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

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.

In Memoriam: 457: How to Persuade through Compelling Stories with DonorSee’s Gret Glyer (Rebroadcast)

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

Gret Glyer says: "These people don't emotionally connect with facts but they will connect with another person and another story."

Gret Glyer discusses how you can increase your persuasion power by telling compelling stories.

If you’d like to help Gret’s family cover funeral expenses, please consider donating to his GoFundMe or organization DonorSee.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why stories succeed where statistics fail
  2. What makes a story compelling
  3. How storytelling can earn you a promotion

About Gret 

Gret Glyer has helped raise over a million dollars through storytelling. He is the CEO of DonorSee, the platform that shows you that your money is helping real people in need with personalized video updates. From 2013 to 2016, Glyer lived with the world’s poorest people in Malawi, Africa where he built more than 150 houses for the homeless and crowdfunded $100,000 to build a girls’ school in rural Malawi. Glyer has been featured in USA Today, National Review, HuffPo, Acton Institute and is a TEDx Speaker. He is currently fundraising for his first ever book on Kickstarter called, If The Poor Were Next Door.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Thank you, sponsors!

Gret Glyer Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Gret, thanks for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Gret Glyer
Thanks for having me, Pete. It’s a pleasure.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I’m excited to dig into this chat but, first, I want to hear a tale from you. I understand you’ve had some encounters with the wildlife of Africa. Tell us about them.

Gret Glyer
That’s right. So, I spent several years living in a part of rural Africa, it’s a country called Malawi. And while I was there, there was a place where you could rent a sailboat and sail around this reservoir. You had to drive like 30, 40 minutes through these villages and on a dirt road and so forth, and eventually you got to this like oasis, like green trees and this really beautiful lake/reservoir and you could rent 10 or 15 boats just like in the middle of nowhere.

So, I went with some friends out to this reservoir, we rented a boat, and I had never sailed a boat myself, but I’d been on other sailboats so I thought I could manage it, and it wasn’t too big of a boat. And there wasn’t much time before a big gust of wind came over and almost knocked us over. That was kind of scary and so we thought, “You know what, maybe we should turn around.”

But before we had the chance to do that, a second gust of wind, I can’t even explain physically how this happened, but a second gust of wind, like 10 times stronger than the one that we had just gotten, again blew us over, flipped our boat completely upside down so our sail was pointing downward, like down into the water, and it was like a violent flip so we were all scattered about.

So, I was the first one to crawl on top of the boat and I was sitting criss-cross applesauce on top of an upside-down boat while I was like bringing my friends on the shore. And the guys on shore, they kind of saw what had happened and they sent a canoe out to rescue us and bring us in. And as we were being brought in, there were a bunch of kids on shore who were just shouting and pointing at the water, and they just seemed really excited.

So, we’re being pulled in by this boat, and we turned around and, right where our boat had flipped over, there was a hippo who had surfaced, and I thought, “Oh, my goodness.” So, I was a little bit like just in shock, but that’s actually not where it ends. So, we get pulled into shore, and I’m kind of shaking from what could have just happened. So, I go up to the guy who is on shore kind of running the whole operation, and I asked him, like, “Wow, I see the hippo out there. Is that like a dangerous hippo? Is it deadly?” And the guy said, “No, it’s not that dangerous. It’s only killed like one person before.” And I thought, “Wow, we have different definitions of what is and isn’t dangerous.”

So, yeah, that was one of the first times I ever saw a hippo in real life and very scary, very dangerous experience.

Pete Mockaitis
And just how big is a hippo when you are right there and this one in particular?

Gret Glyer
Oh, they’re gigantic. In fact, I think one of the things that people don’t realize, people think of lions as the deadliest animal, maybe crocodiles, but it’s actually hippos are the deadliest animal in all of Africa, and it’s just because they have these massive jaws. And whenever they collapsed their jaws onto their prey, it’s several tons of force that’s coming down and just completely crushing it, so they’re very big.

Pete Mockaitis
Mercy. Well, thank you for sharing that story. And storytelling is the topic du jour, and I want to get your take on you’ve got a real skill for this and have seen some cool results in terms of your non-profit activities. And so maybe we could start with your story in Malawi and how you came to learn about just how powerful storytelling is.

Gret Glyer
Sure. So, I actually moved to Malawi right after college, or a year after college, but before that I was a private school kid, I went to a private college, and I worked at a corporate job, and I lived in northern Virginia right outside Washington, D.C., I lived in a very wealthy zip code, and that was all I knew. I was a wealthy person, I was around other wealthy people, and the people around me were like a little wealthier than I was so I kind of thought I was poor just because that was the people who were surrounding me.

And then when I moved to Malawi, at the time Malawi was ranked as the absolute poorest country on the entire planet, and I saw people who were living on a dollar a day, and I was dumbstruck, like that’s the best way I can put it. I didn’t know. I knew that, intellectually, I knew that type of poverty existed, but for someone with my background and my upbringing, it was like emotionally I had never truly connected with that.

And so, I moved to this place where some of my next-door neighbors are living on a dollar a day and I’m just astounded at this level of poverty, and that’s when I realized that I wanted to do something about it. And so, I started writing blogposts and I started making videos and, eventually, I started crowdfunding. And you could tell statistics all day long, and the statistics are shocking but they don’t resonate with people on a deep level.

And it was when I started learning about storytelling that I realized that storytelling is the vehicle by which I could get my message across. And the message I wanted to get across was we have our problems here in the developed world and those things are totally worth exploring and doing something about, but I also think that the message I have is I want to have a little bit more urgency about what’s going on in these parts of the world where people are suffering from extreme poverty, people living on a dollar a day. So, that was the catalyst for when I first got really interested in storytelling.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, I’m curious then, like did you have some experiences then in which you shared some statistics and numbers and data things versus you shared a story and you saw differing responses and reactions?

Gret Glyer
Yeah. Actually, the very first time I ever did a crowdfunding campaign I had this exact thing happen. So, at first, what I did was, and this is actually one of the first times I was exposed to true extreme poverty face to face, because when I moved to Malawi I was living on a compound, and the compound I was living on we had a lot more people like me, like a lot of people who were visiting from America and they were teachers so they were living there for the year.

But then this guy named Blessings had met me and he wanted to show me some stuff, so he brought me out to this village. And we went deep into this village and that was kind of my first exposure to like when you think of like an African village with grass thatched huts, that was my first exposure to that type of setting. And he introduced me to this lady named Rosina, and the phrase skin and bones, that’s used a lot, but that was like the true representation of what Rosina looked like at this time. She really looked like she hadn’t eaten in a long time. And, in fact, she hadn’t eaten in seven days when I met her. She was on the brink of starvation. It was a really sad situation.

And so, Blessings told me that this lady not only didn’t have enough food but she also didn’t have a house and she needed to build a house because the rainy season was coming in a month, and if you don’t have a house during the rainy season, you’re in big trouble. So, I asked him how much a house would cost, and he said it would be $800, which blew my mind coming from where I came from.

And so, what I did was I put together some statistics and some facts about people who need houses, and I sent it to my friends back at home, and I told them, “Listen, there are people who need houses here, and houses cost this much, and this is the building materials we’ll use.” And, lo and behold, I needed $800 and only $100 came in. For whatever reason, the facts and figures didn’t quite resonate with people.

So, then I took a different approach and I told Rosina’s story, I told the story about this lady who had a really tough life, and she’s now a widow and she’s in this tough situation through no fault of her own. And if it’s not for the participation of my friends and the donors back at home, she’s going to be in big trouble. And that was that one moment where it clicked, where I realized, “Okay, storytelling, this is the key. These people don’t emotionally connect with facts but they will connect with another person and another story.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And so, we’re talking about data versus storytelling, and you’re telling a story about telling a story, and you’re sharing numbers about it, so I’m loving this. Okay, so the first time you made your case with numbers, you got a hundred bucks. The second time, you made the case with a story, and what happened financially?

Gret Glyer
Oh, the money came in, I think, it was within hours. It was definitely within a day but, if I remember correctly, it was a few hours after I sent that email out to my friends and the money came in easily. I’ll kind of go a little bit further. Not only did the money come in, and not only did people like send it over excitedly, but we built a house, Rosina got her house, and actually we put the roof on the house a day before rainy season. So, time was of the essence and we barely got it, and Rosina was able to move in.

And I actually just went to Malawi a couple months ago, and I got to go visit Rosina and she’s still living in the same house that we built her, so that was a cool experience. But what was interesting was after the house was built, people started to continue to send me $800 to build more houses for people even though I wasn’t asking for it. They were just sending me money because that story had resonated with them so deeply.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, maybe you don’t recall it precisely here, but how many $800 bundles and houses were you able to construct as a result?

