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Persuasion & Negotiation Archives - How to be Awesome at Your Job

701: How to Get People to Say Yes through the Power of Persuasion with Vanessa Bohns

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Vanessa Bohns says: "People's default is actually to say yes, not no."

Vanessa Bohns talks about how all of us have hidden influence and how we can use it effectively.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why we end up underestimating the willingness to say yes 
  2. How to get more comfortable with asking
  3. How to say no without feeling guilty or awkward 

About Vanessa

Vanessa Bohns is a social psychologist, an award-winning researcher and teacher, and a professor of organizational behavior at Cornell University. She holds a PhD in psychology from Columbia University and an AB in psychology from Brown University. 

Professor Bohns has been a Visiting Scholar at the NYU Stern School of Business and has taught at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times and Harvard Business Review, and her research has been published in top academic journals in psychology, management, and law, and featured by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Economist, and NPR’s Hidden Brain. 

Her first book, You Have More Influence Than You Think, will be published in September 2021. She lives in upstate New York with her husband and two daughters. 

Resources Mentioned

Vanessa Bohns Interview Transcript

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

Vanessa Bohns
Thanks so much for having me. It’s great to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m excited to dig into your wisdom. And I’m curious, so you’re a social psychologist, and that’s one of my favorite types of guests. And I’m curious, how did growing up on a farm influence that world? Because I think of farms, I think of not so many people and more so animals. Did that provide any insights or background for you to enter into social psychology?

Vanessa Bohns
Unbelievably, it actually did. So, I grew up on a bird farm, and we had all sorts of birds – pheasants and quail and peacocks and geese and chickens – and I would spend my time kind of sitting with my notebook, very Jane Goodall style, and just watching the birds and recording them, and kind of watching their birdy behavior.

And so, yes, they weren’t humans that I was observing but I was taking the sort of the meticulous approach of studying behavior that is kind of funny, now that I look back at these documents that I had of just all these bird behaviors that I would categorize.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a bird behavior most of us don’t know about but maybe would find interesting?

Vanessa Bohns
Well, I will say, if you didn’t grow up on a farm, and I feel like anyone who did or grew up with chickens and roosters will understand this, roosters can be very protective. And so, I spent a lot of my high school years with my friends and I running from the door to the car before the rooster saw us and started coming up, started pecking at our ankles. So, yeah, running away from roosters, and their territorial behavior is definitely a bird behavior.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Good to know. Thank you. Well, that comes in handy maybe in the future. And so, let’s talk about your book here You Have More Influence Than You Think: How We Underestimate Our Power of Persuasion, and Why It Matters. I’m curious, could you kick us off by sharing maybe one of the most surprising discoveries you’ve made about influence across your career studying it?

Vanessa Bohns
I think this whole book is really a catalogue of all the things that I found surprising in my own research and in other people’s research, and there are actually pieces of research that are the things that people have been surprised at when they try to influence other people. So, for example, my research is on asking people for things, and what I find is that when people go out and they ask people for things, they think they’re more likely to be rejected than they actually are.

And so, what we do is we have participants in our studies make guesses about how many people they’re going to have to ask to get someone to do a particular task. And then they go out and they ask people, and we compare what they predicted to what actually happens. And what we find again and again is that people think it’s going to be a lot harder to get people to do things than it actually is.

And the thing that’s been most surprising in that work is how far you can kind of push the effect. So, for example, we started small, so when people went out and asked people to do things, they would ask people to fill out a survey. Then we had them ask to borrow people’s cellphones. Then we had them ask for charitable donations.

And then we started designing studies that we were sure could never work, like we had them go out and ask people to vandalize library books, by walking into a library, and saying, “Hey, I’m playing a prank on my friend. With your own handwriting, will you just write the word pickle and pen on this library book?” And even in those extreme cases, where you’re asking people to do things they actually find pretty uncomfortable, they are more willing to agree to do those things than we expect.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, boy, there’s so much here. Well, can you give us some numbers here in terms of writing pickle on a library book, for example? Just how many people, what percent of people would do that just for my own edification? I might need to draw on this knowledge someday. What proportion of people will write pickle on a library book if I ask them to?

Vanessa Bohns
Okay. So, our participants, before they went out and made this request, they thought they’d have to ask about 11 people before three people would agree to vandalize a library book. In fact, they only had to ask fewer than five people to get three people to agree. So, basically, more than half of the people they approached agreed to do this thing even though they actually didn’t really want to do it.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And so, this is fascinating. And so then, I’d like to frame up some additional numbers if you could. I remember I experienced some of this firsthand once when someone randomly reached out to me on LinkedIn and wanted to talk about a career in consulting, and I thought, “Well, I got some time. Let’s go. Why not?” and so I chatted with him.

And then, to my surprise, he had this very detailed notebook about all the people he contacted and how many people responded and all these things, he said, “Can you tell me?” because we had like no connection. It might’ve been in a LinkedIn Group which isn’t the strongest of bonds in most groups. And he went ahead and pulled the data or tabulated data for me from his notebook, and like the number was 28% of the time, total strangers were willing to give him career advice when he asked, and I was blown away by how high that was, and you may not be because you’ve seen it again and again that we do have more influence than you think.

I’d like to get your take on those figures and how they compare with other kinds of compliance rates you’ve bumped into for different kinds of requests?

Vanessa Bohns
Yeah, I’m impressed. That’s not a bad number for a form like LinkedIn where it’s all text-based because one of the things we looked at is the difference between asking people face-to-face and asking people through like email or through some sort of messaging app, and we usually find that people are much less likely to agree over text requests. So, that’s really not a bad number, the 28%. It might’ve been because there was already this connection through LinkedIn, it’s not just sort of a random email.

But when we looked face-to-face, so we have people ask other people to do favors, like the donation to charity, or a survey, or, for example, walk them to a place they can’t find at a location that’s a few blocks away. And in those cases, we see compliance rates of about 50% on average. So, really, every other person that our participants asked is agreeing, and it’s twice as many as they expect to be agreeing.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, okay. Well, can you unpack that then? So, that is quite an interesting finding, we do have more influence than we think. When we ask, we’ll get yeses more than we think we will. So, then what are the implications of that? Like, in terms of career, should we just ask a whole lot more or how shall we think about this?

Vanessa Bohns
Yes, so it’s interesting. There’s a lot of implications but you kind of, first, have to step back and think, “Okay, what’s going on here?” to be able to decide, “Should I just use this sort of superpower to ask people and get what I want all the time?” And so, what we find is, I’ll start sort of the context that when we bring participants into the lab to do this, they hate it, they don’t want to go out and ask people for things because we all hate asking. And so, they have this sort of just intense fear about it.

They go out and they do it, and they find it much easier than they expect. And then they come back into the lab and they’re like bound back in and they’re so happy. And their takeaway is, “People are just so nice, they’re so much nicer than I thought.” And I’ll say there is research that shows that, that we underestimate other people’s sort of pro-social inclinations and how helpful they’ll be.

But what we don’t really tell our participants at that point in time is that what we find is that the reason people agree more than we expect is that it’s really hard for someone to say no. It’s not necessarily that people are super excited to agree, although they quickly sort of reframe the situation to feel good about themselves. It’s that when someone is standing in front of you, asking for something, it’s really awkward and uncomfortable and you have to come up with the words and excuse to say no, and it’s often just easier to go ahead and agree.

And so, once you sort of know that that’s what’s going on, you can think about sort of how do you use this, again, sort of latent superpower that when you ask for things, people are more likely to do them for you than you think. Do you really want to use it all the time if people are complying, in part because they feel uncomfortable saying no? Or, do you want to sort of think about when it would be most useful and then use it best in that way?

And so, I’m happy to talk about some ways in which it makes asking easier and then some other ways in which it might make us want to double-check and kind of reconsider what we’re really asking for.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. Well, yes, I’d love to hear all your perspectives in terms of how to think about the ask in terms of, “When should we ask? And how should we ask optimally?” Lay it on us.

Vanessa Bohns
Yeah, sure. So, when we sort of think about the ask, many of us, again, it’s a pretty anxiety-provoking thing to have to ask someone for something, and we often think that we’re sort of in an uphill battle, that the other person is sort of inclined to say no, and we’re fighting that tendency. But, in fact, as I said, it’s actually hard for people to say no. People’s defaults, research show, like when we mindlessly just comply with a request, people’s default is actually to say yes not no. The easier thing to do is just to go along with what we’re being asked.

And because of that, when we ask for things, we often don’t have to put the kind of sort of extraordinary effort we put into making those requests. So, for example, people will write out this long-winded email, laying out all these rationales for why they’re asking someone for a favor, and apologize a thousand times, and have their friends re-read it a thousand times, and then get back a quick response, it’s like, “Sure.” Or, come up with the exact way to ask in person, and someone is like, “Okay.” And we don’t really have to put all that sort of exorbitant effort into these things because people are actually inclined to say yes.

Another sort of piece of this is that, because we think that people are less likely to agree than they actually are, we kind of negotiate ourselves down before we ask for something. We think that, “Okay. Well, if I ask for something just a little bit smaller, maybe they’ll be more likely to agree and I won’t be rejected.” But we actually find in our studies that the size of the request doesn’t make as big of a difference as we think.

And so, asking for something bigger or smaller, it’s still hard to say no, it still makes someone feel guilty saying no, it’s still hard to find the words. And so, instead of sort of negotiating ourselves down before we ask for something, we should really assume, “There’s a good chance I’m going to get what I actually need or want, so I should ask for that before I start asking for less before I even do the first ask.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And I’m curious, with all these things, is there a different kind of like mode our brains go into in terms of like, well, tell me if this is accurate, are we talking about favor mode as distinct from sales mode? I think in some ways we feel readily comfortable if someone is asking us for money for a product or service, I think we feel great about saying no. I don’t know, it seems like there’s less remorse or guilt or discomfort associated with saying, “No, I don’t want that,” then that’s that. What’s your take here?

Vanessa Bohns
I think, in some cases, when people ask us for a favor, sure, there’s this extra element that, “I feel like a jerk if I say no because it’s going to reflect on sort of whether I’m a good person or not.” So, there is this like added layer of this inclination to say yes. So, it’s not just because it’s hard to say no, it’s also, “Because I want to look and feel like a good person, and I want to help this other person out who’s in a bind.”

But, at the same time, even with like a sales pitch, for example, imagine – this happens to us all the time – you get a knock on the door when you’re home, and someone’s like asking you to sign a petition or sign up for something, and you open that door and they’re making that request, and it’s not that easy to say no. Like, you’re trying to find the words, it’s such an awkward interaction, you feel really awkward and guilty, and you might get to that no eventually but it’s a lot harder than we tend to think in the abstract.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. You know, it’s funny, and this happened a couple of times with, I think, there’s electricity deregulation. I don’t know, these guys really came out again and again. And, I don’t know, that might be legitimate, it may not be, but like, “Hey, can you show me your electricity bill because, well, actually there’s the transmission fee but there’s also this fee, and we can get this fee down to…” And I was like, “I never have even read my electricity bill. I just give them the money they say they need from me. I don’t know who you are and this kind of sounds like a scam,” so I’m thinking these things.

But, you’re right, I won’t say that. I won’t say, “I think you’re lying to me, and I want you to go immediately,” even though that’s what I’m feeling and thinking inside. And maybe they’re not. I don’t know the details of their company. But, so, you’re right, I am not delivering the full candid blunt truth of my thoughts and feelings on the matter to this person who I don’t even know.

Vanessa Bohns
Yeah. And if you have the chance to avoid that awkward interaction or not have to say no, research also shows that people really jump on that.

Pete Mockaitis
We try to hide, yeah.

Vanessa Bohns
Yeah, exactly. Right. So, there’s research actually showing that if you give someone a head’s up before they show up at your door that people are less likely to open the door because they don’t want to even have the interaction where they have to say no.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, okay. So, this is just kind of mind-bending. All right. So, keep talking here. So, we don’t need to plan a whole lot with regard to perfectly structuring the request in order to get compliance because sort of the wind is at our backs, and we can sort of feel a dose of confidence, just given these psychological facts on the ground. So, then is there anything you do recommend that we do in order to make our requests optimally?

Vanessa Bohns
Yeah. As you said, I think that’s a great way to say it. The wind really is on our backs. The stars are kind of aligned for the yes, so I think you want to reframe things that way, but there are still things that you kind of do wrong to disrupt that sort of state of affairs. So, one of them is not asking directly. So, it’s interesting, when we ask people what they think is going to be the most effective way to ask, we often find that people think that hinting or sort of beating around the bush, like, “I can really use help with this thing,” is the better way to ask. I think they think it’s the more polite way.

But what we find is that, of course, not surprisingly, people are much less likely to agree if you’re not actually asking them a question, if you’re just kind of hinting and hoping that they’ll volunteer. And so, actually making that request direct, and saying, “Will you do this thing?” makes it harder for them to say no, and also clear in what you want. And so, that’s one thing, is to be direct when you’re making a request even if you don’t have this huge speech that you’re delivering, but just make it clear, like, “Will you do this thing?”

And the other one goes back to asking in person. So, again, I think we think that crafting the perfect email so we can put all our arguments out there and say it exactly right so someone can’t say no, it’s actually pretty easy to say no to an email no matter how perfectly crafted it is.

Pete Mockaitis
You can ignore it. Just don’t look at it anymore.

Vanessa Bohns
Exactly. It’s a lot harder to ignore or say no to someone who’s standing in front of you, and I think that we often forget that. We forget that our presence matters more than the specific words we’re saying half the time.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, okay. Well, so that’s super. And then tell us then about the implications of people saying yes even though their heart isn’t into it. How does that mean we should play the asking game optimally in a professional environment?

Vanessa Bohns
Yeah, this is a really important sort of aspect of understanding that mechanism, that reason that people say yes, and that it’s not always enthusiastic, sometimes it’s because it’s so hard to say no. And that really means that instead of focusing so much on exactly how to get people to say yes, we should kind of assume that there’s a good chance they’re going to say yes, and make sure we’re asking for things that are okay and appropriate and things that we don’t want someone to feel obligated to agree to.

So, for example, we started with these favor requests and we had people make requests, and then we moved onto things like the vandalism study, and that was to kind of show it’s not just about asking for favors. It’s also asking for anything, including things that people don’t really want to do or make them uncomfortable. We sort of extended that research to making romantic advances at work.

And so, we’ve also shown that when people ask someone out on a date, for example, at work, who isn’t interested in them, we tend to underestimate how hard it is for that person to say no to us, and we underestimate how uncomfortable of a situation that creates for that person that they then have to sort of cope with.

So, we think, for example, when we ask people who had been rejected by someone at work, they thought it was pretty easy for them to reject them, and that they didn’t really do anything different afterwards. But when we asked people who rejected someone they weren’t interested in at work, they said that it was really uncomfortable to say no, and then they started avoiding that person, they did things differently, they avoided that person’s contacts, and they kind of did adjust their behavior in all these potentially meaningful ways.

And so, sort of knowing that asking for things directly does put people sort of on the spot, and sometimes it’s okay if we’re asking for something good that makes them really feel good, but you also want to kind of think twice about the things you’re asking for because if you’re asking, for example, a subordinate to do something that could be a little bit sketchy or inappropriate, or even a colleague for those things, it’s actually a lot harder for them to come out and say, “I don’t want to do that. I don’t feel comfortable with that,” than we tend to think.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. Okay. Excellent. Well, I’m also intrigued as you talked about these studies where you say, “Okay, guys, you’re going to go ask people to vandalize library books,” and they go, “Oh, no, I don’t want to.” So, I guess you’ve seen this cycle many, many, many times, of folks feeling the nerves, the apprehension, associated with just doing the asking. So, tell us, what are some of the patterns or best practices associated with if we’ve got the case of the nerves and some reluctance to do some asking, how do we get over it?

Vanessa Bohns
Yeah, and you’re right, I’ve seen this so many times. The last time I calculated, our participants had asked 15,000 people different requests, so we see it all the time. And I’d say, first of all, that just asking more makes you more comfortable with asking, and it does sort of help you to see that people don’t get as upset as we think they will, people don’t judge us as harshly as we think they will, and they’re even more likely to say yes than we think they will be.

