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KF #24. Persuades

430: How to Reach the Unreachable: Lessons Learned from Master Teachers with Jeff Gargas

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Jeff Gargas shares best practices from teaching that every professional can use.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Three links between classroom management and organizational management
  2. How to return to caring when you’re not feeling it
  3. How to reach the unreachabl

About Jeff

Jeff Gargas is the COO and co-founder of the Teach Better Team (Creators of www.teachbetter.com, The Grid Method, and Teach Further). He works with educators to increase student engagement and improve student success.

Prior to co-founding Teach Better, Jeff was the owner of ENI Multimedia, an online marketing firm, where he worked with entrepreneurs and small businesses, assisting them with web design, social media, content marketing, and brand awareness.

Prior to all of this, Jeff was an adjunctive professor at Kent State University and spent 10+ years in the music industry. He has spoken at conferences around the country, and has successfully promoted more than 500 events and launched 7 businesses in a variety of industries.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Jeff Gargas Interview Transcript

Jeff Gargas  
Truly an honor to be on here and I really appreciate it.

Pete Mockaitis  
Oh yeah, well, I’m excited to dig in. And first, I want to hear you share when signing up for this scheduler, that you can “likely cry,” more so within your wife. What’s the story about it?

Jeff Gargas  
I’m a big sucker for romantic comedies, and I’ve always been a hopeless romantic as I describe it, just the way I am. I don’t know. I’m pretty sure I blind my mo, but I’m just a hopeless romantic and my wife’s a tomboy, so I’m more likely to tear up a little bit at a moment. Even if silly, like Adam Sandler romantic comedy, and it shouldn’t be. Too likely, I’ll get there before her for sure. Yeah, like it’s not that uncommon.

Pete Mockaitis  
Oh, that’s funny. That’s funny. I just recently discovered the TV series This Is Us.

Jeff Gargas  
I wanted to get into it. I wanted to get into it because I know what’s going to happen, like my brother and my sister-in-law are watching, my mom is watching, and I’m like, no, I don’t know how to handle that, like, no.

Pete Mockaitis  
It’s like it’s a good thing I waited until I became apparent to watch this show, otherwise… yeah, this is boring but I’m like, “Oh, my god!”

Jeff Gargas  
It’s crazy after you become a parent what other things affect you and you’re like, “Yeah, that shouldn’t. Wow, okay. Wow.” Yeah, it’s crazy.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so you’re also a listener and fan of the How To Be Awesome At Your Job podcast.

Jeff Gargas
I am. Big fan. Legitimate.

Pete Mockaitis
As opposed to things that publicist say to try to get…

Jeff Gargas  
No, absolutely legitimate fan. No joke. And not because we were doing this, but I was at the gym a couple hours ago, gonna get my workout in. And I was listening to it, with your episode with Michael Hyatt, which was awesome. He’s a big fan of his as well. So yeah, love it, man. Love what you’re doing, totally.

Pete Mockaitis  
Well, I love what you’re doing, you are helping the world teach better. So can you orient us a little bit? So you got a few things going on, what’s up with “Teach better,” and the “grid method,” and “Teach for us?”

Jeff Gargas  
So yeah, the Teach Better team is what we are at things over at teachbetter.com, and we basically work, but we do a lot of stuff with like, our general missions is we work with teachers and school districts to implement best practices, implement district-wide initiatives and other bits and pieces of professional development and training for the teachers.

Essentially, all we try to do is just help teachers be better at what they do. Like, teachers are already doing amazing things in the classrooms, we’re not trying to go in and change what they’re doing. We’re just trying to support them in every way, in any way we possibly can to help them do it.

It all got started with something we call the Grid Method, which is a mastery learning framework that my co-founder Chad Ostrowski, he created in his classroom, basically out of necessity, and you’re struggling to reach his very high-needs population of students and got to the point where he considered quitting, and decided that he either need to go get a job somewhere else, or he needed to figure out how to teach better.

And he luckily stayed in and figured that out. He’s a scientist by trade, so we kind of dissected everything and found best practices that seemed to be, the research showed, would answer his struggles, but couldn’t find a way to put them all together. So we created the system.

And that’s sort of what launched us, as he called me asking about doing an ebook, because I was in the online marketing world at the time. And teachers in his district were asking questions, because basically the students were telling them they didn’t know how to teach anymore, which was fun for him in a lot of ways.

It’s a little target on his back, but also a lot of teachers that were like, “Hey, I want to reach these kids, too.” And then our team will tell you my famous words were, “Dude, we’re not just doing an ebook.” I said, “We have to do something different. You’ve got something here.”

And apparently I was right, because now we try it to schools all over the country, and it’s growing. And we do a lot more than just a good method now and teach for— there’s another model that we have that incorporates classrooms working with community members and mock internships and real life, real purpose situations and all their units, and we do a lot of your just regular base, the best practices and stuff.

I’m one of the co-founders, and I work as our chief operating officer. We’re a small business with a small team, so I really operate also as our chief marketing officer, CFO, HR manager, and just about anything else you can think of. We all wear a lot of hats, but really what I try to do is just work to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to first take care of our team. And then a very, very close second is take care of our partner schools and all those teachers that are changing the world. We’re just trying to what we can help them.

Pete Mockaitis  
And in your work, you say that you have seen many commonalities, connections between some of the teaching better classroom management stuff, and then, you know, nonprofit, government, business organizational management stuff. Can you lay out that link for us?

Jeff Gargas  
Yeah, I think the biggest link, to keep it really simple, is relationships, relationships, relationships, and then environment and culture. So I come from a background in the restaurant industry, managing restaurants, and a wide variety of those also in the entertainment industry for a little while. And I’ve been, pretty much most of my life, ever since I got my first job and was able to get promoted to a shift-level management — I’ve been in management my entire life and the supervisor role.

And now with our team, it’s a little bit different, but so many commonalities there. And then we started to chat, and I started seeing all these connections between like how we needed to build things and run things in our business and the connections they had to the management in the classroom.

And one of the biggest things we saw is like this need for strong foundational relationships and building the right environment, the right culture. So like whether you’re in a classroom, a restaurant, entertainment company, market, firm, insurance agency, whatever it is, you need to build a culture of trust, of positivity, and to build that synergy.

And you need that environment that promotes growth, that promotes passion, that promotes excitement around what you’re trying to do. And in order to do all that, you’ve got to build the relationships first, whether that’s building relationships with your students to understand where they’re at, what they need, and how to reach them, or if it’s working with that new, that new employee, or a struggling employee, and building that.

And from an employee standpoint, if I’m on a team, understanding that I’m also a massive part of building that culture and building that environment, and how I interact with my colleagues, how I interact with my supervisors, and how do I build those relationships that I can understand, how do I do my job the best I can to make my supervisor’s job easier, because that’s going to make my life easier, and so on, so forth. So in my mind, all that comes in on those relationships is the foundation of everything.

Pete Mockaitis  
Okay, so intriguing. Relationships, relationships, relationships. Can you maybe paint a picture for us? So what does it look like for the world class teachers? I guess we’re gonna say relationships, but what does that look like in practice, in terms of what are they doing? What are the key differentiators that these rock stars who are getting huge student learning attainment gains, test scores, improvements rocking out versus the rest of the teachers who are kinda getting by, you know, doing okay. What are the things that they’re doing differently? How are they working their relationships or classroom behaviors in a different way?

Jeff Gargas  
Yeah, man, the relationships are a huge piece of that, because any kind of management system you put in place in your classroom, any kind of new technology, or awesome new innovative type of experience or anything like that, even the lesson plan that you bring in, it’s going to fall apart, if you don’t have the relationships to build on that.

The same thing is, I know the best business plan in the world, but if my team just can’t operate, because there’s no relationship, there’s no culture, there is no environment, it’s not going to work. But I think on top of that, these teachers that we see that are just amazing like that, they just have a refusal to quit, they refuse to quit. We call it the Teach Better Mindset.

It’s this relentless pursuit of better. It’s not perfect, it’s never going to be perfect, it’s just better — better today than you were yesterday, better tomorrow than you were today. That’s what we preach on. And it’s never this, “Hey, we want to change everything you do,” or, “Hey, you got to fix everything,” or, “You’re not good.” It’s, “You can always be better.”

And the champions that we see, these teachers that are doing amazing things, as they always look every day that reflect in their software, and they’re always thinking, “What can I do to be better? How can I reach more kids? It’s never enough until I’m reaching 110% of them.” Right?

So I think the teachers that refuse to accept anything but the best for the students, and who go above and beyond every single day to do whatever it is that they need to do to support those kids. And basically, I mean, if you think about, they’re spending their days just pouring love into other people’s kids.

I mean those are world changers, that they dedicate so much to it. And I think it’s really just that refusal to accept anything, and they’re willing to take risks and put themselves on the line and challenge themselves every single day, every single second of every day to do better and be better for the kids. Those are the ones that are really making those differences.

Pete Mockaitis  
All right, that’s awesome. Maybe could you could share a story in terms of a teacher who’s really just doing that great? So I just sort of get a sense for, build relationships and never quit. What does that look like in practice?

Jeff Gargas  
I can think of a lot of stories, but it’s all slightly general, more general. But like, it’s a teacher that you mentioned that’s already doing pretty well, right? So, you know, I’ll talk about Ray here, she’s on our team, but she’s also a phenomenal teacher, which is why we checked her into working with us.

So Ray, you know, was a good teacher, she was doing well. You know, she did well on her observations, she was reaching most students, they did well, the bell curve looked like it should as the average kid was doing well. And she could have easily skated by and been okay, and just probably had a good career, probably worked her way up to maybe being a principal one day. That was, you know, she was gonna go back and get her license, probably could have, you know, she’s got the personality and charisma to where she could have easily got into an admin position and probably, you know, had a nice career.

But early on, she decided she was not okay with being okay. And she… look, she said, “My kids are engaged, but are they as engaged as they possibly can be? My kids are doing well, but are they doing as well as they absolutely can be. I’m reaching most of my kids, but am I really okay with most of my kids?” And then she wakes up and says, “Man, I hope I hit some of my kids today. Like, that’d be great.”

No, I wake up and I say, “I want to have every single one of my kids grow today.” And I think it was that passion and her and then like, again, that’s where piece of equipment the way she did it. She said, “This isn’t working. I’ve got a lot of great pieces, but I need other pieces.”

Actually developed our Teach Further model. She’s the one who, like that was one of the things that caught our eyes. And she said, “How can I take what I’m doing, these fun activities, and really make sure that I’m not just putting in fluff?” Ray’s biggest thing is “Fluff is not enough.” And by fluff, I mean, it’s really, you know, it’s easier to create a classroom that looks really cool on Instagram, that looks really fun and engaging. But if there’s no purpose underneath it, there’s no connection to what they actually need to learn in the real world application of what they’re learning in your classroom. It’s just fluff. It’s not actually doing much other than just, you know, being fun for Instagram.

And so she said, “How can I do that? How can I make these connections?” And then she started reaching out and calling companies, businesses, saying, “I have this idea. I’m wondering if you’d take this crazy journey with me, and allow my students to operate in a mock internship with your company, and here’s how I’m going to connect it to my math standard, here’s how I’m going to connect it to my ELA standard,” and the way that she started connecting pieces to real world applications, to these seemingly boring math standards and things like that, is phenomenal.

And now, we’ve sent them to build, help teachers all over, connect with major companies and businesses and do some amazing things. But, you know, she’s a great example of that teacher that you were talking about, that rock star teacher that just said, “I could be okay, I can be comfortable, I can get by, but I refuse to do that.”

You flip that, you see it in the corporate world — I saw it when I was managing people in the restaurant industry of kids who came in and out a lot of time. I was in fact in the quick service industry, kids come in a lot of times, the first job, first opportunity, they’ve taken a management position or have a little bit of responsibility.

And you have some that said, “I’ll just do what I need to do, because I’m just here while I’m figuring out what I’m doing my life, because I’m going to college, it’s a part time thing,” and others that looked at and said, “If I’m here, I’m going to be the ‘best here’ I possibly can be. I’m going to learn everything I can, I’m going to pick the brains of the people that are here, and maybe I’ll end up in this place forever and I’ll retire here, or at the very least, I’m going to take it and make sure I get the most out of this experience. So that when I go on to the next part of my journey, my life, I can be the best I can be there.”

I think that’s the same thing when it comes to any industry or in any job you’re in. And it’s this refusal to just settle for being okay. I mean, we spend more than 60% of our lives at our jobs. So if you’re just being okay, that means you’re just being okay, for the majority of your life. I’m not okay with that. But…

Pete Mockaitis  
Okay, so it starts with having a higher standard, a higher bar in terms of, “Okay, we’re going to be the best we possibly can, we refuse to quit.” So once you get that commitment, that fire in play, let’s talk about this relationship stuff. So how does one go about forging great relationships?

Jeff Gargas  
It’s a couple of things. So the biggest thing with me is, I think it’s caring. It’s actually caring, though I have this thing that I talked about a lot, where some people do things because the book tells them to. And by the book, I mean the manual, or the best practice, or the person who says, “This is how you should do your job,” or whatever. And there’s some people that do it because they actually care.

A really simplified answer is in a restaurant, where an elderly couple is at a table, when you go to have a conversation with them. The difference between going there because, well, that’s good customer service, “And our manual says we should focus on customer service,” versus, “I’m going there because just possibly, those are grandparents who haven’t seen their grandson who’s about my age in a long time, and I can give them a little glimpse or reminder of that grandson they haven’t seen for a while. I can have a conversation with them and brighten their day.” Those are very big differences.

In same thing when it comes to building relationships with your employees, with your colleagues, with your with your students. It’s actually caring, and it’s not, “I’m doing this because it’s going to better me and make my life better, even though it will. But it’s focused on how can I help make your day better? How can I actually learn because I actually want to help you?”

And I think in the more and more tactical piece, it’s actually fairly simple. No, we chatter fast, because all the time, we have a thousand conversations about nothing. But truly get to understand that person. Dig down and figure out what they’re actually about, and build that.

You talked about authentic relationships. Authentic relationships isn’t, “Pete likes to be rewarded at work.” It’s, “No, why is Pete like that? What is the actual reason behind that? What what’s going on in Pete’s real life that connects them? Why is recognition at work so valuable to him?”

So that can truly understand what truly drives you. And I think the teachers that truly understand what their students need, and what drives them and each individual student, they’re the ones that reach them, they build those relationships nested and wants to work for them. And I think that’s the biggest piece of that, it’s truly actually caring and then having those conversations to dig down and actually understand those people.

Pete Mockaitis  
Now that’s tricky. When it comes to the “actually caring” part, I’d love to get your take on that: If you if you don’t actually care on a given day, because you’re tired, you’re stressed, you’re overworked, you got so many distractions, whatever your reasons, you know? I’m going to assume you’re not just like an evil, hateful person. But to give a day, you don’t actually care. What do you recommend to get back into that zone?

Jeff Gargas  
So there’s, I guess two parts. One is, my day will be spent figuring out why you don’t care that day, and see if there’s something you can do to fix that. But sometimes, there’re just as a new thing you can do: Would you try to leave it in your car? You can’t, and you just don’t have it in you.

So then, you may still want to practice that, because that’s still important to your and your role, but also to that person. It’s important for them, too, because you still need to understand them. So you still need to dig them. So you may have to practice the fact that, “Today, I got to put on a face and I got to make sure that I’m still digging, I’m still building these relationships, I’m still letting them know that I care.” But you can’t be fake about it.

So if you’re going to come off fake, and they’re going to see through it, that’s going to ruin a lot of the progress you made. So you may have to kind of take a day off, or maybe take not quite as many conversations. It’s not digging up in as deep. But I think the key to that is for now, “Why don’t I care today? How do I fix that?”

It’s one thing to just be down and be like, “Hey, I’m not in the mood for conversations,” that’s understandable. But like, actually not caring? You’re like, “I just don’t care about anybody today.” Like, there’s something else going on there in my mind that needs to be addressed first, and figure out like why am I not feeling this way today.

“And if I’m feeling that way, is it actually going to be harmful if I try to engage with my colleague or with my student or this way, because I’m putting off some negativity?” And so having that self-awareness and reflection on that, I think, is coordinated and figuring out, “Okay, how do I get back onto it tomorrow and I can be authentic again, and get back into doing what I need to do?”

Pete Mockaitis  
And I like the example you brought about with the waiter or waitress in terms of, “Hey, these grandparents may not have seen a really young person in a while. And so this could mean that for them.” So that seems to be a little bit of the formula with regard to “I am putting myself in their shoes and recognizing how the thing I’m doing here can make a world of a difference.”

And for teachers, that’s huge, like, “Hey, what happens here can set the stage for whether learning and growth and development are headed to college or career or interesting fulfillment jobs or, you know, much less pleasant for folks.” So that’s as well as medicine. But I think that some of the other fields I think can require a little bit of thought at times to zero in on who is it that we’re serving, and how is what I’m doing today potentially going to be transformationally amazing for them.

Jeff Gargas  
Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s important to understand who you’re serving, regardless of what industry you’re in, and what kind of engagement can help whatever it is that they’re coming to you for. And I mean, obviously in the hospitality industry, it’s a lot of that communication and being friendly, because you never know what kind of day they’re having. And if you can put a smile on their face, that might be the first time all day.

Same thing in the classroom. It’s like it takes so long to figure out what are those kids coming to school with? What else do they have? You know, what are the other things that they care about emotionally? And you might be the only person in the world that that’s showing them love for the day. That shows you care for them; that’s massive.

The same can be said for your employee or your boss or your colleague, like everyone’s got something going on, right? And you don’t know if the guy in the cubicle next to you or the girl down the hall and in the other office is struggling with something, that just the simple, quick smile, a “Hello, how are you?” an actually authentic “I care, I actually am asking you. I want to know, how are you doing today? What’s going on?”

That can that can make a world of a difference to somebody. And if you have a culture in your small business, big, large business, whatever, that has that, and everyone’s feeling that way, the opportunity for negativity to seep in is far less, which is better beneficial for everybody.

Pete Mockaitis  
You know, I like what you said about the difference a smile can make. It reminds me one time, just a few months ago, I was in church and there was someone who’s just smiling, like completely and thoroughly. It was like, “Wow, that feels really good.” I realized that she was looking at my baby.

Jeff Gargas  
Oh, there you go. That’ll do it, right?

Pete Mockaitis  
I guess that puts you in a good mood. She’s looking adorable, but I was like, “Wow, you know, it’s pretty rare that you actually get to feel a genuine, authentic, full-on smile. Like, I have enjoyed seen you!” I mean babies get it, but we don’t as much.

Jeff Gargas  
Yeah. And you know, the crazy thing is the smile. It’s crazy what a smile does for you. So there’s an author and amazing educator named Adam Welcome. He wrote a book called Kids Deserve It, which is a massive hit and educational, but then he also wrote a book called Run Like a Pirate. In this amazing book, he just picked up with a short, easy read, but it’s phenomenal.

It’s like his story of 2017, he ran a marathon every single month — because Adam’s just intense. But in the book, he talks about, like, one of his tactics for sort of getting through that mental game of running — and I’m a runner, this is why it’s big for me — but it’s to just smile.

And it’s funny, like when I run now, like if I feel like I’m having a hard time getting rid of a mental hurdle, I will smile. But then what’s funny is then I remember the fact that I’m smiling because I had this book said it, which makes me kind of chuckle, and I smile.

I’m telling you, man, it’s like a whole other level, like it just does something to you. Like it’s crazy. So if you can give someone a smile, maybe they give you a smile back. And now you get your authentic smile to yourself. Like it’s going to warm your soul. And I’m a huge fan of that.

We so often as humans just do anything we can to avoid contact, or avoid eye contact, right? Like we look down, we just don’t do anything. I try really hard. And I don’t do it every day, but I try really hard to just smile at people and say hi to as many people as I can, because again, you don’t know what they’re going through. That’s just such an important thing, in my mind.

Pete Mockaitis  
And to point about having a thousand conversations about nothing, in a way, I like the feeling that sentence creates, because it’s sort of like, you could just chill out. It’s like, I’m not intentionally trying to tease out 14 precise takeaways from this discussion.

But yeah, we’re talking about, “Oh, you like pizza? That’s cool. What are your favorite toppings? Oh, yes, sausage is the best,” you know, whatever. And in so doing, you build up a picture. But that being said, could you share what are some of the conversations about nothing that are often quite telling, and they deliver something?

Jeff Gargas  
Yeah, I mean, simple conversations about like, “What did you do this weekend? What are you up to tonight?” and then playing off that at all, like, “Do you do you watch this? Do you watch This Is Us, right? Do you cry during movies? Do you get up? You said you like pizza.” It’s a million different ways.

And you know, with students, a lot of times, it’s, “What did you do this weekend?” And that that opens up another question, noticing something that, maybe they have a graphic T-shirt on, like, “Oh, do you like The Incredible Hulk?” or whatever. Given that, your co-workers can simply just be like, “Maybe they have a shirt on,” you know, depending on the dress code and stuff, but it could be asking them what they do this week, and what are they up to this week, and what do they think about this or that, did they cast a game last night, have they got in that new movie, whatever it might be they have.

You know, just those conversations that just start a conversation about nothing, you give you a chance to just sort of learn a little bit about them, because the way someone tells you about their weekend, or explains what they liked or disliked about a movie, or the team they cheer for, something like that tells you little bits and pieces about that person, you know? You get someone talking.

I’m a Cleveland Browns fan. So you connect with the Cleveland Browns fan, and you connect with another Cleveland Browns fan, that’s a bond that can’t be shook. So those little areas — and a lot of sports teams are like that, like that’s such a connection that you may not know that you have with a colleague or with your boss or whatever — and that simple little connection can change the way you guys communicate forever. Because now there’s that little, like, “Oh, that’s typical Browns, right?” There’s these little inside jokes that automatically form, or you love that show, or, “I’m a huge fan of Friends, the TV show Friends from way back.”

And I had an employee of mind for that for I think five years, he was with us. And he had autism. But he was a credible worker; worked really hard. And he would have moments where he had some struggles, and he got frustrated with what would usually begin, you know, directive, because he’s pretty good at his job. But if we need to direct them, sometimes he took them wrong, he had a lot of stuff in his life that he was dealing with, and people would have to struggle with him.

And when he got into that mode, he was kind of like… you weren’t going to break him. And I would literally just rattle off lines to the episode of Friends, and we would just get going. And it was just this ridiculous, back and forth that no one else understood, because unless they happen to know that one weird episode, but it was just to crack him out of this thing.

And it was a little piece that took me a while to figure out, through just random conversations, where one day… I don’t even remember the actual conversation, but we were talking. I don’t remember the situation with the conversation, we were just talking about… I said something, I came up with a line, that reminded him on an episode, he goes, “Oh, that’s like the time Joey  said blah blah blah,” and we repeated it. And we’re like, “Oh, it’s the connection.” And now I now have my bond with you.

We now have a million inside jokes that we can laugh about. And I now have something that I can pull off to help you get out of a funk if you get into it. And that just, like for me, that made my life managing shifts that he was on so much easier.

Pete Mockaitis  
Well, and I’m curious, as you’re having these conversations about nothing, you’re forming some relationships, you’re learning all kinds of little things. I mean, especially in the context of a teacher with a classroom of I don’t know, 15, 20, 25+ students, how do you keep all that straight direct community particular systems, or tracking, or note keeping?

Jeff Gargas  
Well, you know, we’ve seen teachers do a million other things, and some teachers are just amazing at it. Just really, really good at it. There’s a lot of different types of things of, you know, at the beginning of the year, working with… some teachers do picture things with it, the kids get to share their stories along with pictures, and then the teacher sort of has that on the walls around, in a document or something like that, where they have that sort of resource. But you know, they’re spending every single day with those students

So you’re getting to know what they become, just like your colleagues at work. I mean, if you’re with the same 10, 15 people every day at work for 60% of your life, whether you like it or not, they’re in your life as much as a best friend would be, so you’re able to build that. So, I think, you know, big pieces.