Gret Glyer
Well, so it started off there’d be a few people who sent over the money and then I would make a video. And then I went home over the summer and I actually met up with Scott Harrison who’s the CEO of Charity: Water, and he helped me get a 501(c)(3) setup and he kind of gave me some advice and so when I went back the next year, we started building more houses. I’ve never wanted to grow this particular operation beyond what it is but we continue to build houses every month even to this day. And we’ve done over 150 houses in all of Malawi at this point.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s striking. So, wow, from 100 bucks to 150 times 80 bucks. And in the early days it was even from the same people in terms of being able to do multiple houses whereas you couldn’t even do an eight beforehand. So, that is compelling stuff. And sometimes I get stuck in the numbers because I’m fascinated. I’m a former strategy consultant and I love a good spreadsheet and pivot table and so it’s natural for me to just go there without stopping and think, “Okay, what’s really the story here?” Tell me, what makes a story good, compelling, interesting, motivating versus just like, “Okay, whatever”?

Gret Glyer
Yeah, I think what it is about a story, especially if you’re trying to persuade another person or you’re trying to get someone to see your side of things, I think what’s compelling about a story is the person you’re talking to, they can see themselves within the story, whereas they can’t necessarily see themselves within a set of data.

So, you can look at a spreadsheet all day long and you can see these facts and figures, and that’s very persuasive to a small subset of people, and probably a lot of your audience really likes the data and the figures, and that’s really good. But for most people, for a general audience, they’re going to resonate deeply when they can see themselves as part of a story.

Pete Mockaitis
And we had Matthew Luhn on a previous episode, and he was a story supervisor for PIXAR, and that was one of the main things he said in terms of a lot of stories that they need to kind of fix or clean up or consult, tweak at it, have that challenge. It’s like, “Yeah, the audience can’t really see themselves in the shoes of the protagonist or hero and, therefore, we’re going to have to somehow make that individual more relatable in order for that to really compel the viewers.”

So, okay, cool. So, that’s one piece is that you can relate to it, like, “Whoa, I’ve had a hard time with regard to losing something and having some urgency with regard to needing some help or else we’re going to be in a tight spot.” And, boy, here we have it in a really big way in the case of her home and with urgency as well. I’m thinking I’m stealing your thunder, but one element is relatability to you and that person? Are there any other key components?

Gret Glyer
Yeah, when it comes to storytelling there’s a lot of different tips that I would love to share. I almost don’t want to share the tips because then people would be trying to do the tips instead of just doing like what they really need to do which is practicing. Like, if you just practice storytelling and you talk to other people and you see how much it resonates with them, eventually you’ll begin to learn. But there are a few things you can try.

So, one of the main things is you want to make sure that your opener is a hook. You say something where tension is created. Like, I could tell you a story right now. I woke up this morning, and I woke up, I reached across my bed, and my wife wasn’t there. And then I got out of bed, I started looking through my apartment and my wife was nowhere to be found, which has never happened before. And then I could stop right there and there’s some tension, it’s like, “Okay, well, what happened to your wife?”

Now, this is a made-up story, like it’s not true, my wife was there this morning. But you get the principle that you want to start up the story with some kind of tension that needs to be resolved. And then when it comes to persuasive storytelling, what you’re doing is you’re putting the person in the situation where they’re the ones that have to resolve the tension.

So, for crowdfunding, for example, you say, “This person needs a house and they’re not going to get their house unless you step in and do something about it.” And so that person gets to see themselves within the framework of that story. But I would say creating tension and then creating a satisfying resolution, that is the key to storytelling.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. I’m with you. You’re right. So, I guess the tension kind of shows up in the form of a question, maybe you directly ask the question or maybe you just let it pop up themselves. And I think what’s so powerful about storytelling sometimes is I find folks, they’ll start a story just as a means of exemplifying a principle or concept, and then they think, “Okay, well, I’m exemplifying the concept,” but then everyone is just left hanging, like, “But what happened?”

Gret Glyer
Yeah, they want it. Everyone wants that. They love having that resolution. And, in fact, one of the biggest mistakes people will make when they first start storytelling is that they won’t resolve it. They won’t put as much time into the resolution. Because you can engage your audience just by creating tension, and you can create more and more tension. This is what a lot of these series on TV have done, like Lost and most recently Game of Thrones.

Like, I’m sure everyone has heard about how upset people were with the ending of Game of Thrones. And it’s a total rookie mistake to build up all this tension and have all of this tension that needs resolution, and then at the end kind of give a cheap ending. It’s a very tempting thing because you’ve still gotten the tension and the attention from your audience but you haven’t delivered. And learning how to deliver is the ultimate, the pinnacle of storytelling.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Boy, you bring me back to my favorite TV series ever is Breaking Bad and I’m not going to give any spoilers for those who have not yet seen it. I’ll just give you as a gift that Breaking Bad is extraordinary. But I remember, toward the end, boy, those final eight episodes, oh, my goodness, there was so much tension. I remember like the third to the last episode, in particular, entitled “Ozymandias,” was kind of an episode where a lot of stuff hit the fan, and we all knew it had to. It’s like there is no way that everyone is just going to be hunky-dory. Something is going to go down.

And then I remember I couldn’t wait, I was just amped, looking forward to it all week, and then I saw it, and then I was kind of sad by some of the things that happened. And I was sort of surprised at myself, it’s like, “Pete, did you think you would enjoy this? You care about these characters and you know some bad stuff is going to happen to some segment of them.” It was weird, and I thought that, “This is going to be so amazing. I can’t wait for this experience.” And then when I saw it, it was artistically masterfully done, but it made me sad, it’s like, “Oh, man, that’s a bummer for those guys and gals.”

Gret Glyer
Yeah, I’ll share one of my favorite examples to go along with that because it’s so simple. I was watching A Quiet Place which was the John Krasinski kind of horror movie, and there was one thing that they did at the very beginning of the movie, because they’re in this world where monsters might attack them at any moment. And there’s a staircase that goes from the first floor of their house to the basement. At the very beginning of the movie, what they did was they had a nail come loose, and the nail was sticking straight up so that you knew at some point, someone is going to step on that.

And what they kept doing was they kept having people walk past the nail, and they would show their barefoot like right next to the nail. And that’s there throughout the entire movie, and that’s just one way that they masterfully interwove tension into that story.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. Well, so I want to get a take here. Let’s talk about, first, your world, how you’re seeing this all the time. So, you have founded DonorSee, and what’s it about and how do you use storytelling there?

Gret Glyer
Yes, so DonorSee is like the storytelling platform so I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished. So, the way that DonorSee works is whenever you give any amount of money, you get a video update on exactly how your money was used to help real people in real need, and these are mostly people living in extreme poverty like I mentioned earlier, people like Rosina, the person who needed a house.

And so, what you do is like, let’s say, there’s a girl in India, and she is deaf, you can donate money to her, you’ll know her name, you’ll know her story, and you’ll know her hopes and dreams. And a few days after you give your donation, you’ll get a video update of her hearing for the first time. And she might even say, “Hey, Pete, thank you for giving me these hearing aids.” So, it’s a very personalized video update and it’s a one-to-one transaction that gets to happen. So, that’s the concept behind DonorSee.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, and it’s powerful. Well, we got connected because, a fun backstory for the listeners, my sweet wife saw a video about DonorSee and the good work you’re doing, and she made a donation, and she just thought it was the coolest thing. And that you, with your wise, best practice following organization reached out to her to learn more about where she’s coming from and sort of her behavior and thoughts and needs and priorities and values and whatnot to kind of optimize her stuff. And then your colleague listened to the podcast.

Gret Glyer
Yeah, my COO.

Pete Mockaitis
And here we are, you know, fun world.

Gret Glyer
Yeah, shout out to Patrick Weeks because I know he’s listening right now.

Pete Mockaitis
Hey, hey, hey. And so, I’m intrigued then. So, then you’re doing the storytelling on the frontend as well with regard to as you’re having videos on Instagram and Facebook and places with the goal of kind of getting folks to say, “Oh, wow, I’d like to be a part of that and make a donation.” So, I’m curious, in that kind of context of, hey, short attention span, social media, etc., how do you do it effectively?

Gret Glyer
Well, storytelling doesn’t change. There’s always the same kind of build tension and then provide resolution, and so you just have to find ways, you just have to find whatever is the hot medium, whatever it is that people are using, that’s where you want to be. So, right now, we test a million different things, we’re on every platform, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and we do a lot, we work with influencers and so forth. We’re constantly trying to get in front of whatever audience might be most receptive to us.

And so, what we do is we just test everything. We just see, “Where is it that people are responding to this the most?” And so far, what we found is that Facebook is where people are spending time and they’re open. Facebook is a platform where you’re looking at stories of other people’s lives on a regular basis so it’s very natural to be in your News Feed, and then this advertisement or sponsorship from DonorSee pops up, and it’s another story about another person’s life, and it kind of draws you in. And I think that’s been why that has been successful. And Instagram, of course, too also lends itself to that pretty well.