And so, getting that practice, particularly when we’re asking for things, again, that are beneficial to everybody, like favor requests and things that bring people closer together, can really help you get more comfortable with asking. So, in the book, I talk about this thing called rejection therapy that was started by Jason Comely and then Jia Jiang got into it and sort of made it a bigger thing. But it’s basically, the idea is that you’re supposed to try to get rejected every day. And Jason Comely came up with all these kinds of random things that you go out and you ask people.

So, for example, ask somebody to race you down the street, just a random stranger; go up to random strangers and ask them to give you a compliment; ask a police officer if you can sit in their car, just all sorts of random requests. And the thinking is that these requests are supposed to be chances to get rejected so that you aren’t so worried about rejection.

But Jia Jiang, who kind of documented his experience with rejection therapy on his blog, showed that actually when he asked a lot of these things, a lot of people were agreeing. And so, he partly was getting over rejection, he partly was learning that rejection is less likely than you think. And he really kind of saw this as a major intervention and really an exposure therapy of getting over this kind of fear of asking.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. Okay, that sounds like that’ll do it. And then, I’m guessing it might be prudent to start small and get more challenging as you go down the path. Any starter asks that are great for people if they’re really feeling skittish?

Vanessa Bohns
Sure, I mean, simple things. Right now, I don’t know how people feel about asking someone for like a piece of gum or something little like that, directions, just anything where you kind of have to interrupt someone and actually make that ask. And so, for example, just to give you another sort of sense of how hard people find that, and another set of studies I talk about in the book, which gets away from the asking piece, we also have people go up to strangers and give them compliments.

And so, in some ways, it’s a similar setup. They come into the lab, they go out onto campus, and they go up to people and say, “Excuse me, I really like your shirt,” and we tell them what to compliment the person on. But there’s this same sort of hesitation to go up to a stranger, interrupt whatever they’re doing, make them interact with you, and our participants actually think that complimenting someone, literally making them feel good with a compliment, is going to annoy them.

And so, there is a lot of sorts of tension that we feel and anxiety we feel about just going up to strangers and initiating a conversation or a request or even a compliment. And so, I’d say you could even start, if you’re not just asking for things, you could ask for, as I said, directions, something small, a piece of gum. You could even start by going up and giving random strangers compliments and sort of exercise that muscle of just interacting with people more.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent.

Vanessa Bohns
Especially, as we come out of the pandemic and we forget what it’s like to interact with other people.

Pete Mockaitis
And I guess I’m also curious, if you’ve gained a deep understanding of our tendency to not want to say no, saying no is a completely different skill but it sounds like you know a lot about it so I’ve got to ask. How can we say no better given that you have an understanding of these psychological forces within us?

Vanessa Bohns
Yeah, absolutely. So, I get asked this a lot because so much of my research is about how hard it is to say no and how hard it is for other people to say no to us, but, of course, we also experience that. And so, I basically give the opposite instructions for people who want to say no as I give to people who want to ask and get a yes.

So, for one, it’s really hard to say no in person. And so, if someone is asking you for something in person, you can ask them to follow up over email or some sort of way that makes it easier for you to say no. So, for example, if someone is like, “Oh, I’d really like you to be part of this committee that no one wants to be part of,” you can say, “Okay, I’ll think about it. Can you just follow up with me over email and I’ll get back to you?”

And what that does is it buys you the space so that you have time to think of what to say. A lot of it is in the moment, “What am I even going to say? Do I have a good excuse? It might not be a particularly strong excuse, and I’d like to come up with a better one?” But, also, it’s just really hard in that moment to say no to someone’s face. And so, you buy yourself that space if you kind of create that distance through the email so you can think of what to say, you have time to formulate your words and whatever excuse you want to use, and you don’t have to say no to somebody’s face.

Another sort of recommendation I often give is to blame somebody else. So, often, we hate rejecting people and saying no because we feel like it looks bad on us and that we’re somehow conveying something about our relationship to that other person. And the more that you can sort of put the pressure off of you and the relationship with that person asking, the better. So, if you say, “I can’t do that because I have this other obligation, the sort of external attribution, because somebody else wouldn’t be happy if I was doing that. Someone else asked me to do something else,” anything that sort of points your reason for saying no away from that immediate relationship.

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

Vanessa Bohns
I would say the one thing, I kind of focus on experience as a way to learn about asking. But one thing I do talk about in the book is that we also need to sort of reflect on those experiences. So, just asking a bunch of people is not the end-all-be-all. We also have to sort of think about what those people are really truly feeling and get their perspective, and sort of get out of our own heads and be able to recognize the impact we’re having on them and on the situation.

And so, as much as I love these sorts of experiential sort of challenges that we give people, it also takes a little bit more than that to sort of integrate the knowledge and really sort of learn to recognize your influence.

Pete Mockaitis
And when it comes to that world of empathy and recognizing what someone else is feeling and how that maps to our own influence, do you have any particular pro tips on, I don’t know if it’s like categorizing or gathering intel on what are the hot buttons for somebody? How do you think about knowing your persuasive target all the more such that you are asking well while not going overboard with the thousands of revisions like we talked about before?

Vanessa Bohns
Yeah. So, Nick Epley and his colleagues have looked at the difference between taking perspective and getting perspective. So, one thing that people try to do when they’re trying to figure out, like, “What can I really do that will resonate with this other person? How can I influence someone? What impact am I having on them?” we try to take their perspective. And what that really means is we try to figure out what’s going on in their head, but we do it by searching our own heads, we’re like, “What would that person think?” and we base it on stereotypes of that person or what we’ve seen that person do in the past.

And what I talk about is that, actually, instructing people to try to take someone else’s perspective isn’t actually a way to make people more accurate at understanding what someone else is thinking and feeling, and, instead, you need to what they called get perspective. And it’s actually pretty simple to get someone’s perspective, and that is actually asking them, so actually talking to them and saying, “What do you care about? What do you want?” And often we forget how easy it is to just actually come out and ask someone, and how open someone is likely to be, and how the things they’re likely to tell us, that then we can sort of play off.

So, for example, one thing we talk about in my negotiation class is you can ask people, “What do you really care about here? What are your values?” And then when you actually make an ask during the negotiation, you mirror those values, “You told me that this is what you cared about, so this is a way to meet those values,” for example.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Perfect. Well, now, can you tell me a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Vanessa Bohns
Sure. Actually, this fits really well with what we were just talking about. So, my colleague recently reminded of a famous quote by Kurt Lewin who was a big psychologist back in his day, “Experience alone does not create knowledge.” And so, it really gets at what we were just talking about, that we kind of hold up experiences as this pinnacle, that once you experience something, you’ve learned something profound, and now you understand it in this way that people who only imagine it couldn’t possibly understand.

But, in fact, lots of times when we have an experience, we have our own very specific experience that might not match other people’s. We still need to understand what other people are experiencing. We still need to try to reflect on that experience and how it might be different from somebody else, and gather information about other people’s experiences.

For example, there’s research showing that people who got divorced assume that other people who are getting divorced are having the same experience that they did, but that’s not always true. Other people have a totally different experience with the same sort of life event. And so, it’s basically this idea that experience is great but you have to integrate your experiences with knowledge and with an understanding of the rest of the world.

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

Vanessa Bohns
Sure. actually, this is not a study but it’s a re-interpretation of a bunch of famous studies. So, I have this favorite paper, it’s been my favorite paper for almost 20 years, by Sabini, Siepmann, and Stein, called “The really fundamental attribution error.” And what it does is it revisits these classic social psychology studies, like the Milgram study, where an experimenter is asking someone to shock another person; the bystander intervention studies, where people don’t want to get up and tell the experimenter that smoke is rising in the room because everyone else in the room is sitting calmly.

And so, these have been classically taught in any intro psych class or social psychology class that someone has taken. They’re usually taught as displaying the power of the situation, that we basically underestimate how powerful situations are and how whatever we want to do as individuals, it’s kind of washed away by the power of the situation. We underestimate that.

But this paper reinterprets all that as the power of embarrassment, that, in fact, people sat there, shocking this other person because they felt too uncomfortable and embarrassed to challenge the experimenter who was standing right there; and people sat there, letting a room fill up with a smoke and didn’t say anything because everyone else was sitting there looking calm, and they didn’t want to look like fools by standing up and making a big deal out of it. And so, I just have always been fascinated by this idea that embarrassment can play this huge role in so many of our behaviors.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

Vanessa Bohns
I only read it this past year but it’s quickly become my favorite book, it’s Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. It’s ostensibly a book about writing but it’s really more of a book about life, but also writing. And it’s just so funny and just emotionally resonant, and, actually, a really great book about writing as well.

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

Vanessa Bohns
I’d say just a pen and a notebook. I am constantly on a walk and coming up with an idea, or in the middle of the night when I’m trying to sleep, I come up with an idea, and just having a notebook nearby to jot things down is the best thing, the best tool, I think, for me.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Vanessa Bohns
Going on long thinking walks. I try to go for a walk every night. After the kids go to bed, I try to walk around for like an hour and just think, and it’s very calming, and I come up with a lot of ideas that way as well.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a particular nugget you share that seems to resonate and get quoted back to you often?

Vanessa Bohns
It’s this piece about asking in person that I think usually resonates with people the most, because I think that a lot of people struggle with how to ask, the best way to ask, “Should I write an email?” And a lot of us gravitate towards that because it’s kind of easier to be rejected over email, if you’re going to be rejected. But people find it really helpful when I talk about the fact that asking in person makes such a big difference.

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

Vanessa Bohns
So, I have my website which is VanessaBohns.com, and I’m also at @profbohns at Twitter.

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

Vanessa Bohns
I think you hear this phrase “Start from a place of yes all the time,” and I kind of like the idea of a play on that, which assumes that other people are starting from a place of yes. So, instead of assuming that other people are immediately going to say no or reject the things that you ask for or arguments you make, assume they actually are going to be pretty receptive, and then sort of reframe whatever you’re going to pitch or ask for accordingly.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Vanessa, this has been a treat. I wish you much luck in all your influencing ways.

Vanessa Bohns
Thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure.

672: How to Ask For and Get What You Want with Heather Hansen

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Heather Hansen says: "There's always another way to look at things."

Trial attorney Heather Hansen shares the top ten tools from the courtroom to help you get what you want.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to advocate like the pros
  2. How to turn your inner critic into your biggest ally
  3. How one question can get people to agree with you

 

About Heather

Heather Hansen gives her clients the tools to advocate for themselves, their ideas and those around them. She has been a trial attorney for over 20 years and was consistently named one of the Top 50 Female Attorneys in Pennsylvania. Heather uses her psychology degree and her years in the courtroom to help her clients ask for what they want and get it. She’s also an anchor at the Law and Crime Network and has appeared on NBC, Fox News Channel, CNN, MSNBC, CBS and Sirius Radio. Heather has helped thousands of keynote audience members in Kuwait, Ireland, Mexico and across the U.S. become their own best advocates. 

Heather is the author of the best-seller The Elegant Warrior: How to Win Life’s Trials Without Losing Yourself, which Publishers Weekly calls a “template to achieving personal and career goals” and the host of The Elegant Warrior podcast. Heather’s next book, Advocate to Win-10 Tools to Ask for What You Want and Get It comes out May 25th. 

Resources mentioned in the show:

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Heather Hansen Interview Transcript

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

Heather Hansen
I’m so excited to be here, Pete. I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, boy, me, too. Me, too. Well, I’m sure you have a lot of stories in your career in the courtroom. Could you maybe share with us one of your most exciting tales of advocacy?

Heather Hansen
Oh, my goodness, there’s so many to share. But I will tell you one that seems to resonate with a lot of my audiences. And it was a recent trial before COVID, of course, since COVID, very few cases have been tried. But this was a case where I represented a podiatrist, and one of the dirty little secrets about trial law that you might not know unless, maybe, you’ve served on a jury is that jury members fall asleep and a lot. It happens worse after lunch, it happens worse when we turn off the lights if we’re playing a video for them of an expert or something, and it happens in almost every case.

And in this particular case, I represented a podiatrist, and I always represent doctors when their patients sue them. The patient had alleged that he had a skin cancer on his toe that had gone undiagnosed and he sued two primary care doctors and two podiatrists. And so, I represented a podiatrist, the patient himself was a middle-aged man; the attorney for that patient was a middle-aged man; the first podiatrist was a middle-aged man; his attorney was a middle-aged man; the primary care doctor, a middle-aged man; his attorney, a middle-aged man; secondary primary doctor, same deal; my doctor, middle-aged man; and then there was me.

And when the trial started, we almost immediately saw that this jury was a sleepy jury and, to give them their due, it was very difficult medicine, talking about the doubling time of cancer cells, and so they were falling asleep even more than usual. But I noticed, Pete, pretty early on that every time I got up to speak, they would wake up even if it was just for a minute. And can you, I bet you can, you of all people, guess why they were waking up?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I mean, you’re a beautiful woman.

Heather Hansen
Well, thank you. That’s very complimentary. But it was really my voice. My voice sounded different than all the other voices that they were seeing.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, contrast.

Heather Hansen
That’s right. And like the surprise of it. They’re like, “Oh, boring, boring, same, same, same. Oh, look at that. That’s something different.” And so, I decided to maximize on that. So, usually when I ask my questions, I start with going through resume and going through the foundation, and then I hit with the big punching question towards the end of my questioning. And you have to sort of lay a foundation but I worked really hard to get to the good stuff first because I wanted to take advantage of the fact that the jury was awake.

And at the end of the trial, the jury found everybody, including the patient, was negligent except for my doctor, and I don’t think that’s because of the fact that I am a woman and my voice sounded different, but it couldn’t have hurt. And the lesson that I learned from that is to use your differences. So many people say, “Is it hard to be a woman as a trial attorney because less than 5% of trial attorneys are women?”

And I think it’s an advantage if you choose to see it that way. And no matter what your differences are, I think that you can choose to creatively use them as advantages and use them to win.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, beautiful. Well, that is a nice illustration and a clear point and a happy successful outcome there. Well, cool stuff. Well, maybe let’s start with some exciting stuff. What would you say is perhaps one of the most surprising or counterintuitive discoveries you’ve made about persuasion, advocacy, and negotiation over your career?

Heather Hansen
So, one of the things that people are always surprised at is that we win our cases not by arguing. You know, when I tell people I’m a trial attorney, almost always someone will say, “Oh, I should’ve been a trial attorney, I’m really good at arguing.” And we don’t win by arguing. The way that our trials are set up, Pete, the openings are supposed to be opening statements. They’re meant to be an outline and you’re not really allowed to argue. The closing is the closing argument and that’s a small fraction of the case.

The majority of the case, all I do, all day every day, is ask questions. And so, the surprising thing is that asking questions is how you win. Asking questions is magic, and so that’s a lesson that I have taken from trials and carried on into my life outside the courtroom.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, so asking questions is huge. And what are the kinds of questions we should be asking? Any special top faves, or scripts, or principles?

Heather Hansen
So, I have one favorite question that has become a huge calling card for me in my keynotes and so forth, and it’s not even my question. It’s a question that was asked by a woman named Judge Rosemarie Aquilina. Judge Aquilina was the judge in the Larry Nassar hearing. Larry Nassar was the gymnast doctor accused of molesting all of those women in Michigan. And one of my hats that I wear is I’m an anchor at the Law & Crime network, and I happen to be working the week of that hearing. And we only intended to cover it for a day because only a few women were planning to come forward and most of them didn’t want to use their names or their faces, which makes it not such great TV.

By the end of that hearing, over 100 women had come forward to tell their stories and most of them used their names and their faces. And I attributed that, having sat there and listened and watched, to Judge Aquilina and, specifically, to one particular question that she asked each woman as they came forward. Because, Pete, she didn’t say, “Why are you here?” She didn’t say, “What happened to you? What do you have to say?” She said, “Tell me what you want me to know.”