It is much easier if you’re truly caring, I’ll go back to that. Because I don’t have any trouble remembering which one of my friends likes this, or likes that, because they’re my friends. I know though that information because I care about them. And I built it in an authentic way, not because I was supposed to because my job said so.

So it’s tough to remember, “Okay, what’s employee A1’s favorite food?” It’s easier to remember what’s Max’s favorite food, because I’ve built a relationship now, versus “I learned it because I’m supposed to because my job will be easier.” And I think it’s the same thing with teachers, teachers who truly care about their students, like they remember, “That’s Johnny, he has the brothers that do this and the mom that struggles with that,” or the, “He lives with his aunt,” or the “He has this,” and “Now, that’s Sarah, and she has these things.” I think it comes with the actual caring that comes in that situation.

So I think teachers are naturally inclined to be really, really good at that, because their hearts’ there in the first place. They’re trying to do something amazing and reach those kids, but I really think it comes down to actually caring about the people that you’re working with, and people you’re serving, and truly wanting to learn about them.

Pete Mockaitis  
You know, it’s funny, you keep coming back to this caring. And we had an interview with Alden Mills, who was a NAVY seal, and his whole thing was caring. He had a framework: CARE — C-A-R-E, each of the letters has multiple subcomponents that start with a C and A and R and E. So it’s kind of fun little connections here.

Well, so let’s talk about, what are your great phrases that you have for your businesses that help teachers to reach the unreachable? So we’ve talked about some principles that are applicable across students. But if you got a particular employee or student who is noteworthily, seemingly unreachable, what do you do?

Jeff Gargas  
It’s gonna feel like I’m coming back again and again, but it’s the way you understand them, like truly understand the person, to figure out who they are, what drives them, and why they’ve been deemed unreachable. So when it comes to employees, it’s figuring out what are their strengths, what are their struggles, and then working with them to play on those strengths, and focus on those strengths while still trying to build those struggle points, and focus really on what drives them.

You know, one of your colleagues, one of your employees might be driven just by financial gain, like they’re driven by money, and that’s okay. But understand what drives them, versus someone who’s driven by admiration and wants to be looked at as an incredible employee or the best colleague around, whatever it might be.

When it comes to the classroom, it’s finding out what’s driving your students. Are they struggling, or they’re quote unquote, “unreachable” because they come from a really rough home? And their entire life, they’ve been told that they’re there dumb and they fail, and they’re stupid, a knock at school, and no one’s given them a shot because they struggle when they were younger? And now they’re in seventh or eighth grade, and it’s just been the cycle of failure where, you know…

Chad talks a lot about the cycle failures. If you think about a student who goes to school in first grade, like every student goes to the first grade as, “I got my backpack on, and my new shoes, I’m ready to go!” right? “I’m gonna be awesome!” And they go on to try really hard and they get an F, “You failed.” “That’s all right; I’m gonna try again next year.”

Second grade, they go and they’re pumped up. “I’m gonna try really hard to do awesome.” “You failed, you get an F.” “Okay. All right, I’m gonna try really hard next year.”

And again, by the time they hit that fifth, sixth grade, they start doing some quick math in their head, and they’re like, “Huh, you know, if I try really, really hard, I get an F. But if I don’t do anything at all, I also get an F. That’s a lot easier.” Boom, stamped with unreachable. And what happens is, unfortunately, they get kind of written off. And so then, you get this little, like, “Oh, watch out for so and so; he’s unreachable. You’re not going to like him. He’s a trouble. He’s gonna…” whatever.

And the difference is when a teacher chooses to say, “Yeah, I don’t accept that. I’m going to figure out what’s really happened. Why are they struggling?” And in Chad, this is actually, like, I love the asset, because actually, you know the story Chad tells a lot about one of his students, Jesse, who was that kid. He was a kid who was on all those lists that teachers don’t have on the top 10. And it actually ended up where Chad had him at the end of the day, and for a couple weeks, Chad never saw him.

So he thought maybe he moved, because transferring was pretty common in those types of community and stuff. But he asked his colleagues, like, “Where’s Jesse? I haven’t seen him today.” “He was just getting kicked out of class before he gets to yours. He’s getting sent down to school suspension.” Then Chad asked if he could go get him, worked out a deal with his principal and stuff, and actually started going to get him, because he had delta relationship with Jesse.

And you know, “Look, this kid’s just been struggling his whole life. He’s never had anyone tell him that it was worth it,” and he was able to. Long story short is that Chad was able to connect with him, because Chad started to understand that if Jesse had some time to work through things a little bit, and had an opportunity to fail a few times and try again and try again without being told, “I’m dumb,” because a lot of times when students get to a certain point — they get that after that D — their mind goes up, “I’m stupid. I’m not good. I don’t do well at school, I’m not good at school.”

And Chad goes, “Well, if I can give us some time to work on that, and if I’m working my class and management class right way, and I have some time to maybe read aloud to Jesse to help work through these things, I bet he can do better.” And he did he started doing really well, obviously still had some issues here and there and stuff, but end up doing real good.

“I actually am good to be in the class.” And it’s an awesome story that Chad tells that I won’t go into because he’s much better.

But I think it’s the same thing. You know, I think about the employee I was just talking about, it’s a similar thing. Like, when he got on those modes, it was just like, “Well, here he goes again. I can’t, he’s just written off, like you can’t get to him.” And this isn’t to say that I’m anything special or anything, but I was able to find a way to connect with him. To get him out of that. He went from being unreachable to reachable now, and boom, he was doing his job well.

And so, I think that goes for whether it’s an employee, whether it’s your colleague, whatever it is, like, everyone’s got something going on, and it all comes back to this: getting to know that person and truly understanding them and figuring out, “Okay, what drives them?” And then also, what takes them to the spot where they’re quote unquote unreachable? And then what can I do to get them out of that?

You don’t need to be a boss to be the person that gets an employee out of a funk. Sometimes, the best person to do that is a colleague, right? And it’s just like, sometimes it takes another student to do it. But, you know, I think it’s really focusing on understanding that person, and what drives them, and what they need at that time.

Pete Mockaitis  
Okay, well, I’d love to get your take when it comes to to teaching, the actual delivery of learning content, what are some of the key principles that make communication engaging versus kind of lame and boring and not so engaging?

Jeff Gargas  
I think this goes the same as caring over some of the things we say that carries over, both in the classroom and in the world, and all other industries, when it comes to training, teaching, and redirecting all the stuff.

The thing is focusing on the why. So, “Why am I teaching you this content? Why do you need to know that?” And it’s the same “why” as like, “Why do we do this or that in this particular way, in this company?” You can choose to just say, “Because I’m boss, and I said so. Because I’m a teacher, and I said you have to do this, and this is how we’ve always done it.” Or, you can go beyond just barking orders and show them why it needs to be done.

So I talked about Ray earlier, and the Teach Further model. And that’s one of the big things; we’re going beyond just the, “Hey, let’s just do this because the state says we have to hit these standards.” But let’s actually focus on “Why do you need to know this?” Like, why do you need to understand math for the real world? Like, why do you have to understand this concept? Why is understanding history important? Why? Why should you learn coding? Like, what are you going to do with your life? And let’s connect this. “Let me show you how this is connected to real world applications.”

One of the awesome things about the Teach Further model is that a piece of that, at the end of every lesson where wherever unit, where teachers are sending home what we call a “Plan for the Future page,” which is to the parents or stakeholders, whether it is the guardians, it says, “This is what we’ve learned, this is the state-standard hit. This is how we did it. Here’s some of the things that your students showed; that means that maybe they’d be interested in a couple of these fields. And by the way, if they weren’t interested in these fields, here’s the type of education they may need to do after high school.”

We’re doing this at sixth grade levels and fifth grade levels or eighth grade levels. way before they even get to high school, because they need to be understanding that early on, so they can apply all the stuff that they’re learning through the rest of the school into real life things.

And it’s the same thing when you’re in the business world and you’re trying to employees and stuff. It’s like, “I can tell you to just do that, because that’s how you’re supposed to do it, because the rulebook says it,” whereas “I can tell you why the rulebook says why have we determined this, the way of doing this thing or that thing is the best, how does that affect everything else that happens?” Because what I’m essentially doing is saying, “Hey, this is why your job’s important, why your role in this company is important, because if you do this, this is what happens. And it ends up doing this for our customers. If you don’t, here’s how it bottlenecks, it falls down and we don’t get there.”

And so that’s the way that I think takes it from… even the person who goes, “Man, my job says I just do these numbers and whatever.” But it’s like, “If you don’t do those numbers, then x, y, z doesn’t happen. And somewhere down the lot, this ends up happening, that we don’t serve our clients.”

There’s an old story, and I can’t remember who told it originally when I heard it, but they’re interviewing a bunch of people in NASA before, like when we’re getting ready to launch to the moon, way back when. And they were talking do a janitor, and they asked, like, “What do you do?” And he said, “I’m working to put a man on the moon.” And he’s understanding that if those halls weren’t clean, if the garbage wasn’t taken care of, if the lounge wasn’t clean, that affects the progress of everyone else, and could potentially interrupt someone who shot to make a breakthrough to figure out how do we get to the moon.

You can break that down. Like every little piece of the organization is so important that if you focus on explaining to your team and everyone and to students the same way, like why is it important that you’re doing what you’re doing the way you’re doing it, we’re learning these things. How does that affect the outcome? How does it positively impact what we’re trying to do? I think that’s how you get there.

Pete Mockaitis  
Well, I really dig that, because you unpacked the explanation of why, on a few dimensions, I think it’s great as one is, you know, historically, this is what we’ve discovered, and how we ended up here. And the formulation of it is the way it is for this reason. And then this is what happens if you do it, and this is what happens if you don’t. So that paints a picture, like “Well, shoot. This is pretty important. Like, I matter.”

Jeff Gargas  
Yeah, and that’s the key, right? I matter, because who’s going to work hard?” Or someone who just thinks they push papers, or think someone who thinks these papers matter. Like that person who thinks the papers matter. If you’re a manager, listener, supervisor, whatever, one of the other little side effects that this does, and you may not like it, but you should, like, it is that if you’re explaining to people why you do things a certain way, it opens up the door for them to recommend other ways.

And sometimes as managers and owners, whatever, we don’t want to hear it. But it’s really important to close your mouth in that and listen, because they may have something you never thought of, because they’re at the ground level. And that’s crucial. And we see it in classrooms, too, where if you’re explaining to the students why do they need to understand that, they’ll come up with other reasons and be like, “Oh, or because x, y, z?” And you’re like, “I didn’t even think of that call. Like, yeah, I’m gonna throw that in mind next time I talk about it.”

But the same thing in a company is like,

“Hey, this is why we do it.” And they’re like, “Oh, that’s great. Why don’t we do it like this?” And you’re like, “Oh, we probably should; let’s change that.” Like, it’s just powerful in so many different levels.

Pete Mockaitis  
That’s good. That’s real nice. Well, so we hit the Grid Method a couple times in terms of little references. But you know, I just can’t help myself. But I hear Grid Method, I’m already visualizing a grid, and I got to know, what does it consist of? And how might it be applied to folks learning and growing and developing in a grownup work context?

Jeff Gargas  
Yeah, so what the Grid Method is, is a framework for utilizing a mastery learning in classrooms. So when I say mastery learning, there’s a lot that can go into that. But in general, it’s a shift from standing in the front of classroom delivering content to all the students all at the same time and expect them to move all at the same time, to shift into mastery learning, which is where students are moving at their own pace, and only moving on as they master the content and master certain pieces of it.

And a lot of organizations already do a similar version of mastery learning, where you’re in a training program, you have to master a certain level of skill or understanding before you can move on to the next. I think the difference is, and the focus is the speed at which.

In education and a lot of businesses, we set a certain time table. We say, “Well, let’s take it two weeks to learn this. And if you don’t learn in two weeks, I guess you’re just not good enough for it.” Or in classrooms, it’s “If you don’t learn these in two weeks, too bad. You fail, we’re moving on,” right? “If you don’t understand two plus two, we’re moving on to two times two, and you’re just never going to get it at all, ever.”

I think the biggest thing is that individuality, because we need to understand that we all, one, learn differently, and two, learn at different speeds. So if you think about— a real great way to break it down is, think about that. You have a couple kids at home, correct?

Pete Mockaitis
That’s right.

Jeff Gargas
Okay, so when you were teaching them to walk, maybe you’re doing it right now, you probably did it like most people: you stood him up and then they fell a lot, they called, and they fell, and they started using whatever they can to grab onto your leg or the furniture or whatever. And then eventually, they figured out. Now they run around like crazy, if they’re like my kids.

But what if I told you that the way I do with my kids is, I took my son Jonathan, I said, “All right, man, we’re going to do this. We’re going to practice for two weeks, and then I’m gonna work with you. You’re going to fall and everything like this.” Then in two weeks, I said, “All right, Jonathan, here’s what we’re gonna do. I’m gonna stand there, I’m gonna stand the prescribed 10 feet away from you, and now you need to walk to me.”

And he takes a couple of steps, stumbles, boom, falls. And I said, “Well, sorry, son. You failed in the walking test. I guess we’re going to just not learn how to walk. We’re gonna move on the potty training.” It’s ridiculous, right?

But then when we get into school, and in the business, we say, “Hey, you got two weeks to learn this, or you got a week to learn this. And if you don’t, I guess you’re just not going to get it.” And I always wonder how many potentially amazing employees are we not giving a shot to, because we wrote them off? Because they didn’t get it quick enough?

Same in education, too many students get written off as unreachable, or not smart, not good test takers, not good at math, because we gave them a short amount of time. And we expected them to move at the same speed as everyone else. Well, we all learn differently, how to walk in different speeds — some kids walk a year, some take some three years. I mean, same with talk and same with learning how to ride a bike, learn, and everything like that.

So the framework, and just the mastery learning shift in general is focusing on the individual and actually focus on what they actually need, and when they need it, versus when we think they should have it. And I think that’s the biggest piece we drive that helps drive mastery of the content, whether in a school, business, whatever.

Pete Mockaitis  
That’s good. And so where does the grid come into play?

Jeff Gargas  
So the grid, essentially, so when we work with teachers, one of the first things we do is we help them look at their state standards and what they have to meet, what the state says that they’re supposed to be teaching, and we help them break them down and align them to the essential questions that they need to ask their students, that they need to have their students understand. And then that breaks down into learning opportunities and activity, the actual activities that students are doing in order to master the content, in order to master that.

So then, they take all those learning opportunities, which you can think of like a lesson plan, right? We call them learning opportunities, because a lesson is something you give someone; a learning opportunity is something they have to take. So we purposely use those words, but the grid becomes a learning path for their students to move. It’s the guide, it’s their map, if you will.

And it’s this form, these little squares that have activities in them. And it explains what they need to do, what it needs to get to whatever it is that they’re doing, whether that’s vocabulary words, whether that’s science experiments, whatever it might be, and then what they need to do in order to be checked off for mastery.

So students move through these. And so I go and I do what I need to do in square one, and when I’m ready to be checked, and I feel I’ve mastered that, I check in with the teacher, or there might be a self-assessment or automatic assessment through technology, and I cannot move on to the next square until I’ve mastered that content and I’ve shown my mastery at least an 85% or higher level of mastery. And then I move on.

So the grid, if you can visualize, is just a piece of paper with levels, five different levels of those squares. And as students start from the bottom, they build that foundational level knowledge. As they move up the depth of knowledge that’s required, the level of mastery that’s required grows. So there’s fewer boxes, few activities, because they’re a little more in depth as they move on. And as they move up, and they level up in that grid, they’re getting deeper and deeper into that content and into that concept and into that.

So a grid itself would encompass basically sort of like what you would consider like a unit of study. Some units might require multiple grids, some are just one grid. So it could vary from teacher to teacher how much they want to pack in there.

Pete Mockaitis  
Okay, we talked about, is there something in particular that’s on the x axis and the y axis?

Jeff Gargas  
So yeah, so going up on the side, there’s your levels of depth of knowledge. So your x depends on the lead, those are your learning opportunities, right? Those individual boxes that say “This is what you’re going to do to help practice,” and then show your mastery along the moving upwards is that level. So the knowledge we’re referring to, we built it off of what’s called Webb’s Depth of Knowledge. And there’s levels, and it’s moving up, it’s the level of understanding. So as they move up, those levels are showing the level of understanding they had.

There’s actually four levels and depth in Webb’s; we do five levels, because we put like an independent exploration up top for the students that just excel and blow through it, so that once they master content, they can go have fun with it and learn more about it.

Most standards are written in that 2, 3, sometimes four-range, typically two to three range. So most students are going to end up around that level, but you have students that are moving all at the same or at different paces, based on what they need. And so what this does, then, is allows those students that have just get it and they’re just like — we call them rabbits, that are just really quick — and they just get it, they can move and they can keep learning. They can grow, they don’t have to wait for the student that maybe struggles.

But that student that needs a little more time, that needs a few attempts to try to get it because they just don’t get it, now they have the time to do that. You can spend time with them, either one on one or small groups to assess where they’re at, where they’re struggling, to find other ways to explain it to them. Also, side note, build those relationships really nicely there and stuff, and move on. Because what you’ll find is, most students struggle, because of one or two reasons: either one, they already get it, and they’re bored. And so they just checked out of your class. And a lot of times that leaves the problems.

Do you have, like these extremely gifted students that are really intelligent, but they cause problems? They’re just bored. They’re like, “Why am I learning this? I already know it, I don’t need to do this, this is a waste of my time.” Or you have a student that’s just struggling because, maybe they’ve struggled, they have trouble with reading? So like, just basic, simple vocabulary work is really tough for them. And they’re struggling because they’re getting yanked along, and it’s like, “Oh, you don’t know two plus two? So we’re moving on right now.”

“I’m frustrated because I don’t get it. So now I’m lost forever.” And it’s just been a cycle. So, by folks giving everyone the time they need, you’re hitting that top level, and all the way down to the bottom level of students getting what they need. And they’re allowed to move on when they need to move on, but they can take a little more time, with a little more time. So and then, there’s a lot of pieces that go along with that, on how to manage that and stuff.

And that’s where a lot of our training comes into. It’s like, alright, and how we create a grid. But then also, how does this work in my classroom? Because it can be a little scary to think of 20, 30 students all moving, doing different things at different times. And that’s a big mindset shift for a lot of teachers.

Pete Mockaitis  
Alright, cool. Well, tell me, Jeff, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Jeff Gargas  
Let’s go.

Pete Mockaitis  
Alright, sure how about a favorite quote? Something you find inspiring?

Jeff Gargas  
It’s “Some people dream of success. Others wake up and work hard at it.” I think that’s true, no matter where you’re at in your life.

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

Jeff Gargas  
So I don’t do a lot of studies up, but there’s one that I have found a while back. I don’t know what, it’s from the University of California, Berkeley. And there’s just a study on happiness, like what is happiness? And the biggest thing that I’ll refer back to every now and then, but really just sort of the summary of it, and the fact that like, happiness isn’t about money or things; it’s about fulfillment. It’s not about what others think, it’s not about Keeping Up With the Joneses, and stuff like that. It’s about what you need, what’s important to you.

And you know, for a long time, I felt like I needed to be like a certain person, at a certain level of success, make a certain amount of money, do certain things, whatever. But all I really needed was to find something that I love doing and that I’m good at, and that I find a purpose. And I think that’s… I just love that about happiness.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite book?

Jeff Gargas
The Go Giver, Bob Burg. Is one of my all-time favorite, I love it. I have quotes, you’ve had them on that episode — I gotta dig through that episode. Actually, I have massive final prints of the laws, all over my walls. So…

Pete Mockaitis  
And how about a favorite tool? Something that helps you be awesome at your job.

Jeff Gargas  
I live and die in basecamp, we leave that as our project management, use of self reminders, project management. Our team, we’re all virtual. So that’s massive for us. And then I also use an app on my phone called the Five-Minute Journal. That’s really just a like a morning, sort of gratitude and self awareness. And then an evening reflection, it just sets me up for the day and allows me to reflect everyday. Love it.

Pete Mockaitis  
And a favorite habit?

Jeff Gargas  
Favorite habit, I started running about this past August and just getting back into it, focusing on waking up early and getting a workout, and it’s changed everything.

Pete Mockaitis  
And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with those that you’re teaching?

Jeff Gargas  
Yeah, I think so with them and more with the team and stuff I love, is… I don’t know if you know Gary Vaynerhuck, he says… I won’t say it in the way he says it, but if you live for the weekends, your stuff is broken. That’s massive for me, because I just think we live in such a world where there’s so many opportunities to do so many different things that if you’re doing something you hate, like it’s just not worth it. You gotta get out, find something that you love.

And I say the same thing to teachers all the time. I said “If you’re dreading Monday, you should probably not be a teacher anymore.” And I love when I talked to teachers and they’re like, “I am so pumped to be back from spring break, because I get to see my kids again. I get to make an impact.” And I’m like that, too. I am pumped for Mondays, every Monday, like even when it’s stressful.

And it’s crazy. Like we’re a small business, we’re growing, it’s stressful pretty much every day. But I love it and I just think if you’re just dying on Monday already for it to be Friday night, man, like something’s broken, you gotta fix it.

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

Jeff Gargas  
Twitter, I love big on Twitter. I love Twitter. I’m on there all the time. I’m @JeffGargas. I’m on Instagram, too. @_JeffGargas. Or just reach out to us at TeachBetter.com, and you can literally email me at Jeff@teachbetter.com. I love building connections and chat with people and just figuring out if there’s any way that I can help

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

Jeff Gargas  
I think take some time to get really, really self-aware. Get rid of all the nonsense and like the BS and what other people say. Take time and figure out what you love, what you don’t love, what you’re good at. And once you start with really thinking about it, clearing out all that other junk, everybody else’s voices… forget the expectation that people have for you. That criticism, the negativity, all that stuff.

Just focus on like the real you. Be you. When you do that, you have no reason, like, make it up and try and put on a show. It’s just for you, like, what are you awesome at? What do I love doing? Go do that. Figure out how do I play on my strengths? How do I surround myself with people who are awesome at what I’m not, so that I can be awesome at what I need to be?

And just like, what that means going to work for someone joining the team, development team. “Let’s fill your gaps,” whatever it is, like no one can be as awesome at the things you do as you are. So go find out what that is, do it, and just love your life. It’s just not worth not doing that.

Pete Mockaitis  
Awesome. Well, Jeff, this has been a treat. Good luck and all you’re doing and helping folks teach better.

Jeff Gargas  
I appreciate it, Pete. This has been awesome. Thank you.

413: How to Exude Credibility with Rob Jolles

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Rob Jolles provides practical wisdom on how to come across as more believable.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The number one reason why people don’t believe you
  2. How method acting can lead you into peak presenting performance
  3. Why you should embrace your own dysfunctions

About Rob

Rob Jolles is a sought-after speaker who teaches, entertains, and inspires audiences worldwide. His live programs around the world have enabled him to amass a client list of Fortune 500 companies including Toyota, Disney, GE, a dozen universities, and over 50 financial institutions. He is the best-selling author of six books, including his latest release, Why People Don’t Believe You…Building Credibility from the Inside Out.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Rob Jolles Lederman Interview Transcript

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

Rob Jolles
Great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I’m excited to dig in. I think you’ve got so much good stuff to share. Maybe you’ll be able to share it, if necessary, in a rapid format because you are a licensed auctioneer! How does one get licensed to be an auctioneer and tell us a tale or two of your auctioneering adventures?

Rob Jolles
Okay. Well, when you have a big mouth and you run it around for 30 years giving seminars, everybody assumes, “Hey, this guy can do anything on a stage.” But I want to tell you, in the State of Virginia, where I initially got licensed, it’s harder than it looks. It was 80 hours of certified instruction.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh wow.

Rob Jolles
To be allowed to take the three-and-a-half-hour exam. I had to study cattle and cars and horses and antiques. But really all I wanted, unfortunately there isn’t a license like this, all I wanted to do was be able to work charities. I felt like it was a good way of giving back, maybe using my skills for something really valuable.