Pete Mockaitis
And so then, I guess you’re doing that same sort of stuff, like you got video and you create tension the first few seconds, and then away you go. Are there any particular do’s and don’ts? I mean, this isn’t a digital marketing podcast, but, hey, there’s plenty of those so you’d be hit there too. But any kind of do’s and don’ts with the particulars of if you’re putting up a post, “We found that these kinds of things work well and these kinds of things don’t”?

Gret Glyer
So, to go along with your tips about storytelling and another thing, that is a crucial consideration whenever you’re storytelling and, specifically, when you’re trying to tell a story within an advertisement, is to really consider who your audience is and who you’re trying to speak to directly. And so, for example, I think this is a really helpful way of thinking about. Here’s a failure that we had and the success that we had.

So, there was a time when we would put up stories of people in need, stories like the one I told earlier of the lady who’s starving and needed a house. And we put up those stories and those resonate with a certain type of audience. But then, what we realized was that people were having a hard time seeing themselves in that story. I mean, seeing someone in destitute poverty is just so outside of your frame of reference. It’s hard to really to grasp it.

And so, what we started doing was we started using testimonial ads.  In fact, there’s this couple from Harvard that they’re big fans of DonorSee, and I’ve had the opportunity to talk to them several times. And the wife is getting her MBA at Harvard and the husband is getting his JD, and they have this really nice picture of them, but they use DonorSee every month and they’re really big fans of it, and so, they sent in a testimonial.

And so we’ve been running their picture with their testimonial underneath, and that seems to resonate with a certain type of audience where maybe they wouldn’t necessarily see themselves in another country on the other side of the world, but they do see themselves in the transformation that the donor themselves is going through. They were able to grasp it because they look at the ad and they saw someone who’s more similar to them, and that was why they decided to get involved.

Pete Mockaitis
And maybe even, I don’t how much this plays into it, but it could aspirational, like, “Dang, Harvard power couple.” It’s really cool.

Gret Glyer
Yeah, absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
And, “Oh, this is something that, I don’t know, successful, smart, high-achieving people do, it is that they give.” And so, that could be a lever in there as well.

Gret Glyer
Yeah. I’ll give one more example. We have a few ads that we run for parents, and there are parents in the picture, they’ve got their kids, and maybe they’re looking at a phone or they’re smiling at a camera. And the testimonial is from these people who are saying, “I’ve used DonorSee to educate my kids about global poverty, and it’s created these wonderful conversations between me and my kids.”

And so, obviously, that’s not going to speak to the 18-year old kid who’s about to go to college, but for the parent who has young kids, or kids who are maybe even up to teenage years, that works really, really well because they seem themselves in that. So, yeah, you always just think about who your audience is and then you tell stories where they can see themselves inside of it.

Pete Mockaitis
Very good. And so, I know we do have a number of non-profiteers amongst the listenership just because they’re probably curious so I want to go here. So, okay, so you’re putting money into ads, and you’re seeing donations flow, how’s that work from like a fundraising expenditure kind of a thing?

Gret Glyer
Oh, totally. Yeah, absolutely. So, totally fair question. So, the way it works is we have overhead just like any other non-profit organization would have overhead, and so whenever you give there’s a small percentage that gets taken out. Our percentage is 13% and that money goes to keeping the lights on and we have a lot of video hosting costs and so forth. But the vast majority of it is actually going to the people in need. And then the last thing I’ll say, because people are always curious about this, I, as the CEO, make zero dollars a year from my organization.

So, if there’s any doubt, or if there’s any consideration that maybe I’m doing this kind of for my own pocket, there you go. I fundraise separately on Patreon and people support me through that, and I’m very grateful to be able to have the opportunity to do things that way. But, yeah, you can’t run these organizations for free, as much as we would all like that, and so that’s what we do.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s cool. And so then, so the 13% also covers the advertising costs?

Gret Glyer
Oh, yeah. We use that. That covers everything. It covers the video hosting, the advertising, the development, all that stuff.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s really cool. And so, you’re seeing like a positive, I guess, I don’t know if ROI is the right term in this context, but in terms of, “Hey, we spent a hundred bucks on Facebook ads, and we’re seeing donations of substantially more than a hundred bucks flowing through.”

Gret Glyer
Yeah, the term that we use, which is similar to ROI, is we use return on ads spend, ROAS. And our return on ads spend is positive. And it’s really cool because once we get people in the door, we have lots of ways of keeping them engaged with our platform. What’s cool about our platform, not to pat myself on the shoulder too much, but what’s really great about DonorSee is that it keeps you engaged. Like, you give a donation, you get a video update, and then you’re back on our platform with lots of more opportunities to give, and you keep getting video updates every time you do that. So, we have a really strong recurring donation base.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s cool. That’s cool. Well, so let’s zoom in on the typical professional, you know, I’m in the workplace, and I got all kinds of situations where I got to be persuasive and influential. Maybe I need to have a project manager. I don’t have the authority to hire, or fire, or give bonuses, give raises, but I need colleagues to do stuff for me so my project gets done, or I just need to get some help and buy-in from other departments, etc. So, how would you recommend we apply some of these principles in a workplace setting, trying to get collaboration from others?

Gret Glyer
Yeah, that’s a great question. I’ve been thinking about it a lot because I knew I would be on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast and this would be a main point that we would talk about. So, I’ve been thinking about this for your audience specifically, and the way that I thought it would be best to think about is in terms of getting a promotion. I think that that’s something that’s on a lot of people’s minds and something that will happen several times throughout the course of their career.

And I think what I want to petition is that storytelling can actually help you get more promotions faster than any other skill that you have.

Pete Mockaitis
Bold claim.

Gret Glyer
Yeah, so your audience can test it out and we can get feedback at some point, but here’s how you use storytelling to get a promotion. So, let’s say that you have a boss, and your boss has some kind of problem and doesn’t have a solution for that problem. What you want to say is, you look for these kinds of opportunities, they’re not always lying around. But when you see the opportunity, then you jump on it, and you go to your boss, and you say, “Listen, I would love to help you with the problem that you’re dealing with. I’ve thought a lot about it, I thought about how I could be the solution to the issue that you’re facing. The problem is I don’t have enough responsibility. I haven’t been given enough responsibility to help you with your problem but I know I can do it if I’m allowed to be given this responsibility.”

And so, what you’re doing is you’re putting yourself into the situation, you’ve created tension with this problem, and the promotion is how you resolve the tension. So, you create tension in your boss’ mind, and then the way that the tension is resolved is by your promotion.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, and what’s interesting about that is the promotion might not happen right then and there on the spot, like, “Gret, you’re right. Now, you’re a director.” But it’s probably like, “Yeah, okay. Yeah, sure, Gret, that’d be great for you to take on director’s responsibility and take care of this, this, and this.” And then some months later, it’s like, “Well, crap, he’s doing the job of a director. I guess we should probably give him the title and the compensation so we’re not flagrantly unjust/at risk of losing him to another employer.”

Gret Glyer
Yeah, and I think that’s another way that you can create tension, is you can kind of say, “Listen, I’m really excited about my job right now. I love what I’m doing but, unfortunately, there’s another company that is offering to pay me this amount, but I really want to keep helping you with this. And the way that that can happen is if you can kind of match what this other company is offering me.”

And so, again, you’re creating tension, “I’m going to leave the company unless the tension is resolved, which is that I get a raise or a promotion,” or something like that. And none of this is like… Make sure you are not like blackmailing your boss, or putting yourself in like an unhealthy relationship with other people. But just the concept of creating tension where you can be the solution and you can help people, I think that that is going to be a very, very powerful tool for your audience.

Pete Mockaitis
And I think that’s a really good frame or context there in terms of just like, “Hey, look what I got. What are you going to do about it?”

Gret Glyer
Yeah, exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
“I’m really enjoying this and I’d love to continue helping but, just to be honest and level with you a little here, I’ve got this tempting offer over here, and my wife would sure love it if I had some extra money. It’d be awesome if I would just not even have to think or worry about that by matching.” So, yeah.

Gret Glyer
That creates the opportunity for me to just point out one more tip I have about storytelling, and that’s to use vivid imagery. So, when you said, “My wife would love it.” If you said, “My wife has really been wanting this red Camaro, and if I got this promotion, I’d be able to get that car for her.” That was a specific image in the person’s head that that creates a hook for them, and that image is going to resonate with them and make them think about it longer than they would’ve otherwise. So, using vivid imagery is a very powerful way to keep your recipients engaged.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, and I think that the red Camaro is vivid imagery and I guess I’m also thinking about, it’s like, to an extent, again, does it follow the principle of can they see themselves in that story? It’s just like, “Hey, I don’t drive a red Camaro. Nobody I know drives a red Camaro. Tell your wife she’s going to have to hold her horses, you know.”

Gret Glyer
Yeah, maybe more achievable kind of a red Corolla.