Pete Mockaitis
There you go.

Heather Hansen
And that question allowed the women to tell their story the way they wanted to tell it. Some of them talked about the way it impacted their relationships with their husbands. Some told the way it impacted them physically. Some told the way it impacted them in their confidence. They told her what they wanted her to know and that changed everything. And now I believe that question, with your clients, with your customers, with your bosses, with the people who report to you, and with your friends and your family and your children, that question can be magic. So, that’s probably my favorite question.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, it is beautifully broad but also points us in a direction. It’s a lot better than, “So, what’s up?” which is also wide open, like that can go in any number of directions that they can choose their own adventure with, but, “Tell me what you want me to know” is really hitting that sweet spot. So, thank you for that. So, that’s just one of many tips you’re putting forward in your book Advocate to Win: 10 Tools to Ask for What You Want and Get It. What’s kind of the main idea or thesis behind the book here?

Heather Hansen
Advocate to Win shares the 10 tools that I used in the courtroom that every one of your listeners can use to ask for what they want and get it. So, the 10 tools are elegance. The root of the word elegance is to choose. And so, elegance, to me, is choice. And when you’re advocating, you have to choose who you want to be, how dirty do you want to get, how difficult do you want to be. So, the first is elegance.

The second is words. The choice of words makes such a difference. Words that speak to your jury of clients, or customers, or bosses, friends or family. It’s really important to choose your words carefully. The next is perspective, making sure that you understand your jury’s perspective because you can’t change their perspective until you understand it. The next is questions. We just talked a little bit about questions.

The next is credibility because if you don’t believe me, I can’t win. The next is evidence which is the facts that we use to build our case. The next is reception. That’s reading body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions. Number eight is presentation. That’s using your body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions. Number nine is negotiation and number ten is argument.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, Heather, I love the speed you’re cooking with so I might just go for the gold and say can you give us a top do and a top don’t inside all ten of these tools?

Heather Hansen
So one of the things that I should sort of lay as a foundation is I mentioned that every listener has their jury. So, their jury is going to be their clients or customers, anyone they want to persuade or influence. It could be your boss. It could be your direct report. Right now, your listeners are the jury that we want to influence and persuade.

But every one of those tools in my book I recommend that you use it first with your inner jury. And the inner jury is the part of you that chooses. Now, a lot of my coaching clients think the inner jury is the part of them that is critical, and that’s not really true. In the courtroom, the jury listens and they choose, and that’s what your inner jury does.

And so, you probably have an inner voice that says, “You’re not smart enough. You’re not good enough. You shouldn’t do that. That’s not safe. Stay in the cave. Don’t go out. Don’t take that chance.” And you want to also give your inner jury the choice of a voice that says, “Go for it. You’re good enough. You can do it. Why not try?” And then the inner jury gets to choose. So, for each of those tools, I go through and apply it first to the inner jury and then to the outer jury.

Heather Hansen
So, elegance, the root of the word elegance is to choose, and I believe you choose your elegance. And I think it’s really important to recognize, before you start advocating, what you’re advocating for and who you want to be when you’re advocating. Those are choices. In the book, I have a three-step process to make good choices, to make sure that you’re choosing.

And the first is to know that you’re choosing. So often we fly off the handle, or we react out of anger, or we hit the snooze button in the morning rather than getting out of bed, and those are all choices that we make. And when you know that you’re choosing, you’re more likely to make the best choices.

And then the next step is knowing who is choosing, because too often it’s our moms, our partners, or habit, or our egos, and you really want the best part of you, your inner jury to be making that choice. And then the last thing is to know your reasons. I encourage my clients to list out their reasons on each side. And, usually, if you sit down and look at a list of reasons for a particular choice, the choice becomes much more clear.

So, that sort of summarizes what we talk about in the elegance chapter of the book. It’s really about making choices and making choices that are going to serve you well. Because, in the courtroom, you make so many choices when you’re trying a case and you always think like, “Maybe I shouldn’t have crossed that person. Maybe I should’ve asked this question.”

And in life, too, you always think, “Maybe I should’ve stayed in that relationship. Maybe I should’ve left that job.” You’re never going to know whether a choice was right, and I’m putting air quotes here, “right or wrong.” But if you like your reasons, then you can at least have confidence in that.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, well said, as opposed to, “Oh, we just never knew,” because you didn’t do the work in advance to think it through and take the time.

Heather Hansen
That’s right. The words chapter, words are the tools of an advocate, and the words that we use matter. Maya Angelou believed that words had energy, and if someone was using words like racist words, negative words in her house, she would make them leave her house because she didn’t want those words to be in her home. And I think that words have energy as well.

And so, you want to be careful with the words you use with yourself, with your inner jury, and the words you choose with your outer jury. So, with your inner jury, your self-talk, you just want to be careful of those negative things that you tell yourself, that you’re not good enough, that you’re not smart enough, or worse, that you’re ugly, dumb, old, too old, those types of things. You really want to be conscious of that.

And then when it comes to the words that you use with your outer jury, there’s an idea, I can’t really find the research to back this up, but I have read that if I say one word that my jury in the courtroom doesn’t understand, they don’t even hear the next ten words I say. That makes sense to me, Pete, because if I get up and I said, “This is a case about osteomyelitis,” the jury immediately is going to…

Pete Mockaitis
“What the heck is osteomyelitis?”

Heather Hansen
Right. Or, “I told this lady I shouldn’t be on this jury. I don’t know anything about medicine,” then they start to get angry, and it’s gone. So, you want to recognize that everyone has the curse of knowledge, everyone knows something so well that they forget what it’s like not to know it. And with words especially, like if you’re in a business with acronyms, I work a lot with real estate people and they have so many acronyms, and they know them so well that they forget what it’s like not to know them. But their client, who is their jury, might not know those acronyms. And so, the more that you can be really conscious with the words that you’re using and how they will best resonate with the jury, the more likely you are to win.

Pete Mockaitis
I love it. Keep it going.

Heather Hansen
All right. Okay, the next is perspective. So, perspective is it really is so important. Viktor Frankl wrote Man’s Search for Meaning, which is one of my top books of all time. He was a psychotherapist who survived Auschwitz, and while he was in Auschwitz, he wrote his book. And a lot of the book is about how the only choice that he had in that dire circumstance was he could choose his attitude or his perspective. He could choose how he saw the world. And he actually talked about this bowl of “soup” which was really just brown dirty water with a fish head floating in it, and how he chose to see it as this delicious bowl of soup.

And that’s where your inner jury is choosing perspective. There’s always another way to look at things. And as much as that doesn’t always feel true, it’s where your power lies. It’s where your choice is where your power lies. And so, choosing a different perspective when you’re feeling down or negative or defeated is a really important thing. And then, to change your outer jury’s perspective is your ultimate goal.

One of the quotes that I often use in my work is that, “When you communicate, you share perspectives. But when you advocate, you change them.” And so, the first step in that is really understanding, getting to know your jury’s perspective because you can’t change someone’s perspective until you know it. And then once you know it and understand it, then you can get to work asking the questions and using the evidence and future things that will allow you to change it.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, I’m curious, when with a jury, how does one elicit that? Because, to my knowledge, you can’t just sit down and have a chat, “So, where are you coming from? Where are you coming in on this so far?“

Heather Hansen
It’s such a great point and I always say that because in life and in business, you can. You get to talk to your jury and ask questions, which is an advantage you have. We have to base it upon those few questions we get to ask during Voir Dire at the beginning of the trial, when we sit down with a jury and ask them questions and, also, to be honest, some presumptions.

I know, for a fact, that every single one of my jurors ever is a patient or has been a patient. Everyone in the courtroom has been a patient, including the doctor, and I know that that means that they are going to see the world through a patient’s eyes.

Pete Mockaitis
Right, as opposed to a hospital executive or a doctor, yeah.

Heather Hansen
Or a doctor. I’ve never had a doctor on my jury and that’s a different perspective so I can’t talk to them as if they’re a bunch of doctors and just show them all the studies that support my case. I have to talk to them about the relationship between the doctor and the patient, and why the doctor did what he did, using words they understand, and maybe remembering, “Oh, yes, that juror told me that he liked to do woodworking, and that juror told me that she used a contractor and she builds buildings. Let’s compare the surgery to putting up a house, and speak to their perspective in that respect as well.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Cool. Okay. So, then questions, we hit a favorite. Any others you want to mention?

Heather Hansen
Well, I just want to mention that you can use questions to challenge as well. I have a young associate who was struggling a little bit, and I said to her, “Tell me how you would respond if you were the partner in that situation.” And that question sort of made her realize that she wouldn’t respond very well to the thing that she had done. Instead of saying, “You did this thing and it was bad, and you should recognize that it was bad,” asking the questions, “What do you think you could’ve done better? How do you think this felt to that person?”

Questions are just magic and you can use questions to challenge. They don’t always have to be, “Tell me what you want me to know,” is a very friendly…I would think of it as a direct examination question to a friendly witness. But the cross-examination questions are sometimes deadly, and you can do them as well. Just really considering where you want to get to with the question and then just crafting a series of questions that get you there.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s great. And so, that goes a lot farther than saying, “Hey, how do you imagine a partner would feel in that situation?” versus, “Well, you got to remember, partners, they’re concerned about their clients and their credibility…” It’s like, “Okay, yeah, I don’t want to be lectured. I would rather make them do the work and think a little bit there.”

Heather Hansen
Exactly. There’s a great study, and my mentor is John O’Brian, and he used to always say that about juries, like, “Don’t shove it down their throat. Make them feel like they’ve discovered something.” And there’s a great study that shows that if I make a piece of origami, I’ll price it at a higher price than if someone else made that. And so, when you ask questions, the people are speaking the answers, and by speaking it, they own it. And so, now, all of a sudden, they’re agreeing with you where maybe they never would’ve.

Pete Mockaitis
I dig it. Let’s talk about credibility.

Heather Hansen
Credibility is…I also have what I call the five Cs of an advocate. One of those Cs is credibility and it’s a double. It doubles up because it’s so important because if you don’t believe me, I can’t win. If the jury, they can think I’m smart, they can think I’m nice, they can think I’m cute, they can think I’m funny, but if they don’t believe me, I will lose.

Well, let me just start first with the inner jury because you have got to believe before you can make anyone else believe. A lot of times, people will say to me, “What do you do if you know a doctor made a mistake?” And my answer is, “I find a story that I can believe.” Sometimes that means admitting that the doctor made a mistake but then arguing the case on damages, “You know, it’s not worth what the other side wants to be paid.”

Or, sometimes it’s explaining exactly how the mistake was made. But I have got to believe in my story before I can make the jury believe it. And that means that when you’re advocating for yourself and your ideas and your bank account, you have got to believe in those things before you can make anyone else do so.

And then you want to make them believe. And the way that you make people believe is, with you, it’s two things. You want to believe in you, which means that you start to collect evidence, which we’ll get to in a minute, but you want to start to collect all of the things that you have done in your life that support your ask.

Like, I waitressed for years and years and years, and I always look back at waitressing and say, “You know, I was good with people. I was good with numbers. I was quick on my feet. I could remember things.” And that, for me, has allowed me to believe in my ability to do things affiliated with everything I just listed.

So, building your credibility by really looking…and it doesn’t have to be in the same business. Your listeners are looking to switch jobs or switch complete industries. What’s transferrable? I coached some women who have been out of the workforce to be moms to raise children, and then going back into the workforce. And I can give a bunch of examples of the things that they’ve done as mothers that are evidence of their ability to do things in the workforce. And we talk about those to help them believe in themselves, build credibility with themselves.

And the other part of credibility with yourself is believing yourself. When you make yourself a promise, you have to keep it. And when you set an expectation, you have to meet it because, if you don’t, you lose your own credibility, and that’s pretty deadly.

Pete Mockaitis
Say more. Deadly how? Because I think many have said, “Okay, I’m going to wake up tomorrow. I’m going to go for a run,” and they don’t. What’s the consequence of that?

Heather Hansen
Yeah, every time you do that, the next time you tell yourself you’re going to do something, you believe it a little less. And if you don’t believe it, then how are you going to persuade anyone else to believe it? I lost a hundred pounds when I was 18 years old.

And I always say, “I’m so grateful that I had the weight to lose,” not for losing the weight, which, of course, I am for a million reasons. But that I had the weight to lose because, at a relatively young age, I built so much credibility with myself. I know that if I make myself a promise, I will keep it. And if I set an expectation, I will meet it because I’ve done that, and I’ve done it in a pretty big way.

And it doesn’t mean…so it’s the same with your outer jury. Those two, you want them to believe in you, and we can talk about how to do that. You want them to believe you, and it’s the same thing making promises, setting expectations. But the fastest way to build credibility with yourself and with others is when you can’t keep a promise and you can’t meet an expectation, you own it.

Like, in the courtroom, if I say, “My expert disagrees with my doctor on this point.” Immediately, the jury is like, “Wow, that lady just told us the truth even though it doesn’t help her.” And then when I tell them other things that do help me, they’re more likely to believe them. And it’s fast, and it’s easy once you put down your ego.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Okay. And how about evidence?

Heather Hansen
So, evidence is all of the things that you use to build that belief in you. And when it’s yourself, I give my clients, when we start working together, an evidence journal, and I ask them at the end of every day to write down evidence of their skills, their talents, their capabilities, their resilience, their power, anything they can think of, three things a day. And then you go back and look at that when you’re feeling less than credible. So, that’s for the inner jury.

For the outer jury, there’s a famous maxim in advertising that says that, “In order to make someone remember something, you have to repeat it seven times.” And I think that that’s true. But in the courtroom, I feel like if I repeat something seven times, the jury is going to fall asleep, as we discussed, or hate me. So, I’ve kind of expanded that and I say that you need to say it seven times seven ways.

So, as you’re collecting evidence to give to your boss or your superior or your investors or your clients or your customers, what ways can you present that evidence? Can you make a chart? Can you use pictures? Can you make a video? Can you bring in someone else as testimonial? Can you tell a story? In trying to really come up with seven ways to share that evidence to make sure that you’re hitting all of the different inputs, all of the different sentences that people might understand information through but, also, that you’re actually repeating it seven times.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool. And then reception.

Heather Hansen
Reception is so important and everyone wants to lead with presentation. Like, a lot of times I’ll get consults to start coaching with me, and they’ll say, “Well, I really want help on camera. I really want help with my body language. I really want help with my tone of voice,” and we’ll get there. I mean, that’s the next tool. But listening, the best listener in the courtroom wins.

If I’m in the courtroom, so focused on, “How am I going to look, sound, and move my face the next time I ask a question?” and I’m not listening to the answer, I’m missing out on important vital lovely evidence. And it’s really important to listen to tone of voice. So, you could read body language a little. I mean, body language is a lot of context and you don’t have a lot of time with many people to build up that context to do it well, but tone of voice.

There’s a study out of Yale that tells us that tone of voice tells you more about a person’s emotions than their body language and their facial expressions combined. So, if you really are present and listening, you can often tell if someone is faking a smile, if they’re tired, if they’re angry, if they’re frustrated, and then you can use that information to advocate, and it’s super effective. So, really, listening and paying attention and receiving the other person is a key tool to advocating.

Pete Mockaitis
And any tips on how to train that skill or your ear to zero in on the emotion behind the tone?

Heather Hansen
I think that it’s being present. So, there’s actually recent studies that show that when people are talking on the phone, they may be better at turn-taking if it’s like a group rather than Zoom, which is interesting but people are really tuned into verbal cues if the phone is down and they’re not writing other things. The main problem with the phone is a lot of times people will start doing other work when they’re on their phone because no one’s watching them.

But that’s why when you’re listening…I meditate so I try to be very mindful when I’m listening, and I try to be very aware of my feet and fingers, my toes and fingers. When I’m meditating, my toes and fingers will sometimes tingle, and so I will really tune into, like being present in my body. I will often say to myself, before the call, “Be where your ears are.” That’s based on the old saying, “Be where your feet are.” Be where your ears are and just really being present.