That’s about nine and a half years ago. I took my courses. I got certified. I’ve been probably averaging an auction a month, maybe an auction every other month, but 95% for charities.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s awesome. Then I guess if you’re doing it for charities, then you’re doing it for free. I’m wondering with all that education, what would an auctioneer be paid if he or she were doing a gig for a bankruptcy? Hey, we’ve got an auction. I’m the auctioneer. I’m well-trained and licensed and educated. What would that return in a gig?

Rob Jolles
Actually, it’s usually a percentage of profit there. For charity auctioneers, we’re not quite as fortunate. It’s a fraction of what I normally get paid. Actually, what I typically do with a charity is, I sort of get paid a little and then I never walk out the door with it. I just simply hand it back so that I can deduct from my taxes.
I want to stay true to the intent, which is there are certain things that we do in life that really have to pay the bills and keep the electric running and there are other times in life where we do things that are really just to help others.

When I speak at universities and things like that and they have a little honorarium, what’s the sense of me really taking that? I’m going to do something nice, let’s go all the way. That’s for charity. Now sometimes I’ll do a shopping center or I’ve done some universities. I’ll take a little something, but it’s a fraction of what I normally get.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. Have you ever auctioned off anything crazy or strange or just noteworthy?

Rob Jolles
Yeah, I’ll tell you the best thing I ever auctioned off. Believe it or not – and this is for anybody that’s ever thinking of putting an auction together, this is what you’re looking for. It’s not a yard sale.

When Letterman was still doing his show, we got two tickets to Letterman. Well, they’re free, but we got backstage passes and you can’t always do that. Then Marriot threw in a couple nights and we got two train tickets. When we packaged that altogether and particularly with that unique ability to get back stage, something you can’t really get on your own, sort of like Saturday Night Live tickets, that item went for a little over 30,000 dollars. It was fairly simple.

That and we also got one time I auctioned off tickets to the Academy Awards. Again, something you can’t normally get on your own. You’re not going to find it on Craigslist. Other than the limo, I think that was in the 30 – 35,000 dollar range. Those are the kind of things that really actually will excite an audience.

Pete Mockaitis
That is very clever. If there are any fundraisers in the house, there’s the trick. You get something you can’t get under normal circumstances. Then you package it together into a cool experience and there it is, the secret to a successful fundraising auction. Didn’t even know we were going to learn that today. Thank you.

But what I was planning on learning a bit about was some of the wisdom in your book, Why People Don’t Believe You. Great title. Tell us, what’s the big idea? Why don’t people believe you?

Rob Jolles
When you say big idea and I’m ready for you now because I actually thought, “What is the big idea? I better know that. It is my book.” I think the big idea is, there’s two of them. First of all, I’m pleased you like the title. It wasn’t my title, but most of us who write books, we’ll get everything but our title in there. The publisher typically knows more about titles than we do.

But the big idea in my original title was it’s not the words; it’s the tune. A lot of times, and I’m guilty of this spending 30 years of my career, of my life, running around the country teaching people what to say, what to say, what to say. We don’t really stop and say wait a minute. Let’s forget the words. How are we saying it? I’d say in a sense that’s part of the bigger picture of the book.
But to really drill down on your question, I think the biggest reason why people don’t believe us, as strange as this may sound, is we don’t believe us. Things in the book, I know they sound simple, but so are asking questions and listening, but who does that? It’s such a fundamental communication piece. The easiest way to be believed is to actually tell the truth.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Rob Jolles
When you stop and think about that, do you have the best podcast out there? Well, from what I hear, it sure is, but you have to believe that. If it isn’t, you have to do everything you can to make it a great podcast, to put your heart and soul into it. If you go to bed at night and you truly believe that, you don’t have to worry about sounding authentic. Now you believe it and the tune will follow.

Pete Mockaitis
I like that a lot. Now, you’re getting me thinking here because we were talking just beforehand when I was stalking you and deciding whether or not to invite you. You passed. Nice job. You made reference to the greatest life insurance salesperson ever; Ben Feldman is his name, if anybody wants to take a look. I’m always intrigued by the greatest in the world.

I sort of listened to an interview with Ben Feldman. He doesn’t sound super engaging in the interview, but boy, does he believe in life insurance being just a powerful force for goodness for humanity. It’s clear that he believes that with a deep abiding passion, which is striking because I hadn’t thought of life insurance in that way before, but there you have that. The best in the world had that at a really high level.

Rob Jolles
Let’s put a cherry on that sundae because yup, he completely dominated the insurance industry for decades and I mean dominated from the sprawling metropolis of East Liverpool, Ohio. But how about this that we add to that story, the fact is he was the greatest that ever lived by the numbers. He spoke with a lisp. He was actually a fairly quiet guy.

He didn’t have any of the attributes that we naturally associate with the greatest salesperson, that Glengarry Glen Ross kind of Alex Baldwin character. He was the complete opposite. I guess when you hear that, whoever’s listening just remember that he was true to his own unique style. You can’t imitate this guy. The best imitation you do is of yourself. Not only did he believe in his product, he was true to his style. He didn’t emulate anyone but himself. That’s what made him really successful.

Pete Mockaitis
All right, you’re telling the truth, you’re believing it deep down. If you’re not yet believing it, you’re doing all you can to get there with believing it in terms of improving the actual kind of facts of the situation. Then when it comes to the tune, how do we sing a tune that’s more appealing?

Rob Jolles
That’s interesting you say sing because as I was working through the manuscript I was actually at one point trying to create a musical score in a sense of the tune, but my musical score had places where we would pause, had places where we would change our pitch, had places where we would change our pace. Actually all found in music if you think about it.

Unfortunately, although I’ll work on pitch and pace and pause with people, the problem is every question you just asked me right now, I can’t go, “Okay, hang on one second. Let me figure out where my pitch goes up and let me figure out where I’m going to slow this down and where I’m going to speed it up.”

We do focus on pitch, pace, and pause, which to me are critical pieces. But the key is to get that authentic voice to do it without having to sort of stop and micromanage where those pieces are. I don’t know if when you’re talking to me, for instance, you’re gesturing with your hands, but imagine if we stopped and I said, “Point here. Put your hand up over there.” We want that to kind of become as natural as we can.

I think one of the secret sauces, if you will, of the book is actually thinking more like a method actor. What if we took ourselves and actually placed ourselves in the moment. I don’t mean just in the moment. I mean even the point we were just talking about, truly believing.

Well, maybe we’re getting beat up a little bit out there right now. Maybe our product is – it’s just been tough for us but weren’t there times in our life where everything we touched sort of worked out well, where we knew the next time we picked up the phone or knocked on a door, it was going to go well. The other six did.

Why can’t we as a method actor take ourselves to that moment? Are you telling me that when we knock on the door this time, we’re going to be less effective with that in our mind? That’s where that pitch, pace, and pause sometimes can come more naturally.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, got you. You’re saying let’s not put our focus on “Okay, at this point in my second sentence, I’m going to drop my pitch low,” and sort of plan that out in great detail, but rather to get in the zone associated with when you were rocking, rolling, and believing and nailing it and high performing, so just sort of method acting into that spot and these things will sort of naturally follow well.

Could you maybe bring this all together in an example or a case study of someone whose credibility wasn’t so hot and then they did some things and they saw it really get hot again?

Rob Jolles
Sure. Actually, this whole book really began with me in a bad mood in a bad evening being asked to speak to a group called the Career Network Ministry, a group that just helps people in career transition. I don’t necessarily like to speak free a whole lot, but I bumbled my way in and figured I’ll talk to a dozen people and get this over with. There 250 to 300 people in the room. I’ve been volunteering for six years ever since. It was such a moving experience.

But one of the things I noticed in that room – and that was my petri dish, that’s where this started – was I noticed words. We were working on resumes – words. We were working on elevator pitches – words. We were working on LinkedIn sites – words. We were working on the words and nobody was focusing on the tune.

To answer your question, I actually stated about five and a half years ago I put together my first group of a dozen people. To get in this program, two days, you had to be unemployed a minimum of two years. Half my room was unemployed for over five years. That’s chronic unemployment.

We put on a two-day program. I bumbled and fumbled my way through it, but we were hitting on something because 10 of the 12 people were hired within three months. That’s when I realized, okay, we’ve got something.

But I’m telling you, going back on some of the questions you asked, I wasn’t working on the words in there. I took that elevator pitch – there’s some value in those – but I put it in the corner and we worked on their character. We worked on who they were, what they were, taking them through those moments of success and man, the hands and the words, and the pitch, and the pace, it followed.

But there’s an answer to your question. It was 10 for 12 coming out of the gate. That’s when I knew, I think we maybe even have a book here, but I’ve got to keep digging into this.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s fascinating. Do tell, what are some of the most impactful transformational exercises or practices that make that come alive?

Rob Jolles
Wow, that’s a good question. One of them we were talking about is whenever I ask them anything, I really try and trim people down to what I call a communication shot clock. Look, there’s a shot clock in basketball. It keeps the game moving. There’s a shot clock in football, actually. It keeps the game moving. There may very well be a shot clock in baseball, they’re going to try it in preseason, to keep the game moving.

We are in a society now where books are getting smaller and people just don’t have that bandwidth to stay with us. Even our videos are four to six minutes in length. One of the things as an example was, stop talking to them, getting them up to speak, getting them into character, and working on their shot clock, meaning, trimming those questions down and saying, “Rather than giving me your three best points. Give me your best point. If I want more, I’ll ask for it.”

It was an example of really trying to get them a little bit quicker, a little bit lighter on their feet. As an example, that was one technique that we used.

Pete Mockaitis
Then you said with the shot clock, is there an optimal do you recommend time that you would put on the shot clock in terms of number of seconds that you would speak before being quiet?

Rob Jolles
Yeah, I actually have a number and I’m going to give it to you, but please understand I’m answering your question, so it’s sort of like when I teach people to sell and I’m saying you’ve got to ask second and third level questions. The hand will go up and say, “Exactly how many?” It’s like, “Well, that’s going to really depend on the personality of the client, etcetera.”

But I really actually like 45 seconds. I think it’s a great number. If I go a minute and ten, that’s okay. If we go shorter, that’s okay too. A lot of the times if I’m dealing with a more social environment, more social client, I’ve kind of got the green light to go a little bit longer. If I’m dealing with a more dominant client, I’m probably going to trim back. There’s other variables.

But I love the conversation we’re having because I get frustrated when people are bobbing and weaving, saying, “But …” I think 45 seconds is a good target, but read your audience.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly, yes. That is a helpful benchmark because I think it’s possible that you can under speak as well. I’m just thinking about this. I said, “Hey, tell us about you becoming a licensed auctioneer.” It’s like, “I had 80 hours of instruction and then passed a three-hour exam.” It’s like, “Okay, well, Rob, this is really interesting.”

Rob Jolles
… on the show. You’re really talented.

Pete Mockaitis
I think that makes good sense in terms of it’s a very rough ballpark zone, but if you’re five seconds, it’s like, “Okay, do you hate me? What’s going on here?” It’s hard to form a connection. If you’re too long, it’s like, “Okay, I already sort of got the message I was after way earlier and ready to move on to something else.” I appreciate that. That’s one principle is the communication shot clock. What are some of the other practices or exercises that are really transformational here?

Rob Jolles
Well, I’m going to give you a couple more, but I want to give you a big picture here because if you study my career, I’m actually going at a different angle right now. I got my hardcore training with Xerox. You didn’t tie your shoe without a process of some sort at Xerox. But when you have a process, you have a way of measuring what you’re doing. When you can measure it, you can fix it. Boy, am I a repeatable, predictable process person.

Yet, the topic that we’re in, I’ve sort of had to look at the mirror and go it’s not all process-oriented. I sort of reframed it in my mind and I said it’s more about percentages, meaning. It’s sort of like when we eat, okay? “I’m a healthy person.” “Good. Well, what do you do?” “Well, I no longer put sugar in my coffee, just Stevia.” “That’s it?” “Yeah, that’s it.”

Well, okay. If you really do that all the time and you’re a big coffee drinker, I guess that’s about a one percent – two percent play. I don’t know if you’re healthier yet, but I guess it beats the alternative. But you look at healthy people’s example and they’re doing 15 – 20 things, exercise, this, that. Together, they create a formidable percentage.

What we’re talking about right now is really percentage plays. A communication shot clock gives us a couple of percentage plays. Truly believing in yourselves gives us percentage points. Taking ourselves mentally to a place where we’re successful gives up percentage points. I’m going to give you percentage points as opposed to process. Like I said, I’m almost arguing with me right now because I’m so bred into process, but we’re into a topic that is more percentage than process.

Pete Mockaitis
When you say percentage, you’re sort of using this as a label of a different means of thinking about approaches such that a process seems to apply if you do A, B, C, D, E, F, you’ll arrive at this end result, whereas percentage says, “Of the result you’re after, one thing can account for 5% of getting to the result and another thing can account for 10% of the thing.” Thusly, you’re kind of suggesting that an A, B, C, D, E process ain’t going to get you 100% of the way to where you want to be.

Rob Jolles
Exactly. Let me give you a percentage move as an example. Thank you because that’s exactly what I’m saying, by the way.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh cool.

Rob Jolles
A percentage move for me, a lot of people, for instance, when they’re struggling to be believed and they’re, “Okay, I’m going to believe in myself, this and that, but this company, they’re looking at four other people. One of them, I don’t know, they may have a better relationship.” Well, they might. They might not.

I love really actually focusing the brain on playing the course and not the opponent. I’m going to get percentage pieces out of this because by that I mean if you watch actually a good golfer it’s shocking. They never look at the scoreboard. For three days, they don’t look at the scoreboard. They don’t care.

They’ll look in the final two holes, three holes because they may have to change their strategy, but how in the world do you play a competitive event without looking around at your opponent? The answer is well, what value does looking at the opponent really have? If you sink a 40-foot putt, good for you. Me focusing on that not only doesn’t change a thing, it removes the focus from my putt. It removes the focus from what I’m doing.

I think, as an example, we spend too much time worrying about things we can’t control. Honestly, if I thought worrying about it would move the dial one percentage point, I would be the most competitive worrier you ever met, but it actually takes away. It doesn’t add. Things like playing, the course, not the opponent, things like accepting your limp.

You started the conversation about Ben Feldman. Again, look him up folks. Like I said, appearance-wise, he wasn’t necessarily that natural salesperson look or sound, but in a sense he had his own limp. We all walk with a limp. Do you know how many people are held back from their own ability to convince others because of their limp?

I lost my hair, I wasn’t thrilled about it, but I had to accept it. It’s one of my limps. But what I found is, the moment it stopped being important to me, it was never really important to anybody else. It was me that was focused and obsessed. If we take that example and look at people that just have certain issues, maybe they don’t have that natural punch in their voice, it’s okay. Don’t be somebody you’re not. Just move it from a two to a four, that’s all I’m asking.

But if we accept our limp, if we play that course.
We don’t have to misuse our imagination. That lovely quote I actually have by my coffee bar, “Worry is the misuse of your imagination.” It’s a wonderful quote. If we start removing those pieces, each thing I’m talking about is getting us a percent here and three percent here and two percent there. I can give you five more, but I think you’re getting the drift of it.

Pete Mockaitis
I am, I think, getting the drift of it. I imagine you’ve given me the biggest percentages already upfront. Is that fair to say?

Rob Jolles
It depends on the mood that I’m in. It actually depends on the person because when you’re communicating, for instance, if you just pay attention to your transitions – so many people will micromanage the body of whatever they’re communicating about, particularly presenters. If they actually micromanage the transitions and stuck their landing in the end and spent 90% of their time on the opening, they would increase their credibility.

Again, because it’s percentage plays, each percentage move will fit a different customer a different way, but yeah, I’m not wasting your time. I’m giving you ones that I think really resonate and I see get a big bang for the buck for most of the people that I’m working with.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh great. Now, I just want to make sure I got the transitions point clear. You’re just saying if you’re doing a presentation or a speech, you want to give some extra attention to how you’re transitioning from one section to another instead of fumbling or being awkward during those moments?

Rob Jolles
Yeah, I did chuck that one in from left field, didn’t I? Absolutely. I train a lot of speakers. The irony is usually that the core of most presentations have oftentimes, particularly for corporate America, but oftentimes they’ve gone through a legal read. We can’t really change them all that much.

What makes a great communicator and an average communicator? It’s not the body of the message. It’s them coming out of the gate with an interesting story and idea, really addressing what’s in it for the client. Thinking out the beginning.

But to get right at what you just asked, the transitions, yeah, we probably have three or four major points. If I really think those out – I’m not a guy who believes in scripts – but if I actually write them out, maybe back them down to a Word outline, if I spend my time working on how I’m going from Point A to Point B and sewing that body together, as I said, coming out of the gate strong and sticking my landing, closing strongly, yeah, I’ll probably give one of the best presentations I’ve ever given. But it has very little to do with memorizing the body. That’s not where success lies.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s interesting because the big chunks one, they may be unmovable because of legal review, two, you probably remember them just because one thing leads to another. “This is the story about how I formed an accountability group in college.” Hey, that’s one chunk and I know it. We’ll go and make it happen. But what I don’t know so much is how I’m going to move from maybe that piece to how friendship is important.

Rob Jolles
By the way, that’s the way most people do it. They’ll go … “Friendship is important,” but when they transition with, “We all have these different pieces I just mentioned, but there’s one piece that we don’t pay attention to and that’s friendship. You see, friendship is important,” something along that line so that it’s effortless. When people walk away they go, “Boy, that was really good.”

Now look, we could spend our time talking about presentations. I’m going to involve that audience. The more they talk, the more they typically like and trust that presenter. I’m going to do other things, but it’s the transitions even when we communicate and are not giving presentations.

What if we’re just in front of somebody giving a proposal, what if we’re having a conversation and we want to get the three major points, it’s that smooth transition as opposed to that bumpity, bump, bump, bump. It sounds like Pete wanted to talk about this one. That’s the one I want to avoid. That doesn’t sound authentic. We circle back to our topic, which is why people don’t believe you because it’s not sounding authentic.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh certainly. I get a real kick out of when the transition is too, “So, can I have your money?” and it’s done poorly. It’s like, “Oh, you poor guy. Well, I’m already on board with your vision, so it’s fine, but-“ Okay, awesome. Let’s dig into a little bit of this now. Believing in yourself, that sounds classic and helpful and essential, but in practice, if your belief in self is moderate, like “Yeah, I can do a decent job most of the time I guess,” how does one elevate that?

Rob Jolles
Yeah. Did you ever see there was a commercial done years ago by FedEx? It’s actually on YouTube. You can find it online. It was called The Stolen Idea.

It deals with a boss who’s asking for ideas. One guys says, “Well, we could probably save money by putting all our shipping in one area and using FedEx.” You could hear a pin drop. Five seconds later the boss says, “I’ve got it. We can put everything in one area. We can use FedEx to do it all. That’ll save us on shipping.” Everybody goes, “That’s brilliant.”

The guy says, “You just said the same thing I said only you did this,” and he’s moving his hands horizontally. The boss says, “Nope, I did this,” and he moves his hand vertically because that was his gesture. I actually look at that commercial and I think that’s our jumping off point. Yes, I know what FedEx was after and shame on that boss for stealing that idea. But we need to teach people how to do this. This matters. That moving of the hands, that really matters.

To me, it’s a matter of kind of oftentimes finding your real voice. Not finding some voice you saw on television or who you heard on a podcast, but finding your real voice.

I don’t know last time you’ve been on a plane, but when you’re on a plane and the flight attendant starts speaking, you think “It’s funny, he or she was just here. We had a nice conversation. But now I’m hearing this really weird singsong ….” That’s not a real voice.

Why is it that a lot of times when we’re presenting or when we’re under pressure, we start going after this I guess the voice we thought we were supposed to have? Nobody wants that. People just want to believe. They want that to be authentic.

I always look at people and I think, if we were two people having a beer or having a cup of coffee, would you still talk and walk and behave this way or would you just drop all that and have a conversation? It’s really about finding that real voice. Honestly, you don’t have to look that far.

I’ll whisper this to presenters right before they go on stage when they’re a little bit tight. The last words I’ll typically tell somebody is, “If you were walking into your living room, what would you feel and how would you take that stage? That’s your living room. Now go enjoy yourself.” Forget all that other nonsense. In the living room, it’s pretty easy. Well, that’s all the audience wants. Whether it’s 50 people, 500 people or 1 person, they’re in your living room. Go have a conversation. We don’t need anything but authenticity.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s funny when you say the living room, my first thought is, “Well, I’m taking off these dress shoes and putting on my slippers.”

Rob Jolles
Well, I knew a presenter who was actually very successful. Now this was in the ‘90s. But he was a finance person and a finance specialist, which already you think, “Well, okay. Here’s comes that big old suit.” But he would take his shoes off when he went on that stage.

It was kind of his shtick. It was like George Burns smoking a cigar or something. This was his shtick. He was the guy who would take his shoes off. But it worked for him. It wasn’t shtick. I got a chance to speak to him a couple times and he just wanted to get to a place where he was as comfortable as he could be because then he could take that communication and make them as comfortable as they can be.

Last thing about that, but it’s really important to understand that an audience really they want to enjoy themselves. They want you to be successful. The best way to make an audience uncomfortable is for you to be uncomfortable.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s very true.

Rob Jolles
Then they feel badly for you and then they have a problem. Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Right, yeah. It hurts to watch somebody who’s bombing. They know they’re bombing. They’re nervous about bombing. It’s like, “Oh man.” It’s just fun to watch someone having fun. It’s like, “I’m not super into the content of what you’re saying, but it’s kind of enjoyable to watch you be into it. Yeah, take it away.”

Rob Jolles
Yeah, that’s the funny thing. If you think about some of the great – Johnny Carson or Jay Leno or Jimmy Fallon, what are some of the most enjoyable parts of the monologue or the conversation? When something bombs. They don’t put their head in their hand and they go, “Oh no. What happened here?” What they do is they just work with it.

The audience loves it because you didn’t make the audience feel sorry for you. You said to them in a sense, “I’m glad this happened. Let’s just work with it.” When you can take that with you and realize that what’s the worst happen, really just making them feel badly, so don’t. Away we go. It’s a lot easier up there than you think.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s true. I think I made some references to maybe college audiences and they’re just like, “We have no idea what this.” I was like, “Oh, I guess I’m getting old.” They all just sort of – you can just sort of laugh about that. It’s like, “Yup, okay.” Then away we go. As opposed to “Oh, that’s so stupid. I shouldn’t have made that allusion. Look up the dates next time, Pete. Oh! Bad, bad, bad.”

Rob Jolles
You know something, Pete? You hit on something else that I think is actually really important.  When we’re not in front of people, and remember we’re talking about building credibility, believing in yourself, and then taking that to others.

Do you know – and my wife helped me with this one – do you know how innocently that inner voice starts chirping at you of “If you had half a brain, you would have remembered to bring this with you on the road.” “Hey stupid, don’t forget that.” Do you know that that’s a lot more dangerous than we give it credit? It doesn’t have to be in front of anyone. It can just be with ourselves. But you keep beating yourself up like that, you’re going to start believing it.

I really some years ago decided it’s not okay to make fun of me and to start moaning and whining and complaining about certain things. People forget things. I’m two and a half million miles in the air, believe me I’ve forgot things in my bag. But I’ve decided – and it really works and I think it works for others – to be a lot kinder yourself.

Stop chirping and beating yourself up about things. Just like we would talk about in front of an audience, be nice to yourself when there isn’t an audience in front of you too.

Pete Mockaitis
I’d love to hit that point real quick. If you are in that mental habit, how does one kick it?

Rob Jolles
Yeah. Well, the first thing we have to do is we have to go from unconsciously incompetent, which is “Hey, that’s okay,” or “I don’t even notice it,” to really starting to become aware of it. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the four levels of conscious behavior, but we start with unconscious incompetency, which is sometimes we don’t know that we don’t know. That’s a dangerous place to be.