Pete Mockaitis
But it could really be just like, “Hey, you know what, she’s really wanting to spend some more time, I don’t know, like with a medical thing.” It’s like, “It would really be helpful if we could be able to do more trips to physical therapy,” or, “It’d be really handy for the kids, boy, they love music but it’s so hard to find the time to get out to the school of folk music. And it’d be so handy if we could, I don’t know, have a nanny or chauffeur, or something, that they can relate to their gift. It’s very important for children to have music in their lives.” I resonate with that and so that might be more compelling.

But you get the wheels turning here just by bringing up these principles which is great. So, maybe before we shift gears, tell me, do you have any other sort of top tips you want to share about maybe being persuasive?

Gret Glyer
Yeah, I just think tone is very important. You can get people’s attention lots of different ways. When you become a good storyteller, you become very good at hooking people in. We’re kind of graduating out of the era of clickbait, like people are starting to get wise to it, but there was a time when people used clickbait in attention-grabbing headlines to get more traffic onto their website or to get more attention for their cause.

But if you don’t have follow through and you don’t have substance behind your hook, then it’s a very bad long-term strategy. So, it’s just the whole package of starting with the attention-grabbing hook with a satisfying resolution, understanding that whole framework is really important to healthy storytelling.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I think that’s dead on and I know what the expression was, it’s like, “All sizzle, no steak.” It’s like, “Ooh, what’s this about?” It’s like, “Oh, you don’t have it.” And, for me, it’s largely about, I don’t know, these days I’m getting so many messages on LinkedIn from people who want to sell me marketing services.

Gret Glyer
Yeah, I bet.

Pete Mockaitis
And it’s kind of like, “You know, I would love for my business to grow and I’d love to do more training and coaching and workshops and sell more courses or whatever.” But it’s kind of like, “I don’t know who the heck you are. And what would really persuade me, hey, is like I guess I want a story and with some data.”

It’s sort of like, “Hey, here is, I don’t know, a podcast or trainer person just like you, and here’s how they spent, whatever, $5,000 and then turned that into $50,000 with our help doing these cool things. And now they’re doing these great things with their business.” So, I think that will be way more compelling than, “Do you need more leads for high-ticket events?” It’s like, “Maybe, but I don’t know anything about you. It’s not the best way to start our relationship, new LinkedIn connection.”

Gret Glyer
I think you just made a really good point. The data is what makes your story more compelling but it’s definitely secondary to the storytelling itself. So, you’ve got the story, you’ve got the hook, and then people want to believe it. They want to believe that there’s this tension that can be resolved and you can be the person to resolve it. But if they don’t have the proof, then you’re going to lose them. So, I think having that data is so completely absolutely crucial but it should be embedded within the framework of telling a good story.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Well, now, can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Gret Glyer
Yeah, I love this quote from Elon Musk, he says, “When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I’m chewing on that. And how about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Gret Glyer
So, I am someone who creates awareness about global poverty, so when I saw that I have the opportunity to talk about a statistic, I wanted to use that opportunity to talk about some statistics about global poverty very briefly.

So, if you earn $34,000 then you are in the global 1%. You are wealthier than 99% of the planet, which is mind-blowing to think about. But I’ve got two more that will kind of cement this. So, if you earn $4,000 a year, after adjusting for cost of living, then you are wealthier than 80% of the planet. So, it’s only 20% of the world who’s making $4,000 a year and up. And, finally, if you earn $1,000 a year, so about $3 a day, you’re wealthier than 50% of the planet.

So, there’s an exponential regression from the richest people in the world to the poorest people in the world, and that was what I wanted to bring up for my statistics.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, and that could be a little bit of you can take that in all sorts of ways, like, “Oh, wow, we have a lot of work to do to help people who are in need,” to, “Hey, I ain’t doing so bad.” I guess because we tend to compare ourselves, like you said in the very beginning, with neighbors and colleagues, folks who are right in your midst. But if you zoom out, take a global perspective, it’s like, “You know what, I feel like my salary is disappointing at, whatever, $43,000, which is 9,000 more than 34,000, but I’m a 1-percenter, so I could probably find a way to make ends meet after all.”

Gret Glyer
Yeah, and I bring that up not to make anyone feel guilty or anything like that. Really, the reason I bring it up is because what I learned is it was perspective shifting for me. I was a private school kid growing up. I grew up in one of the wealthiest suburbs in the U.S. and so when I learned these things, it totally changed how I look at the world and my own situation, and I hope that others can have that same experience.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite book?

Gret Glyer
So, this is another interesting one. So, if you’ve seen the movie Les Mis there’s a guy at the beginning of the movie, the bishop, and he brings someone into his house who’s a known thief, and he gives him a bed for the night because he doesn’t have anywhere to sleep, and the thief ends up stealing a bunch of his stuff and running away.

That’s like a split-second thing in the movie Les Mis, the most recent one. And what happens is the guy ends up coming, the police catch the thief, they bring him back, and the bishop, instead of making the thief kind of go to prison and go back to the gallows, the bishop says, “Oh, you brought him back. Thank you for doing that. I actually forgot to give him the most important gift of all.” And he goes and he gets these two silver candlesticks and gives it to the thief, and says like, “Be on your way.”

So, the thief kind of stole from him and then he gave him more money out of this act of charity. And then that kind of was this catalyst that turned the guy’s life around. So, in the movie that’s like a very brief thing, but the first 100 pages of the book Les Mis, the book Les Mis is about 1600 pages. The first 100 pages are all about that bishop. And I found those 100 pages, like exploring that guy’s character and the way that he thinks about the world, I found those 100 pages riveting. So, I thought that’d be a different thing to what your audience is used to, read the first 100 pages of Les Mis.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, it’s beautiful in terms of the power of mercy, and right on. Preach it. And how about a favorite tool?

Gret Glyer
Yeah. Well, the tool I was going to bring up, which I already mentioned earlier, is Facebook ads. Facebook does a really great job of reaching the audience that you are trying to find. And so, instead of you having to kind of say, “Well, people who like this, and who like this, send ads to them.” What Facebook does is it finds people who resonate with your ads, and then it shows more ads to people who have already resonated with it, like maybe they’ve clicked the Like, or left a comment, or something like that. And so, Facebook does a really good job of that and I highly encourage people to check out Facebook ads for that reason.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Gret Glyer
I go to the gym four times a week whether I work out or not. So, in other words, even if I don’t lift weights or don’t get on the treadmill or anything like that, sometimes I just go to the gym and I walk around. My only threshold for what is a successful health week for me is whether or not I went into the building of the gym four times a week.

You know, once you’re in the gym, obviously, you’re like way more likely to work out and you’re around all these other people who are working out. But the threshold for a successful workout is so low that it’s kept me in shape for several years.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. Yeah, it does wonders for just keeping the habit alive even if you do almost nothing when you show up there. And how about a favorite nugget, something you share that really seems to connect with folks?

Gret Glyer
I always tell people to do what you’re afraid of. If the only reason you’re not doing something is because you’re afraid of it, then you have to do it. Sometimes you shouldn’t do something because it’s unwise, but maybe the thing that you’re afraid to do is you’re afraid to go skydiving. But you can afford it, there’s a place to skydive within 30 minutes from you, and the only reason you haven’t done it yet is because you’re afraid of it, do it, and that will help. That habit will help create many different opportunities for you in your life that that will lead to personal development.

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

Gret Glyer
So, right now, I’m using storytelling to sell my book, so I actually have a book that I’m fundraising for on Kickstarter, it’s called If The Poor Were Next Door, and I tell people to look it up on Kickstarter and back that project.

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

Gret Glyer
Yes, so the final thing is we have setup a link DonorSee.com/awesome just for you guys. And if you go there, you’ll be able to join DonorSee and get video updates on your donations. And anyone who does that, there’s a special offer for getting T-shirts and hats and stuff like that, if that’s interesting to you. But, yeah, DonorSee.com/awesome.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, Gret, thanks for sharing the good word today and the great work you’re doing at DonorSee. I wish you lots of luck in all the cool impact you’re making and folks you’re helping, and it’s really cool.

Gret Glyer
Thank you, Pete.

780: How Minds Change and How to Change Minds with David McRaney

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David McRaney breaks down why it’s so difficult to change people’s minds—and shares powerful strategies to get others to open their minds.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why facts alone can’t persuade others
  2. One simple question to make you more persuasive
  3. A step-by-step guide to changing even the most stubborn minds 

About David

Science journalist, podcaster, and internationally bestselling author David McRaney is an expert in the psychology of reasoning, decision making, and self-delusion. His wildly popular blog became the international bestselling book You Are Not So Smart, revealing and celebrating our irrational and thoroughly human behavior. His second bestseller, You Are Now Less Dumb, gives readers a fighting chance at outsmarting their brains. His most recent book, How Minds Change, is a brain-bending and big-hearted investigation into the science of belief, opinion, and persuasion. 

David is an in-demand speaker whose work has been featured in The Atlantic and many others.

He also created and hosted Exploring Genius: In-Depth Study of Brilliant Minds, an audio documentary for Himalaya, and is working on a TV series about how to better predict the psychological impact of technological disruption. 