And then, also, thinking, like making it into a game, “What am I hearing in this person’s voice? What are my guesses as to how they’re feeling?” And the more that you do that, it becomes a habit.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, beautiful. Okay. Well, now let’s talk about presentation.

Heather Hansen
So, presentation is all of body language, tone of voice, facial expression. There’s lots of things to talk about there. One of the main things that I would talk about is the use of hands, and I’ll tell you a story from the courtroom. This is a great way to talk about this. My doctors are often very nervous before they testify. They’re very confident, competent, fabulous doctors but this is different. They’re fish out of water in the courtroom.

And so, normally, Pete, what I try to do is, right before they on the stand, if we’re at lunch break or if it’s the beginning of the day, I’ll try to be like, “What TV show are you watching?” or, “What book are you reading?” trying to sort of divert their attention from what they’re about to do.

So, this particular doctor was going out to the stand after a lunch break, and I tried to sort of distract him, but I had just read in this book Captivate, which is by a woman named Vanessa Van Edwards, that she had studied TED Talks, and she had compared the most-watched TED Talks and the least-watched TED Talks. And the major difference between the two was, in the most-watched TED Talks, the speaker used hand motions and gestured with their hands many, many, many more times than the least-watched TED Talks.

I was captivated by this, just like the book said, and I made the mistake of telling my doctor about this study right before he went up to testify. He went up to testify and he proceeded to conduct an orchestra from the witness stand. He knocked over the microphone twice, I was like, “If the jury was looking at my body language, they would’ve seen like a grimace on my face and tight muscles and shoulders as earrings.” But the jury loved him.

Now, it wasn’t just because he moved his hands a lot. But when you see my hands, and for the listeners, if you’re still in Zoom world, the world is starting to wake up, but some of us are still in Zoom world, or if you’re in person, if you could find a way to naturally use your hands, and especially on Zoom, so that your hands occasionally get into the screen, it makes the other person feel at ease because when I can’t see your hands, Pete, I don’t know if you’re holding a weapon.

Pete Mockaitis
I could be.

Heather Hansen
And so, you are a threat to me. You could be.

Pete Mockaitis
I’ve got a sword down here.

Heather Hansen
I also don’t know how far away you are. You could be close enough to hurt me and I can’t sense you because our reception is not on in a computer. And even in real life, if you don’t see my hands. So, there’s a great study, it’s in Joe Navarro’s book, which is What Every Body Is Saying, and he talks about the use of hands, and says that, “If criminal defendants have their hands on counsel table, rather than under counsel table, for the majority of the trial, they’re more likely to be found not guilty.” So, there’s something about our brains that wants to see hands, and that’s just one of many little tips that you can use to help yourself be a more effective advocate.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. And let’s talk about negotiation and argument now.

Heather Hansen
Yeah, so negotiation, there are so many great books about negotiation and I don’t want to take anything away from those. I do think that we need to, both with ourselves in our inner jury and our outer jury, be aware of our non-negotiables. Like, we talked a little bit about hitting the snooze button when we wake up in the morning. If you make getting up at 5:00 a.m., which is what I do, a non-negotiable, you no longer sit in bed and say, “Oh, should I get up? Should I wait? Maybe five more minutes.” It’s not a negotiation. You just do it.

I think that that’s why, you know, Mel Robbins is famous for her 5-Second Rule. She’s a speaker and an author who says that, and she’s done enormously well, but she talked about this 5-second rule where she goes, “5, 4, 3, 2, 1” and then she does the thing. And I think that the value in that is you don’t give yourself time to negotiate with yourself.

So, having non-negotiables and having non-negotiables with someone else too, having your boundaries. But then, with others, making sure you also have negotiables. If you’re going for a job and you want a certain salary, think of other things that would make you just as happy as that salary. So, maybe you’re willing to take 10K less if you can work from home two days a week, or you can take more PTO, or you can get a daycare center that is partly paid for. There’s a million things that you can start to think about how, “What’s a negotiable for me? What else would I take?” And that makes it a lot easier to negotiate and, ultimately, get what you want.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, right on. Okay. And argument.

Heather Hansen
So, argument is the last resort of the advocate and, hopefully, you never have to get there because the thing about argument is it’s only really effective if a third party is deciding. So, if I’m arguing with opposing counsel and the judge decides the motion, then arguing makes sense. And if you’re sort of fighting with a competitor for a raise or an opportunity, then arguing makes sense. But if you’re trying to convince the person you’re arguing with, it rarely works.

All of the other tools that we’ve talked about – questions, evidence, perspective, words, credibility – those are the tools that are going to help you to persuade someone to share your perspective, to come along to your perspective. When it comes to argument, you just want to be very careful that you don’t win the argument and lose the relationship.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. Well, Heather, that’s quite the rundown. Much appreciated. Tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Heather Hansen
No, I mean, I think I’ve gone through it pretty well. You’ve tested me. It’s great because you write the book, and then there’s like a period of time that you’re sort of not paying as much attention to it. So, to go through those ten tools has been a fabulous opportunity for me to talk about them, and I’m glad you gave me the time.

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

Heather Hansen
So, I’ve already mentioned it but it’s something that really works for me, and that is to, “Be where your feet are.” I really think that so many times, our heads are off in the clouds or we’re looking at our phones, not present with the person in front of us, not present with the task in front of us. And when I remind myself to be where my feet are, it really helps me to be present, be focused, and be productive.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And could you share a favorite experiment or study or piece of research?

Heather Hansen
My favorite study is one that I talk about a lot in my keynotes and I’ve written about, and I read about it in Daniel Pink’s book To Sell Is Human, which is a fabulous book. I highly recommend it. It is a study that you ask the people, and we can do this now, Pete, you want to ask the people to snap five times with their dominant hand, looking at the person in front of them, and then draw a capital E with their index finger on their own forehead.

Pete Mockaitis
On my own forehead or your forehead?

Heather Hansen
On your forehead.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. I’m drawing.

Heather Hansen
See, that is phenomenal. So, Pete, drew the E facing me so that I could read the E.

Pete Mockaitis
Am I a sweetheart?

Heather Hansen
Yes, you really are. You could have drawn the E facing yourself, Pete, and that’s not…I often do say, “The people who drew the E facing the person in front of them are very empathetic and very good at perspective-taking and the other people are selfish jerks.” But that’s not really true. We all have times that we’re more focused on ourselves and what we’re thinking. But when you can do what you just did and see things through the other person’s perspective, it’s going to make you a better advocate. And Daniel Pink says, “Make you better salesperson.”

The research is really based on whether it’s going to make you more empathetic. But the point is that that little exercise I use in a lot of my keynotes, and it’s interactive and it’s fun, and it really shows how often we are in our own heads.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And it’s intriguing because I think it…well, I guess I’d have to run the experiment again a few times but, yeah, I have a feeling, like if you were boring me, and I were thinking about dinner, that my thoughtless means of doing this could very well just go my way just because I’m not fixated on your face.

Heather Hansen
I think you’re 100% right. I was going to see Daniel Pink speak, and I stopped at a bar before because I was early, and there were two bartenders working, and one was starting his shift and one was leaving his shift. And I told them about the study and I asked them, “Snap five times, draw the E.” The one who was coming on to his shift, drew the E facing me because, of course, he had to be focused on me and his customers. The one who was going home drew it facing himself because he was going to focus on his dog and his laundry, so you’re 100% right about that.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, thank you. And a favorite book?

Heather Hansen
I would say that, right now, the book that has been most impactful for me is Chatter by Ethan Kross. It is about the chatter in our brains and it really resonated with me because it’s a lot about what’s in my book about the inner jury. So, that’s probably my current favorite. To Sell Is Human is also a favorite and I really love The Law of Divine Compensation by Marianne Williamson. It’s more of a spiritual book but it’s really about the abundance of the world and how, if you can see things that way, it often becomes that way.

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

Heather Hansen
Calendly is really helpful for my calendar. I definitely love that one. I just switched from…I won’t say what I switched from, but I switched to Asana, and that’s a project management tool that my team really loves, and I’m trying to get used to it. I use a Blue Yeti microphone for podcasting and I love that. So, those are probably some of my tops.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Heather Hansen
Meditation. The other day I posted I had meditated, not in a row, but I had meditated, per Insight Timer, 1,111 times. And it’s definitely changed me. It makes me more present. It allows for that space between stimulus and response.

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

Heather Hansen
The one that resonates the most, and that I hear about the most, and I get emails and letters about the most is Judge Aquilina’s “Tell me what you want me to know.” And, also, as a reminder, you can use that question with your inner jury as well.

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

Heather Hansen
Okay. So, the best place to reach me is my website. It is AdvocateToWin.com. And if you go there, you will see my podcast, you will see my books, you will see some videos, and you can contact me through there. Oh, and the other thing, I’m sorry, the other thing I would add is my Instagram. I post really regularly and a lot of it is the tips that I share in the book and in my keynotes. And my Instagram is @imheatherhansen.

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

Heather Hansen
Yeah, I think that my call to action would be to recognize that you are your own best advocate. I think that we often look out, especially women, we want someone else to do it for us. Like, “If someone else would just get me that raise, ask for that raise, get me that thing, get me that opportunity,” and that seems like it would be nice, but no one can do it better than you can. No one knows your needs, your passions, your competencies, your skills, no one knows your heart better than you do. So, have confidence in that, that no one can do it better than you can. And then use these tools and get advocated.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Heather, thank you. This has been a treat. I wish you much in all the ways you’re advocating.

Heather Hansen
Thank you so much, Pete. It’s such a pleasure to be here with you.

665: How to Make Lasting Change – According to Science – with Katy Milkman

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Behavioral scientist and Wharton professor Katy Milkman reveals how behavioral science can help you make changes that stick.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The top obstacles of change–and how to overcome them 
  2. How to overcome your impulsivity 
  3. How you can make your laziness work for you 

 

About Katy

Katy Milkman is the James G. Dinan Professor at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, host of Charles Schwab’s popular behavioral economics podcast Choiceology, and the former president of the international Society for Judgment and Decision Making.  Over the course of her career, she has worked with or advised dozens of organizations on how to spur positive change, including Google, the U.S. Department of Defense, and Walmart. 

An award-winning scholar and teacher, Katy writes frequently about behavioral science for major media outlets such as The Washington Post and The New York Times. Her book How to Change: The Science of Getting From Where You are to Where You Want to Be came out two days ago! She earned her undergraduate degree from Princeton University (summa cum laude), and her PhD from Harvard University where she studied Computer Science and Business. 

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank you, sponsors!

Katy Milkman Interview Transcript

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

Katy Milkman
Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to learn how to change once and for all. You’ve literally written the book on this and I can’t wait to hear your insights.

Katy Milkman
Well, I’m excited to share.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, maybe to kick it off, could you share maybe what’s maybe one of the most surprising, fascinating, counterintuitive discoveries you’ve made about us humans doing behavior change while researching the book How to Change?

Katy Milkman
That’s a great question. I love starting with that question. Probably it’d be a study I ran at Google that had the most counterintuitive finding to me. And it was a study where, actually, my collaborators and I were trying to figure out if we could create more durable habits around exercise in people if we got them to build really consistent routines, which is what our read of the habit literature suggested makes habits sticky, like, “Always at the same time of day, I’m really, really grounded in that routine and now it becomes like second nature to me.”

And if we could build that, we thought, then we sort of let go and we’d see these lasting habits. So, we ran this experiment with Google employees where we basically, for a month, gave them rewards for either visiting the gym at the same time of a day, a consistent time that they’d said was ideal for them, or for any time, whatever they wanted. So, about half of their visits ended up being at a consistent time but the other half were all over the place.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, one group was rewarded only when they went during the time they said and the other was rewarded regardless?

Katy Milkman
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Katy Milkman
We actually varied the size of the incentives so we got variance in how often people went, and we basically ended up with two groups who went the same frequency but in different patterns. One is going very consistently, the other is more variable when they go. And then the question was, “What happens at the end of this month?” And we were sure, we knew, it was going to be the people who had that consistent routine, and we were wrong.

And what we found out is that the reason we were wrong is not that we had our model completely messed up, it was true that the people who had been really consistent in their exercise who would basically train to be automatons, the same time, same time each day. Those people actually were a little more likely to keep going at that same time, but if they didn’t make it to the gym at that time, they didn’t go at all.

And the folks who had built a more flexible habit ended up with a more durable habit because they went a little less often at that magic time, it was the best time each day for them, but they went at other times too, and at that they went more. And that was really surprising to us that, it turns out, and I write about this in the book, I call it the power of elastic habits. I really expected, from everything I’d read, that those consistent cues would be critical to durable habit formation but what we found instead was that it bred rigidity, and that if you’re going to get something done, you need to be flexible, and just say, “I’m going to do it no matter what,” not, “I’m going to only do it under this narrow set of circumstances.”

So, I think that’s really interesting and it was a really important takeaway and counterintuitive to me. Although, now it makes sense, in hindsight I can see why that’s important but it’s not what I expected. And we surveyed professors of psychology in all the top universities, and 80% of them also were surprised. They predicted strongly, “Oh, yeah, that consistency, that’s what we know about habits. Consistency breeds habit,” and it’s just not what we found.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Wow, that’s striking. And so, well, there’s one gem right there, so thank you.

Katy Milkman
You’re welcome. That’s a great opening question.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, let’s zoom out a little bit in terms of, okay, your book How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be. Can you lay it on us sort of the big idea or key theme or thesis associated with this work?

Katy Milkman
Yeah, absolutely. So, the key idea behind this book is that there’s a lot, of course, of great books and a lot of great knowledge out there about how to change and, yet, it’s not getting us where we want to be for the most part. People are still looking for these kinds of books, still trying to figure it out, a lot of us aren’t where we want to be. And one of the things I have found in my career, devoted to studying this topic of where change comes from, is that I think part of the problem is we often don’t focus on what is actually obstructing change for a given individual, for a given challenge or a given goal they’re trying to achieve, and tailor the solution to that obstacle.

We sort of grab one of those big ideas off the shelf that sounds sexy and appealing, like, “Set big audacious goals and then break them down,” or, “Build a really tiny habit and piggyback.” Like, there’s all these ideas that are out that are appealing but they won’t work if they’re not solving for what’s holding you back.

So, that’s kind of the big idea behind the book. There’s all these different things that can be barriers to change, whether it’s, “I don’t enjoy doing the thing that I need to do to change,” or, “I keep forgetting to do the thing and flaking out because I’m too busy and it’s just, I can’t prioritize it,” or, “I’m having trouble getting started,” or, “I don’t have the confidence to change. I don’t believe I really can and that’s holding me back,” or, “My peer group is not showing me the ways to do it and is a bad influence.”

Like, what is the challenge and the solution then will be different. And we can make more progress if we actually diagnose what’s standing in the way, and then use the best science to solve that specific problem. And I see this all the time in my work with companies, that they have some behavior, “We want get people to save more for retirement,” or to get their flu shots, or to be more productive. Like, let’s just grab from this bag of tricks from behavioral science and we think we’ll be able to slap a solution on it, but if there isn’t an understanding of, “Well, why aren’t people saving? Why aren’t they productive? What’s holding them back?” that is matched to the solution, we don’t get very far.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, that’s resonating a whole lot. I’m getting chills in terms of like there’s much truth here.

Katy Milkman
Thank you.

Pete Mockaitis
So, in a way, it seems like self-evident, “Well, of course, you should figure out what’s the challenge and address it.”

Katy Milkman
It does seem self-evident.

Pete Mockaitis
And, yet, we don’t.

Katy Milkman
It’s astounding how often we don’t, yes.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, can you lay it down, lay it on us then, what’s maybe the menu of categories of obstacles and the best practices for deconstructing or addressing those obstacles? And then, maybe even before we go there, how do we go about identifying it and zooming in on it very well? Because, for example, when you say, “Why don’t people save?” like, “Well, I just don’t have enough money. I don’t have any spare money to save. I guess we’re done.” And so, it’s like, “Well, no, not quite. I think we got to dig deeper.” So, yeah, let’s start there. How do I identify, like, what’s the crux of the obstacle here?