Well, that’s why you and I are having this conversation because now maybe we’ll be on the lookout for it. As a matter of fact, just talking about it, I can assure you, there are many people who are listening right now will go, “I do that, but I don’t mean anything by it.” I’m telling you it’s a cancer. It grows. You don’t realize it. Let’s move you to conscious incompetency, which means I want you to be aware when you do it.

Then let’s move to conscious competency. I want you to be a little robotic and every time it accidently happens, I want you to stop and correct it. I know that’s a little bit stiff and weird. Until we become unconsciously competent, when we do it and we don’t have to think about it anymore. But it’s natural to be on that scale. The first thing is we have to remind ourselves it’s not okay. It is not okay.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. All right. Well, so now-

Rob Jolles
I said it’s not okay. Sorry.

Pete Mockaitis
That is not okay. I am now acknowledging what you said and moving to something new.

Rob Jolles
Okay. I’ve got to climb in through the window there. I was out there yelling at people. Okay, I’m back in. Let’s keep going.

Pete Mockaitis
Let’s talk about that process by which you take yourself back to a place in which you were successful and thusly you method act your way into having a high performance moment. In practice, what are the steps to make that happen?

Rob Jolles
Well, the first thing – I’m going to leave the corporation out. There’s a Fortune 500 company I’ve been working with on this. One of the things we did was, again, think method acting. What we did was we began to on a piece of paper create a character.

One of my favorite actors is Daniel Day-Lewis. I’m not sure he’s ever going to be in another movie again, but when he was – I don’t know if you saw Lincoln, but if you did, it was probably a little slower than you imagined. I knew it was going to be slow because I actually read a bunch of books on Lincoln and Lincoln wasn’t the most exciting person in the world. But on set, you had to call Daniel Day-Lewis either Mr. President or Mr. Lincoln. He doesn’t mess around.

When we’re talking, to answer your question, we’re talking about getting into character, sometimes we have to sit and actually think about that character. I did some acting earlier in my life. I remember the first play I was in I was Bennie Van Buren in Damn Yankees. I was supposed to play a 70-year-old. But I had a great director, who, by the way, I spoke to when I wrote this book and we talked about this.

I remember him saying, “What kind of car does Bennie drive? What kind of cereal does he eat? Tell me about his house. What’s his office look like?” What he was doing – at first I thought he was a lunatic. I don’t know. It’s just a character I’m playing. But he didn’t want me to learn the script. At some point I knew that character so well, I walked around, I was 70 years old in my mind.

What I do sometimes is actually get people on a piece of paper to begin to actually write out their character a little bit, not necessarily what kind of cereal do they eat, but tell me about your character. Perform some tasks in front of me like your character. Forget everything else. We clear the mind. We work on establishing a character.

Actually, for some people it will be three characters. It’s a more dominant character, it’s a more social character, and it’s a more analytical character. If you’re wondering why in the world I do that, it’s because I work with a lot of salespeople. We have to kind of mirror the character we see in front of us.

Maybe I’m very social, what if I’m talking to somebody who’s really dominant? Well, I’ll just play the role of a dominant person. Not so fast. You better understand – before you put that white glove on, you better understand that character, so we actually write it out and think about it. I actually give them simple questions, like a questionnaire. They begin to role play and really get in touch with that character. Then they can tap into it when they need it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, interesting. You’re mapping out upfront. You’re doing some role play there. We also had Todd Herman talk about his book, The Alter-Ego Effect. He recommended sometime putting on a blazer or glasses or something that sort of en-clothed cognition, sort of stepping into that all the more. That’s handy.

Then I’m also wondering is there some visualization or some key memories that you’re bringing up and how do you go about doing that part?

Rob Jolles
Yeah, that’s where we go into that piece about, for me at least, and remember, I frequently work with people who are selling. Look, what I’m trying to have them visualize are moments of dominance, moments of success.

It’s weird. I’m 26 years in business as a professional speaker and yet, just like everyone else, sometimes you’re as good as your last presentation, you’re as good as your last quarter and all of the sudden a speaker’s bureau threw three clients at me. I spoke to them on the phone. None of them wanted to hire me. What do you think I sound like on the fourth call?

What I’m trying to do is get to moments where when we do get three in a row, when we do knock it out of the park and somebody says, “Okay, now I have another client I want you to talk to.” That’s what I mean in terms of that visualization of “Okay, maybe I’m not there right now, but I can think back on when I was. What was I feeling like?” I sort of take myself to that moment.

Pete, it kind of comes back to that percentage play. I’m not guaranteeing you that we’re going to be successful right now, but I guarantee you this, having that mindset and being able to pull that memory down is going to pick up some percentage plays and that’s what I’m looking for. Again, it’s mental, but it’s there.

No one’s had a life of complete loss. It’s everybody. We win some; we lose some. We win some; we lose some. It’s when we lose some, a bunch in a row that all of the sudden the shoulders start to droop and we kind of start picking up the phone going in my mind, “I know this guy isn’t going to buy from me, but here we go.” That’s not going to work for anybody.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. Thinking right back to the hot streak, the winning moments. That’s good. That’s good.

Rob Jolles
Well, it’s the winning moments. I keep pushing everything into sales, but in presentations a lot of times, particularly when somebody is new or somebody – I’ll also whisper in their ear, track record because maybe people who are listening right now have got 10 or 20 years under their belt, but maybe this quarter hasn’t been so good. Or maybe they haven’t given a presentation in a while or they’re being put in an awkward position.

What’s your track record like? Most people go, “Usually I’m pretty good at that.” Okay, again I’m looking for a couple percentage moves. To get the experience, how about we focus on what usually happens. Pete, when you have a podcast, what usually happens? When I’m a guest on a podcast, it usually goes real well. Not all the time, but usually goes real well.

I’m better off kind of focusing on my track record. That’s to me another kind of really great visualization. It’s simple and it’s easy.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Thank you. Well, tell me, is there anything that you recommend that we really don’t do? We’ve talked about the negative self-talk, not doing that. We talked about not stepping into who you think that you are supposed to be, but rather just using your own natural authentic voice. Any other top don’ts you want to make sure we highlight?

Rob Jolles
That’s a great question. I’m actually thinking of how I would address that. Yeah, I would say that I think we should stop being so fearful of dysfunction. We brought it up a little bit when maybe things don’t go well in front of an audience, but I think, again, whether it’s while we’re alone or whether we’re in groups, I like to tell people that I’m coaching or working with, let’s embrace that dysfunction a little bit.

Kind of going back to that limp a little bit, let’s remember that there’s only two types of people that don’t walk with a limp, that don’t have some level of dysfunction. They’re either not telling you the truth or they would have no ability to have compassion for another individual. Most of them really aren’t necessarily people I’d want to have as a client. I can tell you that much.

It’s funny, I wrote a piece one time where I said “knowledge is overrated.” Believe me, all the analytical practically followed me to the parking lot going, “Now what did you mean by that?” They were not happy.

I didn’t say it’s not important. I just said it’s overrated meaning as simple as it sounds, but I’m a guy that takes and has people record themselves, if we just work harder at asking questions and listening, if we just go a little easier on ourselves, if we embrace that dysfunction rather than run from it and understand, “That’s okay. That’s my limp. I’m not going to have trouble with it.” All those little pieces get us plays.

Just last real quick point, but I’m in a neighborhood where we’ve got a lot of dog walkers, including our Lilly, who we take for a walk. There’s not one but two dogs that are missing legs, a leg each. I got to tell you, it touches my heart because I look at them and I think I wish we were more like that because I promise, Pete, that dog doesn’t give a hootenanny that he’s missing a leg.

And neither does any other dog that’s walking by it. They’re sniffing. They’re curious where they might have been on that tree over there, but they don’t care. It’s not an issue. I wish we could learn lessons like that and remember that whatever it is and everybody’s got one, if it’s not a worry for you, it’s not a worry for the other dogs in the park. I promise you.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. Well, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Rob Jolles
Yeah, I would say as strange as this conversation may have sound because we’re talking about some kind of wacky – once I said role and character, what is all that. I want to remind people they probably do this more often than they think.

An example I’ll give you is if you have children that you parent, don’t tell me that you don’t actually drop into role, meaning particularly for the younger ones, when they brought back a homework assignment that wasn’t quite right or something, we kind of look at our spouse and go, “Okay, I’ll go in there.” We play the role of disappointed. I’m actually not as disappointed. I love you so much. But for tonight Rob Jolles will be playing the role of disappointed.

I think we do that more naturally than we think. Where we explore this finding a character and getting into role, please remember there are times where we all play roles; you’re just not thinking about it as much. I want you to think about it. Then I want you to stop thinking about it again. But that would be the last thought I give you on that one.

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

Rob Jolles
I gave you one, which is “Worry is the misuse of your imagination.” Okay, now I’ll give you another one “We weren’t put on this earth to make a living. We were put on this earth to make a difference.”

It’s always meant something to me, particularly for a guy who – when I tell you I’ve got two and a half million miles in the air, Pete, part of you should smile and part of you should look concerned, meaning “Well, does this guy have a family? Does this guy have children? Does he get to a birthday party?”

I’m really blessed. I have a wonderful wife, Ronnie, who helped me realize that I was a little out of balance earlier in my career, and I’d never heard of that quote, nor did I take it to heart. But I really believe in balance. I’m no longer a 1K and that’s just fine by me. I think that we focus on that, things will go a lot better for us.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Rob Jolles
I’ll tell you a bit or research or a study. It kind of falls into an author I happen to like. He’s with my publisher, Berrett-Koehler. Name is Noah Blumenthal. But he studied – he wrote a book called Be the Hero, but he studied how easy it is for us to have negative opinions of others, particularly of others that have done us wrong, maybe a previous boss or a neighbor or somebody just that – the person at CVS, I don’t know, where it really rubbed us the wrong way.

He really got me thinking, and it’s really helped, that we really don’t know many of the people that we form opinions about. We really don’t know them that well. We create a scenario that’s usually very negative. Now that scenario might be right, but we actually don’t know whether it’s right or not.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite tool, something that helps you be awesome at your job?

Rob Jolles
I keep a journal. I’ve kept it for 22 years.
But what I found was by methodically being observant, which is a journal will do, because I will only write twice in my journal, on the way out and on the way back of a trip. I am almost OCDish. When we get to 10,000 feet, I’m putting a date and a location on that journal entry.

But it’s a tool that actually, particularly for the way back, that allows me to kind of figure out to stop, pause and in process say, “Okay, what do you think was working there and what do you think wasn’t working there?”

Like I said, I’ve been doing this 31 years, putting a mic around my neck and talking to audiences and yet, I want you to know Pete that I still want to get better and that means I still want to figure out “Okay, what did we do well? What can we improve?”

Very importantly, I always balance that feedback because I’ve said it too many times already, but this isn’t a beat-up session. A lot of times we undervalue taking time to figure out what we’re doing well, so we don’t do it by accident. But that’s been a tool. I probably have well over 3,000 pages of journal entries.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Thank you. Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks and they quote it back to you at times?

Rob Jolles
If you want to get at the most fundamental way to communicate, we have to ask questions and listen. That doesn’t just mean what you and I are doing right now or if we’re going one-on-one with a client or a prospect, even in front of an audience.

If you want to know what the amateurs and even the pros do wrong, if I put down the 20 biggest mistakes they make, 19 of them don’t equal number one, which is too much information and that means constricting the ability for that audience to communicate with you, even if it’s rhetorical questions.

But those little touches, those little “Turn to your left, look at that partner, and say three things here. Try two things there,” that ability to build a conversation as opposed to a lecture are very valuable. I would like to think that I’ve said it enough, that who knows, maybe people would associate that with me. I’d be proud if they did.

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

Rob Jolles
That’s an easy one. I would just take them to J-O-L-L-E-S.com that’s where you’ll find – I write something called a BLArticle. I am in my tenth year of BLArticles. That’s a blog-article. I just try – and by legal definition it’s 500 to 700 words. I just try and practice what we’re preaching, you and I, which is let’s not over communicate, but let’s provide value and drip out information. But anyway that’s where all sorts of information on me is.

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

Rob Jolles
Okay. Pete, you’re really coming at me. I like this. My final challenge would be I don’t care who you are, I don’t care what you think is out there holding you back; get out of your own way. Pete, you and I have hit it over and over and over again. Just be kinder to yourself, accept whatever limp you have, and I can assure you, you’ve got one. That’s okay. Don’t let it be a big issue. It won’t be with anybody else.

Go in there, again, the easiest way to find that authentic you is just get up there, wherever it is, tell the truth. If the truth is a struggle right now, double back and figure out – I’ve got to rebrand, I’ve got to do something, but I’ve got to find a way of telling the truth. If you solve that, then you’ve got it made. The rest is easy.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Rob, this has been a blast. Thanks so much for bringing it. I wish you lots of luck with your speaking and all you’re up to.

Rob Jolles
Oh, I appreciate it. Thank you so much. I’ve really enjoyed the conversation.

366: Mastering Conversations through Compassionate Curiosity with Kwame Christian

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Negotiate Anything podcast host Kwame Christian lays out the compassionate curiosity framework and how to apply it to negotiations with others and with yourself for any aspect of your life.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How and why to deal with our “inner toddler” in high-stakes conversations
  2. How being persuadable makes you persuasive
  3. Two key phrases for when you don’t know what to say

About Kwame

Kwame is a corporate attorney with a passion for using negotiation and the psychology of persuasion to help clients get the best deals possible. HisTEDx Talk, Finding Confidence in Conflict, was viewed over 24,000 times in 24 hours and Kwame also hosts the top negotiation podcast in the country, Negotiate Anything. The show has been downloaded over 250,000 times and is a resource for business professionals in over 140 different countries.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Kwame Christian Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Kwame, welcome back to the How to Be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Kwame Christian
Pete, thank you for having me. It’s good to be back.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m thrilled to be talking about your new book, but first I want to get a little bit oriented. You are a master expert at negotiation. I understand many of your lessons have come from negotiating with your three-year-old son. Can you give us a tale behind this?

Kwame Christian
Absolutely. Pete, you will be following in my footsteps shortly because you have a ten-month-old, so I know that you’re taking notes.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly.

Kwame Christian
This question is for you more than the audience. But, yeah, it’s been really fascinating. So, about me, I’m an attorney, but my background is in psych. I always wanted to be a psychologist, clinical psychologist. When we had Kai, my son, he’s three now, for me I was thinking to myself, this is a perfect opportunity to have a human to experiment on, so let’s play.

One of the things that I like about Kai when it comes to conflict management and my hostile negotiations with him every morning trying to get him to school is that, three-year-olds and toddlers, they are essentially unrefined humans. You are speaking to the most primitive parts of the human brain when you’re trying to break through a toddler’s tantrum.

For me as a mediator and an attorney, when I’m negotiating and mediating, I found that a lot of times, I’m dealing with a person’s inner toddler. They dress it up in professional language and professional dress and everything, but when it comes down to it, they’re not making decisions with the most evolved part of their brain. They are still responding with their base human responses that come from the limbic system.

And once I’m able to recognize that in other people, it makes it a lot easier and a lot less frustrating. I take my mornings with Kai as practice sessions. I use techniques with him, try it out with him, then I say, “Well, I wonder if I could do something similar with the people in these difficult conversations in my profession,” and shockingly, it works really effectively.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. That’s cool. So you say limbic system and raw human, so we’re talking just sort of about emotion, impulse, reflex stuff.

Kwame Christian
Exactly, exactly because the thing is when it comes to these difficult conversations, the brain structures I like to focus on are the amygdala, within the limbic system, and the prefrontal cortex within the frontal lobe. The limbic and the amygdala, that houses the base emotional responses, positive and negative emotions, but predominantly negative emotions.

That’s where your fight and flight response is and where the stress response is as well, the thing that leads to the pumping of adrenaline, the elevation of the heart rate, deeper breathing and trembling of the voice, all of that is controlled by the limbic system and the stress response.

Now the interesting thing about the prefrontal cortex, that’s where we have logical reasoning, executive function and those higher level thinking mechanisms in the brain, the interesting thing about that is that, that part of the brain doesn’t fully develop until you’re about 25, early to mid-20s. It develops fully in females faster than in males. I think the difference is 22 to 25.

But it takes a while for that part of the brain to be fully developed, so when you are talking to a toddler, you are dealing with somebody who does not have the cognitive capacity to truly reign in the limbic system, to really think at that higher level consistently because their prefrontal cortex and frontal lobe isn’t fully developed yet.

It’s an interesting cognitive challenge when you look at it that way versus “This is really frustrating. Why won’t this kid stop crying?” but if you think about it and put on a scientist hat and think about it from a psychological perspective, it becomes a fascinating challenge because you recognize which brain structure is active at what time. Then it allows you to walk that baby from irrational to rational.

You’re essentially doing the same thing in your difficult conversations because people respond emotionally and so your goal is to recognize, “Okay, they’re not thinking rationally right now, let me speak to that emotional side and then I’m going to start introducing more higher level arguments and speak to the logical part of their brain once I recognize that they’ve settled down.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, cool. You unpack a number of these things in your book. You’ve been a little bit mysterious with the title, but I understand you’re going to speak it aloud on the show here.

Kwame Christian
Yes, so the title of the book and what’s funny is I think your listeners might find out before my listeners podcast.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s how we roll here. It’s a scoop.

Kwame Christian
That’s right. This is a scoop. This is a big deal, people, big deal. The name of the book is Nobody Will Play With Me: How to Use the Compassionate Curiosity Framework to Find Confidence in Conflict.

Pete Mockaitis
All right, you say “nobody will play with me,” tell us, where does this come from?

Kwame Christian
Yeah, it’s an odd title for a negotiation and conflict management book. But with this book, my goal is to not just inundate you with a laundry list of psychological techniques and persuasive techniques. I think that’s been done and it’s already been done well.

What I’ve recognized through meeting my listeners and doing the TED talk and doing these workshops around the country is that the first barrier that people face is emotional, within themselves. What I recognize is that for years I’ve been giving recipes to people who are afraid to get in the kitchen. They don’t care so much about what to do if they’re too afraid to do it.

I looked back on my life and I recognized the same thing was true for me. I was a people pleaser. I found it very difficult to stand up for myself in difficult conversations. When I went through a bit of an introspective process to figure out where that came from. I recognized that the genesis was an incident on the playground in first grade.

Some background on me. I’m a first-generation Caribbean-American. I grew up in a small rural town in Ohio called Tiffin. Not surprisingly, there was not very much diversity in Tiffin. We looked different and because of our strong accent, we sounded very different. It was hard to fit in.

I remember one day in particular on the playground, it was during recess. I would go to a group of friends and say, “Hey, can I play with you?” and they said no. Then I went to another group of friends, same thing and another group, same thing. Then the recess bell rang and I just burst into tears. I felt so lonely.

I made a vow that day that this would never, ever, ever happen again. People are going to like me. I’m going to have friends. I’m going to be popular. By the end of school I accomplished my goal, I was one of the most popular kids in school, but what I recognized is that oftentimes, our greatest strengths are hiding our greatest weaknesses.

That incident made me a people pleaser. When I was confronted with opportunities to engage in conflict, I would turn away because I said I worked too hard to get all these friends, I’m not going to risk it. I’m not going to jeopardize these relationships.

The book chronicles really how I was able to get over this fear of difficult conversations through the fundamentals of cognitive behavioral therapy that I did on myself. I guess I never made it to be that clinical psychologist that I always wanted to be, but I was my only patient. I was my one and only patient.

I walk the readers through how they can find confidence in conflict even if they are conflict-averse. Then at the end of the book, I share a single powerful technique that you can use in any negotiation from the kitchen table to the boardroom.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, of course, I can’t let that one just go. What is it? What is this powerful technique?

Kwame Christian
Yes. This technique is called compassionate curiosity. It’s a generally applicable approach. Like I said, the reason I wanted to do this is because when you inundate somebody with a bunch of different techniques, it might make sense logically to them, but when they’re in the heat of the moment, they’re not going to go through this laundry list of options to figure out which would be most persuasive in this moment.

I wanted to create something that could be used on the fly no matter what the conversation is, if you’re at work, or you’re having a difficult conversation with your wife, you can use it in that situation. The technique is, first, you acknowledge emotions. Second, you get curious with compassion. Third, you engage in joint problem solving.

What makes this unique is the fact that this same framework can be utilized in the external negotiation that we’re all familiar with, the conflict that’s on the outside with the other person, but also, before you engage in the conflict internally, where you acknowledge your own emotions, where you get curious about what you believe, why you believe it, why you want what you want, and then joint problem solving.

This begs the question, joint problem solving, who are the parties here because I’m in my own head.

Pete Mockaitis
I thought you were talking about marijuana. This begs the question, joint problem solving, like “Where’s he going with this? Where’s he going? Okay.”

Kwame Christian
I’m in Ohio, so that’s not happening here. Maybe in Cali, but not here.

But um, with that third step, internally, what that looks like is you’re negotiating with yourself and you’re bringing your heart and mind together to figure out a solution that works for you. Because a lot of times there might be a solution that makes sense economically, but then you look in the mirror and you hate yourself for making that deal, you don’t feel like you should have conceded.

A good deal will have something that it works for you substantively. It serves your needs, but also it’s something that you can live with emotionally. If you make a deal that makes sense logically, but really breaks you inside, it’s not a good deal. I want people to think through that thoroughly before they engage in the external negotiation.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, cool. Could you give us an example of how that might unfold in practice?

Kwame Christian
Absolutely. And so I think about this as a mediator. I see this all the time. As a mediator, it gives me an opportunity to put myself in the unique position where I’m right in the middle of a conflict. I have a really good idea of what’s going on one side and a really good idea of what’s going on on the other side. They’re honest with me. They tell me what’s going on and what they need.

Sometimes they might get an offer and their attorney might say, “This is a really good deal. Given the likelihood of success in litigation, I think we should accept this offer.” Now, essentially that is the logical part of their brain talking. The attorney in this situation represents the logical part of their brain. He or she is saying this works, financially this works, legally this works.

Speaking as an attorney, attorneys are very risk averse. If there’s a way to get a quick win and avoid a loss, then they’ll do that. Settlement is typically the best option.

But then, if you take a moment and look at the party, you can see that it’s breaking them up inside. It doesn’t work for them. Even though it makes sense and they cognitively, logically understand that this is the best deal, they know that if they go home and they take that deal, one month later, six months later, two months later, they’ll look in the mirror and lose a little bit of respect for themselves because they feel like they capitulated.

And so, that’s a situation where the person should take a step, think about it, and then push a little bit harder because if it’s a situation where it won’t bankrupt you, you’ll survive if you roll that dice and lose in litigation, I think when it comes down to the way you look at yourself and your level of respect, you don’t want to capitulate when it’s a situation where you care about it or it means more to you than just the money and the legal exposure.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. Okay, so then, you’re sort of highlighting the different areas there. The curiosity then is when you’re kind of asking those questions in terms of what’s underneath it, what’s behind it, sort of what’s going on deep down there. So that’s intriguing.

Then I guess if you’re the mediator there, you’re going to need to come about that understanding of where the other person is coming from as well so that you can find a new deal that is workable for everyone.

Kwame Christian
Exactly. Exactly. For me as a mediator, it’s tough to skirt that line. If there’s an attorney representing the party, then I would kind of step back and let those two have the discussion. But oftentimes when the party is unrepresented and they’re trying to handle it themselves, I’d have them think through it, so even if they say yes, I’ll test it.

I say to them, “Okay, now I understand that this is a deal that makes sense for you and you’re thinking about accepting this deal, but let me ask you a question, let me have you think about it from this angle. Now, if you take this home to your spouse and you let your spouse know about the outcome, what would they think about it? How would they feel? Okay. Why would they feel that way?”

Now after you get that reaction from their spouse. Now imagine they say “Oh the spouse would be really upset. They would be frustrated. They’d feel like I gave away the farm.” Then I said, “Okay, after you get that response from your spouse, how would you feel about that deal six months from now? Would you feel good about yourself?” Then they’d say, “No, I wouldn’t feel good about myself at all.”