Resources Mentioned

David McRaney Interview Transcript

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

David McRaney
Thank you so much for having me. This is so cool to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m excited to talk about your book How Minds Change: The Surprising Science of Belief, Opinion, and Persuasion. But, first things first, David, we got to know about your stint as a strong man in the circus.

David McRaney
How in the world did you even know this? I feel like I’m on Hot Ones. That’s one of those deep cuts. I was at a Renaissance Fair a couple of years, it was right before COVID, and I’m a giant dude. I’m 6’2” and they were like, “Hey, do you want to…? We need a strong man,” they pointed right at me, and I was like, “Sure, I’m into it.”

So, I got up on stage, and it was one of those acts where they…you have an acrobat climb up your body and then stand on your shoulders, and you have to hold them up, and they juggle flaming objects back and forth with their assistant who was inside a shopping cart that’s slowly rolling away. And I had to do all sorts of acts. It really was hard because I was like, “If I messed this up, one of us is going to be horribly injured. I’ll be covered in fire.”

It’s a Renaissance Fair in Louisiana, so it’s just going to be a YouTube video. It’s not like there’s going to be medical attention that’s going to rush over to our aid. It’s going to be one of those things that people share online and say, “Don’t do that.” So, that’s what I did. It was fun. I’m into it.

Pete Mockaitis
Wow. So, that’s pretty high stakes and it sounds like there wasn’t a lot of prep. You just launched right into it.

David McRaney
Yeah, it was fun. I was wearing a full kilt and I just was in the mood to do weird stuff at a Renaissance Fair, so that speaks to my character, in general. Yeah, I’m down to do crazy stuff if it seems like there’s going to be a good story involved. So, I finally get to tell it. I think this is the first time I’ve told anybody this outside of my immediate friends and family.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, we’re honored. Beautiful. Well, thank you for sharing, and I think that really does set a great foundation somehow for the topic to come. Let’s talk about how minds change. And could you kick us off with a particularly surprising or counterintuitive or fascinating discovery you’ve made about us humans and our brains and persuadability while putting together this book?

David McRaney
One is the idea that humans are flawed and irrational, which I used to talk about all the time.

And the other is that some people are completely unreachable and unpersuadable, which I also used to say. I talk about it in the beginning of the book. I was at a lecture once, and someone asked for my advice on reaching out to their father who had gotten into a pretty deep conspiracy theory, and I, at the time, this was years ago, said, “I don’t think you have any hope here. This person isn’t willing to change their mind,” and I never felt good about that. I never liked that answer.

And then I witnessed the incredible shift in public opinion and attitudes towards same-sex marriage and LGBTQ issues, in general, in the United States, leading to the Supreme Court decision. And, interested in that, I started investigating it and found my way to the work of both Tom Stafford and Hugo Mercier, who are in the book, and who had been on my podcast, and who I, at this point, know them well enough to be able to chitchat.

Hugo Mercier has a great book called The Enigma of Reason which I highly recommend, and is an explanation of the interactionist theory of human cognition, which is his work with Dan Sperber. The simplest explanation of that is humans, we evolve over time to reach consensus towards common goals, common courses of action to share worldviews, to be more effective in groups.

And we have these two cognitive mechanisms underlaid by biological mechanisms: one is reproducing propositions and one is for evaluating propositions, and they work differently. And, oftentimes, we’ll find ourselves in environments where we’re only producing arguments, often we’re doing it in isolation, and it’s different from evaluating arguments.

And then that combines with what Tom Stafford has, put forward in a new model. Called The Truth Wins theory. Everyone who wrote books about this sort of thing, there was sort of a new hotness in the world of pop science, which were humans are irrational and flawed.

And so, the idea that the same reason we lock our keys in our cars and send emails to the wrong person, scales up to climate change and things like that, most of that research, even though it was done with lots of people, those people were researched in isolation. And that means we were looking at what an individual does and how an individual comes up with solutions to problems or reasons for thinking something or justifications and so on. And, yeah, individuals do that in a very biased and lazy way but if you give people the opportunity to approach those same things as a group, you’ll get a much better outcome.

And so, those two things together were the first sort of torches in the distance that I’d walked toward as I moved through all sorts of on-the-ground reporting with activists and cults and pseudo-cults and conspiracy theory communities and experts who study all these things, leading up to the arc of really shifting my view on not only how minds change, whether or not it’s through persuasion, but also how persuasion actually could work in a way that actually brings results.

So, that all sums up into one big epiphany for David McRaney, which is I don’t think anyone is unreachable anymore. I don’t think anyone is unpersuadable. I think that the frustration we often feel when we are approaching someone who doesn’t seem to want to change their mind or resist deeply, that frustration is better directed at ourselves for not approaching them in a way that would help them arrive at a different conclusion or see things differently.

In the book, I use the metaphor it’s like trying to reach the moon with a ladder, and when that doesn’t work, assuming the moon is unreachable. I think you try to reach out to people who disagree with you or see things much differently than you using improper approaches and techniques. You might assume they’re unreachable, but you just need to change the way you go about doing things. So, that’s my long-winded, super giant answer to your great opening question. Thank you.

Pete Mockaitis
Fundamentally, why do we humans tend to believe some things and not others? I was intrigued when you mentioned, you got cults and conspiracy theorists. I watched the documentary Behind the Curve about the Flat Earth stuff.

David McRaney
Oh, yeah, I got to help with that a little bit, yup.

Pete Mockaitis
And that was intriguing. And I’m just so fascinated as to why is it that some of us will accept some things and reject other things and like what’s that about?

David McRaney
Behind the Curve, that’s great. I didn’t know that I contributed to that documentary until someone told me that I was in the credits.
it also led to, of all things, there was a festival in Sweden that was similar to South by Southwest, and they invited me and Mark Sargent on stage to talk about his Flat Eartherness, and I used one of the techniques in the book on stage, although I wasn’t really that good at it. Like, I’m much better at it now.

But that’s a side story that came out of that documentary. I loved that documentary. One of the reasons why this is something that’s difficult to get your mind around is that some of the same assumptions that lay people, like ourselves, would make in this, even though we have all this experience with people we’ve tried to argue with over the years, are the same assumptions that scientists made when they first started studying this in earnest in the 1940s.

In the 1940s, they were trying to understand propaganda. They’re trying to understand, they were worried about what the Nazis were up to with propaganda, and the United States was trying to figure out, “Should we fight propaganda? Should we make propaganda? What works? What doesn’t?” And there were already social scientists who were interested in marketing and advertising and messaging and all that kind of things, and they ended up making this thing called Why We Fight.

You can watch it on YouTube. It’s this very long American propaganda piece that opens up with the Nazi propaganda, and says, “Look at this. This is bad. And why are we fighting this war?” And it says, “Is it because of this?” And they show all these places getting bombed and tanks rolling through, and they say, “No, no, no.” And then, eventually, they show the Statue of Liberty and the Magna Carta and stuff like that, and say, “This is why we fight. Torches of freedom that are being snuffed out around the world.”

And they had this whole idea, “We’re going to show this.” They showed it to the President. The President was like, “This is so good, I want this in every theater in the United States.”

And they went to bootcamps and things like that and showed them the film, and they measured the impact of it. And what they discovered there is something that we all often discover when we try to get people to see things our way. We throw a bunch of facts at them, a bunch of links, we tell them to go watch these videos, read these books. And what they found, there were these misconceptions that they were worried about.

One was that the war would be over in a couple of weeks, that the German military was very small, that the UK wasn’t doing a very good job of defending itself, we were just coming in to save them. They wanted to get rid of these misconceptions. And they found that the film did a great job of doing that. It did correct people’s incorrect beliefs. The facts in their mind were updated but their attitudes were not changed in any which way whatsoever.

All their opinions going in about the war, things like it’ll be over in this amount of time, or their negative or positive evaluation of things, no change. And that led to a new wing of research into persuasion in which we started to actually think of categories of mental constructs that were separate from one another. Attitudes aren’t the same as beliefs. Beliefs aren’t the same as attitudes. Then you have values and norms and opinions, and these things are interchangeable terms and we’re just kind of talking in our lay language, but they are not interchangeable when we start trying to divide them into mental constructs.

So, what often happens when you’re trying to change someone’s mind, and it’s not working out for you, is that you hear them present a claim or a proposition or an idea, and you try to change one aspect of it instead of the other aspect, which is actually driving their eagerness to present this to you.

What often happens is someone will say something, “I think the President is a great president,” or, “I think the President is a bad president,” whoever that may be, and you try to change their mind about that. It feels like you’re trying to change a belief. But what you’re really trying to change there is an attitude because they’re telling you their positive or negative evaluation of the person. And though there may be beliefs involved, there’s a sort of assumption that, or it could be anything.

It could be climate change, it could be fracking, it could be gun control, it could be whether the Earth is flat. We often believe it’s the facts that led to our feelings on the matter. Like, we’re Gandalf or something, we go to the bottom of our castle and we go to the scroll room and read all the scrolls, and then finally you hold up a finger, and you go, “Hmm, this is what I believe about blah, blah, blah.” It feels like we did that sort of contemplation.