Katy Milkman
I think the answer is probably most people will recognize themselves and a specific problem when they see these different discussions.

So, for example, I mentioned it’s not fun. That’s a really common one. I don’t know if that’s not a super common one for retirement savings. Most of us aren’t like, “I want it to be fun to save. And I find it dreadful and dreadfully unpleasant in the moment to do it.” That’s more like exercising or eating right or really focusing at work instead of scrolling social media. But that’s a category of obstacle.

Another category of obstacle is, “I don’t see how I can do this. This doesn’t seem doable.” I think that’s a big one, and retirement savings is actually is like, “Wow, it doesn’t feel feasible.” And that can come down to confidence, it can come down to what you’ve seen other people like you accomplish, and how, if you’ve learned their techniques and skills for doing it.

Another category can be, as I mentioned before, just flaking out, like, “There’s just a lot going on and I can’t get this to the top of the list, and I keep spacing it when it’s time to actually setup the 401(k).” So, it depends on which one you see yourself in, and I think it’s not like a category of problem, it’s always the same answer for different people. For some people, savings is also about procrastination, like, “I mean to do it but tomorrow I’ll get around to do it,” and then tomorrow never becomes today.

So, I think the goal of the book is that the reader will be able to see themselves as they see the classes of challenges and see what the solutions are. And there really are some experimentation individuals have to do, like, “Oh, I thought this was right solution for me. I tried it. Oops, I had diagnosed my barrier wrong. Really, that wasn’t what was holding me back. It wasn’t that I wasn’t going to the gym because I thought it was incredibly unpleasant. It was that I just hadn’t made the time to do it with the right people and I didn’t have the right social network and the right structures.”

So, there’s different problems for different people even for the same outcome, there are some commonalities.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so then it sounds like one way that you diagnose kind of like the core obstacle is you try something and you realize, “Hey, it turns out that wasn’t it at all. Okay.”

Katy Milkman
That’s one way. Hopefully, I think that will be one way. I also think another way will be looking, for the book and even for this conversation, and seeing yourself in the challenge. So, I do think people will be able to self-diagnose if they just give a little thought. I think normally that’s not the prompt we get. Instead, we get a solution, like, “Here’s your solution. This is going to work for you because it works for lots of other people,” instead of some thought about, “Why is it that I can’t motivate myself to do X.” And often, introspection is going to be enough. We’re not that hard to understand when we look internally in a lot of cases.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so let’s say that if I am thinking about, “Hey, what’s my obstacle?” and then what I come up with is something lame, like, “No, I just don’t have enough time”? Like, what does that really mean and how do we get deeper?

Katy Milkman
Yeah. Well, “I don’t have enough time” isn’t the kind of obstacle that the book is about because that’s not an internal obstacle. So, the book is really about how are you holding yourself back. “I don’t have enough time” is an external obstacle, like the way you structure your life needs to change. And I think you’d get some ideas about that once you’ve read the book about, “Oh, okay, does that mean you really don’t have enough time or do you just need to restructure yourself and your life differently?”

But the book is more about, so, if you’re like, “I don’t have the resources,” that’s a different kind of challenge than, “I can’t get myself to and I need to find a way to get myself to do something differently.” Does that make sense?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I hear you. And I guess maybe you’re kinder than I am to our imaginary interlocutor here. I guess when I hear “I don’t have enough time” I guess I just don’t buy it as my default.

Katy Milkman
Oh, yeah. And it can also be like, “I don’t have a priority to do this.” So, the book is not to convince you that you need to change. The book is for someone who has a goal, they want to achieve it, they haven’t been able to get there, or maybe they haven’t tried yet, they’re ready to try, and it’s going to offer the best science has for them about how they can set themselves up for success.

It doesn’t guarantee success by any stretch changes really, really hard but, hopefully, I think my career has been devoted to understanding what is the best knowledge out there, what’s the best science out there on how we can change, and I’ve tried to put it all in one place so that, for someone who’s motivated and ready to give it a shot, it’ll give them the best chance available.

Pete Mockaitis
I hear you. And I think that precondition right there says it all in terms of, like, if you’re really motivated, “I don’t have enough time” is probably not going to be what you say is your obstacle because, by definition, you think it’s important enough to make some time, and it might just be tricky to actually figure that out in a calendar, like, “No, for real, where do these 30 minutes actually emerge from?”

Katy Milkman
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
So, maybe can you lay it on us, perhaps like the top three obstacles and some of your favorite solutions to those obstacles?

Katy Milkman
Sure. Okay, I can give you one that I love because I’ll probably pick on ones where I have done the most research personally which doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the most important ones but they’re the ones I find most interesting.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Katy Milkman
So, one of them is impulsivity, and I’ve touched on this a little bit already and things I’ve said, which is like people are wired to look for instant gratification and to dramatically discount things that are good for us in the long run, which is why it’s so hard to drag yourself to the gym and eat that healthy food when there’s a pizza right next to it or a brownie calling your name, stay off social media, study for a test when there’s more exciting options that, even though you know clearly what’s good for you in the long run, is just not fun to do in the moment.

And I think one of the really interesting things research has shown is that people, generally, when they face a challenge like this to motivate themselves to do something that’s not that enjoyable in the moment but that’s good for them in the long run, our inclination is to just try to push through and look for the most effective way to achieve our goal.

So, if we’re, I’m going to go back to the gym, but there’s lots of places you can think about this, if you’re choosing to work out at the gym, most people are like, “I’m going to do the most effective workout on this first trip to the gym,” as opposed to an alternative, which would be, “I’m going to do the most fun thing I can do. I’m going to do the Zumba class. It’s not going to burn as many calories per minute maybe but I’m going to enjoy it.”

Same thing with healthy foods. We look for the basket of foods that’s most sinless as opposed to a healthy food that we actually enjoy eating. Or, you need to study and do work, like do you try to set up an environment where you’re really going to actually enjoy it? Maybe there are some people around that you’re studying with, or you’re in a coffee shop that you like, and you get yourself your favorite drink and you feel great. Or, are you just going to try to do it in distraction-free environment because that’s the most effective?

So, most of us think effective, and what research shows is we’re actually better off trying to do the fun workout, eat the tastier, healthy food even if it’s a little worse for us, and study in a way that’s a little less effective but more fun if we want to persist because we’re so wired for that instant gratification. We won’t push through, we think we will, but we won’t, if it’s not fun.

So, I think that’s a really important insight and it actually is really related to some work I did early on in my faculty career on something that’s a very specific solution to this. I call it temptation bundling. And the idea is only allowing yourself to enjoy some indulgence that you look forward to but maybe you shouldn’t indulge in too much, some guilty pleasure, while simultaneously doing something that’s good for you and productive so that now you start to crave.

Maybe it’s trips to the gym to binge-watch your favorite TV show, or trips to the library because you’re always going to pick up your favorite Starbucks Frappuccino en route, or folding the laundry or home-cooked meals because you’re listening to your favorite podcast at the same time. So, if you can temptation bundle, suddenly, this thing that was a chore, actually becomes something you look forward to.

And I’ve studied this and show that it can help people exercise more, and found in my own life, of course, that it also is very effective for solving all sorts of dual self-control challenges. So, in general, a principle is, make it fun, and then temptation bundling is one tool to do that, and the obstacle is when something isn’t instantly gratifying, and because of impulsivity, therefore, you aren’t making progress on it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I love it. And that just seems like a game-changing insight distinction right there. Because of our impulsivity, don’t go guns blazing for the most effective path, but rather the most enjoyable path if what you want is consistency and persistence, like, that’s huge. Thank you.

Katy Milkman
That’s beautiful, yeah. And I only gave you one, you asked for three. I was like, “I have to breathe in here.”

Pete Mockaitis
You’re allowed to breathe. Your temptation for breathing can be bundled to more insight, Katy.

Katy Milkman
I will breathe while giving insight, okay. A second one that I like, is actually, I’ll call it the getting-started problem. And that is even though we want to do something, or motivated to do it, like finding the moment where you’re like, “Okay, and now I’m going to take action. I’m going to do something. I’m going to do something about it. This is the moment action is beginning.” It’s hard to get over that hump from visualizing it to doing it.

And I had this really interesting conversation with one of the HR leaders at Google about a decade ago when I was visiting and presenting. It’s actually as a precursor to doing the gym study I mentioned earlier on habits, I was telling them about some of my other work on nudging better decisions, helping people through use of behavioral science, make better choices at work about everything from enrolment in 401(k) plans to getting flu shots, you name it.

And this question was, “Okay, Katy, totally sold. We should be using behavioral science to encourage more productivity at work, more use of health and wellness programs, more retirement savings. But is there some optimal time to encourage that change? Is there some moment when people are particularly likely to hop on the bandwagon if we offer up tools that will help?” And I thought that was such a fascinating question and I didn’t know of any research that really addressed it so it ended up guiding my work for the next several years.

And what I immediately thought of, which came to mind, for you, too, when I posed that question was New Year’s. We all know that at the beginning of a new year there’s like this huge boost in people’s enthusiasm for starting resolutions. Forty percent of Americans set some sort of resolution. Many of them fail but they at least give it a shot which is more than we can say for many other times of the year. And I wondered, and my collaborators and I wondered, too, like, “Is there something bigger going on there? Is it just New Year’s or are there moments like that? And why New Year’s?”

And what we realized is, of course, there’s this like, it’s a social construct now, there’s norms around it, but part of it, what’s going on, is that at these moments, like New Year’s, that feel like a breaking point in life, we step back and think bigger picture, and we also feel some sort of dissociation from our past failures, because, “Oh, like, that was the old me last year, and the new me has a clean slate and I’m going to be able to do the things that were tough before and that seemed insurmountable.”

So, that sense of a clean slate and identity shift, boosted optimism, the tendency to step back, actually arises at a lot of moments in our lives that basically serve as chapter breaks in the way we structure our narrative. So, there are small ones like the start of a new week. There are big ones, celebrating a birthday, moving to a new job or a new city, becoming a parent. All of these moments turn out to make us feel like we have a clean slate and a new beginning, and people are more likely to do things like create goals on goal-setting websites, search for the term “diet” on Google, go to the gym, at these moments, and so I think that’s really interesting.

So, my team has studied specifically temporal landmarks, so moments that actually don’t involve a change in our lives but there’s also research that’s shown when you move to a new place, you move to a new job, those moments are productive times for change because, literally, you have a clean slate. You don’t have old bad habits to fall back on and you have an opportunity to build and structure new routines and not walk by the Dunkin Donuts on the way to work on this new commute.

And so, whatever it is that has been tripping you up, you have that clean slate in addition to the psychological clean slate. So, in that sense, I think the obstacle there is, “How do you find the motivation to get started?” And our research points to looking for these moments that have fresh-start resonance as jumping off points, and also nudging other people to notice them.

So, we found, for instance, if you just mark your calendar with the first day of spring on it and give you an option, like, “When might you want to start getting reminders from us to pursue a goal you’ve been meaning to get around to?” and March 20th is labeled first day of spring. Now, it triples your excitement about getting reminders to start your new goal in that day than if we gave you a calendar without labeling March 20th the first day of spring.

So, we can do, and we ran a study where we invited people, thousands of people who weren’t saving adequately for retirement, to sign up for our retirement program at their employer to start setting aside a portion of their paychecks in retirement savings. And everybody got an identical offering, you could start saving right away or you could delay a few months. But some people that delay, we labeled, and it corresponded either to a birthday or to the start of spring, and we said, “Do you want to start saving after your next birthday? Do you want to start saving at the start of spring?”

So, we’re literally making an apples-to-apples comparison because everybody is getting that same offering but some people don’t have it labeled for them as their birthday. It just says in three months. And we see a 30% increase in savings over the next eight months when we’ve invited people to start saving after those fresh start dates.

Pete Mockaitis
I was just going to ask, Katy, so not only do we have more enthusiasm to start but the proof is in the pudding. They actually do it afterwards.

Katy Milkman
Well, I do think a really important note is that, in that case, we set ourselves up for success because it’s an auto…it’s like a self-fulfilling thing.

Pete Mockaitis
You flip the switch once to do it, yeah.

Katy Milkman
Yes, and those are the best things to do at fresh-start moments because the motivation wanes and that’s why so many New Year’s resolutions fail. So, it only solves one problem, which is getting started, and the rest of my book talks about how you solve all the other problems so you stick to it and actually get somewhere with your goals. But if you can put it on autopilot, how about if that’s my third answer, but it’s not a super original and it is a super powerful one.

Anything we can put as a default so that it is just self-perpetuating, that’s a huge win because an obstacle to change is laziness, but you can turn it on its head and make it into a solution if you set defaults, like in that moment of motivation, you sign up for the retirement savings plan on January 1st, and now it’s going to just kick in. You’d have to actually lift a finger to change it and, goodness knows, you’re never going to. Or, cancel all of your subscriptions that you don’t really need, one day a year, when you’re feeling motivated after your birthday. Those are the kinds of things that can sort of be gifts that keep on giving. Or, signing up for an educational program or subscription of some sort that’s really valuable. Those also can carry you forward and sort of have like riptide-like effects.

So, if you can use that moment, when you’re feeling motivated to do something and lock in a change that will continue, that’s really valuable.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that is cool. So, let laziness work for us if you can somehow shift it such that the default of doing nothing benefits you, then that’s awesome.

Katy Milkman
Exactly, which is what happens when you sign up for a savings program once, that just keeps going. Or, when you enroll in school, I mean, you still have to show up, but you’re going. It’s hard to get out. Like, the path of least resistance is to go for the thing that you’ve put a down payment on.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s great. Well, Katy, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about a couple of your favorite things?

Katy Milkman
No, this has been so…you’ve asked such good questions. I feel like I’ve been giving you really long and detailed answers, like highlights of the book.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I love them.

Katy Milkman
So, I’m excited. Thank you for the great questions.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, maybe I’ll give one more. What should we not do? And maybe something counterintuitive, like, “Hey, I’ve heard I should do this, but maybe I shouldn’t.”

Katy Milkman
I’m not a big fan of setting like really big audacious goals, like that model, and just assuming that will carry you forward, because without actually getting into the nitty-gritty structures, like I do think people try to think about a north star huge objective and that having that could be really valuable, and I think it can be distracting, it could be overwhelming. There’s also research showing that if you make too many, set too many goals, and then plan for each of them, that’s really demotivating because you can’t do it all and you sort of throw up your hands and give up.

So, I think sort of too big and distant and dreamy and not broken down is bad, and too many objectives that you do break down and plan for is bad. Like, focusing on one thing at a time, that’s a little bit of a stretch but it’s doable and you can plan for it, and then you can use these tactics to help you is the right way forward.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, great. Thank you. Well, now could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Katy Milkman
Is it “Well done is better than well said”? Is that Ben Franklin, I believe? I like that one.

Pete Mockaitis
Sure thing. And how about a favorite book?

Katy Milkman
My favorite book is Nudge by Thaler and Sunstein, and that actually has a new edition coming out later this year which I’m really excited for. Though, I’ll also say, my second favorite book, and it’s really close, is Influence by Bob Cialdini. I know you’re a big fan too.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah.

Katy Milkman
I assign both of those books, by the way, to all of my MBA students at Wharton. I love them and read them every year, and they’re just classics and truly wonderful and have changed the way I think about the world.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite habit for you?

Katy Milkman
That’s interesting. I wouldn’t call it a habit. Can I say a favorite behavior?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure.

Katy Milkman
Because habits have this very narrow definition in academia where we’re like it’s on autopilot. Okay, so like a favorite behavior or this thing I do, which is I choose to work with people I really, really admire and enjoy spending time with so that work for me is a treat intellectually but also socially. And I feel really lucky to have the privilege of being able to choose who I collaborate with. And so, that has made my career tremendously fun, and I think it’s part of what’s helped me be productive and successful in my career as well.