Then I say, “Well, do you think this is a good deal still?” They would say, “No.” Then I say, “All right, let’s consider your financial situation, what you’re looking for, your interests and the legal exposure we’re dealing with. What is the counter proposal that will work for you?” They’ll come back with something a little bit more aggressive and that jives with what’s happening inside of them.

Because one of the things we need to recognize is that emotions are valid. So we can’t just try to turn ourselves into automatons and just make cold callous calculations. That’s simply not the way we operate. Those emotions are going to be there festering under the surface whether we want them to or not.

I say when it comes to the decision making process before and during the conversation, we need to constantly have that internal negotiation to make sure that the outcomes or the solutions that we consider and propose are really in line with our substantive and emotional interests.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, that’s good stuff. So that’s in the lawyer world. Are there other instances in the course of just sort of natural thinking, decision making, sort of life planning and executing where you see some real common mismatches between the logical and the emotional?

Kwame Christian
Absolutely. You see it at home at the time, all the time. It might be a situation where you’re trying to decide where to live. You and your spouse might be deciding where to live. You have an option of living in a densely populated urban area. You’re in Chicago, so let’s say Chicago. Or you could move out to the suburbs and give yourself a little bit more space, reduce stress, reduce workload, etcetera, etcetera.

There are going to be a number of competing interests. If you were somebody who grew up in Chicago and maybe you grew up in a rougher side of Chicago, maybe you say “That upbringing made me tough, made me strong. I learned a lot. I didn’t just have book smarts, but I had street smarts. I would prefer – because of that I want to raise my child in more of a densely populated area.”

And so then, you have to a serious conversation to see within yourself before you have the conversation with your spouse to make the decision and really dig deeply into it because sometimes the emotions are legitimate and they would be long-lasting, but sometimes you recognize within yourself, “Oh, now I see why I feel this way. It’s not legitimate. It’s purely emotional in a way where I’m willing to let it go.”

For instance, I was talking to one of my friends. I did an episode where we had a sparring session, like a mock negotiation. It was me and my guest. I was playing the role of a parent and she was trying to – she was my spouse and she was trying to convince me not to spank the children. I said, “Well, I’m a Caribbean-American. I was spanked and I’m tough. My family was spanked and they did really well, so I want to continue the tradition.”

My friend told me that after he listened to that episode, it hit him that the only reason he wanted to spank his kids was because his family was from Africa and his whole family was spanked growing up. That was just the tradition. But then as an academic, when he looked back and made that determination for himself looking at the literature, he realized it wasn’t something that he wanted to do.

I’m not saying that as an indictment of spanking at all, I’m just saying that as an example of how the introspective process can lead to some unexpected results. Once you recognize the genesis of some of your emotional stances, then it leads you to question it and it could lead to the opposite, you could say, “Oh, this is legitimate. This isn’t going to go away. I need to actually take this into consideration in the decision-making process.”

But what I’m finding, and the reason that I want to include this in the book, is because I found that most people don’t think through things thoroughly before they engage in the difficult conversations. They have this conflict or this negotiation and they are discussing it feverishly when in reality, they don’t have a good understanding of what they really want or why. That leads to really poor outcomes a lot of times in these difficult conversations.

Pete Mockaitis
What I loved about the spanking example is that it really does have some emotion as well as data. I haven’t looked at all the data on spanking in great detail, but I’ve browsed a couple studies.

I would have a hard time I think myself just doing it. If the research showed that spanking was the best means of making your child a success, I’d be like, “Okay, this is kind of hard for me to do, but I guess I’ll suck it up.” I think it packs an emotional charge. We talk about your steps there in terms of you know, one, acknowledging the emotions. I think if you go there then it totally makes sense how that gets you onto sort of a level ground for having the conversation.

Because if someone is thinking, “My family spanked me and they were spanked and we are all great,” and then someone comes hard charging, “Well, take a look at these seven peer-reviewed studies and the outcomes associated with children who are spanked,” it’s just like, “Yeah, well that’s just a bunch of academic mumbo jumbo. How applicable is that to the real world?”

Right, so I think you sort of instantly probably catch some resistance as opposed to when you sort of acknowledge the emotions and have that curiosity associated with where it comes from, then it’s like, “That is kind of interesting. I guess that is where it comes from and how we operate. But a lot of families didn’t do that and they worked out fine, so I guess we’ve got a choice to make here.”

That’s really cool how if you take the time to go there, you’ll save time talking until you’re blue in the face about all your awesome data.

Kwame Christian
Exactly. Here’s the thing too. What studies have found is that people come to decisions, come to conclusions and opinions with their emotions first and then subsequently justify that with logic. It’s a reverse process because typically we think that we are well reasoned people and we come to these conclusions because of our reasoning, but it’s the opposite way.

For example, let’s stick on the spanking example because for me, if I were having that conversation with my wife and I didn’t prepare at all, I’d say, “No, I want to spank.” Then she says, “Here are these peer-reviewed studies,” I would be ill-equipped to have that conversation because I didn’t realize before the conversation that the singular reason why I wanted to spank was because of my upbringing, that’s it.

But the thing is as the conversation went, if I would have not taken the time to confront that beforehand, I would have said, “Well, all of my family is successful.” That’s an excuse really. That’s a rationalization that came after I already came to that conclusion. It makes it better for you to operate in these conversation because one of the keys to being persuasive is being persuadable.

In those conversations if you are willing to come to terms with the fact that, “Oh, I might be wrong and maybe the best thing for me, the other person and the situation as a whole is for me to adjust my position,” then that puts you in a better position to persuade this person in another situation too.

One of the things I mention in the book is I want you to consider this like relationship chess. It’s not just a short-term situation where I’m trying to be persuasive in this particular conversation and get this win. It’s over the lifetime of this relationship, how can I put myself in the best position to be as persuasive as possible and maximize value for me and the other person.

When you think about it that way, it broadens your perspective and you can see how coming to terms before the negotiation that, “Oh, I might actually be wrong,” that’s beneficial in the grand scheme of things.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so much good stuff. Thank you. It resonates. It’s funny, when you talk about the emotion and then the rationalization. It’s interesting over the last few days – this just happened to me, so – I’ve taken a fancy lately to the website WireCutter.com, if you’ve ever been there.

Kwame Christian
Ha, yes.

Pete Mockaitis
But I just love is how – I tend to research products super thoroughly myself on Amazon and then I like it that they do that and then take it all the further in terms of “Well, we got the top ten rated things and we played with them all for hours and hours and here are our conclusions.”

I just sort of bumped into them talking about a multi-bit ratcheting screwdriver. They just sort of sang its praises in such great detail and how it’s vastly superior to all these other multi-bit ratcheting screwdrivers.

Even though I already have a screwdriver set, I just wanted it, partially just because I love excellence and the way they spoke of it was so glowing as it being vastly superior to the others and how ratcheting has its advantages. I spent like three or four days – not all day, but in idle moments – just sort of thinking about under what circumstances would I really need ratcheting in a screwdriver.

Then just today I came to the thought, well, I’ve got these blinds that I’ve been kind of dragging my feet on putting up and part of it’s because it’s unpleasant kind of shove your hand in those weird, awkward corners where there’s furniture and stuff in the way. Then you keep slipping out of it. Then you’ve got to get back into the screw.

Versus if I had a ratcheting capability, then that would make it so much easier and remove my resistance and we could get these things up and it could very well save me time if there’s just one screw that I don’t strip and have to take a trip to the store, that time savings is going to pay for itself.

I just bought it today. I did not need to spend $26 when I have screwdriving capability in my life, but I had a desire and then I found a reason. I don’t regret it, but I do see what’s happened to me here. I can be honest and humble about it.

Kwame Christian
This is brilliant. This is a great example. I like your honesty first of all with how you came to the decision because you admitted it was an emotional decision and then you worked hard to find a way to legitimize that decision. Let’s do a little role play. I’m your wife. Now we’re married. I’m gorgeous.

Pete Mockaitis
You sure are.

Kwame Christian
Pete, congratulations.

Pete Mockaitis
And you want to spank my kids.

Kwame Christian
Let’s say my goal here to stop you from buying this thing. Now, thinking about it on the external side we can see how the compassionate curiosity framework is beneficial because if I, as your wife, just focus on the fact, the truth, the reality, the logical conclusion that we do not need this, she’s speaking to the wrong part of the brain because it’s not the logical part of the brain that made that decision.

That’s why when it comes to sequencing the compassionate curiosity framework, it goes from acknowledge emotions to compassionate curiosity to joint problem solving because we recognize that you need to start with the emotions first.

Once the emotional side is addressed, then we can move to curiosity with regard to the substance of it and digging deeply into your motivations and why really you need it. Then we can work together to come up with a solution.

But we don’t start talking about solutions first because that talks about logic and practicality and things like that. And you’re not ready for that. We need to address that emotion, which in this case is actually positive, that desire.

I’ve seen the trend here because you said you admire excellence. The name of your podcast is How to be Awesome at Your Job. For me, as your wife, I would say, “All right, I understand that you have a need for higher level things and the best things in life.” Maybe what I would try to do is give you that same emotional satisfaction in another way that still protects us from that expense, but still at the same time gives you that validation that you need to find a win-win in that case.

Pete Mockaitis
I like that you’re kind of working with the same emotional pathway, you might kind of work with painting a picture of how there is excellence in using simple tools that you’ve already got and paint a picture of how, play some country music and, take your sweet time using the tools you have and enjoy doing an excellent job with what you’ve got.

That in its own way is a form of excellence with fiscal responsibility and resourcefulness. You’re using what you’ve got because you’re so smart at doing that and being creative. You’re like MacGyver.

I dig that. I think that’s intriguing too if you think about all the little decisions we make all the time with regard to our logic versus our animalistic or limbic desires. I’m thinking about it like, “I want pizza.” It’s like, “I want that delicious pizza,” so you’ve got that desire. But you realize, “Well, that pizza probably has twice as many calories as I really need to be satisfied and nourished and I would like to drop some pounds.”

There you have it. Classic. Logically, eating that pizza does not help me attain my goals, but emotionally I want it. Right then and there it seems like we can apply this framework to sort of talk yourself off the pizza ledge. How would that play out?

Kwame Christian
Exactly. It’s fascinating because you’re spot on. The compassionate curiosity framework, especially internally can be used in every single situation because we’re constantly making decisions. What they found is the vast majority of our decisions happen automatically.

In this situation, you might just find yourself with the pizza and you’re done with the pizza and now you’ve reached a level of sanity that came with your satisfaction. It’s like, “Oh, how did I get this pizza?” Well, you made that decision automatically, emotionally.

Walking you through that framework, what it could be is this. I’ll kind of put myself on the spot too. It might be a Friday night and then I say, “All right, I’m getting pizza.” That’s the conclusion I’ve come up with.

Then I stop and I say, “Okay, step one, acknowledge emotions. What is it?” “Well, I’m happy. I’m with my family. I feel good. That’s what I’m feeling right now. That is my emotion.” “Okay, well, why do you feel that way?” “Well, I remember growing up watching TGIF with my family and it feels so good. That’s why at this moment on Friday evening, I feel that good.”

“Okay, so now where does pizza come in?” “Well, every Friday I remember sitting down and my family would order AJ’s Pizza and we would eat this pizza.” “Okay, so what does your heart really want? Your heart wants connection with your family and to enjoy that warmth and accepting caring feeling that comes with spending time with the family.

But substantively, what does your body need right now because you and your wife set a goal to hit a certain body fat percentage by the end of the month and this is antithetical to those goals, so is there another way we can get that same feeling, that same emotional feeling by doing something else?”

Then you say, “You know what, maybe what we can do together as a family instead of eating pizza is sitting down – is coming up with a recipe and as a family creating a healthy dish and then sharing that together.”

Pete Mockaitis
There we go. Certainly. That’s sort of based on a warm family connection kind of emotional vibe. I’m wondering if the desire is even a little bit more simple. It’s like, because pizza is delicious and it’s greasy and crunchy and chewy and flavorful all at the same time. That is what I long to have at this moment.

Kwame Christian
Yeah, and I think a lot of times when we feel emotions as a Western society, we’ve gotten into that almost societal habit of addressing that emotion with food. If I’m sad, I’m going to eat comfort food. If I’m happy, I’m going to eat comfort food. If I’m bored, I guess I could eat something too.

When it comes to the habit structure when you think about Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit, the anatomy of a habit is trigger, behavior and reward. What’s funny is when food especially, there are multiple triggers that could be opposing triggers, happiness and sadness both could lead to pizza in the same way. Like you said, it might not even be something as elevated as oh, warmth and family time. That’s great. It might just be a trigger or a deeply ingrained habit.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, well, fascinating stuff. Well, boy there’s many things I wanted to get into, but we’ve already having so much fun with so much time.

Let’s talk about the fear and confidence dimension associated with going into some conversations with folks. Like you sense that there’s going to be conflict, a difference of opinion on a matter and so you’re feeling fearful. What do you suggest for tapping that fear and boosting the confidence? We got sort of one useful tool to engage in the conversation, but sort of getting your mindset right before you step in. How do you recommend we do that?

Kwame Christian
I’ll answer it two ways. Right before you step in, what I would do is I would focus on your why. What is the purpose of the conversation? When you think about the system of roots beneath a tree, sometimes, depending on the tree, the root system can go down 20 feet into the ground and spread out 40 feet away from the trunk of the tree. That’s why it is so well rooted. It’s not moving.

We have to think about our reasoning, our purpose in the same way. If fear is something that you struggle with, you need to find a reason for the conversation.

An example is I was coaching an executive at a non-profit one time and she was struggling to make the difficult asks when it came to funding for the non-profit. She said “I just don’t feel comfortable in these conversations. I don’t feel like asking. I feel like I’m annoying people.” I said, “All right, can you tell me about why you do this?” She talked about the mission and how important it was to her.

I said, “Can you think of one person, one child that you’ve helped that stands out to you?” She said, “Yeah, I can think of one. His name’s Mark. He had this story,” and she told me the story. I said, “Great. Here’s what I want you to do. Before you make any of these fundraising calls, I want you to take a picture of Mark and I want you to look at it and remember the impact that your mission had on his life, his life and his family’s life. Then I want you to make that call.”

After she did that she was able to push harder without that fear. Let me say it this way, push harder without letting the fear get in her way. The reality is in a lot of these situations, that fear and anxiety, that feeling is still going to be there. But it’s not about, again, muting these emotions and putting them away because that’s often unrealistic.

What it’s really about is finding unique ways to still accomplish what we need to accomplish in spite of those fears. If you have a conversation coming up right now, that’s going to be one of the keys.

Now, going forward what I would suggest doing is finding unique ways to put yourself in positions of difficult conversations because you need to engage in what I call rejection therapy. There was popular TED talk I think by the same title or 100 Days of Rejection was the TED talk.

Essentially it’s exposure therapy, how people get over phobias. You slightly expose yourself to a difficult conversation, like a small one. Then the next day you do another one. You find these opportunities and then as you start to do that, you’re going to find yourself becoming a little bit more comfortable in the difficult conversations.

The last one is reconceptualizing your opinion of the fear that you’re feeling. Essentially this is the cognitive reappraisal thing. What you’re doing is you’re feeling this physical sensation of fear, so maybe for you it’s heart rate and perspiration. That’s what it is for you. That’s how you know you’re afraid. Well, over time what you want to start doing is attaching that physical response to another positive emotion.

For me, even though now with these workshops I travel the country doing the negotiation and conflict management trainings, the reality is I’ve been terrified of public speaking, just absolutely terrified. To this day when I speak in public, I still have that fear response, but through the process of cognitive reappraisal I feel the exact same thing but I label it as excitement. I see this as an opportunity, so now I’m going to move toward it.

Psychologically we’re always thinking about things in terms of approach or avoid. Most likely with the fear and anxiety that people feel with difficult conversations, they are avoiding the difficult conversations. So by figuring out your why in that specific conversation and then recognizing conflict as an opportunity, those two things in conjunction will make it more likely for you to approach the conversation with more confidence.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Thank you. Now I want to get your take on when it comes to the actual word choice that you’re using, do you have any favorite scripts or phrases or things you find yourself saying again and again that are just super handy tools in your back pocket.

Kwame Christian
Absolutely. It’s funny you say that because one of the things that my listeners said was an issue was that sometimes in the conversations they don’t know what to say. “I just don’t know what to say. Can you help me there?”

What I recognized is that a lot of times when you don’t know what to say, it’s a signal that you probably shouldn’t be saying something. You shouldn’t be saying anything. You should be asking a question because you don’t know what to say because you don’t know enough. Your goal at that moment is to learn something. In those moments what I do is I ask questions.

My favorite kinds of questions start with what or how. These are open ended questions that are designed to solicit information and get them talking. I also like to use ‘tell me more about blank’ or ‘help me to understand blank.’ Those two open-ended statements are thing that I go to a lot of times when I just simply don’t know what to say.

They’re really simple and they get the other person talking, which gives you more information and as we know, knowledge is power. It gives you more power and confidence in the negotiation. It also gives you time to regroup because while they’re talking, you’re listening, but you’re also gathering yourself and figuring out what’s next. I would say the two go-to phrases that I use would be ‘tell me more about this, blah, blah, blah,’ or ‘help me to understand this.’

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely, thank you. Tell me Kwame, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Kwame Christian
Absolutely. Well, yes, the book this week is going to be on sale for 99 cents just for this week. If you’re interested in getting the book and figuring out conflict-wise what you can do better and how you can get more confident, this would be the week to do it.

Pete Mockaitis
Very cool. All right. Got it. Now can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Kwame Christian
Yes. There’s a difference between what people often think about negotiation and what negotiation really is. My quote is “Negotiation is not the art of deal making. It’s the art of deal discovery.” You’re going together to come and have a conversation to see if a deal exists, not try to force one if it doesn’t.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool, thank you. And how about a favorite study, or experiment or bit of research?

Kwame Christian
Yes, I will go to Stanley Milgram’s experiment on authority. This was a classic psychological experiment, back in the good old day before ethics.

Pete Mockaitis
Ethics. When you could spank your kids and no one would judge you for it.

Kwame Christian
Exactly It was the Wild, Wild West. It was terrible. But we learned a lot from it. We learned a lot from this study. For those of you who don’t know, with the Milgram experiment it was on obedience to authority.

He had somebody come into a laboratory and what the person saw was this contraption that had different levels of voltage assigned to these switches. Then you had a man in a lab coat looking very authoritative and then a person on the other side of a curtain. You were to ask the person questions. If they got it wrong, then you shocked them. The level of shock was just increasing to dangerous levels.

I think it was a full 63% of the people who went through that study took it all the way to the end, where they thought the person was actually dead.

And so this is terrifying. You just come into a lab and some man in a lab coat says, “Shock this person,” and you’re hearing the voice of what you think is a person suffering. It was really a tape recorder. But 63% went all the way and shocked this person to the point where he stopped responding and they kept shocking.

That, no pun intended, is shocking. But it tells you just how powerful deference to authority is when it comes to persuasion. That’s why confidence for me is the thing that I focus on most in this book, how you can get confidence, because the simple act of carrying yourself with confidence is by itself persuasive.

If you can carry yourself in a way that lets people know that you are an authority, somebody to be respected, they are going to respond in kind. Even if you don’t know any substantive negotiation technique, if you were to just increase your ability to demonstrate confidence and be confident in yourself, it’s going to increase your negotiation outcomes.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite book?

Kwame Christian
Shameless plug. I guess it would have to be my book right now, since I’m promoting it. But I think the best negotiation book on the market right now is Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss.

Pete Mockaitis
That keeps coming up. We had him on the show. Voss was awesome. The book was awesome. Why do you love it?

Kwame Christian
I love it because it’s so practical. He took it from the ivory tower and brought it to the real world. I love the fact that when I read books written by folks from the CIA, FBI all, everything is just military grade practicality. If it doesn’t work in the field, then they don’t use it. Everything that we learn from him is readily applicable.

I remember in some of my negotiations with opposing counsel representing my clients, I decided there’s no way. It can’t be that easy. It can’t work. And just being shocked, just being shocked.

I think if I’m going to get really nerdy with the reason why I like it, it would be this. He was able to blend an approach that is assertive. Because when I had him on the show, I said aggressive. He said, “I prefer the term assertive,” so I’ll respect that. Assertive, but friendly.

One of the critiques of the collaborative negotiation model is that it’s a little bit too fluffy. In the real world if you go against a buzz saw, you’ll just get destroyed. With Chris’s approach to negotiation, he could take everything you have and make you like him through the process. It’s brilliant.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. You said you work with clients, you’re like, “It can’t be this simple,” what in particular were you doing that you found to be effective but surprisingly simple?

Kwame Christian
Yeah, so I remember with a lot of these negotiations, the simple response of “How am I supposed to do that?” adjusting your position at all, and so them to negotiate themselves is shockingly powerful.

If you can do it with the proper affect, where you’re friendly and not aggressive and not threatening, it’s powerful because there is an assumption that every time somebody counters your proposal or any time there is resistance, you need to then adjust your position, but what he showed is that no, you don’t. You can keep on implementing the same technique over and over and over again. Then eventually they’ll relent.

You’re really testing their resilience throughout the conversation. What amount of what they’re doing is bluster. Are you just saying you can’t do that or are you hoping that I will just believe that.

Then if you just challenge it and just keep challenging it and challenging it, it’s incredible to see even in these incredibly positional high stakes negotiations, like with me and opposing counsel or me sitting as the mediator, it’s incredible to see how effective that is when it comes to these difficult conversations.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, let’s hear how you’d say “How am I supposed to do that?”

Kwame Christian
So just like that. That’s the crazy part about it, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
I always thought it would be a little bit more warm and fun like “Kwame, how am I supposed to do that?”

Kwame Christian
I would say it like this, if I’m talking to opposing counsel, I would say, “Well, first of all, Pete, I definitely understand where you’re coming from, but I represent a client here, so how am I supposed to do that? His interests are this, that and the other. How am I supposed to accept that?” Then silence. Then they start thinking, “Hm, that’s a good point, how is he supposed to do that?” It’s crazy.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Let me figure that out for you.

Kwame Christian
Right. I’m like, “All right, well you get back to me. I’ll be right here.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right, how about a favorite tool?

Kwame Christian
Tool. When we’re talking about tools, I would say honestly, the compassionate curiosity framework because I spent a lot of time trying to figure out and give voice to the technique that I use naturally. This is what it is. I like the flexibility of it. I like the fact when I am feeling that fight, flight or freeze, I have a go-to that I can utilize if I’m not cognitively at my best because the thing is it happens to everybody.

We all get flustered. We all find ourselves in a difficult conversation and we get heated and we feel our amygdala starting to take over and we feel the rush of adrenaline going through. We say, “Oh no, now I’m triggered. I can’t think straight. What am I supposed to do?” I know I can implement that technique in every single situation I find myself in. I use it as my North Star. I can always use it to gather myself.

Whenever I teach, whether it’s a procurement people or people in a leadership class or other attorneys, the compassionate curiosity framework is the basis. And then upon that base, we put on those other persuasive techniques, but in every situation, that’s going to be my foundation.

Pete Mockaitis
Tell me is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks as you’re teaching this stuff?

Kwame Christian
I think it’s the recognition of the importance of psychology. First of all to understand ourselves and what we’re feeling in order to normalize the situation so we know we’re not weird or broken or damaged. Then also when we extrapolate those psychological principles to the other side, it helps you to recognize, “Wow, this is why I’m having so much trouble in these conversations because I’m speaking to their logical side when it’s really their emotional side engaged.”

I think the point that really resonates with people is I say that it doesn’t matter how good of a point you make if they’re not in a cognitive state where they can accept it, where they can actually understand it. Just slow down and hold those points until they’re ready.

I think the biggest takeaway for people is patience. It’s okay to have these conversations about issues that are emotional in the business world because I think a lot of times people think it’s taboo, so they just go straight to substance, but they’re missing out on a lot of value when it comes to their ability to persuade by overlooking the emotional aspect.