But what usually is taking place is the person has a very strong emotional reaction to this that is a combination of motivations and drives and attitudes that come from experience, they come from their social group that they feel aligned with, they come from maybe motivations like “My job or my reputation.” And then that leads them on a search for evidence that will support the feeling that they have, and that’s motivated reasoning in a nutshell. They’re looking for reasons that will justify the foundational state that they’re in, that we don’t usually recognize is that foundational state.

So, when you approach someone at the level of their conclusions and your level of your conclusions, you’re really asking them to interpret evidence based off of your feelings and your attitudes and your emotions. And if the end goal in that is, “I’m right and you’re wrong,” and then their goal is to prove that, “No, no, I’m right and you’re wrong,” there’s very low chances of that actually getting anywhere, versus a conversation in which, “Hey, I notice that we disagree on this. I wonder why we disagree,” and then you investigate almost as a team to try to solve the mystery of where your disagreement starts.

And in that, you may find that there’s sort of Venn diagram of overlapping attitudes and values, and you can find something in there that will shift both of your opinions at the end of the conversation. So, that’s my very long answer to your question. And why do we resist? Because, evolutionary speaking, it’s dangerous to change your mind if you don’t need to but it’s also dangerous to not change your mind if you should.

So, either one of those outcomes could lead to you getting eaten or not having enough food to survive the winter, so we’re very careful about going through assimilation and accommodation, sort of the two mechanisms of changing our mind. We do this so carefully, considering all these possible motivations that turn it into a risk-versus-reward scenario, and we sort of evaluate the risk of it, and the risk just simply outweigh the rewards in a lot of situations for a lot of people.

Pete Mockaitis
Whew, yeah, so much there. So, when you talked about Mark Sargent and risks, I remember there’s a piece toward the end of that documentary Behind the Curve in which he said, “Oh, I couldn’t leave Flat Earth now if I wanted to.” Like, all of his entire social network and reputation is sort of built around this. And so, yeah, we have a whole boatload of reasoning there that you’re motivated to, to kind of find and dispute, it’s like, “Well, this experiment, it didn’t work out this way because of this.” And so, it’s like even a spot where it’s very difficult to accept evidence to the contrary of his beliefs because of what that will cost him. So, that’s the spot. That’s intriguing.

David McRaney
And the person may not know why they believe this or feel so strongly. If you want to put it in terms that actually fit what’s going on, like, “Why do you feel that pseudo-emotional thing of certainty? Why, when you see this news story, do you accept it unquestionably versus when you see this news story you feel skepticism and then another person has a completely inverted response to that?”

And you take something like vaccines. Like, I spent a lot of time with anti-vaxxers, before COVID anti-vaxxers, and spent time with the people who studied the CDC response and why it wasn’t working with MMR vaccines, the people who were against it often would say they’re afraid that it causes autism. If you asked that person, “Why do you not want to get your child vaccinated?” they may produce as a reason for you, “I fear that it may cause autism, and I’ve read all the stuff and I really believe it, and so I’m not getting my child vaccinated.”

That’s likely not the actual reason. That’s their justification for not doing it, but the reason they’re not doing it is so deep they may not even recall the beginning of their quest to find evidence to justify it. There are so many things that go into that. Usually, all the research suggests that there’s sort of a moral slide or setting in that person where they’re thinking, “This takes away my agency. I’m fearful of institutions. I don’t trust governments and medical institutions.”

“I don’t have a lot of knowledge about these foreign liquids, and they seem kind of disgusting to me in some way, and they’re scary. And you can take all of that and put it into a syringe, and put a needle at the end of it, and stick it into my child without my ability to say no,” that’s really what’s motivating them. That’s the strong negative attitude toward all of that.

Then they’ve gone on a search for, “What supports this strong negative attitude? Ah, yes, this autism thing. I totally accept that. That is a good reason for me to feel this way. It really justifies it.” And then when you get into a discussion with them and you might be presenting your evidence and they’re presenting their evidence, they’re saying to you, “This is why I believe this.” But that’s not actually why they believe it. That was some sort of justification they found later. So, they’re actually going in the reverse direction of the processing that was there.

And this is what we do in every domain when things are uncertain, ambiguous, scary, anxiety-laden. You know what I mean?

Pete Mockaitis
Yes. And I like that little listing that you gave in terms of these are the domains in which that occurs.

And then what’s tricky is when it’s so…yeah, you said it’s scary. Let’s hear those lists again. It’s scary, it’s ambiguous. What are some other ingredients that are right…?

David McRaney
Yeah, there’s uncertainty in there. There’s also we don’t know what we don’t know, so there is a large pocket of ignorance as to how any of this work but you don’t really know that you don’t know those things, but you do feel some sort of uncertainty because of it. There’s also uncertainty of outcome. It’s ambiguous as to what’s happening and there’s all these anxiety triggers in there. Anyone is anxious over having something put in their body that they did not themselves…like, we’re not involved in the creation of it.

And then there’s all these agency problems, like, “You’re taking my ability to determine…you’re taking something away from me when it comes to the care of my child. You’re also doing something to me. I’m not the one holding the syringe.” There are dozens of things in there. And there’s just the general fearfulness of institutions.

There’s nature nurture here. Some people come into the world already somewhat fearful in that way, and then life experiences compound that. Some of those are very reasonable. There may have been things that happened in their lives that they have a really good reason to not trust the government/medicine/so and so and so.

And I advocate in the book for cognitive empathy for those, like, “This person has no choice but to feel that way, no different than you have no choice but to feel, if you’re on the other side of it, you can imagine the question being directed at yourself, which is, ‘Why are you so trustful of all this?’ And it might be difficult for you to articulate why you so readily go, ‘But I trust this. I trust science. I trust doctors.’ And that’s what you should offer to them as well. They may not really be able to articulate why they feel that way.”

Pete Mockaitis
I think you’re nailing it here because I find myself really stuck in the middle with regard to that domain of sort of trust authorities, distrust authorities. Like, I’m thinking about times when I had to get my roof replaced. And so, I was having a hard time getting any roofer to show up, it’s like, “Darn it. I’m just going to call a dozen right now, and one of them is going to show up.” Well, four of them showed up. They gave me completely different perspectives, and I thought, “Wait a minute. You’re the roofing experts, I know nothing of roofs, and I’m supposed to make the call on which one is correct and which one is incorrect. That’s tricky.”

All right. Well, so we’ve laid the groundwork in terms of what’s up with minds changing and not changing. Can you lay it out for us then, ideally with some cool stories and examples, what are some workable strategies we can use to persuade folks? And I’m thinking particularly in professional context as we’re being awesome at our job here. So, lay it on us, how is it done?

David McRaney
So, in the beginning of the book, I go, I hang out with 9/11 truthers, conspiratorial communities. I go hang out with deep canvassers who are activist groups in Los Angeles that go door to door, knocking on doors and change people’s minds about wedge issues in about 20 minutes.

I spent time with the researchers in NYU who studied the dress, which helped me understand the nature of disagreement at the level of neurons, and there’s all sorts of stuff. And Westboro Baptist Church. I visited Westboro Baptist Church, talked to people who left, went to their Valentine’s Day Sunday services, and also went to the building across the street that protest them regularly, the Rainbow house.

One of the things that I found in all this, people who have techniques that actually work and have techniques that are supported by research, most of them had never met each other and weren’t aware of each other, and most of them had never actually looked into the science behind what they were doing. They were just doing a bunch of A/B testing and going with what worked and tweaking what didn’t.

I thought of it kind of like if you wanted to make an airplane, like before airplanes were invented, and you were trying to make something that flew, no matter where you were in the world, or what you made it out of, it would pretty much look the same because we’re dealing with the same physics and the same planet.

Persuasion techniques that really work all look about the same and work the same way because brains work pretty the same way in this dynamic, and that’s because we’re all sharing the same DNA that’s using the same proteins to make the same brain structures that were all influenced by natural selection and so on. That leads to me, if I was going to give you something that I feel that demonstrates this well, I would use street epistemology because I think it’s the easiest one to understand up front and it helps you understand the others really well, and you can apply it in a business setting, in a workplace really easily.

The first thing you need to do if you want to change somebody’s mind, my step zero in all this is ask yourself, “Why do you want to do that?” I find there’s a lot of value in introspecting as to why it is important to you to persuade someone one way or another. Try to make sure that you do have, at least believe you have, the moral high ground, the ethical high ground, or you are factually correct, and then investigate as to whether or not that is so before you enter into this space.

Then try to determine what it is that you want to change on the other side. Is it a belief, is it an attitude, or is a value? A belief is an estimation of something being true or false, a fact-based claim. An attitude is an evaluation of positive or negative, good or bad. And a value would be, “Where should we put this in the hierarchy of things that we are willing to put our time, money, and effort into?”