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

Katy Milkman
My website which is KatyMilkman.com. It has all sorts of information about my book How to Change, about my podcast Choiceology, I have a newsletter called Milkman Delivers, which is a name that I was shying away from but my MBA insisted I had to go with, and about my research.

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

Katy Milkman
I would say one of the biggest takeaways from all of my research on behavior changes that, and we sort of started here, it’s super important to expect that there will be things that don’t work out, that if you are too rigid in your expectations of yourself, if you set up habits that are too rigid, if you set up goals that are too rigid, and let yourself be discouraged when things don’t work out according to plan, and don’t push through, you just won’t get very far.

And in change, anticipating setbacks and being prepared for them, having a backup plan, is just absolutely critical. Even in habits, we found that it was critical to be flexible and build flexible habits. So, it’s “I’ll always…” not “If only…” kind of habit. And I think that’s critical to everything. It comes up again and again in my research, how important it is to find ways to get back up after you’ve fallen down, and to be expecting that that could happen and planning for it.

So, my words of wisdom would be don’t let yourself be discouraged too easily, expect that there’s always setbacks. But on the path forward, it’s, hopefully, two steps forward and one step back, and just be prepared for that and set yourself up for success when you hit those roadblocks.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Katy, this has been a pleasure. Thank you. I wish you lots of luck with the book and all the ways you’re changing.

Katy Milkman
Thank you. So lovely to chat. Thanks for having me on the show.

664: Dr. Robert Cialdini on How to Persuade with the 7 Universal Principles of Influence

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The Godfather of Influence, Dr. Robert Cialdini, reveals best- and worst-practices for deploying the seven universal principles of influence.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The five words that doubled a student’s persuasiveness
  2. How to masterfully and disasterfully employ each of the seven principles of influence
  3. The easiest way to lose someone’s trust

About Robert

Dr. Robert Cialdini is the author of Influence and Pre-Suasion. He is the thought leader in the fields of Influence and Persuasion.  And, he is a three-time New York Times Bestselling author with over 7 million books sold in 44 languages. 

Dr. Cialdini received his PhD from University of North Carolina and post-doctoral training from Columbia University. He holds honorary doctoral degrees (Doctor Honoris Causa) from Georgetown University, University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Wroclaw, Poland and University of Basil in Switzerland. He has held Visiting Scholar appointments at Ohio State University, the University of California, the Annenberg School of Communications, and the Graduate School of Business of Stanford University. In acknowledgement of his outstanding research achievements and contributions in behavioral science, Dr. Cialdini was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences. His work and books have been featured in the New York Times, Forbes, Inc., Psychology Today Magazine, and on the PBS Newshour, Bloomberg, CNN, BBC, New York Times, MSNBC, CNBC, CBS, and many more outlets and shows. 

Dr. Cialdini is a highly popular keynoter and is often referred to as the Godfather of Influence.  For more on Robert Cialdini and his life’s work, visit: https://www.influenceatwork.com/. 

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank you, sponsors!

Dr. Robert Cialdini Interview Transcript

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

Robert Cialdini
I’m glad to be with you, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I am glad to be with you as well. This is a treat and an honor. You’ve been on my list since before this show was a show. We’re talking about your latest, new and updated edition of Influence, and you’ve updated it and expanded a lot here. But I love how you have left the first two sentences in the introduction the same. Could you speak those words now and tell us if they still ring true after studying influence for all these decades?

Robert Cialdini
Yes. There’s a story that goes with them but let me give them first. They are, “I can admit it freely now. All my life, I’ve been a patsy,” which has to do with one of the reasons I got into studying the influence process and persuasion. I was forever the unwanted owner of various things that people would sell me, I was a contributor to causes I’d never heard of, and I would say to myself, “What just happened here? There must be something other than the merits of the offer that got me to say yes. It must be the way the presenter delivered the merits of the offer, that triggered some psychological tendencies in me to say yes to things. Wouldn’t that be interesting to study, not just out of self-defense but as a general inquiry into the way we work as members of our species?”

Pete Mockaitis
Indeed. And it is fascinating stuff and we’re all indebted to you for having delved in and codified and discovered a lot of this stuff. So, maybe we’ll give first a quick note to the pre-existing Cialdini fans. What is new in this latest expanded edition?

Robert Cialdini
Well, of course, it’s been 14 years since the last edition so I’ve added 220 pages of new material, updates, as to what it is that makes people say yes to requests, to recommendations or proposals – the science has advanced. But, in addition, I’ve looked specifically at how the internet has interacted with this process, how the principles of influence have migrated over to these platforms that didn’t exists in any meaningful sense 14 years ago, to look at how the influence process works on those platforms – social media, electronic marketing, and so on. That’s a big difference and a big addition to this edition.

But, as well, I’ve added a seventh principle of influence. There used to be just six that I thought covered the waterfront but, no, I think there’s a seventh that I call unity, and it has to do with the extent to which people are willing to say yes to anyone who is a member of what they will consider a “we” group, a group in which they share an identity with the other members of that group.

So, here’s an example. A study was done on a university campus. Researchers had a young woman asking passersby for contributions to the United Way. Most of the passersby were students at that university. She was able to double, more than double her number of contributors and the amount of donations by adding one sentence before she made her request, it was, “I’m a student here, too.” And now, Pete, all the barriers to yes came down. We say yes to those individuals who are not just like us but are of us.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that is powerful. Well, so, I want to dig into, quickly, each of the six and then in some more depth, the seventh. But maybe for those who are not yet Cialdini fans, can you paint a little bit of the why for us? Like, just how much more persuasive are we when we utilize these principles? Is it a little bit of a lift or is it transformational? And could you give us maybe some of the most dramatic numbers you’ve encountered?

Robert Cialdini
It’s transformational. We just talked about one. If you could more than double, it’s two and a half times the amount of assent that you get to a request, you’re going to be a master of that moment. But that will be true in a lot of instances even though all it takes is an extra breath. All it takes is to say something that triggers a deeply seated psychological tendency in all of us. It’s that trigger that produces the power.

In the same way that if I were the person who was in charge of lighting a stadium, I don’t have to go run around on a wheel to get all that. I flip a switch. There’s no effort involved. The power is what is stored in the system of that electronic network inside that stadium. Well, that’s what you do with these simple words or phrases or sentences. You trip a switch that engages the power of a system that moves us powerfully, like the system that says, “I say yes to those people who are of us, are one of us.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, that 2.5X right in that particular example of unity is somewhat representative of all of these principles used well in action?

Robert Cialdini
It will vary from 20% all the way to 250% but you’ll get substantially more compliance than your competitors who don’t know how to trigger those psychological principles.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. That’s huge. So, I just wanted to establish that for the record. We’re not talking about studies that somehow managed to eke out statistical significance with a big sample size – it’s transformational. All right, so, covered. Now, I’d love to hear, before we get into the particulars, is there one or two discoveries about influence that you’ve made over the course of your career that just surprised you the most, like, “Holy smokes, is that how we humans really operate? Wow”?

Robert Cialdini
Yeah, I’ll give you two. One is how small the footprint is for the fundamental principles of persuasion. I spent two and a half years studying, undercover, the techniques and practices of various kinds of influence professions: sales, marketing, advertising, fundraising, recruiting, and so on. And what I’ve found was that there were only very few principles of influence that worked across the whole range of these. There were thousands of individual tactics and techniques that were used but I thought we could categorize the majority of them in terms of just these seven universal principles. So, that’s one.

We don’t have to have a long compendium of these things that we’ve memorized and checked off and so. No, there are only seven. We can handle seven. Know to include one or another of them into a message or a communication which will significantly increase the likelihood of assent. And here’s one thing I should say. The word likelihood is crucial here. These aren’t magical. There’s no such thing as a 100% all of the time that will get you success, but will get you better chances of success, will get you better probabilities of success every time. And if, as I said, you use them and your rivals and competitors don’t, you’ll win every time.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, beautiful. Okay. Well, then let’s zoom in, let’s talk about these universal principles of influence, also might be called weapons of influence, or tools of influence, or levers of influence, the big ideas here. Could you maybe give us the quick version of the original six? Hey, what is it? And maybe an example that you find intriguing of a professional using it masterfully and then maybe disastrously, like, “Whoa, that’s the wrong way to use reciprocation”?

Robert Cialdini
Okay. Good plan. Let’s begin with the principle of reciprocation which says, “People want to give back to those have given to them first.” So, if you invite me to a party, I should invite you to one of mine. If you remember my birthday with a card, I should remember yours. And if you do me a favor, Pete, I owe you a favor. And I’ll say very simply, in the context of obligation, people say yes to those they owe.

So, let’s take an example. Recently, one of my colleagues, Steve Martin, did some research at McDonald’s with a little procedure in which the manager arranged for every family that came into that McDonald’s location for the children in the family to get a balloon. Half of them got the balloon as they left as kind of a thank you, the other half got the balloon as they entered. Those who got the balloon, the kids got the balloon as they entered, the family bought 20% more food.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful, because they thought a tug of reciprocation, like, “Oh, that was nice of them. I should probably go ahead and get some extra fries.”

Robert Cialdini
Yeah. Do you have kids, Pete? Do you have kids?

Pete Mockaitis
I got two toddlers, yeah.

Robert Cialdini
You know if I do a favor for your children, I’ve done a favor for you, and that’s what happened. Now here’s the interesting thing about that study. They also got a 25% increase in coffee purchases not for the kids. The parents bought more food for themselves.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m thinking of John Mulaney, “One Black Coffee.” It’s not for kids.

Robert Cialdini
No, right. Okay, now, to your point. So, how do people sometimes use this poorly? Notice that it was the same cost of the balloon for the kids as they left. You have to go first. How many restaurants have you been in that they do this wrong? As you leave the restaurant, there’s a basket of mints on the desk for you to sample. As you leave, nobody gets any benefit inside the restaurant for that little favor that you’ve done. In fact, it probably cost you more because I see people digging their hands in and taking handfuls of mints.

Well, there was a study that showed that if you put a mint on the tray just before people pay their bill, the tip goes up 3.3%. If you put two mints on the tray per customer, the tip goes up 14.3%. All right. So, you can see the difference now. It’s the same expense but only one gives you anything in return.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s powerful. And while we’re talking about reciprocity, I said we’d go fast but I can’t resist, you suggested if you do a favor for someone and they say thank you, don’t say, “It was nothing.” But you might say something along the lines of, “I know you’d do the same for me.” Do you have any pro tips on how to deliver that line or alternatives if people feel a little funny saying it?

Robert Cialdini
Look, that’s what I would recommend for somebody who you don’t have a relationship with. So, what do you say to just put them on record that, “In the future, if I need something, you’d do the same for me”? So, one of the tips is don’t say, “If the situation had been reversed, I know you would have done the same for me.” That’s in the past. You say, “If the situation were ever reversed, I know you would do the same for me.” Now, they’re on record. All right?

Now, if there is a relationship and you’ve done something, a little special for people inside that relationship, maybe a business relationship, and they say, “Thank you so much. I really appreciated the way you got this order to me quicker, you arranged the payment plan for me to fit.” All right. And then here’s what I think you say, “Of course, it’s what long-term partners do…” and then you add the addendum, “…for one another.”

Pete Mockaitis
I’m applauding. Thank you. I’m glad I asked. So, that’s reciprocation. Let’s talk about commitment and consistency.

Robert Cialdini
Yes, so one thing, another thing that people feel very strongly is they want to be consistent with what they have already committed themselves to either in action or word, especially in public. You want to be consistent. You don’t want to be seen as a flip-flopper, somebody who says one thing, does another, and so on. So, if you can arrange for people to make a small step in your direction, or make a statement, or something that they truly believe, but make it out loud in public, they’re more likely to then continue to move in that direction.

And the great story I like in this regard comes from a study that was done in a restaurant in Chicago, where the owner was getting about 30% no shows, when people would call and book a table then 30% of them wouldn’t show up, and they wouldn’t call to cancel. So, he had his receptionist change what she said when she took a booking from, “Thank you for calling Gordon’s restaurant. Please call if you have to change or cancel your recommendation” to “Will you please call if you…?” and then pause. The pause was crucial because it allowed people to say, “Yes, sure. Of course.” In other words, they committed themselves.

No shows dropped from 30% to 10% that day and never went back up. What’s the implication for your listeners? If you’re running a meeting and you’re assigning people tasks to do before the next meeting, never let anyone out of the room without saying, “Will you be able to complete this task properly by the time of our next meeting?” If they say no, that’s good. That means you know, “Oh, we got to give them more time,” or you got to give them some resources or help. But most of them will say yes, and you’ve now significantly increased the likelihood that they will come properly prepared because they’ve made a commitment to it, a public commitment.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so one key principle there is just to do it and not forget and not assume but actually get the yes. Any ways this can be done inappropriately?

Robert Cialdini
Yeah, it’s by failing to pause and let them make a commitment to you.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Perfect. Well, now, how about social proof?

Robert Cialdini
Social proof, this is the one, the principle that says, “People want to follow the lead of multiple comparable others.” If a lot of people are raving about a new restaurant, a piece of software, or a new film, or something on Netflix, “You don’t want to miss The Queen’s Gambit,” you’re likely to follow through because they’ve beta-tested it for you. So, people are much more likely to say yes if there’s evidence that that’s the case.

There was a study done in Beijing, China that shows you the cross-cultural reach of this. Restaurant managers put a little asterisk next to certain items on the menu which increased the purchase of those items by 13-20%. What did the asterisk stand for? It wasn’t what it usually stands for, “This the specialty of the house,” or, “This is our chef’s recommendation for the evening.” That’s what we’d normally see. It’s, “This is one of our most popular items,” and each one became 13- 20% more popular for their popularity.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, that is interesting in terms of…And did they do that research kind of head-to-head, like “most people like this” asterisk versus asterisk means chef’s suggestion, and social proof wins?

Robert Cialdini
No, they didn’t do that.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, I guess we don’t know.

Robert Cialdini
We don’t know but what we know is that they had never used, “This is one of our most popular items,” there, and it produced this effect. Honestly, it was their most popular item.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly, they’re not just blowing smoke. And that makes everything easier from like a supply, management, inventory, complexity, running your business situation on the backend because it’s just way simpler.

Robert Cialdini
Yeah, just point to it. And the lovely thing about it is it makes it ethical. You’re just informing people, into assent. You’re not tricking them. You’re certainly not coercing them. It’s just educating them.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s even helpful, it’s like, I don’t know…

Robert Cialdini
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
…I’m a tourist. I might actually want to know. People might ask me, “Oh, did you get the dish?” I had no idea I should’ve gotten the thing. Okay.

Robert Cialdini
Pete, you put your finger on another factor in this study that I usually don’t talk about but it’s true. Although this technique worked for every demographic that came into the restaurants – young, old, business people, men, women, whatever it was. The one demographic that most responded to this was people who were there for the first time who were unsure. And what this does is it reduces your uncertainty. That’s what social proof does. It reduces your uncertainty of the step you should take.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly, yeah. And that really does seem where social proof shines. Have you ever had the conversation with a parent, like, “Everyone else is doing it”? and I say, “Well, if everyone else were jumping off a cliff, would you do it?” I think the real answer is, if you were on top of a cliff, you’re like, “This is kind of scary. I’m not so sure about this.” But then you see ten people jump off, have a great time, be okay.

Robert Cialdini
In the water, right.

Pete Mockaitis
And like, “I guess it’s fine.” Social proof.

Robert Cialdini
Yeah, precisely.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Let’s talk about liking.

Robert Cialdini
There wouldn’t be a single member of your audience that’s listening to us who would be surprised that we prefer to say to the people we like. That’s not a surprise. Here’s what’s surprising. There are two things you can do, very small things you can do to significantly increase the rapport that people feel with us. One is to point to genuine similarities that exist between us.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, Bob, we’ve both written books. I like you.

Robert Cialdini
We’re authors. If I just bring that to the surface, at the top, there’s a bond between us now, right? Well, there was a study done with negotiators that found that if they sent information to one another before the negotiation started about their interests and hobbies and backgrounds, where they went to school and what their family situation was, and so on, they significantly reduced the percentage of stymied negotiation where people just walked away, nobody won, both sides left with nothing.