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

Kwame Christian
Check out the Negotiate Anything podcast. That will be an easy one. I’m assuming your podcast listeners like listening to podcasts so that will be a good start. Then connect with me on LinkedIn as well.

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

Kwame Christian
Call to action this week, this time is going to be – it will be two things. First, check out the book on Amazon.

Second, take the opportunity to engage in these difficult conversations because the way I look at it, the best things in our life lie on the other side of a difficult conversation, whether it’s personal or professional, there is going to be a difficult conversation or a difficult person standing in our way.

We need to move toward these conflicts, not move away from them because when you think about it opportunistically, there is a benefit to these conversations, you just need to be creative and find it. Then once you do, utilize the compassionate curiosity framework to get the most out of it.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, Kwame, this has been fun. I wish you tons of luck with the book and the podcast and all the stuff you’re doing.

Kwame Christian
Thank you. Likewise. And thanks for having me back on, Pete. I appreciate it.

333: Better Negotiation with Greg Williams

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Greg Williams reveals several secrets to negotiating for what you want effectively and respectfully.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Three points to remember when negotiating with bullies
  2. Six common body language cues in American culture
  3. How to get productive outcomes through open communication

About Greg

Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator and Body Language Expert, has studied and practiced negotiation tactics and strategies for more than 30 years. He’s spent over 20 years studying the way body language can affect negotiation outcomes. Greg’s education and experience come from formal negotiation settings, universities, governmental municipalities, seminars, and the school of hard knocks. He’s served on numerous corporate, business, and governmental boards.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Greg Williams Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Greg, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to Be Awesome At Your Job podcast.

Greg Williams
Hey, you’re more than welcome, Pete, and thank you for the invitation.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, you have many credits to your name. It’s like the Master Negotiator and Body Language Expert is right next to it. But even more so, I saw you were honored as the Business Man of the Year by the United States Congress. I didn’t even know Congress issued such honors. What is the story here?

Greg Williams
Actually, that was several years ago. When one does a lot in the community, one gets recognition for what it is that the value add happens to be.

At one particular point in time I had been appointed chairman of the New Jersey Development Authority by then governor Whitman. That authority addressed the needs of small, minority- and women-owned enterprises throughout the state of New Jersey.

That was part of the catalyst, the activities that I engaged in during that time, that actually allowed Congress to bestow such an award upon me of which I was very honored to receive.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, it’s just fun to hear you tell the story. Your voice has some music in it and the word choice is distinctive, so I think it’s going to be a very enjoyable conversation. Congratulations and thank you for your service. That’s really cool.

Greg Williams
Thank you very much also, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
All right, so you’re a negotiation whizz. Can you share with us maybe to kick us off, could you maybe give us a fun story of how a negotiation got transformed or how someone was really worried things were not going to go so well, but then with some pro-tips, things turned out amazingly?

Greg Williams
Well, first of all, one should always understand the mindset that one possesses before entering into any negotiation situation because if you experience a sense of angst, you need to identify why you have such feelings.

Is it because you perceive the other entity as having so many more resources than you do that there’s no way you can actually come out ahead or even even with them? Is it the fact that there is something else that’s causing you to have the feelings that may disallow you from being as vibrant in the negotiation as you otherwise would be?

Once you identify those feelings, deal with them and deal with them to the point that they are reality or just thoughts in your mind. The reason it’s so important to do so is because the feelings you carry into a negotiation will to a great degree determine how you will negotiate in that particular situation.

Let me tell you of a story real fast also, Pete, to actually highlight the point. I recently stayed at one of the five star hotels. I thought, “Hm,” one day they didn’t clean the room. I had called down and I came back to the room at three something in the afternoon. The room had still not been cleaned. I had a black-tie event to attend at night.

I told them, “Please clean the room after six o’clock in the evening.” They said it would be taken care of. Well, I returned something after ten that evening and the room had not been cleaned. You know how people tell you, “Oh, we value you as a customer.” My response to that is “Okay, I’m from Missouri. Show me.” I’m not from Missouri, but that’s the cliché.

First of all, when you’re negotiating you always plan for what might occur and how you might respond. I thought to myself, “Okay, well these guys are saying I’m a valued customer to them. How would I like to position them, first of all, such that they have the opportunity to show me through their actions that I’m a valued customer?”

What that also means is I’d have to come across in my own mindset what it is that I would want from them versus what they might actually offer. I weighed those thoughts.

I called the front desk. I asked to speak with the service – the front desk manager and told him the situation that I had just cited a moment ago. Sure enough, he said, “Well, you’re a valued customer of ours.” I’m thinking to myself, “Are you serious? Okay.” I said, “Well, what does that mean?” He said, “I beg your pardon?”  I said, “What’s your definition of a valued customer?”

Pete Mockaitis
I like that.

Greg Williams
Yes. Here’s the thing, Pete. When you ask such a question, people usually get caught off guard because people usually say, “You’re a valued customer,” and they’ll usually take the floor.

Listen also when people start to talk to you as far as the cadence, the pace in which they speak, because you’ll also be able to glean insight per their nonverbal communications, the pauses, as to what their thought process might be.

Anyway, he said, “Well, that means that we want to make sure that you are satisfied and happy with your stay at our property.” I said, “Very, very good.”

I said, “Well, I’ll tell you what would really make me happy in this situation.” He said, “Well, what would that be, sir?” I said, “If you could just deduct a night’s stay as a result of this mishap because after all, you’d expect something like this,” and I’m not denigrating any hotel chain, but I said, “You would expect something like this or could possibly expect something like this at a Hotel Six, but definitely not at-“ I named the other hotel.

What I did there was positioned in his mind a Hotel Six, and again, not denigrating Hotel Six chain, but in comparison to this particular hotel chain, they were substantially at a higher end as it were.

I heard the pause. He didn’t say anything for a moment and I thought to myself, “Okay, he’s in thought mode.” He said, “Sir, I can definitely do that.” Well, that allowed me to get a few extra hundred dollars that I otherwise would not have had.

Now, that’s one particular way that you can position someone, number one, as far as what you wish them to compare themselves too based on what they’ve already said, thus to get them to show in action what it is that they mean by in this case a valued customer.

But even more so had he said too quickly, “Sir, no problem, we’ll definitely give you that,” and I was someone that wanted to take advantage of the situation, I then could have said, “Oh, and I’ll have a bottle of Dom Perignon also if you don’t mind sending that up to the room.” I state that simply to say, you have to always be aware of how quickly someone responds to a request or a concession that you made.

That’s just a short story just to highlight those points.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. Now, in the course of that conversation, when did you explain the problem? They mentioned that you’re a valued customer, was that sort of before or after you kind of laid out the picture?

Greg Williams
I had laid out the picture and then he said, “Well, you’re a valued customer.” You’re right about that because you also have to set the stage as it were for how you would wish the negotiation to progress. By setting the stage, by telling him of the circumstances that had occurred earlier in the day and the evening, I also had positioned him to think, “Oh God, this guy has really gone through a whole lot.”

Mind you, oh boy, again, never try to take advantage of any particular situation in a negotiation because it could always blow up in your face and you can have all kinds of retributions to pay as a result of doing so.

Mind you at check in time, and this particular hotel had one organization that had about two or three thousand folk from a different organization that was already there. I was part of an organization that had another fifteen hundred people or so. Even at the check in I heard the day before it was a 90 – 9 – 0 minute wait just trying to check in.

I had already invoked that when I did check in. Mind you, I was checking in the day after that, but I had already invoked that thought process and got upgraded to the executive suite as a result of doing so. Again, don’t try to take advantage of situations, but when they are there for you to address, if you choose, do so.

Pete Mockaitis
With the room not being clean, so I mean in a way that could be a big deal or not at all a big deal.

Greg Williams
Correct.

Pete Mockaitis
How’d you go about describing that it was substantial?

Greg Williams
Well, all I said to him was – first of all, I talked about the fact that I had arrived earlier or I should say got up earlier in the morning and left around nine o’clock or so and did not come back until something after three in the afternoon. I paused. Then I said, “And the room had not been cleaned at that time, which surprised me.”

Now notice how I said, “which surprised me.” Again, I paused just to let it sink in. Number one, I let it sink in and I also wanted to hear how he might … respond.

He said, “Sir, we can send someone up right away.” I said, “Well, no, I have to get ready for a black tie event a little later on this afternoon and I need to take a quick nap. How about if you get the room cleaned after six PM?” He said, “Okay, well that will be fine also.”

Again, after all of that did not occur and I talked to – then it was the night … was actually on, night desk manager, front desk manager. I told him about the whole scenario of what had occurred and the fact that the room was supposed to have been cleaned after six o’clock between the time that I left after six and returned. It was positioned just right, just right.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s also interesting the comparison to a Motel Six, which I have stayed in once or twice in my day as situations warranted it.

Greg Williams
Me too.

Pete Mockaitis
I think is probably has a strong reaction … “Whoa, no. Never us. Not that.” That’s interesting because it’s not aggressively cruel to say that, but it’s honest. You might expect that from a Motel Six and you wouldn’t expect that here, so you’re just sort of sharing that honestly.

Tell me a little bit about your tone. You sound friendly as we’re speaking. Did you deliver the message in a similar tone there?

Greg Williams
Yes, because I did not want to come across as being overly demanding or be someone that was perceived as a jerk. I basically – I almost used the tone that I’m using right now. Number one, this type of tone will elicit empathy from the right person because had this been –

Had he, as an example, Pete, had he said, “Sir, okay, we’re sorry, the room didn’t get cleaned. I apologize. That’s the most I can do.” I would have adopted a completely different tenor and tone with him.

First of all I would have let a pause hang out there to see what else he would have said, to get him to negotiate against himself. “Well, sir, are you still there?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m here or not. I heard what you said, but even the tone at which you said to me depicted the fact that I guess customer service really doesn’t mean a whole lot at this fine chain that I’ve been very accustomed to having top-notch service at other property. Is it just your property that I’m going to have a challenging situation this time?” It would have been completely different.

With my latest book, Negotiating with a Bully, I talk about just that, using the right tonality in a situation such that you don’t become overly confrontational initially unless you have to be, want to be perceived as such.

You always want to match the tenor of the individual with whom it is that you’re negotiating such that you don’t … push them away or push them too hard or whatever be the case because if you push someone into a corner that’s mild and meek, they may come out of that corner doing unexpected things that you were not/are not prepared to deal with and thus you have to be very mindful of that also.

Pete Mockaitis
So you say matching the tone, that’s your perspective that if they come at you aggressive, that’s appropriate to respond with an aggressive tone?

Greg Williams
Well, it can be. What you need to do first is find out exactly what they plan to do with that tone. Some people may use it just to back you down. “Well, Greg, I tell you, I don’t think there’s anything that we can do.” “Oh, really?” “Yes, there’s nothing that we can do in this case.” “Hm.”

“Well, Greg, are you still there?” “Yes, I am, but I’m trying to decide to whom it is that I should speak since you can’t satisfy this particular situation, that might be able to lend me some form of satisfaction. Can you tell me the general manager of the property or better yet, the regional vice president of the property? I’m sorry, let’s just skip the small steps. I’ll go right to the president of the chain. Can you tell me who that might be because I need to talk with someone that can get this done?”

Now what I have implied with that, like, “Uh oh, maybe this guy’s not going to be the pushover that I thought he may have been and this guy appears to be willing to take this to higher levels that may cause more trouble for me than is warranted because I really do have the ability to go ahead and address the situation.”

I’ll tell you I’ve used the situation in a lot of situations, even with the products that were on sale whereby the sale had ended.

You walk into an environment and you say to a sales clerk, “I’d like to have this item.” “Oh, no problem, sir.” “Oh, no, no, no, I mean for the price that it was advertised.” “Oh, well sir, that sale ended yesterday.” “Oh, well that’s fine. You’re empowered to give me this at the same price, right?” “No, I’m not, sir.” “Oh, so I know that means your manager can give it to me at that price, right?” I shake my head yes as I’m saying right.

The salesperson will usually say, “Well,” if he says yes, okay, he’s backed himself into a corner because – and, again, I never try to get anybody into trouble, but now he’s put his sales manager on the line for being able to deliver this. Again, it goes back to how you wish to position someone such that you let them know you’re going to be somewhat persistent while not being overly bearing ….

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I like that. It reminds me – I was once a consulting with a call center op situation. I remember it was interesting that inside the customer service reps scripts, it was like, “If a customer says any of these magic words, then they will get immediately elevated to someone else to help out.” I think some of the magic words were, ‘lawyer, FCC, FTC, media.’

Sometimes – I’ve done this only a couple of times just like, “Well, if you can’t do anything, who would I have to reach out to to get resolution? Would it be the FTC, the FCC, the lawyer, the media?” and just throw them all into one sentence to see what happens.

Greg Williams
Exactly. You know Pete, to that end you have to be aware to whom you’re making such a statement because if you’re dealing with someone that really either can’t or doesn’t care about what you do, you’re wasting time. … when you’re negotiating, you always need to be negotiating with an entity that can really give you what you need or want or at least provide a stepping stone to the resource that can do something.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Greg, thank you. Well, so your specific book here is called Negotiating With a Bully. I’d like to get your sense first of all, how do you define bully and how do you know if you’re dealing with a bully?

Greg Williams
It goes to how you feel. Each and every individual has to be able to sense to a degree the way he or she feels as though he or she is being bullied because here’s the thing Pete.

You and I may be engaged in a negotiation. I may all of the sudden drop the tone of my voice and because of some trigger that that reacts or I should say that that creates in your thought process, it may remind you of a time when you were in school and someone with a deep voice did such and such to you and thus you may think subliminally, “Uh oh, I’m getting ready to be bullied or something to that nature.”

Meanwhile, someone may drop their tone with me and I may think “Okay, so the guy has a frog in his throat,” or something like that.

I say that to say, when you feel as though you’re being bullied, you can do one of a few things. You can actually say to the other individual, “You know, I feel like something has changed all of the sudden. I sense you’re being more aggressive at this time.”

That person may say, “Oh,” and just I know you can’t see me Pete, but I literally as I did that, I genuinely touched my chest near my heart, which is a sign of sincerity saying, “Oh no, that was not my intent. I apologize.” Even if you noticed the tonality of my voice offered ever so slightly too.

Well, that individual more than likely was not really trying to be – not attempting to be a bully in that particular case. The person may have been passive aggressive at that particular time, but nevertheless, once you told that person what you were sensing, if that person’s intent was not to convey such actions or sentiment, that person will change his or her behavior.

Okay. Let’s take a situation where someone says to you, “Yeah, okay, so what?” Well, that’s – now you know exactly what you’re dealing with.

Pete Mockaitis
“You’re darn right, Greg. If you’re going to come after my company’s reputation, you’re going to have me gunning for you.”

Greg Williams
Yeah, yeah, exactly. Now you have a better idea of exactly what you’re dealing with and the intent of that person.

Another scenario that you could adopt at that particular point and time is – okay, … the exact same … said to me … role play.

Pete Mockaitis
I said, “You’re darn right, Greg. If you come after my company or my reputation, you’re going to get me fighting right back.”

Greg Williams
“Oh, Pete, can you tell me more about what it is that you mean by that, ‘fighting right back’? What does that mean?”

Pete Mockaitis
“I’m going to make your stay as obnoxious as possible.”

Greg Williams
“Oh wow. Well, Pete, I really don’t want you to do that. What might I do to avoid that?”

Pete Mockaitis
“Well, you can conclude this conversation and we’ll go our separate ways.”

Greg Williams
“And that will satisfy you?”

Pete Mockaitis
“Yes.”

Greg Williams
“Okay, well I’ll tell you what, Pete. How about if I tie you down instead and now that I know exactly what you want, I’m going to make you give me everything I want before I let you go. How does that sound to you?”

Now, let’s break out of the role play for a moment. That was a little quick scenario. What I just found out through the words that you made a moment ago was the fact that. You want to exit.

Suppose you were in my environment and I’ve been in environments where some folks have done some real sneaky things to the other negotiator. Turn the heat up when the person was not being agreeable to the negotiator in whose building or environment the negotiation was being held. Turn the air up so it can get cooler, more comfortable when things are going good, etcetera, etcetera.

Literally put time blockages in front of someone. If I know you have a deadline to get a negotiation finished with me because before another session segment … be created with your team members you have to wrap this up and all of the sudden you come at me the wrong way as it were, I will start speaking a little slower, I’ll become a little more ….

I may do the exact same thing if I know you’re one of those individuals that love to talk fast and try to show a lot through movements of your hands and your body language displays that you’re really ‘let’s get it done move, move, move.’ I may intentionally slow you down to irritate the heck out of you.

There are all kinds of mind games that can be played. Some verbally, some non-verbally, but the point is you need to know what that other person’s restrictions are. … he … of the negotiation, the timeframe in which he’s willing to engage you to do so.

Here’s something else also Pete that I’d like all of your listeners to always remember, my tagline is ‘Always be negotiating.’ That means what you do today influences tomorrow’s outcome.

Even if you’re negotiating with a bully to the degree that you let … push you around and you don’t do anything to push back on him, you set yourself up to be pushed around tomorrow, the day after that, … in any environment you’re in with him and thus you have to set the stage properly to deal with people not only for today, because in so doing today, you … tomorrow. That’s point number one.

Point number two, I don’t care who you’re negotiating with … see yourself as being so insufficient, so lacking of resources that you immediately feel as though you have to subjugate yourself in order to get what it is that person is negotiating with you for because if the person is negotiating with you, there’s a purpose that they have in mind.

If you uncover the purpose, if you understand who’s not at the negotiating table that’s motivating that person to enact the actions that that person engages in, you will have a better insight also as to how to manipulate that person. By the way, manipulation is not a bad word, so just keep that thought in mind too.

Pete Mockaitis
Sure, well, can you – let’s hear about that a little bit. Manipulation is not a bad word; how should we think about it?

Greg Williams
Well, we think about it based on what action is performed.

In theory, you’re in New York City. Traffic is whizzing by. You’re looking at your phone and you’re just sending text messages or whatever, not really paying attention. You go to step off the curb right in the flow of traffic and I manipulate your body out of the path of oncoming traffic. Have I done a good thing by possibly saving your life? I think you’d say yes.

The point is the definition that you give to a word or words has specific meaning at the time that the word is being implemented. I use the word manipulation sometimes knowing that some people have a negative connotation of that word and I may say something along the lines of, “Are you trying to manipulate me?” Now did you even notice how my voice went up a little bit?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Greg Williams
Just to explain, when we get a bit excited, our voices will tend to rise. “Are you trying to manipulate me?” Again, you can’t see my body language, but my eyebrows became somewhat furled also.

Again, … I’m focusing on this particular situation, so again, nonverbal cues and body language play an added role to give additional leverage to the words that you use, but by doing that, you give more insight about what it is that you’re thinking of.

If used the word manipulation in that particular situation and that person has a negative connotation associated with that word, that person then knows that, “Wait a minute now, he thinks I’m trying to negatively influence or impact him, his thoughts, his decisions, his actions, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.” That’s one mild way of really pushing someone back away from you.

Again, you need to know what certain words mean to someone. I said a moment ago, my tagline is ‘you’re always negotiating.’ There are times I will be in environments where I will just observe who is sitting with whom, just to observe the relationships that are formed by those individuals knowing later on that I have to engage with either those parties.

If I know that X is associated with Y, I then know that hm, I may be able to get Y, use Y as a leverage to influence X also. I’ll go into an environment sometimes and I’ll just watch how people use their body language.

Pete, I’ve consulted with large corporations I appear to be the person sitting off to the side taking notes, meanwhile what I was really doing was observing the body language of who it was that was supposed to be leading the opposing groups negotiation efforts and what … that person was taking from someone else at the table that was the real source of power for that particular team or that particular side of those that were negotiating.

Again, you can pick up on so many different cues if you but pay attention to what’s going on in you environment. If you’re going to be in a negotiation environment, get there early also, just so you can pick up on some of those cues.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, talk about cues. I also want to get your take on – body language can be a little bit tricky and ambiguous subject, what do you see are some of the most reliable body language signals, like if I see this, it quite probably means that?

Greg Williams
Well, let’s set culture aside for a moment. The reason I want to set culture aside for a moment is because I want to speak generically first.

In let’s say the American society, taller people will usually be perceived as being more influential etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, than people that are not as tall as they are. Attractive people will also be perceived as having this extra oomph as it were than people that are not as attractive.

If you’re negotiating with someone that’s taller than you and you’re literally standing face to face, one of the things that you can do is literally stand closer to them and see what they do with that. Basically what you’re saying with that little, small gesture is “I’m willing to come into your space because I’m not afraid of you.” You … take notice to whether or not they take a step back or something of that nature.

Now, if they take a step back, dependent upon where you are in the negotiation – and that body language, by the way, of taking a step back, literally says, “You’re in my comfort zone. I’m not comfortable with you standing this close as I am and therefore I’m going to put a little bit of distance between the two of us.”

You as the shorter of the two individuals send a signal, as I said a moment ago, of “Hey, I’m not afraid of you. You have more resources than I do, but so what? I will still come into your environment.”

Shaking hands. I don’t want to get into presidential politics, just take note – well, take note, first of all, when you’re shaking hands and if both hands are perpendicular to one another, the two individuals are saying, “Hey, I’m equal to you. You’re equal to me. I recognize that fact in you. You recognize that fact in me.”

If one hand is on the bottom and another hand is on top, literally the hand on top is indicating, “I’m hands above you.” That indicates a power position in that particular situation. Thus, I always take note of when any political leader allows his hand to be on the bottom as opposed to on the top because that also signals – now, it can be a ploy from time to time too.

Again, in positioning you can literally let someone have their hand on top of yours as you’re shaking their hand just to see exactly what they will do after that.

A lot people, especially politicians, know about the … handshakes, the hidden signals in handshakes so forth and so on. That’s one particular body language gesture that you can look at.

The other that you can look at and you see politicians doing this a lot is while they’re shaking hands, they’ll have their other hand on the person’s elbow or something of that nature. Well, that’s a power move that’s even above the fact that somebody has their hand on top of yours. You’re saying to them with that hand on their elbow, “Okay, I’m going to be in control in this particular situation.”

The counter to that is to literally place a hand on the person’s shoulder. There are also these hidden meanings in body language and those were some just with the handshake of itself.

Here’s something else to note via body language, especially when you’re either standing up – well, when you’re standing up, take note of how an individuals feet are placed as far as their relationship to one another.

When feet are aligned, the two individuals are aligned per what they’re discussing, how engaged they are in that particular conversation, etcetera.

When one foot points in one particular direction by one individual, right then, that person has mentally begun to disengage from the conversation and more than likely that person is going to exit the conversation in the direction that foot is pointed, in the direction that that foot is pointed.

Those are some quick clues. Eye contact, eh. Again, it goes back to culture. But just because someone looks away from time to time does not necessarily mean they’re trying to avoid whatever it is they’re discussing, but you do need to note when they look away.

If someone says to you, “I think you’re the best person I’ve ever met in the world. I think you’re really fantastic,” meanwhile, they’re looking off to the side. Well, hey, the sentence may not convey exactly the meaning the body language is sending because they’re not really sending that to you.

Anytime you have doubts about whether or not someone’s words and body language happen to be matched with – or the two are synchronized, always follow the body language. The body attempts never to lie because the body always wants to be in a state of comfort. Telling a lie puts the body in a state of discomfort. The body will try to adjust.

The wringing of the hands sometimes is the fact that somebody is experiencing some form of angst, some form of anxiety and that’s the way the body tries to calm itself. Touching one’s elbow, one’s wrist, one’s hands, one’s nose, ear, again, those are signals that “Well, I’m a little uncomfortable at this particular point in time.”

Here’s something else to take note of. When people are trying to recall things, they will – and some folks say it depends on whether or not they’re right or left handed, but again, you establish the base with how they act with this action that I’m about to describe in a non-threatening situation first and then you’ll know to what degree they’re really speaking truthfully or not.