Pete Mockaitis
It’s like important or not important.

David McRaney
Right. So, establish that first, and then you’ll be much better off as to which one of these techniques works best. Street epistemology works really best when it’s a fact-based claim, like we use for anything. So, the order of operations goes like this. First, build rapport. Rapport is important because we are social primates, and the thing that we care about even more than our own mortality is whether or not our reputation is at stake in any dynamic.

If you communicate anything to the other person that can be interpreted as “You should be ashamed for thinking, feeling, or believing X,” that’s the end of that conversation. You are now in a place and a category of them, or you’re just considered a dangerous person who might get them ostracized or might get them canceled or something that, in effect, nobody wants to be on the end of that dynamic. So, you may not intend to do it, you may not have that in your heart, but it’s very easy to get somebody to feel that way. It’s very easy to communicate it, and you may actually do feel that way. You need to make sure you establish rapport.

The same way, like I’m sure we all have friends that we can go have drinks with, and we don’t agree with half of the things they think about the world but it’s okay, they’re our friends. Like, they’d go on our zombie survival apocalypse squad even though we don’t agree with them on everything. And we might even see the same movie and they’d have it and we love it, and we’re okay with that because we have that trust as social primates. So, you need to establish that up front. Do what you have to do.

If you have a relationship with that person, like it’s your parent, or your family member, or someone in your job who you’ve sort of had a lot of bad conversations with over the years, it may take a while to build that rapport. You might not be able to start this process until you’ve had a couple of meetings and hangouts where that rapport is re-established. So, it’s vital that that’s there first, otherwise they’ll stay in what psychologists call the precontemplation stage. They’re not going to engage in the act of processing the message you’re going to deliver until they feel like they can trust you. They need to feel that they can disagree with you and nothing bad will happen. So, that’s kind of up front.

Now, that’s very easy with strangers. You can establish trust very quickly with strangers, and then you can be transparent, be open, ask their consent, and say, “I’d like to explore this topic with you. I’d like to hear what you think about it. I’d like to kind of figure out where you’re coming from in all this. And if that’s okay with you, you may even change your mind by the end of this conversation. If you’re alright with it, would you be willing to have this conversation with me?”

If they agree to all that and you’re transparent, you just ask for a very specific claim. If it was, “I believe the Earth is flat,” that’s what you would say, like, “Give me a specific claim,” and they’d say, “Well, I believe the Earth is flat.” Once you get that claim, repeat it back to them in their own words. They may tell you all sorts of things, they may be very elaborate, and you need to try to repeat it back in a way that shows you really do understand where they’re coming from.

This borrows a little bit from the “Feel, Felt, Found” method of approaching people. It also borrows from all sorts of therapeutic models but it’s important to reflect, to paraphrase and reflect back what they’re telling you. If they say that you’ve done a good job and they’re satisfied, now you need to clarify their definition.

Like, some people, you may be talking about something like the government, and you think you’re talking about the same thing because you might have like a civics textbook idea of what governments are, and their idea of the government is maybe completely different. They may think that’s like a smoke-filled room where they divide the country up and all that sort of thing. So, you want to make sure you have the same definitions, and then use their definitions, not yours.

And then after that, this is the crucial moment, you need a numerical measure of their competence or their certainty, zero to 100, zero to 10, something like that, where all the way on one end is absolute certainty, and all the way the other end is zero certainty. This is important for a couple of reasons. One, if it’s a contentious issue, like gun control, or at the job, there could be something that’s happening too that there’s a lot of emotions wrapped up in it, they may know that by telling you where they’re on that scale, it could cause you to think poorly of them. It’s important for them to tell you on that scale, and then your reaction to it isn’t, “Oh, my God, what’s wrong with you?” So, that’s important.

The other thing is this is the way we’re going to encourage metacognition because this is a tool for exploring. You can just try this right now. Like, let me think of a movie. Like, the last Avengers movie, like, “Where would you put yourself on a scale, like from one to ten, how much you liked that movie?” And then, it’s weird, like if you asked somebody to put a number on it, like you start to feel yourself thinking about it in a different way.

You might’ve, just before, said, “I liked it.” But if I asked you, like, “Yeah, but how much, like one to ten, zero to ten?” You say, “A seven.” It feels different. It feels like a totally new thought that you hadn’t had before but that’s important.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, there’s more effort, for sure, like, “Well, seven is not as good as The Dark Knight. I mean, come on. But I mean you know…”

David McRaney
“Yeah, where would you put yourself on The Dark Knight?” “Oh, I would say that’s a nine. It’s not perfect but it’s a nine.” Like, “So, where’s the Avengers then if that’s a nine?” Like, “Oh, well, I mean, it was good. I enjoyed it. Seven, six, seven. Seven, six,” you can feel that process is taking place. You can do it with any topic, “What do you feel about this new policy we’ve put in at work? Like, from one to ten, like ten it’s the best thing it ever was; one, we should never have done it.” “Well, you know,” and they start having that reaction. Or, it could be about a contentious wedge issue, like, “What do you feel about vaccines or gun control?”

So, once you have that number out there, then you want to ask, “What reasons do you have to hold that level of confidence?” or, “Why does that number feel right to you, basically?” And this is when you hand off this conversation to the other person. This is the part that allows all of us to work because no longer are you trying to copy and paste your reasoning into them. You’re evoking their reasoning out into the world, which may have never happened to them before. This is maybe their first chance to actually have a true opinion about it.

So, you ask for their reasons, like, “Well, I feel that it’s a seven because this, this, this.” That may not be the actual reason, like we covered earlier. That doesn’t matter. It’s just important they’re thinking about it in that way. And then once they’ve put a reason out there for you to discuss, ask, “What method are you using?” You don’t have to worry at this point. I’m telling you broad strokes here, but you want to ask in a very natural way, “What method are you using to arrive at that as a good reason for having that number?”

So, you can already feel, this is a three-dot chain. You have a number, you have a reason, “What’s the method?” And you ask it in such a way that you are easily guiding that person backwards all the way back to foundation. And then, hopefully, like in the best cases, the most sudden changes, the things closest to a complete flip happen, where a person realizes they weren’t using a very good method or good epistemology to like sort out the reason.

And that’s it. from that point forward, just repeat all three of those over and over again, especially the method part. Listen carefully, be a nonjudgmental empathetic listener, summarize, repeat, and help them sort it out. Just be a guide to help them sort through all of that. And when you reach a point where it feels natural, you can wrap up and wish them well. You may have to do this several times but just engaging a person in that way almost guarantees that they will see the issue differently than they saw it before that conversation.

Which, seeing something than they did before, is changing their mind, but moving at your attitude one way or the other is changing your mind, and moving your certainty up and down is changing your mind, and moving your idea of what is and is not important is a way to change your mind. And all those things can take place in this particular framework.

Pete Mockaitis
Whew, that’s beautiful. Well, David, could you roleplay and see in action right now?

David McRaney
So, that’s the method. Some conversations, like the one we’re having, like the character you’re presenting is a person who you can tell when there are moments when like they’re admitting to themselves maybe they haven’t considered this very deeply, or they’re admitting to themselves they’re using epistemologies that aren’t very rigorous, but usually at that point, a person starts to feel a little bit of reactance and they don’t want to lose face in front of the other person. They need time to think better on their own and let it flourish, let it blossom inside of them.

The key thing is to never get into an argumentative frame, and that’s what I was avoiding at every step of the way. So, they typically want to have three conversations with a person, and they do. They often keep up with them. I think they spreadsheet it out, they make sure they do contact them again. And on an issue like this, where if you’re the street epistemologist, if you’re not a climate expert, you’re avoiding talking about facts anyway, you have to admit to yourself that there are good points on the other side, and you have to bring those points forward.

But the idea is to establish a good dynamic in which we’re both trying to kind of figure out, “How would we understand this thing?” or, “Are we using good ways? Are we parsing the data well? Are we actually using news sources? Are we experts?” And I hope some that some of that was coming through in the conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes. Well, thank you. Yeah, that is handy in terms of, indeed, at no point you’re like, “You really are going to get us all killed, right? Oh, so you’re climate denier. That’s what you are. Okay. I have all I need to know about you.” So, yes, so non-argumentative and it does, indeed, feel open. And I guess as I reflect on this conversation, it’s refreshing and it’s different from, I guess, what you see in politics on both sides. It’s just like, “The other side is very bad and wrong and evil, and what we need to do is to demolish and defeat them,” is the vibe you get when you look at US political discourse in 2022.

David McRaney
Yeah. I used the dress in the book to demonstrate what the dress some people saw as black and blue, some people saw it as white and gold, but you had no choice in the matter. Like, that’s just what your brain resolved it to be. And if you got into an argument with someone about, “No, it’s this way. No, it’s the other way,” you’d never get an opportunity to have the kind of conversation where you could ask, like, “I wonder why we see it differently?” or, “I wonder why other people would see it differently than you?” which opens you up to this introspection and also this sort of critical-thinking frame of like, “Hmm, I do wonder what is the nature of disagreement?”