Now, the interesting thing was it wasn’t the amount of information that was conveyed by one or another partner. It was whether there was a commonality, a parallel inside that information that was revealed, “Oh, you’re a runner? I’m a runner,” “You’re an only child? I’m an only child,” “You have twins? I have twins.” And that was the thing.

So, we now have the internet available to us where we can identify, before we ever try to do business with somebody, or negotiate with somebody, or make a request of somebody, they tell us all kinds of things about them on LinkedIn or Facebook. It’s not proprietary information. It’s not embargo. They want us to know this about them. If we go there and locate something that’s truly in common and then bring it to the surface, we get a better outcome.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. And not to get too into the weeds with distinctions, but so there’s liking, and one way that we produce liking is seeing a similarity, then that kind of feels like we’re now in unity territory, like, “Oh, hey, we’re both authors.” Do you think about that distinction in any particular way that’s helpful?

Robert Cialdini
I do. One is a similarity of preferences, or tastes, or styles, inclinations, and these kinds, proclivities. The other is a similarity of membership in a group that people define themselves with.

Pete Mockaitis
Like, who I am identity.

Robert Cialdini
Yes. So, if I were to say to my fellow group members, “Oh, Pete is like us,” I’ll get some movement in your direction from them. They’d be more inclined towards you. But if I were to say, “Pete is one of us,” everything, all barriers to influence come down now. That’s a much more powerful form of similarity. It’s “Who I am” is shared by this individual. We share a social identity. And there are various ways of doing that that don’t take a lot of time.

Everybody says Warren Buffett is the most successful financial expert, investor of our time. He did something in a recent letter to his shareholders where the question was, “What’s Berkshire Hathaway’s…” that’s his business, his company, “…future going to look like in the future? What is it going to look like?” And he said, “I would tell you what I’d say to a family member if they asked me that question.” In other words, he brought everybody inside the boundaries of his family.

I own some Berkshire Hathaway stocks, and what he said at that moment opened my ears and opened my mind to the next thing he said in ways that he wouldn’t have been able to do without that preface. He said, “I’m going to bring you inside my family, my identity, my social identity. I would do the same thing for you as I am for them.” Wow! You can do it. You can do those sorts of things.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, hey, we’re talking about unity, let’s roll with it. So, any other key things you want to share about unity? It’s about identity, that shared we-ness, we’re in the same tribe.

Robert Cialdini
Yes, we-ness, partnership. So, here is one small…again, small thing you can do that flips the script and significantly increases the likelihood that people will follow what you ask them to do. Many times, we have ideas or initiatives perhaps at work that we would like to get installed and we would like to be associated with that would bolster our reputation as somebody who comes up with ideas that worked if we run them up the hierarchy, but often we need buy-in from people around us, fellow colleagues, maybe our immediate manager and so on, that this is a good idea.

And what we typically do is to show a draft of our idea or a blueprint of it to this person whose buy-in we want and we ask for their feedback on it. And, typically, here’s the mistake that we make. We ask them for their advice, and the truth is, psychologically, when you ask for someone’s advice, you get a critique. You get someone who goes inside, who introspects and thinks about you as different, and they separate from you almost physically, take a half step back, certainly psychologically, and go inside themselves to consider the pros and cons.

Pete Mockaitis
Just with the word advice.

Robert Cialdini
I’m sorry. Did I say advice? I meant opinion.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Robert Cialdini
If you ask for their opinion, you get a critique.

Pete Mockaitis
Opinion leads to critique. All right.

Robert Cialdini
If you ask for their advice, you get a partner, you get a collaborator. And there’s research to show that if you send people, and this is an online study that was done, a business plan for a new restaurant called Splash, it was going to provide fast, healthy food, and they read the business plan. And then you ask them, “To what extent do you favor this idea?” If they were asked for their opinion on it versus their advice for it, the opinion gets significantly less favorable commentary than advice. And the researchers asked why, and here’s the kicker. It was because they felt more identity, they felt more of a shared identity with the business plan developer if the business plan developer asked for their advice, they felt a partnership with them.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s right. It’s like, “We’re members of this community. We want to make the downtown really cool. Like, yeah, let me…” And I imagine, to the extent that they would sort of write in options, there’s probably more of that, more helpful stuff written by word count.

Robert Cialdini
Yes. There’s another example of a small thing. You change one word and you get a different psychological response based on what it triggers in you. In one case, it triggers a sense of, “Well, I’m a critic here.” And the other case, for advice, “Oh, I’m a collaborator, I’m a partner with this man, or this business developer, in this project, in this idea.”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. Well, I don’t want to be a critic of other podcasters and bloggers but I guess I will. Sometimes I feel a little weird when it’s almost like as if we have the language of the unity principle. But if I’m listening to a show and a podcast and they sort of address me in the group. For example, if I were to say to my audience, “What’s up, awesome nation? We got a really cool guest, it’s Bob.”

And so, I’ve sort of just defined that this is our group. If I’m on the receiving end of that, I’m like, “Hmm, I feel a little weird. It’s like I don’t know if I am in awesome nation, and I almost feel a little bit more distanced from them having to try to grab me in.” What do you think about this?

Robert Cialdini
Well, that may be the case because you see it as manipulative. But if you’re truly looking for insight and collaboration and you want to share the idea or the membership, and people see that, that you feel that you want to be more inclusive and bring people in inside the tent, then I think they’ll let you get a pass with that.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool. Thank you. Well, all right. So, we talked about liking and then went right into unity. So, should we hit authority?

Robert Cialdini
Sure. Another way to reduce your uncertainty about what constitutes a good choice for you is to follow the lead of genuinely constituted experts, people who know what they’re talking about. And, of course, if you have that access, if there’s a testimonial that fits with the recommendation you’re making or the request that you’re making from a legitimate authority on the topic, you need to bring that to bear, especially online.

You see this all the time where people provide testimonials of one sort or another what they make. Here’s the mistakes they make though. They bury it inside the message. My view is that it should go first. It should be the first thing you see so that all that aura, that positive aura of authority now infuses the rest of the message.

Pete Mockaitis
So, that’s authority so we want to put that a little bit more front and center as opposed to buried.

Robert Cialdini
Right. Where you’ve got it, don’t forget to bring that. And people say, “Is there anything you can do to up the amperage of the authority?” Yes, multiply it. Multiply the authority. It turns out that people are more swayed by multiple authorities that you present all pointing in the same direction than anyone. Don’t stop at one.

Pete Mockaitis
Perfect.

Robert Cialdini
You’ve missed a gear. There’s another gear available to you.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. And I guess it might vary case by case but, as you noted with like the mints, there’s one mint, it gives you a little bump; two mints give you a much bigger bump. I guess you can go overboard. I’ve seen some books, I kind of like it but there’s like 20 of other authors and endorsers on it, I’m like, “Oh, that’s pretty impressive. That’s a good lineup.” But, at some point, I don’t know, it’s sort of like trying too hard. I don’t know. It comes across like that.

Robert Cialdini
What I think it is, is people don’t read it, read all 20 of them there because you’ve made it a burden for them to process all of that. But I think the fact that there are 20 is a plus.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you. And that’s true, I’ll scan them, it’s like, “Oh, okay, you got Bob Cialdini, you got Adam Grant, you must be fairly legitimate even though I’m not going to read the details of every single one of those people said about the book.” Cool. And now how about scarcity?

Robert Cialdini
Scarcity. People want more of those things they can have less of, and that’s true it turns out from a very young age in us. By the age of two, children are preferring to go in a direction of something that is scarce or rare or dwindling in availability to them; a toy, compared to a comparable toy that isn’t dwindling in availability. So, that’s true of all of us.

And the reason that that’s the case is that if things are scarce or rare or dwindling in availability, we suffer the possibility of loss, and we have loss aversion as a species. We are more motivated into action by the idea of losing something than gaining something of equal value. The Noble Prize winner Daniel Kahneman showed this in his prospect theory, and he says, “We’re twice as likely to move in a direction of something that prevents a loss than that obtains a gain for the same thing.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s good. That’s good. Well, Bob, this has been quite a rundown. Thank you. You tell me, is there anything else you really want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about a few of your favorite things?

Robert Cialdini
Well, I think we’ve highlighted it before, and that is the importance of doing this ethically, that the only way you get to continue long-term productive relationships with people is that if these principles are used to inform them into assent rather than trick them. As soon as they recognize the trickery, they’re gone to you. They’re going to ghost you. That’s it, you’re gone, so ethics is crucial.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. Well, maybe, could you share with us, what is the most frequently occurring abuse you’ve seen of these principles?

Robert Cialdini
I think it’s lying with statistics where people will claim certain kinds of growth or size of the market share and so on, and they fix the data so that it seems that way, and it’s not really that’s the case.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. It’s not the representative for the reader.

Robert Cialdini
That’s right.

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

Robert Cialdini
I’m a researcher so I’m going to use a version of this quote, but there’s an old Chinese proverb “The years say what the days can’t tell.” So, it means don’t jump on the first impression, the first piece of information, the first datapoint that you get as a way to decide. If you can collect more evidence, then your choice will be more solid. So, the research-based version of that would be multiple data points tell what a single datapoint can’t say.

Pete Mockaitis
Well done. And, speaking of datapoints, boy, this might be hard for you, is there a particular study or experiment or piece of research that you think of often, that you’re fond of and has shaped your thinking?

Robert Cialdini
Well, I’ll say there’s one that, really, I love because of what we also talked about, one small change that makes a difference. It was a study done by the Harvard psychologist in a library and in front of a library copying machine where she had a research assistant go to the front of the line and say to the first person, “Excuse me, I have eight pages. Could I butt ahead of you in line?” And under those circumstances, she was successful 60% of the time.

In another condition, she went and said to the first person in the line, “Excuse me, I have eight pages. Can I move ahead of you because I’m in a rush?” And now she got 94% compliance. So, it seemed like the reason “I’m in a rush” made the difference. But she had a third condition that showed that wasn’t the case. Third condition? “Excuse me, I have eight pages. Could I butt ahead of you in line because I have to make some copies?” Now, that’s not a real reason.

Pete Mockaitis
Right, “We all have to make copies.”

Robert Cialdini
Ninety-three percent. It was the word because. We are programmed to respond to the word because as if it leads into a genuine reason, and people automatically responded to it rather than to the genuine merits of the reason. So, what I love about that is it just shows you how much of this is psychology rather than the merits of the thing. We have to train ourselves to know as much about the psychology of what goes before the offer as we do the merits of what’s in the offer in order to protect ourselves properly.

Pete Mockaitis
Well said. Thank you. And could you name one favorite book?

Robert Cialdini
Favorite is a tough one for me but I’ll give you the one that was most formative to me, the most impactful to me. I read it at 12 years old. It was the book The Hidden Persuaders by a guy named Vance Packard who showed the hidden cues inside advertising that triggers psychological reactions in us. And it opened for me the idea that, “Wait a minute. It’s not just what’s in front of you,” even at 12 years old, “It’s not what’s being presented to you on the surface. It’s what’s underneath the surface that’s often driving our behavior.”

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

Robert Cialdini
I would say Zoom is terrific and Google Scholar where I could get the research reports of people. All I have to do is type in their names or a concept or a title of an article, and, suddenly, I don’t have to be a library unto myself in my office with all my journals and books, and so on. No, it’s right there.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good, yeah. Then I’m sure you’ve got your full text access. And, usually, I get a tease, and I’m like, “Where’s the rest?” That’s the kind of dork I am. And how about a favorite habit?

Robert Cialdini
I do an exercise workout every morning, and then I brew myself a cup of coffee that I leisurely sip and savor, sip by sip, which allows me, first of all, to celebrate and reward the fact that I just did a workout, but also it gives me the calm to plan my day.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, as you savor the sips, you have notepad in hand as you’re writing the plan? Or how does that go?

Robert Cialdini
I often don’t. I just order in my mind which things I need to prioritize once I’m finished with that cup of coffee, what’s the first thing I need to do that’s not just there but important for me to do. So, inside that time of thinking about my day, I prioritize.

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely. And you share a lot of wisdom, but is there a particular nugget you say that seems to connect and resonate, get Kindle Book-highlighted, retweeted more than others?

Robert Cialdini
Yeah, I would say, and this has to do with the influence process again, and what I will say that gets retweeted a lot is “When the science is available, why use anything else?”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, hey, talk about authority, it’s like a ladder of authority. Like, yeah, double-blind, controlled, thousands of participants stuff is excellent. Well, tell us, if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Robert Cialdini
Our website InflueceAtWork.com.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And do you have a finale challenge or call to action specifically for professionals looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Robert Cialdini
Go into every new situation thinking the best of the people who are there. That will allow you to be generous with them which will cause them to reciprocally be generous with you and to like you for it. And now you’ve got two people who like each other and are giving each other grace.

Pete Mockaitis
That is lovely. Bob, thank you. This has been a treat. It is no exaggeration to say it’s literally been a dream come true for me to have this conversation, so thank you so much. And I wish you much luck with the latest edition of Influence and all your adventures.

Robert Cialdini
Thank you. I’ve enjoyed myself with our interaction.

659: How to Get More by Saying Less in Negotiations with Fotini Iconomopoulos

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Fotini Iconomopoulos says: "No is not the end of the negotiation. It truly is the start of the negotiation."

Fotini Iconomopoulos shares the unconventional negotiation approaches to help you get what you want out of work and life.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The four magic words of negotiation
  2. The surprising power of the pause in a negotiation
  3. The script to use when you hear “no”

About Fotini

Fotini is a speaker, trainer, advisor, and author. Fotini helps people get what they want,  by channeling her energy into her passion for the power of forward thinking. Today business executives partner with her to achieve their business goals, increase profitability and create a competitive advantage. She empowers their teams through her expertise in negotiation, communication and persuasion. 

To share her strengths with more business leaders, Fotini occasionally returns to the classroom as an instructor of MBA Negotiations at the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto. For the last 5 years, she’s been invited to share her messages with audiences from all industries in keynote addresses across the globe. Fotini’s first book from Harper Collins is Say Less, Get More: Unconventional Negotiation Techniques to Get What You Want.

 

Resources mentioned in the show:

 

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Fotini Iconomopoulos Interview Transcript

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

Fotini Iconomopoulos
Thank you for having me. I’m excited to have this conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, me, too. And I’m excited to hear a little bit about your time on Canadian Idol.

Fotini Iconomopoulos
You had to start there, huh?

Pete Mockaitis
Sure.

Fotini Iconomopoulos
That came up because I was dating somebody who has kind of dared me to do it. His family was really big on karaoke at Thanksgiving and stuff like that, and he’s like, “Oh, you have to do this.” I’m like, “Oh, what for? It’s just going to be ridiculous.” And I said, “If you wake up at 4:00 in the morning to drive down,” because I didn’t live in Toronto at the time, “…to drive down to Toronto, then I will happily go do it.” And I didn’t think it would ever happen because he woke up at 2:00 in the afternoon usually, so. We were students.

And when he did it, I was like, “Damn, I guess I have to follow through with it.” So, it was a very interesting day. We went from 9,000 people wrapped around what was, at the time, called the SkyDome where the Blue Jays played their home games, and the second day we were 900 people. And I can tell you that all of those folks who you see on television you go, “No, they don’t really think they’re good. They’re doing this just to get on television.” I can assure you they really think they’re great.

And so, there’s a lot of people in that 900 who were chosen because it made good television and there was a lot of really talented people who never made the finals. So, ever since then, I just can’t watch reality television.

Pete Mockaitis
Because you just sort of feel the cringe and emotional connection to those who are being embarrassed or is that the driver there?

Fotini Iconomopoulos
Yeah, it’s like you can see how they’re curating it for television, and I’m like, “Oh, that’s not reflective of like…” The people who won were fine but the people I’ve met in the lineups and who I made friends with there, they were amazing, and I was like, “How are you not making it through?” and they didn’t have that ugly-duckling kind of story that the television producers were looking for. So, ever since then I think reality TV just isn’t for me.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that is disillusioning. So, you’re not actually seeing the greatest singers there are. You’re seeing good singers who have a compelling story.

