite tool, something you use to be awesome at your job?

Andres Lares
For the personal side, I’ve got family all over the world, and friends all over the world, so I cannot live without WhatsApp. From a professional side, any good calendar app. Currently, it’s Google Calendar, but that is another one that I can’t live without.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite habit?

Andres Lares
It would probably be playing hockey. So, I play hockey every Monday night, been doing it for years. Awesome.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a key nugget you share with folks that really resonates with them; you hear them quote it back to you often?

Andres Lares
So, yeah, I would say one, and this is more on the negotiation side and the influencing side, but it’s, “Negotiation is a process and not an event.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. If folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Andres Lares
So, we’re not as active as we should be on social but we do have a bunch, you know, LinkedIn, Twitter, all the usuals. But I would say probably the website, ShapiroNegotiations.com, and feel free to reach out if you have any questions. We’ve got a blog that’s weekly that goes out there, too, that deals with job-related issues plus things you might do, buying a house, buying a car, lots of B2B stuff as well. That’s our focus, so feel free to reach out.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Andres Lares
For me, it’d be having a process. I think one of the things that I’ve appreciated in this journey that I think when we go out and train and coach folks, we often will learn as much as they do just from the way people do and kind of the best practices. But I would say the concept of having a process for persuading others, for often negotiation, communicating, has really kind of increased my performance.

And I would say it’s something that I’m so excited about. And so, I would challenge others to, when it’s say to say, “I don’t have the time,” or, “I’m just going to wing it,” to prepare and follow a process to do it, and you will definitely be more successful.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. This has been fun. I wish you much luck in all of your persuasions and negotiations.

Andres Lares
Well, thank you for having me. I hope it’s helpful to folks as they do a great job at their jobs, and, hopefully, this is helpful there.