But people that are trying to recall things will tend to look up and to the left. If someone says to you, “So Pete-“

Pete Mockaitis
Now, their left?

Greg Williams
Yes, their left. I’m sorry.

Pete Mockaitis
Their left, okay.

Greg Williams
Yes, exactly. Thank you. Thank you. Their left.

If someone were to say to you, “So Pete, what did you do last night?” You say – you look to the left and you go, “Well, I went out to dinner with my wife,” and yada, yada, yada. Okay, that’s one thing.

If on the other hand, the same question was posed to you and you looked up and to the right, your right, that’s the direction in which people look towards the future and thus they are in the process of trying to formulate what they think will really happen to a question that you’ve posed that was supposed to have occurred in the past.

If you take note of that, again, as a negotiator, you don’t necessarily have to say anything, but you can take note of the fact that wait a minute, that person looked up to the right. That’s the creation mode in most cases, so why in the heck was he looking up to the right. You can pose a few more questions towards the same type of environment – about the same type of environment I should say, to see exactly what the person does with his or her eyes.

Then, later on in the negotiation, I might come back to you, Pete, and I say something about, “So Pete-“ now this is called an assumptive question what I’m getting ready to project. “So Pete, you said three nights ago you and your wife actually went to a movie. What was the movie you say?” Then watch the person. If the person then looks back up to the right again, oh my gosh, have I ever caught this person in one heck of a whopper.

Again, you don’t have to let the person know at that particular point in time, but you do know that person is definitely not being 100% truthful with you at that particular time.

Those are some body language gestures that you can take note of. In my prior book, Body Language Secrets to Win More Negotiations, I go into a lot more tactics and strategies that one can uncover just by observing body language.

Pete Mockaitis
You used the word definitely there. Is that sort of after you’ve established a baseline associated with their behavior and the other body language signals?

Greg Williams
Yes. That goes back to what I was saying earlier about the fact that I’ll go into an environment and just observe how someone reacts in different situations where those situations are nonthreatening. Again, when you’re using small talk to gain such insights, you might say something about “So where are you from?” Okay, most of us know where we’re from so forth and so on.

They’ll … say something and … ask a question about “How long have you lived there?” They may look up and to the left because what they’re trying to do is “Gosh, how long have I lived there?” They’re going through that thought process as opposed to looking up and to the right.

Now if they look up and to the right and they say, “You know, I think it’s been about 21 years.” Okay, take note of that. Take note that they didn’t look up and to the left, but instead they looked up and to their right to reference something that occurred in the past. Then you pursue it. You may something along the lines of “Did you play baseball at the high school in such and such a place?” Now let’s say he looks up and to the right again.

Now, notice that’s supposed to be the opposite when they’re doing their recall, but if you notice that they keep looking up and to the right for recall and to the left when they’re trying to think of future things that will occur, you then have the baseline for which to then place your emphasis per whether or not they’re being 100% truthful.

But that’s why it’s so important to understand and establish that baseline, which is why I love to just go into environments and just observe how people are using their body such that they’re conveying different sentiments in nonthreatening environments.

Then I have something to compare their actions to when we enter into what they think is the formal negotiation, but in theory, in reality, you’re always negotiating. You’re giving off clues as to how you will react in different situations any time you’re in an environment where people are observing you.

Pete Mockaitis
I want to talk about some of those dominant signals or gestures. I want to get your take on what strategy is optimal because if someone is doing a lot of dominant stuff with me, I just don’t like that. It makes me feel less rapport because like okay, you have to be in charge.

I think that can really be harmful because in terms of establishing liking, rapport, trust, it’s like, I don’t like this person. But I guess there can be other times in which a dominant strategy is helpful. How do you think about that?

Greg Williams
It definitely can be helpful. Again, dependent upon the individual that you’re dealing with. Pete, some people want to be led because they feel more comfortable being led by others such that they don’t have to make decisions.

Other individuals are the type that you just mentioned a moment ago. “My gosh, hey, don’t be putting my hand on the bottom. Don’t be touching my elbow.” If you sense that type of person, again, you need to match the modality of the person that you’re speaking to in order to get them to do what it is that you want per the outcome that you seek.

Thus if you are too overbearing – if I use the tactics that you just mentioned a moment ago, putting your hand on the bottom, touching your elbow, etcetera, etcetera, even putting my hand on our shoulder, I’d be pushing you away with my gestures and running the risk of turning you into someone that might really come back and undermine my efforts later on, which … be very understanding of how someone wants to be treated and how they want you to interact with them.

Everyone wants to be treated with respect. The degree that you do so per how they perceive you doing so is what you have to be very much aware of. If you’re too aggressive, you’ll scare some people away, other people you’ll make come closer to you because truth be known, they get off on that as they say. That’s what they like. But in other cases, you may just repel someone.

Again, you never want to do so to the degree that you push someone into a corner and have them become irrational because then you truly don’t know what it is that they may do, especially when you’re negotiating with them.

You make a person make one concession after another, after another, after another, after another. Next thing you know they say, “Oh the heck with it. You know what? I don’t give a heck about this whole doggone deal. I’m out of here.” You go, “Whoa, what just happened?”

Well, what just happened, the incremental small steps that you pushed that person into to make them all of the sudden say, “You know what?  The heck with this. My self-pride is at stake at this particular point in time and that’s more valuable to me than the outcome of this negotiation. You go negotiate by yourself.”

Pete Mockaitis
Got you. Well, tell me, Greg, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Greg Williams
Well, again, it was my mother many years ago that used to say to me – because I watched her literally, Pete, negotiate for everything. As a little kid I remember one time saying to her, “Mom, that’s embarrassing. You’re always asking people to lower the price, to add a little bit more, my gosh, won’t they think we’re poor?”

She said to me, “What do you care about what other people think of you as long as it is that you’re getting what you want? The more money you save, the more money you’ll have to do with as you choose and please.”

As a kid, seriously, I quickly got over the embarrassment and I learned to ask for whatever it was that I wanted. You have to have a certain thickness of skin not to necessarily allow the thoughts of other people to influence your actions to the degree that they do so and those actions become detrimental to your own well-being.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes. I think a large part of it would be a matter of just how important is this sort of long term relationship for you in terms of are you going to see this fancy hotel person. In a way, if he thinks Greg is the most demanding, unreasonable customer I’ve ever encountered based on you wanting a free night for the room not being cleaned and how much is that a downside to you versus your boss or your spouse. It’s a very different game there.

Greg Williams
Pete, you know what? Oh my gosh, you are spot on. Here’s the other potential downside to that.

In that particular situation if I had been so … the individual thought, “Oh my gosh, no problem. Yeah. I’ll give you one night’s remittance. No problem.” Then he puts some remark in my file, in my record that said whatever and then that stayed with me as I went from one particular chain or I should say one particular property in that chain after another.

I go to check in and people are looking at me like I have a third eye in the middle of my forehead. I’m wondering why. I say that to say that’s another reason why you don’t want to be mean or nasty to somebody because you don’t know to what degree they’ll get you back behind your back.

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

Greg Williams
Oh, Lord knows I already gave it. You’re always negotiating.

Pete Mockaitis
Got it.

Greg Williams
Yeah. The reason that’s so inspiring is because it keeps me grounded. Okay, we all go through days … at times we may have an up day, a down day, but life is truly what you make it. Thus, it’s nothing more than perceptional. If you’re the one making it what it is to you anyway, why not choose to make it the greatest that it can be. You’ll live a lot better by doing so.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite study or experiment or a bit of research?

Greg Williams
There’s all – everything in life revolves around negotiations. If you really wanted to read some additional books on the topic of negotiation, one that I really love is Getting to Yes by William Ury. My gosh, that book is old, old, old, but nevertheless, there’s still some great insights into that.

His more recent book is Getting Past No. A lot of us don’t know what to do when someone says no. Remember no only means no for the moment. Life is ever changing, ever evolving, so be persistent in achieving the goals that you seek to acquire. Don’t let no stop you for the moment.

Another book of mine that I think you may be able to tell that I love negotiations, but Difficult Conversations is another particular book, another old one.

Here’s something, here’s one that I recently started listening to. It’s actually an online course, Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behavior. Boy, oh boy, you can gain a lot of insight as to why people do what they do based on the emotions that they experience and in the moment and how it is that you can incite certain emotions, certain triggers within someone to get them to either abide by what it is that you’re requesting and/or back off of you if that be your outcome.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite habit?

Greg Williams
Always negotiate. Don’t be afraid to ask for stuff. I will ask for some of the most mundane things just to see the results from time to time. The reason I do so is because I’m always collecting data. Okay, I did this in this particular situation and it worked.

I’ll pick up pennies off of the ground and there have been times when I’ve asked people, “So, you try to achieve wealth. How many of you in here will pick a penny up if you see it lying on the ground?” People will snicker from time to time.

But the point is, we make progress in small steps. A penny is yet another small step towards an overall wealth outcome if that’s what you’re really receiving. Don’t be too pride – don’t have much pride in order to subjugate yourself to goals that you seek because all you’re really doing is holding yourself back.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate and get quoted back to you?

Greg Williams
Well, I love it when people that I haven’t seen for years will come up to me and say things along the lines of “Oh Mr. Williams,” and when they say Mr. Williams, I always say, “No, no, my father is nowhere around right now, just please call me Greg.” They’ll say, “You have helped me so much by teaching negotiation strategies that I’ve been able to use to get a lot more in life.”

… to other individuals, serve other individuals. I attempt to give back to those, especially younger than myself because I’m at a point in life now where one day they will be the rulers of the world that I will have to live in. I hope by giving them insights, instilling in them the knowledge that they can use in order to not only look out for those that they care about, but for other individuals in the world, that the world will become a better place.

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

Greg Williams
Well, they can go to my website, which is www.TheMasterNegotiator.com. They can send me an email to Greg@TheMasterNegotiator.com. They can also reach me via phone at 609-369-2100.

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

Greg Williams
Yes. Don’t be afraid to negotiate. Go out there and negotiate every doggone day because if you want a raise tomorrow, start positioning yourself to get that raise – I’m sorry if you want a raise in six months, next year whatever, start positioning yourself today to do so.

Understand what it would take from your boss such that you become such a valuable resource that he has to give you the raise that you ask for simply because you are that valuable. Don’t be afraid to negotiate. No only means no for the moment. The more persistent you are about achieving a goal, the more goals you will achieve.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Greg, thank you. This has been a lot of fun. I wish you tons of luck in your negotiations and all you’re up to.

Greg Williams
Thank you Pete … and much more success for you in life because it’s waiting for you.

322: Delivering the Most Persuasive Words with Michel Fortin

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Legendary copywriter Michel Fortin shares how to be more persuasive in any environment and situation.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The platinum rule for persuasion
  2. The OATH formula to better know the people you need to persuade
  3. The ‘so-that’ technique to bridge arguments and persuade people

About Michel

Michel is currently Director of Communications at SEO TWIST, Inc., a full-service digital marketing agency that’s also a Premier Google Partner, Facebook Partner, and Shopify Partner. He manages a portfolio of 47 client accounts ranging from small businesses to multinationals. He’s also President and co-owner of Supportibles, Inc. (formerly Workaholics4Hire), an outsourced customer support solutions and backoffice business process services provider.

He leads a team of three managers and 22 support staff, as well as over 200 part-time virtual assistants and remote workers. They handle an average volume of over 15,000 support cases daily with clients in a variety of industries and verticals. He’s also responsible for building the clientbase, developing strategic marketing plans, and implementing business growth campaigns.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Michel Fortin Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Michel, thanks so much for joining us here on the How To Be Awesome At Your Job podcast.

Michel Fortin

Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, I’m so excited to have this conversation. And I wanted to start by hearing about, you are a drummer in four different bands. Tell me how this works.

Michel Fortin

[laugh] Well, I’ve been playing drums since I was… Oh my Lord, since I was nine years old. I started playing on a drum set that my uncle had whenever he was playing with his bands in my grandmother’s house. Every time I visited my grandmother – I was being babysat by my grandmother – I was jumping on the drum set. And that kind of spurred a nice little hobby, and now today I play in four different bands – a country band, a classic rock band, a jazz band, and a heavy metal band. So, you can see that there’s a wide range of music there, and I’m very, very busy with all four of them, yes.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s cool. And have they ever been at the same evening or gig, in terms of, one is opening for another so you just very conveniently schedule to be in that spot?

Michel Fortin

Yeah, we all share calendars with the bands, so they know to not book a gig when I’m with another band. So I kind of tell all four bands at the same time when I’m available or not, so it works out really well. And as you probably know, from heavy metal bands to country bands is too widely diverse ranges of music, so they don’t share some of the same gig places. It’s kind of nice, yes.

Pete Mockaitis

Can I hear the band names? Are they wildly creative?

Michel Fortin

It’s kind of funny, because one of the first bands a while back was at the time when I used to teach at a local college here. I used to teach marketing, marketing management, professional selling, copywriting and all that stuff. And we were all teachers, and some of them actually still teach there. Actually one just retired not too long ago. And we call ourselves Divided Highway, because we were all four different, eclectic types of tastes in the band. One was a 50s classic rock, or rock and roll type of person, the other one was a country guy, I was a rocker, and then another guy was more of a jazz player. So we call ourselves Divided Highway.
The other bands – well, one band is Nelson Colt – he’s a national recording artist. He’s actually local here in Ottawa, and we’re part of the Nelson Colt band, and we play at a lot of festivals – country festivals and what not. The jazz band is, we are just basically backup musicians for a singer. Her name is Mel. She is a very widely-known jazz singer here. And the other band – the heavy metal band – is named FTP, but it doesn’t mean what it says. It’s called Free The Puppies. So, make that as you wish, and we’ll leave it at that. [laugh]

Pete Mockaitis

So, it’s important work you’re doing, freeing the puppies. That’s good. So, you mentioned you were teaching copywriting, and that’s how I bumped into you, is I was kind of learning all about copywriting, and you popped up. And you have a bit of a legend associated with your name in the history of copywriting. Can you tell us a little bit about that? And if you don’t, I’ll tell them for you, of how you’re a big deal.

Michel Fortin

Well, my story in how I stumbled into copywriting is actually a nice story, because it kind of helps other people who are thinking about what they should do or how they should learn copy. And it’s an interesting story. First of all, I grew up with this immense fear of rejection. I was abused by an alcoholic father as a child and I thought that because of that fear, I didn’t like knocking on doors, I didn’t like being at social gatherings and what not. And so what I did was, I dove into sales. I wanted to fight that fear, and the best way to fight that fear is to dive into something that forces you to be rejected all the time.
And that didn’t do well, because I didn’t make any sales. I was still a complete failure. And I said to myself, “There’s got to be a way to get those people to call me instead of me knocking on doors and getting doors slammed in my face.” So I said, “You know what? I’m just going to write a letter. Why don’t I write this letter that’ll ask people if they want some kind of a free consultation, free analysis? And I’ll get people to come to me?” I remember I declared bankruptcy. I was 21 years old. I declared bankruptcy at a very young age, to becoming the number one sales person for this insurance company, a Fortune 500 insurance company. And so I realized, “There’s something to this copywriting thing.”
So, that’s how I stumbled on to copywriting. And I realized over time that I’m far better at writing persuasively than I am at the actual process of selling. But I realized at the same time when I was learning all these things… I mean I dove into books and courses, I tried to learn more about the process of selling – it actually helped me improve my sales and copy.
And this is what I’m trying to impart is, because a lot of people say, “Well, should I write better? Is it about the prose? Is it about the grammar?” It has nothing to do with that. It’s, learn how to sell, or learn the process of selling, become a better sales person, become a better persuader, and then that will translate into the written format.
And up to this day, I guess a lot of people will remember me as being the person who wrote the copy, who made the first $1 million in one day back in 2004, selling digital products. And that’s what’s meant my name as a, quote unquote, “legend”, although I hate to use that word. But that’s how I became famous. And today, now I am Director of Communications at a digital marketing agency, a Google Premier Partner, and I still do a lot of copywriting here of course. And that’s my story in a nutshell.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s cool. And as I recall, the million-dollar day was John Reese.

Michel Fortin

Yes.

Pete Mockaitis

And what was the product, and do you remember the headline?

Michel Fortin

Traffic Secrets. Well, it’s kind of funny, because John at that time did a seminar – The Traffic Secrets Seminar – and he recorded that seminar and then he digitized into a video format into courses, which I wrote the sales letter for. And that’s the one that became the million-dollar day where we sold over $1 million worth of products. In fact, we sold over a million in 18 hours, but we call it “the million-dollar day”.
And then I remember when we re-launched it, it did phenomenally well as well when we re-launched it. And all I did was, we tacked odds and testimonials at the very top. But I changed the headline. I was … over this headline. In fact, it was kind of funny, because I came up with that headline at a copywriting seminar – Yanik Silver’s Copywriting Seminar. I was right there writing copy for John while I was trying to learn copywriting.

Pete Mockaitis

Real time.

Michel Fortin

In real time. And I came up with that. What would be the best headline possible? I just said, “Proof”. That was my one-word headline. A one-word headline to a 75-page sales letter.

Pete Mockaitis

75.

Michel Fortin

Yes. When you print it out, it would be 75 pages. And it did another couple of million dollars for John. I must admit – and I’m saying this with all humility – that John is a fantastic marketer. I learned a lot from him. And if it wasn’t for him, I probably would not have done that, of course. And it was also a melding of minds, because John gave me a lot of hints and tips and ideas, but it was the one thing that’s making me as a legend, if you want to call it that.

Pete Mockaitis

Yeah. That’s cool. And so, I guess we can dork out about this stuff, but our listeners are not so much online marketers who are trying to create information products and sell them and all that. There are plenty of podcasts about that, and we’re not quite one of them. But nonetheless, I believe every professional needs to be persuasive, both verbally and in print. And so, I’d love to get your take – maybe we’ll start broad, in terms of, if one wants to learn how to over the years of their career become progressively more and more persuasive and have people say “Yes” and to collaborate or help out on a project when you don’t have the authority to demand or fire or give bonuses or incentives financially – what should professionals do, if they want to sharpen their skills month after month?

Michel Fortin

I think the one thing that people have to realize is that we’re all in this game alone. And I say “alone”, not together. By that I mean, we all want the best for ourselves. However we try to help out each other, it’s still a selfish endeavor. And so when we try to persuade others, when we try to get people to come to our side, we often try to tell them why this is such a good idea, this is such a good project, this is such a good task. But we’re always thinking about ourselves, or we try to think of what the other person might like, which is often tainted by our own glasses, by our own way of seeing things.
I enjoy his work a lot – Dr. Tony Alessandra – a behavioral psychologist who actually teaches a lot about selling. And that translates a lot into copywriting, and I’ve used a lot of his teachings in my copywriting work as well. And he has a whole program called The Platinum Rule. As you know, the Golden Rule is “Do unto others”. The Platinum Rule is, “Do unto others as they would want to have done unto them”, rather than “What you want to have done unto you”.
And to do that, there’s a couple of things. And we could spend an entire 45 minutes just doing this, but the one thing that’s important is to understand what the other person really, really wants. That involves knowing the other person. It involves, in copywriting – when we talk about copy in a marketing context – market research. When I have conversations with copywriters who either have a writer’s block or they don’t know what kind of sales message, what kind of story they want to tell – I tell them, “Go back to your market. Do more market research.” The more you question, the more you probe, the more you dig deeper into your market, the more things will pop out at you almost instantaneously.
And it’s the same thing with persuasion in an office environment with coworkers, with subordinates, even with superiors, where you have to understand what makes them tick, what is keeping them up at night, what is something that they would want. Sometimes we look at things and we think that they’re looking for a specific thing, when it might be a whole other motivation, a whole other intent, a whole other behavior. And the more we know that, the more we can position the same request that we can make, but in a certain way that makes them feel like it’s their request, they own it, they possess it, but at the same time they’re doing it for their benefit and you’re making them feel like they’re the hero.
And that’s what I do. I do that at work. I work in an agency where it’s fast paced, it’s high energy here all the time, and we do have to have a lot of people on our side, and even with clients – trying to sell with clients. The more you know about who you’re trying to persuade, the more you’ll be able to position whatever request you’re making to get them to do what you want them to do. Not because you know what they want, but you found out what they really want.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, could you maybe give us some examples of perhaps an assumption that we might be making when we’re looking through our own glasses, versus a better way to make that request when you step into their shoes?

Michel Fortin

Absolutely. One of the things that I’ve done a lot in my life are seminars, and especially seminars in copywriting. And I did a seminar one time with David Garfinkel – one of the most well-known copywriting coaches – a brilliant man, a very good copywriter too. Fantastic copywriter actually. And he told a story once of a sales situation that kind of demonstrates that, where he was talking about a bunch of engineers sitting around a table, where some kind of chemistry machine… I can’t remember what it was, it’s some kind of laboratory instrument that they were trying to sell to this group of engineers.
And the person trying to sell to the group was talking about all the statistics and the data and the performance efficiency, and all those wonderful things. And he told the story where he found out when the people decided to buy the product, they said to the salesperson, “I’m not buying this because… There are so many things that we can actually do research on and find out about your product. We buy it because we like to touch it. We like to use it. We like to play with it in our laboratories, and we like to do things with it.”
We think that all engineers are all about numbers, but it comes down to I think something that is more fundamental, is that people do buy on emotion but they justify their decision with logic. And that applies to engineers as much as it applies to anybody else. And so, this person then went into more presentations afterwards, kind of positioning or repositioning the presentation. “Yes, I will talk about how neat and new and fun, and how you can geek out all over this product in your laboratory, but here are all the numbers and all the statistics and all the data that you can use to help justify this to your superior, to your purchasing committees and all that stuff.” So, that is a story that is very much applicable. I think you can apply that to any situation.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s interesting. So, we buy on emotion, and then justify that with logic. And so, I’m thinking… So many purchases I’ve made are flashing before my eyes.

Michel Fortin

Well, when you make those decisions to buy those products, your first reaction was to probably buy it for some kind of emotional reason. And sometimes that doesn’t mean it’s a childish emotion. It could be actually, “It makes me happy”, “I like buying stuff”. That’s probably just as normal and human as anybody. But then you’ll start to go into your mind. And you could do both things too. You can talk about all the wonderful reasons why you should buy this product; you’re trying to justify it.
But you know what a lot of people do? They also try to justify not buying the product, and they try to think of all the negative that can be associated with buying this product. They’re trying to talk themselves out of it. And as a copywriter, we need to do three things: A) we need to sell on emotion, B) we need to justify it with logic, but C) we need to handle and respond to objections or possible objections that they might have, that they will surely have when they’re going through that justification process.
So, in a job environment, in an office environment, whatever the case is – you might have to think about how you’re going to sell a particular idea to staff, whatever the case is. You might back it up with justifiable, logical reasons why they should go ahead, but at the same time you also have to think about, what are the things that they’ll come up with to negatively impact your decision, or what they’ll try to outsell themselves, or to sell themselves away from that product or service, or in this case, the idea, the task, the project. And you have to kind of prepare yourself, to anticipate those things and answer them.

Pete Mockaitis

It is interesting. I’m thinking about in an office environment, in terms of, there are so many projects that require collaboration across many functional areas and groups. And so, it’s like, “Hey everyone, give us your input on this” or, “Come to a meeting about that”, and they don’t want to. So I’m just imagining, if we look at the emotional angle, maybe you’re courting a project for a new software, tool or modular add-on that will help people do their jobs. And it might be something like, “Imagine a world where your Friday time and expense reporting doesn’t involve painstakingly pulling out receipt after receipt and taping it to pages and scanning them, but rather with a quick push of a button you can power through that moment.”