And some little voice inside you says, “Oh, yeah, I could be wrong about this,” or, “Oh, yeah, it’s difficult to be certain of anything, and there are reasons why people think, feel, and believe things.” And with the dress, it was because the more exposure you have to sunlight, the more time you spend in the daylight or you work around windows, the more you assume when something is overexposed, is overexposed in the blue side of the spectrum, and the more time you spend around incandescent light, which is mostly yellow light, the more you assume something is overexposed in the yellow side.

So, the picture itself was very ambiguous as to what it was overexposed but it was ambiguous as to what was causing the overexposure. And so, a person’s experiences with different kinds of light sources determine what they subtracted from the image resulting in two completely different ways of seeing that thing.

But the same thing takes place in politics or even an issue like climate change, like we were discussing. All the experiences that person has had up to that moment, this is an issue that’s uncertain and ambiguous and requires some expertise to understand. So, to come to any kind of conclusion on it, you’re going to have to use something that comes from your priors.

In the character you were communicating to me just now, this person was using ideas of trust. This idea of where the money goes. Like, that’s something that you can understand. That’s something you can use to determine whether or not I feel very strongly about this. But one of the parts of the technique is, that comes from motivational interviewing, is always ask the other person if they’re a five, why are they not a four. Or, if they’re four, why are they not a three.

And what happens often is that they have to present an argument for not going that way. And then you take that argument and that’s what you pump your energy into, into giving them the ability to articulate, “Oh,” and usually they’ll go up. What I didn’t do is ask you where are you on the scale again because that’s usually how you measure that you had some sort of effect.

But it didn’t seem, in that particular conversation, that the person on the other side was ready to re-evaluate because the thing that was coming to the fore was, “Oh, I’m not an expert. It will be difficult to become an expert in this, and I haven’t read a lot about this. And so, therefore, my opinion isn’t really on a strong foundation.” And that needs to mature in the other person before you would take it to the next level.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes. And I liked how, I guess, we also determined that if I have skepticism associated, or the character has skepticism associated with monied interests, then that really could be an interesting point in terms of, “Hey, get a load of these people who walked away from tons of money by going to the other side.” It’s like, “Oh, huh. So, there are some folks who made this call based on convictions that caused them something. That’s sort of persuasive.”

David McRaney
Or, you could go with oil and gas companies, or politicians that are supportive of them, they have vested interests, and so the conspiracy could be on the other side, if there is something like that afoot. Or, there are just human activity that’s based more off like, “I need to stay rich and have a nice car and live in a nice house.” So, you could always take that because that’s more like that’s the fundamental attitude, that’s the fundamental anxiety, that’s the fundamental skepticisms at play, and it’s something that could be applied on either side of this dynamic, of this issue, and could move a person from a four to a five, or at least put them into this state.

The street epistemologist, they often say like their goal is not to change the other person’s mind. Their goal is to encourage that person to use critical thinking, or encourage that person to examine how they come to certainty at all. If they happen to change their mind in the conversation, that’s one thing but that’s not what they’re really attempting to do. It’s just sort of a happy happenstance, if it does happen. It’s more about, “Did I encourage that person to think in a new way about this particular issue?”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, David, thank you. So much good stuff. Let’s hear about some of your favorite things now. Can you share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

David McRaney
It’s attributed to Mark Twain. He probably didn’t say it, like most things attributed to Mark Twain, “It’s not what you don’t know that gets you in trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” I like that one a lot.

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

David McRaney
One of my absolute favorite studies is this coin flip experiment done by Tversky. Kahneman-Tversky, one of their old ones. You have a person flip a coin, you tell them you’ve flipped the coin, it’s all on paper, and you say you flip a coin, “If it comes up heads, you win $200. If it comes up tails, you lose $100.” And that’s the situation, and then you divide people into two groups.

One group, you tell them the outcome of the coin flip and you randomize it, and then you ask them, “Would you like to flip the coin again under the same conditions?” And everybody chooses to flip it again. And you ask them why, they say, some will say if it didn’t come up in their favor, they’ll say, “I need to flip the coin again to win back the money I lost.“ And if it did come up in their favor, they say, “I need to flip the coin again because I’m ahead and I can risk it.”

So, either way, they come up with a justification for flipping the coin a second time. However, in the other group, you don’t tell them the outcome of the coin toss. And if you do that, nobody chooses to flip the coin a second time, which is incredible because we already know from the other group, it wouldn’t matter which way it comes up. You would’ve chosen to flip it.

But if I don’t give you the information required to justify flipping it a second time, you won’t do it because you can’t do it, because there’s a mountain of evidence to suggest we don’t make the decision that is “best.” We make the decision that is easiest to justify. And if we’re denied the opportunity to justify, we just won’t make a decision.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, and it’s not fun. It’s like nothing is going to happen if I tell you to flip the coin again, so.

David McRaney
I’m assuming you did or didn’t win the money but I’m not telling you yet till you flip it a second time. And most people just say, “Well, I don’t want to do that.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And a favorite book?

David McRaney
Fiction, I love Joe. It’s a really good Southern fiction from Larry Brown. It felt like the South of my childhood, but also it felt like the things that I’d noticed and felt about the people I’ve lived around. They were in there in a way that I’d never felt before in a book, so it’s great and I still love it.

And nonfiction, I always tell people to get, if you’re interested in this world that I talk about, start with Incognito. It’s a really great book by David Eagleman, talking about how the conscious part of our existence, of our organism is only a small part of what the brain does. It’s kind of the stowaway on the Titanic, whereas, the rest of the stuff we do is we’re unaware of it. But here, recently, and I mentioned it earlier, something that’s just been humongous for me as far, as nonfiction goes, is “The Enigma of Reason.” It’s not an easy read but it sure will change the way you see yourself and other people.

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

David McRaney
I love Notability on the iPad. It’s become a super tool for me because I have to read a lot of studies, and I used to keep them in legal boxes, and then mark them up with a pen, and then have to have labels and all that kind of stuff. Now, I use Notability. I just import the PDF, I mark it up, it goes into a category. It’s in buckets, I can refer to it at any time.

And if you just want to take regular old notes, it’s incredible because you can manipulate the notes like you would with like Photoshop or something, and you can cut things out, paste them, enlarge, embiggen, you can speak directly into it, and it dictates it, you can circle things, and then turn it into, a handwritten, into texts in a type.

And I use it in interviews now because I connect a lavalier mic to my iPad, and I take notes while the other person is talking to me. And if I want to go back to the document, if I touch my note in any place, wherever that note is at, it moves the audio to that part of the conversation. It’s an incredible tool. It’s really, really force-multiplied the way I do my job.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

David McRaney
Well, I lost a hundred pounds over COVID, and the habit was tracking calories. The reason I did that, I did a lecture and somebody in the audience, or somebody who watched it on YouTube commented, they said, “I don’t know why you would listen to this guy about anything when he’s a fat dude.” So, it’s like, “I’m not going to listen to critical-thinking advice from a guy that can’t eat right.”

Obviously, it hurt my feelings but I also was like, “Fair enough. So, I should probably apply something to this from the world of what I do.” And I asked a couple of experts just on the side after interviews, and tracking your calories religiously was something that kept coming up. And I got an app, it doesn’t really matter what app you use, but the habit is to, like everything, like you put a little creamer in your coffee, add it. Every single little tiny thing you put in your body goes in there.

It is astonishing how overboard your calories are without your realization of it. You just really kind of have this intuition that, “Eh, that wasn’t that bad,” when you would go over the line pretty easily. Changed everything for me. I was able to lose 100 pounds using that technique.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And is there a key nugget you share that seems to connect and resonate with folks; it’s Kindle book highlighted and retweeted, etc.?

David McRaney
Well, in the most recent book, a lot of people, the early interviewers I talked to you about, debates have winners and losers, and nobody wants to be a loser. So, the most important thing is to have a conversation where you try to get at, “Why is it do we disagree on the issue?”

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

David McRaney
All of my stuff and my podcast is under You Are Not So Smart, YouAreNotSoSmart.com, and that’s the name of the podcast. How Minds Change is just the name of the book, and you can find information about everything I do, from lectures to consulting, to books and everything else at just DavidMcRaney.com.

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

David McRaney
Yeah, it’s a thought experiment that my friend Will Storr created, and it goes like this. Ask yourself, “Are you right about everything?” And some people are going to say yes. That is a whole issue you got to work on, my friend. But let’s assume you’re like the rest of us, and you say, “No.” If the answer is no, ask yourself, “What are you wrong about?” And if the answer to that is, “I don’t know,” ask yourself why you don’t know and how you would correct that. I think that’s useful in any job.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. David, thank you. This has been a treat. I wish you much luck with your book “How Minds Change,” and all you’re up to.

David McRaney
I appreciate it, man. Thank you for all your patience and for your participation and your willingness to get into weird territory. I think that’s fantastic.