Michel Fortin

Yeah. You can say something like, “Hey John, I know that we’ve talked about your need for an assistant. That’s something that I’m trying to desperately find the budget for. And I know that you really need help, you’re overwhelmed right now. I would love for you to come to this meeting. We’re going to be talking about this new software that will be A, B and C and that will do one, two, three. However, it’s going to help us save some money, maybe be able to allocate some of that budget in order to help justify hiring an assistant for you. So, your input is so valuable and I would love for you to be at that meeting if you could. Could you come?”
That would be a way to position that. That’s just one example of course; I just pulled that off the top of my head. But it’s, where you can find ways to reposition something that is in their favor or somehow could be in their favor, and then maybe also look at how they come out on top if they do whatever you’re asking them to do.

Pete Mockaitis

Right. And it was interesting, when you talk about overwhelm – that’s a feeling. It’s like, “Yeah, I am, and it would be such a relief to have some help, support in that way.” So, maybe could you touch upon some other powerful emotions to get the wheels turning, associated with, if I’m going for an emotion as opposed to logic, what sort of emotions am I going after and can I stir up in an ethical and moral sort of a way to be more persuasive?

Michel Fortin

Well, I use a rule in copywriting called “the three rules of the 3s”. And that means that there are three things that people tend to look for when they, in this case, re-copy. But it could be applied in other situations. I talk about the three greatest human goals. The three greatest human goals are to either make or save time, money or energy. So, if you can find ways to position things that will make them or help them to understand that they can save or make more time, more money, more energy – then you’ve got them. You’ve got them hooked.
Now, the second, we’re going down the emotional path here. The second is, the three greatest human desires. And I have found in all copy that I’ve read, all copy that I’ve written, all copy that I’ve researched, it comes down to three essential things – greed, lust, or comfort. Greed – of course, doesn’t have to be greed about money. It could be great about life, it could be greed for possessions, it could be greed for having more time to travel, whatever the case is. Lust – of course, there is a sexual component, but it could also be lust for life, could be lust for health, could be feeling younger, feeling more active, more energetic, living longer, whatever the case is.
And of course comfort is the path of least resistance. People love convenience, they love to do things in a more efficient way. How can they get more time is important, but what they can do to be more convenient, to be more efficient so that they can have more time? Well, that’s the comfort level. And that’s the three greatest human desires.
And finally, we’re going to step up again – the three greatest human teasers – controversy, curiosity, and scarcity. So controversy of course is something that’s hot, that’s topical, that’s trendy. Putting politics and religion and all that stuff on the side, there’s always something that’s very controversial in the industry, in the news, whatever the case is. And if you can use that in your – and I call it “story-selling” – in your story-selling process, the more you can engage some of those emotions that will get people to do what you want them to do.
The second of course is curiosity. Creating curiosity is, I think, fundamental. We have this new term that wasn’t around when I first started on the Internet 20 years ago. But we call it “clickbait”. Clickbait is kind of funny, because I’m sure that people call something “clickbait” if they’re enticed into something that really doesn’t satisfy their curiosity or it makes them feel like, “Oh, you got me hooked onto something like this.”

Pete Mockaitis

Like a fake worm.

Michel Fortin

Yeah, that’s it. So I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about creating actual genuine curiosity. And I can talk a little bit more about that, but I’ll talk about the third, and I’ll come back to that. So, scarcity – people tend to want something more when there’s less available of it, or when it’s about to run out, because people love something that’s rare, that’s hard to get, that’s “only one left”, whatever the case is. So scarcity – when there’s less time to do something, or to get something, or to have something, and limited quantities, limited resources, whatever the case is.
So, all that to say that the three greatest human goals, the three greatest human desires and the three greatest human teasers are things that we can incorporate in our persuasion methods that will get people emotionally hooked onto what we’re trying to say and what we’re trying to get them to do.
Now, just to come back and finish on the curiosity thing. The reason why I love curiosity – it’s probably one of my favorite ones – is because of something psychologists call “the Zeigarnik effect”. And I say “Zee”, not “Zed”, of course. I’m Canadian. So the Zeigarnik effect is something that psychologists use to explain this kind of feeling of uneasiness, discomfort, when something is left unsaid, undone, not finished, until they get that closure.
And that Zeigarnik effect is very powerful because we can open a discussion, we can open an idea, we can open a request, and people won’t feel comfortable until they get that idea, thing – whatever – finished, completed, that thought finished. And it’s like finishing a movie halfway through.
I think one of the biggest controversial endings was The Sopranos. I don’t know if you remember that show, and it just faded to black when they were all in the restaurant. So, the Zeigarnik effect is powerful to create that controversy. If I say, for example, “You should do these three things”, and that’s the title of some kind of sales letter – and I’m being very simplistic, of course. And people will say, “Well, what are those three things?” There’s a very popular… This is a hundred years ago, title for an ad that said, “Do you make these mistakes in English?” Of course it was for an ad for teaching English.

Pete Mockaitis

Which ones? I might be.

Michel Fortin

Yeah, exactly. So it forces you to read what those mistakes are. So, curiosity is very, very powerful, and we can certainly use that in our interactions at the office and dealing with staff, because people are always intrinsically and innately curious.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s intriguing. And I guess in terms of closing the loop, it’s so true – I’m thinking now about my experience of watching the TV series Prison Break. I thought the first season was amazing. It was just some of the most thrilling television I’ve ever witnessed. The second season was okay; it was kind of fun. And then the rest of them – I think there are five – I think I watched the rest of the seasons just like, “I’ve just got to know what happens to these guys.” [laugh] I think I finally broke down and said, “Okay, I’m just not going to watch the episodes. I’m going to read the summaries and then watch the last one.” I had to know.

Michel Fortin

Right. And those are the best shows. Those are the ones that have the highest ratings. If you go back to, my gosh, the very famous Dallas show, when everybody was asking, “Who shot J.R.? Who shot J.R.?”, and then when they finally showed the person who shot J.R., the ratings just dropped like a rock. And that’s the Zeigarnik effect, right? But we can use that to our advantage. We can create a little bit of curiosity, get people a little bit enticed: “John, I really need you to come to this meeting. There’s something that I wanted to ask you that’s been bothering me; it’s on my mind.” And he says, “Well, what is it?” “Well, I can’t really tell you right now, I don’t have time. But actually just join me at 3:00 o’clock at the meeting and I’ll tell you.” [laugh]

Pete Mockaitis

Yeah, absolutely. A lot of this is reminding me of Robert Cialdini’s fantastic books Influence: Science and Practice, and his latest, Pre-Suasion.

Michel Fortin

Yes.

Pete Mockaitis

And I look forward to the day we have him on the show. And in Pre-Suasion he talked about how he had cracked the code of getting students to not pack up and leave before the class was over, which was, he would paint a little bit of a picture for a case study, like, “How did so-and-so company pull off this, when A, B, C, D and E were stacked against them? You would expect with these sort of factors, that they would have a terrible time getting a marketed option for this offering.”

Michel Fortin

Yeah. I remember reading a sales letter where the headline introduced – and it was a question – and then you had the whole sales letter, and then finally, the final P.S. at the end, “Oh, by the way – you know that question I asked earlier? Here’s the answer.” So it literally forced you to read, but it got people to read the whole sales letter. So, it was interesting, and it’s a very common tactic.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s fascinating, how when you open up a question that’s interesting, and you leave out the answer, folks want to get to it. And so, that’s great. Are there any other approaches for stoking that curiosity fire within people?

Michel Fortin

Remember I told you about market research, finding out more about the market. There’s something that I teach in copywriting that we can certainly apply in an office or in a job setting, is what I call “the OATH formula”. And the OATH formula means how prepared are people to take an oath? I know I use acronyms a lot – I’m an acronym fanatic. I love mnemonics and acronyms to help me remember stuff.
And OATH is just an easy way to remember what stage of awareness are people at? Are they oblivious – which is the O, apathetic – which is A, thinking, or hurting? And that means simply this: Oblivious is, they don’t know. They just don’t know. So, you would probably need to get them a little bit more educated so that you can get them to the next level. And that may be somebody who’s not aware of a problem – some people are not aware of a situation. Maybe somebody’s asking for a raise in your company, and they don’t necessarily understand that there’s a problem that they need to solve in order to get to that level or get to the point where they can ask for it. So, they’re oblivious. And of course you can create curiosity to educate them a little bit better or get them to want to be educated a little bit better, and that’s fine, but you won’t know that until you do that kind of research.
And again, I call it “market research”, but in an office setting sometimes just sitting down with people or finding out more about who they are, what makes them tick, what are their goals, what are the goals of the company. Sometimes we say people want a raise. I found whenever we’ve done surveys within companies, especially companies that I work with, that a lot of times money is not the number one thing. Sometimes it might just be a snack machine in the corner. It could be a coffee machine. It could be more flexible hours, that they can work at home more often because Jane can be with her child, or Bob could pick up his child from school, whatever the case is. Anyways, so oblivious.
Then apathetic is, they know about the problem, they’re educated about it, but they just don’t care. So now you probably have to create curiosity, not about the situation, but about why the situation is important, and especially why it’s important to them.
The next level up is then thinking. So, they’re no longer oblivious; they know about the problem, and now they sort of care about the problem, now they’re looking for a solution. It might be any kind of solution, but they’re thinking about it. They’re thinking about possibly getting to the next level, or going ahead with it. And that’s where you need to create more urgency – why it’s important to get that issue resolved now. So now you might have to think about things that will help persuade them, not just to get them to do whatever the case is, but to why they should do it as soon as possible, why it’s important to get it done soon, sooner rather than later.
And of course, hurting is the lowest hanging fruit. They know about the problem, they know there’s a solution. They’re not just thinking about getting it; they want it now. They need it now, they’re hurting. And that’s where your lowest hanging fruit is in any situation in the market, or whatever the case is. So, it’s going to be pretty easy to create curiosity in this particular case. But at any rate, the OATH formula is something to remember.
And when you have a situation where you’re sitting down with a coworker or a staff member, and there’s a situation that you want to bring up to them – try to think about, where are they at in their level of awareness about the situation? Are they oblivious, are they apathetic, are they thinking, or are they hurting? And that will kind of frame the whole situation, the whole conversation, and help you to position in a much better way so that you can get them to do whatever you want them to do, or to get the results that you want to get out of the staff, out of the business, out of the office environment.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s excellent, because I think I’ve often seen the mismatch, in terms of, I think I saw some email that told me that I could play with better predictions and win ETH in the process. It was like, “I don’t even know what you’re saying.”

Michel Fortin

Exactly, yes.

Pete Mockaitis

I was oblivious. I think it was a tool to help you choose Fantasy Football teams and win Ethereum –  a cryptocurrency, along the way. But it took me a while just to know what are we even talking about here. I don’t know why I didn’t delete it; maybe it was curiosity at work. It was like, “I have no idea what you’re even saying to me. Am I supposed to know? I feel out of the loop. … double-check this stuff.”
So, that’s really cool, to avoid those mismatches and not just assume, “Oh, of course they’re thinking about it because I’m thinking about it non-stop.” Well, maybe they’re not. They’re not you. Sort of that Platinum Rule again. And I’m thinking I’d like to zero in on the apathetic part, because I think in a professional setting that will be a large segment of your audience that you’re trying to persuade. It’s like, “Not my job, not my prob. I’m pretty apathetic as to what you’re asking me for.” So, what are some approaches to specifically get those folks engaged?

Michel Fortin

Well, there’s a trick in copywriting called the “so that” technique. When you’re trying to explain a feature, of course a lot of people say, “Explain benefits rather than features.” And I say, “A lot of people will think a benefit is a benefit, but it’s not. It’s more like an advantage, because it doesn’t really apply to the person specifically.” So I call them “features to advantages” and then “advantages to benefits”.
I’ll give you an example. There’s an old saying; I think it was from Theodore Levitt that said that people don’t buy quarter-inch drills, they buy quarter-inch holes. And I would say that’s kind of a benefit, but it’s more of an advantage. Why would people need a hole in the first place? It could be because they want to build something faster, or it could be because they want to get whatever they’re building faster, whatever the case is.
So, in the case when we use the “so that” – “so that” is a question that you would ask at every time you try to explain something. And of course you need to be educated beforehand. You need to do your research, whether it’s knowing about the person you’re trying to persuade, or the environment that you’re in, or what that person’s aspirations are, what’s keeping them up at night, what makes them tick, what makes them excited. So when you come to explain a particular job request or task or project, whatever the case is – when you say… Actually I’ll kind of back up a little bit.
One of the things that my son, whenever he grew up, drove me nuts, was, “Why? Why? Why?” He kept asking me, “Why, Dad?” “Son, I need you to do your room.” “Why?” “Well, because it’s really dirty.” “But why?” And then I realized if I say, “Well, if you clean it up, you’ll either get a reward” or I say, “If you clean it up, you’ll have more space that you can sit on the floor and play your other toys with.” “Oh, okay. Great.”
So that technique says, if you’re saying to John or Jane in the office, “I need you to do this, so that…” And then go on, and then do another “so that”. So, “I want you to look at this new piece of accounting software, so that we can see if we can implement it in our office, so that we will have a way to save money in our accounting processes, so that we might be able to actually look at extra money in the budget, so that we can hire you an assistant you’re desperately needing right now because you’re so overwhelmed.” So that, so that, so that.

Pete Mockaitis

I dig it, because you have an understanding of where they’re coming from, and then you can link sometimes multiple – three, four, five “so that’s” to get them where they need to go. And it’s funny, as you talk about drills, I’m thinking about my wife. It’s like, “What would my wife really be into for a drill?” And I’m thinking it would be, “This drill has a shroud and vacuum around it, so that there will be no dust, so that there will be no lead particles whatsoever into the air, so that precious baby Jonathan will be completely safe of any risk whatsoever.”

Michel Fortin

Exactly. [laugh] My wife loves… First of all we call our house “the magazine house”, because she loves decorating and all that, although she’s not a decorator; she’s a nurse. And if you were to try to sell her on doing something that is, I don’t know, something that’s not related to that, you can say – the drill, “So that you’ll be able to hang up those wall pieces.” First of all, I know that she wants the house to look great because she likes to impress especially our friends and our guests.
So I’ll say, “Buy that drill so that you’ll be able to hang up those pictures that you really wanted at the store that you saw the other day at Target”, or whatever the case is. “So that it really makes the room stand out, so that when Tracy comes along, she’s going to fall in love with your living room over again, so that you’ll be the talk of the town”, and so on and so forth.

Pete Mockaitis

Certainly. And that just brings it all right back to the market research again. It’s like, there could be a hundred different ways to position into “so that” bridge for what matters, from what you want to what they want. And that’s very handy, just to make that very clear and direct there.

Michel Fortin

And one of the powerful tools that psychologists and psychiatrists have – whenever they try to, quote unquote, “shrink your head”, as they say – they don’t often ask questions to be answered. They’re asking questions you to find out how you feel. For example, if you say, “I really hate my mother!” “Well, how does that make you feel?” Or, “I hate it when she does this!” “Well, how does that make you feel?”
Well, guess what? That technique is a powerful technique that you can easily use in an office environment. We often tend to do research by just trying to meet and have meetings, and then surveys or focus groups. You don’t need to do all that stuff. You just sit down with the person and say, “How does that make you feel? How do you feel about that? How do you feel about this accounting software?” Or in this case, “How do you feel about being overwhelmed without an assistant? How would that make you feel if we finally found somebody to actually take a lot of the load off of your desk and off your lap?” Or, “How would it make you feel if we found a tool that can actually save us money so it allowed you to do that?” “Oh, great.”
So, probe further, ask questions. Again, people love to talk about themselves. People love to talk about what’s ailing them as much as what makes them happy. And we don’t often listen. We kind of put our fingers in our ears because all we care about is what we feel or how we think the other person feels. And that’s where we have to go into what Tony Alessandra calls “dynamic listening” or “active listening”, where we actually do listen to what they say, and then we can use that. That’s fodder that you can use in your persuasion attempts later on, and it’s a great skill to actually learn too.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s great, thank you. Well, tell me, Michel – is there anything else you really want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear a few of your favorite things?

Michel Fortin

Sure. Let me tell you a little bit about… Sometimes people say, “When I write a sales letter or a memo in the office, or a letter to my superiors” – whatever the case is, or even just a project brief – they say, “How can I make that more persuasive?” And one thing that I teach in copywriting that I found when I read other people’s copy is that it’s very cold, very data-driven, very corporate-y, corporate language. And I can understand how that is important when you’re appealing to a group – maybe C-level executives, maybe stakeholders, whatever the case is, but when you’re talking one-on-one with the person, or when you’re writing something to get one particular person involved or persuaded, even a small group of people – keep in mind that people will try to write in a corporate-y type of language, but people, like I said, buy on emotion, they justify their decision with logic.
So when you hit them upfront with the logic, even the style, the language that you use, can be seen as, quote unquote, “logical”, in this case cold, too highfalutin. So I say, be more conversational, write like you talk. You don’t have to say things that are crass or you don’t have to use street language, but you can have a conversation. And I tell people this – first of all, I’m a drummer, and I play in different bands and that forces me to learn different styles of music. But at the same time we often record ourselves at almost every practice – band practice, band rehearsal.
And the reason that we do that is not because we’re trying to have a recording of what we’re doing; it’s because I like to listen to myself. I can see where I stumble, I can see where I missed a particular drum roll, I can see where I slowed down, my tempo was not right, or I can see where I wasn’t, in drumming we call it “in the pocket”. I was not in the pocket, it didn’t feel right – the style of music, whatever the case is.
Well, it’s no different than when you’re trying to write copy, or even when you’re trying to do a presentation. A lot of people will write a presentation and they’ll expect to do a presentation, no problem. Well, guess what? It’s the same idea. Write down your thoughts, or write your sales letter or your memo, but then speak out load and maybe even record yourself while you’re doing it. And if you stumble at any point, if you hit any snag, even if you stutter – you might say to yourself that that part is not clear, or you said it in such a way where it’s not going to drive the point home, because if you’ve stuttered or you had a point where you hit a snag or you stumbled while you were reading it yourself, you know that the person reading it will even be in a worse position, because they’re not the person who wrote it.
And here’s another thing: If you have somebody else read it out loud in front of you – not necessarily the person who you intended to send it to, the recipient, but somebody else – and if they stutter or they stop or they’re asking you questions; if you have to stop in order to explain to them something, then you know that, “Maybe I have to re-write that part”, whatever the case is.
Same thing as in a presentation. If you’re doing a sales presentation in your team, at the office, in front of your group – you might want to record yourself doing that presentation. We often look at ourselves in the mirror, and that’s perfectly fine because you’re doing it live, but here’s the thing: People will try to do a presentation when they look at themselves in the mirror. You can see yourself doing the presentation, you could probably see the immediate stuff, but you’ll probably miss out on a lot of the nuances and the innuendos, or the slight, subtle stuff that you cannot catch, because you’re so focused on giving a good presentation. So, record yourself, don’t be shy. Nobody has to see it. So, when I write sales letters, I always re-read my sales letters and I record myself saying them out loud. And I will listen to them and I can see where I stumble, I can see where I need to have parts re-written or rearranged in certain ways so that the flow is better.
And so, it’s a long way to explain this, but here’s the bottom line – always record yourself in some way, whether it’s a video, whether it’s an audio, and then you can go back and fix things and change things, because at the same time you will notice things as an observer or as an audience member yourself of what you’re saying, rather than not just how you’re saying it. Sometimes I listen to myself saying it twice, because I’ll focus on what I’m saying the first time, then I’ll focus on how I said it the second time. And I’ll change things around.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s excellent. Yes, wise words. And I think I’ve felt that with my own writing and then with writing and reviewing from others. It’s like, “Have you read that yourself, because there are some flubs here?” So, lovely. Thank you for that. Now, can you tell us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Michel Fortin

There are so many. I am a quote fanatic. I tend to love quotes. It’s not just because they’re quotes and it could be nice and sometimes they’re platitudes, whatever the case is. That’s not the point. The point is, how you can look at it and apply it to yourself, to your life. That’s what’s important to me.
Benjamin Franklin said, “Write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” And I think it’s great because at the same time it applies to copy, it also applies to life in general.
So, that’s a quote that I love, because when I tend to write copy and I feel it’s not really getting the point home – again, write something worth reading. Is it worth reading, in this particular case? And sometimes it needs a little “Oomph”, it needs to be jazzed up. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the “How” you say it; it could be the “What”. It could be changing the whole idea, the premise, the story that you’re trying to sell.

Pete Mockaitis

Excellent, thank you. And how about a favorite study or experiment or a bit of research?

Michel Fortin

I think that anything from Tony Alessandra is. It probably resonated throughout our entire call today. I would highly recommend anything from him. He’s one of my favorite motivational speakers, as well as a sales psychologist, sales trainer. The Platinum Rule is by far my favorite one. Of course he’s come out with so many different ones throughout the years. But if you were to get your hands on any one course, that would be the one.
I learned about personality styles and bio personality styles when I was writing copy, teaching it to my classes. It helped me a lot to understand how some people are more numbers-driven, versus some people are more relationship-driven, versus other people who are more emotion-driven, and other people are more bottom line results-driven.

Pete Mockaitis

And how about a favorite book?

Michel Fortin

Oh, favorite book. I think a really good one, if you want to learn about copywriting especially, is Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz. It’s probably a little bit outdated.

Pete Mockaitis

It’s hard to get too.

Michel Fortin

Yes, it is.

Pete Mockaitis

Way out of print.

Michel Fortin

Yeah. But there are copies floating around here and there. I believe there are some digital copies made, I cannot tell you where. I’ve had my copy for, my Lord, maybe 25 years now. But it’s my favorite book, in terms of copywriting, learning persuasion in print. And I recommend it highly.

Pete Mockaitis

And how about a favorite tool?

Michel Fortin

A favorite tool. I told you a little bit earlier about recording yourself, and I’ll finish with this. This is kind of my little inside tip. This is something that I do a lot when I write copy, especially when I’m stuck, when I really don’t have a lot to go on, or if I feel I’m not really getting, to use a drumming term or a musical term, in the pocket of what I’m trying to say. I will try to find somebody who can sell me on that idea. And what I do is, I record them. I get them to sell me on this idea, or something similar, if I want to use that.
And here’s the point: I will record the conversation, and then I’ll get it transcribed. I’ll pretty much get my copy written for me, or at least in large chunks of it, that I can use in my own persuasion, in my own writing attempts. So, sometimes when I do market research for example, I will actually call some of the happiest clients that my client has sold to, that are very happy with the product or service that they bought. And I’ll get them to explain to me why they’re so happy. I’ll try to get them to be excited and tell me what they like about the product. They’re basically trying to sell it to me. And I’ll record that conversation, transcribe it, and I pretty much have my copy written for myself.
And in order to apply this to, let’s say, a job environment, if you’re trying to sell, let’s say, some kind of accounting software to your staff or coworkers – look at other piece of software that you probably had success in selling the idea to your staff in the past, and maybe interview those people and find out what they liked about it or why they liked it. How it helped them, how it advanced their careers, or how it helped simplify their jobs or made things easier. And then try to record those conversations; not necessarily in an audio format, because sometimes people don’t like to be recorded, but take notes, find out what makes them tick. And then you can certainly look at how you can apply that to your current situation or your current attempts at persuading your coworkers.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Michel Fortin

Well, I work at a digital marketing agency. I’m Director of Communications at SEOTwist.com. That’s where you can reach me, certainly. And of course if you are looking at some of the companies that I own, I own a company called Supportibles.com. And that’s a company that offers customer service and customer support, outsourced customer support. So, Supportibles.com or especially where I work right now, SEOTwist.com.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Michel Fortin

A lot of people say, “Think about a famous quote”, and I always like to regurgitate sometimes, since it’s so often said – think different, as Steve Jobs often said. In this particular case, I would say, do different. Not just think different, but do different. Look at how something is being done or how something has always been done, and try to do it differently. Or think about ways you can do it differently. Do different.

Pete Mockaitis

Awesome, thank you. Well, Michel, you don’t like being called a legend, but it has been legendary chatting with you.

Michel Fortin

[laugh] Thank you.

Pete Mockaitis

Thank you so much for generously sharing these goodies. And I wish you and SEOTwist and Supportibles and all you’re up to lots and lots of luck!

Michel Fortin

Thank you.