Fotini Iconomopoulos
Yeah, I think the Kelly Clarkson’s, because American Idol happened way before Canadian Idol did, I think that was likely compelling, a very talented person without needing to scrub the story. But what we saw in Canada wasn’t really reflective of what our talent pool is like.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, thank you for peeling back the curtain there. I auditioned for The Real World once but it was not much of an audition. I just waited in line for a really long time and sat in the room, and then introduced myself. That was it. It didn’t come to pass. Probably for the best, I think.

Fotini Iconomopoulos
I was actually on The Real World once, kind of accidentally.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, no kidding?

Fotini Iconomopoulos
Yeah, I was in Cancun on vacation and we met a bunch of people out and about, and they’re like, “Come back to the hotel with us.” Like, “What? Are you crazy? I’m not coming back to a hotel with a bunch of strangers.” They said, “Look around you. We have a zillion and one camera people. Nothing can happen to you.” And I was like, “That’s kind of fair.” It was actually quite boring because I was like, “I’m not going to do anything stupid that’s going to appear on television. I’m out.” So, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, it sounds like you said less and you got more when it comes to your life results.

Fotini Iconomopoulos
Absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
The poor segues is not my favorite part of the show, I think. And so, that’s the name of your book Say Less, Get More: Unconventional Negotiation Techniques to Get What You Want, and that’s pretty cool. And I think negotiation is one of those topics which sounds just kind of sexy and fun. We got Chris Voss, an FBI hostage negotiator, on the show some time ago. And so, I think some of those skills just can make you feel like a cool Jedi with powers if you know these negotiation moves. But I’d love to hear the practical considerations for your everyday professional who maybe doesn’t make deals on a regular basis, they’re not in sales or an agent. What is the case for why most professionals could benefit from sharpening their negotiation skills?

Fotini Iconomopoulos
I think most people don’t realize that they are, in fact, negotiating a lot of the time because what we hear on TV and pop culture, it’s all about people asking all the time, “Ooh, your life must be like the show ‘Suits,” right?” And I’m like, “Actually, it’s quite boring. If it gets to that point, it means they’re in deep trouble and they should’ve called me a long time before that.”

So, it’s not about the slickest salesperson who does the negotiating, we’re actually negotiating constantly. Every conversation you are having where you’re trying to get somebody on board with your idea, so, in essence, leadership is a negotiation. Every time you are dealing with a toddler who’s having a temper tantrum, you are, in fact, having a negotiation.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, what’s up with that?

Fotini Iconomopoulos
And it happens with our peers. It’s not always about money exchanging hands. It’s often qualitative things that we’re talking about as well. So, I think people don’t recognize that they are, in fact, negotiating more than they think they are, but there’s also opportunities to improve your life and reduce your stress if you can spot them.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, tell us about spotting those opportunities. Like, what might be an opportunity that just passes us by and didn’t even occur to us, like, “Oh, maybe I should speak up or speak less, I don’t know, and negotiate that”?

Fotini Iconomopoulos
Well, I would say, pre-COVID, one of the big questions I was often getting was, “How to negotiate more flexibility?” People are so stressed out and burnt out at work, so time is our most important component of negotiation, it seems, these days. And so, when it comes to that time factor, it’s, “How do I get some of my time back? How do I create some boundaries? If my colleague or manager at work is constantly asking me for additional things, ‘Can you do this extra thing for me? Can you work late on this?’ how do I spot the opportunity to go, ‘You know what, I can say no and I’d actually get both of us quite happy about it because I can do it in a way that’s going to be cooperative and come up with an alternative solution for us”?
So, those are the most obvious ones to me that are most often overlooked for most people. And, especially, those folks who find themselves constantly burnt out and going, “Why am I getting all this stuff piled on me?” Well, it’s because you need to have a more appropriate conversation to manage the flow of work and to help people understand how to create that empathy and make sure that they are thinking about some of those things that perhaps you haven’t raised and vice versa.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Fotini, please tell us this magic in which we can say no and the other person will be pleased. Can you maybe give us a demo of how it can unfold in practice?

Fotini Iconomopoulos
Well, there’s a couple things that come to mind. One is what I call the four magic words of negotiation. And it is very simple, and it is, “If you, then I.” And by using those four magic words, you are introducing conditional training. So, when someone says, “Hey, can you help me with this project?” you could go, “Absolutely. If you can help me with this other project or if you can take something else off my desk, then I’d be happy to help you with your current project.”

Or, “If you can give me flex days next week then I’d be happy to stay late today.” But it seems like it’s a gift, it’s a more collaborative conversation when you finish with the “then I” piece, I think, that you’re going to get out of it. But if you start with the “If you…” the thing that I need to get out of this, this is where I tell people you can be a little bit selfish because you want to take something first and then you want to finish with the gift, and it sounds like a gift.

But if you do the reverse of it, if you go, “Yeah, I’ll do that but only if you do this thing for me,” now it feels like a punishment even though it’s the same proposal. So, those four magic words are going to be really important in terms of helping people move forward and create some trades whether it’s trades for time or trade for effort or reduce stress levels and so on.

And then the other thing that comes up frequently is this comes straight out of the Persuasion textbooks.

Pete Mockaitis
We got Bob Cialdini coming up on the show. Woohoo!

Fotini Iconomopoulos
He’s one of my favorite people in the whole wide world and I cite him in my book and I talk about so many of his lectures all the time. And I guess this is a bit of a spoiler in case he does come on, but one of the things that comes up frequently when I’m speaking, in women’s groups especially, is people are wondering, they’re like, “Why am I always getting all of this extra work piled on me?” And I ask them, “How are you responding when people thank you in that moment? When you’ve done something nice for someone and they say, ‘Thank you,’ what’s your natural response?”

So many people say their response is, “No problem.” Well, if you’ve just told me, “It’s no problem,” then it’s not going to be a problem for me to come back and dip into the well all over again. But if you were to pause for a moment and think about all this whole say less, get more concept, take a second to think about it, you have a moment of power where you could say, “I’m sure you’d do the same for me.” And, now, suddenly, one of two things are going to happen.

They’re going to go, “Yeah, I would do the same thing for that person,” and then we log this into my subconscious brain and, when the opportunity comes up, I will do something for that person. Or, they’re going to go, “Oh, no, I wouldn’t do that thing for her. I’m definitely not going to go back to this person because I don’t want to feel guilty about it.” So, you’re preventing them from burning you out and continuously dipping into this well.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Fotini, I want to talk about that specific phrase actually because I’ve said it before and I felt a little weird when I did. It’s almost like I feel like I’m saying and they know I’m saying, “Yeah, well, you owe me, buster.” And so, I don’t know if that’s how it comes across, and maybe it does and maybe it doesn’t. But are there any alternative ways you like to express that? Sometimes I say, “Hey, of course, we’re all on the same team,” which is a little bit, it’s not as direct in either way in terms of me feeling weird or the reciprocity power I’m trying to extract from it. But how else could we say that phrase?

Fotini Iconomopoulos
Yeah, there’s definitely other ways to say it. And one of the things that you tapped into is it’s got to be authentic no matter what is coming out of your mouth. If I’m giving you advice, or the FBI guy is giving you advice, or Mr. Cialdini is giving you advice, whomever is going to be telling you these things, if it doesn’t feel authentic, it’s not going to work because you’re going to stumble all over your words and it’s going to just come out like verbal diarrhea, so it’s got to be authentic for you, but the principle is the key.

So, what you did there is you didn’t do the “No problem” and threw away your power or gave them power. You neutralized it. And so, the issue I have, more than anything, is the “No problem” moment. So, what you said works perfectly, and other things are. When people thank me at the end of a session when I’m doing a keynote or Q&A or something like that, one of the things I like to tell them is, “I appreciate that.” It’s not a “No problem.” I made the effort to show up here today but I appreciate that. It’s neutralizing it as opposed to just throwing it away.

Pete Mockaitis
And I like that because I think I even said to my wife a few times, “Thank you for thanking me,” and that just feels a little cheesy and almost like…but “I appreciate that” sometimes the specific words make all the difference, and I love that because you are acknowledging that you appreciate the thanks, which some people just don’t give. That’s a free tip, thank people. And it’s true. So, I do, I do really appreciate it. Words of affirmation, I like them, one of my love languages. So, game on. I appreciate that. That’s good.

So, boy, we’re already getting so much good stuff here. So, sometimes though it’s not about saying a particular phrase. The title of the book is Say Less, Get More. What do you mean by say less?

Fotini Iconomopoulos
So, it’s two-fold. One is you really actually have to stop talking because people will think and talk at the same time and talk themselves out of a deal. I see this happening all the time whether you’re a junior account manager or you’re a C-suite executive, people will constantly be talking, assuming again, that we’ve absorbed this messages that the one who speaks the fastest, and the one who’s the quick-witted one is going to get the best deal. That’s usually not true.

And so, I tell introverts, “You can rejoice. This is your moment. This is your opportunity to actually pause.” And the reason I say “Say less” so much is I talk about our mental pause button, and I ask people to channel that mental pause button. Because when we’re faced with stress, and negotiation is one of those moments that most people find very stressful, we have this primitive way of handling things where our cave person, our ancestors, we have the same brain as they did. When they were faced with a saber-toothed tiger, all rational thought would leave their brains and that’s what allowed them to run like hell, that super human strength to run from their threat.

Today, we don’t have physical threats. We have psychological threats. So, whether it’s a threat to our ego, or a threat to our security and so on, our brains still respond the same way. And that’s what has those moments that make you go, “Oh, God, why did I do that?” and your palms were sweaty, and your heart was beating faster, and your breath was more shallow, and all of that rational energy left your brain.

But instead of having those moments of “Why did I do that?” instead, you could just pause and give yourself a moment for maybe it’s a meditative breath, maybe it’s a positive mantra, maybe it’s a visualization of some kind, just that chance for your brain to catch up to what it needs to do. And so, you will be far more capable. You can actually change your brain in that moment by reframing things.

There was a really interesting study that was done. Back in 2013, Harvard did a study where they had participants sing in front of a group which, for most people, can create a lot of fear. I don’t get it. If you put me in a karaoke bar, I’m then good to go. But they made them sing Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” but before they did, they put them in three separate groups. And they told the first group, “Tell yourself that you are anxious,” and they told the second group, “Describe yourself as excited,” and then they told the last group to say nothing at all.

And what they found was when there was a computer that measured their volume and pitch, the group that described themselves as excited outperformed the other two groups. And they not only outperformed them when they were singing, they also outperformed them on a math test and a speech test. They were perceived as more persuasive, more confident, and more persistent.

So, what that tells us is when you can take yourself out of a fear mindset and into an opportunity mindset, you can change your cognitive abilities. You can actually change your brain. So, if you’re going in for that negotiation or that stressful moment or that toddler who was having a temper tantrum, if you can just press your mental pause button and go, “I can handle this,” or, “I’m excited about this,” “I’m excited for the resolution,” “I’m excited to show them what I’m made up,” “I’m excited to finally put all of this preparation to good use,” you can actually change your brain in that moment and get better results. So, that’s one element of saying less.

The other element of saying less is actually using fewer words or being more measured in your words because you don’t want to be doing that whole talking yourself out of the deal thing.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And so, well, one, that’s a fascinating study. Do you remember who did it or where it was published because we totally got to link to it?

Fotini Iconomopoulos
I know I cited it in the book. It was 2013, it was Harvard, that’s what I recall off the top of my head.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. Okay. So, then when are taking that pause, that breath, that mantra moment, that reinterpretation “I’m excited,” I think I’m a little reluctant sometimes to do that because I assume the other person on the other end that I’m talking to expects words to come from me pretty shortly after they stop saying words. So, do you have any go-to, like pause phrases, scripts, like moment-takers, like, “That’s a really interesting point. I’d like to think about that for a moment”? Or, I don’t know, like what do you say?

Fotini Iconomopoulos
That’s one of them. You can call it a crutch if you want to, you can call it a tool, whatever you need. One of the biggest things though is you need to own that moment. And so, you could do it in the form of your body language if you’re face to face or you’re doing something virtually on the camera. Of course, you can have a look of pensive, deep thought on your face, and they’ll go, “All right, she’s contemplating it. I’m going to give her a second to do this.” You can frame it and say, “I need a moment to think that through,” or, “I need a moment to make sure that I’m providing an option that’s going to work for the both of us.”

And so, by owning it, and saying, “I need a moment,” versus asking for permission, it’s not about saying, “Can I have a moment?” because I don’t think you need to ask somebody for that time. But saying, “I need a moment,” or, “I’m going to take a moment to make sure that I think this through. I want to give you a thoughtful answer to this.”

And then if you say something to the effect of collaboration, of course, they’ll think, “Oh, wow, she’s considering my needs and she’s taking the time to think about this. She’s not just coming with something off the cuff. Well, now, I feel like she’s somebody that I can trust.” So, it’s thinking through, framing it up to go, “I am owning this time,” as opposed to, “Oh, no, I don’t know what to say.”

So, you also want to make sure that your body language is consistent with that. You don’t want to look like the deer-in-the-headlights when you’re taking that moment of pause. You want to look like it is intentional and you own it, and they’re the ones who are going to be hanging on your every word when you can do that because there’s a very different message that you’re sending with one set of body language versus the other.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I like it. And there’s so many ways you can convey that and just see what works for you. And part of me is just thinking, just like a noise, like, “Hmm,” like that kind of means I’m thinking, and I didn’t have to use any syllables at all, “Hmm,” and then stroking your chin or whatever. There are so many ways that even looks like I’m thinking and that’s great.

And I’ve actually appreciated it on the receiving end. When I say something and someone else just pauses to think for a while, I like it. I kind of feel valued, it’s like, “You’re actually chewing on that as opposed to just feeling the need to fill the space.” And it does make me more curious, like it’s a bit of suspense, like, “Well, what’s he going to say? It sounds like it might be pretty good because he’s cooking it up for a little while here.” So, that’s fun.

Fotini Iconomopoulos
That’s the beauty of psychology, right? So, that you’re creating what is hard to obtain. People value things that are hard to obtain. So, even if you know the answer in the back of your mind, and you can say it quickly, taking your time and showing that little bit of reluctance means that you’re in charge of the schedule here. And I think that can also speak volumes.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, let’s talk about taking charge. And I think when it comes to negotiations, I think sometimes there can be a tension in that you really do, let’s just say everyone is coming at it and from a good place, they have good faith, they want to work something out and find a win-win.

And so then, I wonder, sometimes when it comes to disclosing information, on the one hand you could say, “Hey, information, knowledge is power and the more you have an advantage in that department, relative to your other person, you have strength and the advantage.” And then the other side of it though is like disclosing is sometimes absolutely just necessary, like, “What are we even talking about here? We gotta get on the same page to like move forward.”

So there’s that tension, if this makes any sense, in terms of if you have information and disclosing it would be a helpful collaborative thing that you’d like to do, but it’s also something that is in and of itself can shift a bit of the power dynamic, how do you think about these things?

Fotini Iconomopoulos
Yeah, so there’s two things to think about. One is, “What type of negotiation is it?” And so, I talk about negotiation as a spectrum, so I came up with a model to help my MBA students and my clients think it through. So, there’s kind of like a spectrum of light. If you can imagine that there’s a more competitive side of the spectrum, that is when you are talking one dimensional, it’s really just about price and nothing and else. Those are the toughest, coldest, there’s no relationship, there’s no real trust to speak of.

So, if you can imagine you’re on a beach in Mexico, buying a souvenir, or in Thailand buying a pair of elephant pants, it’s a done-and-done really quick negotiation. And when you’re talking about those types of negotiations, again, say less, get more comes in here because you don’t want to give away any information, you don’t trust this person, and anything you do say will likely be used against you. So, you’re never going to go in there and say, “Yeah, I’m trying to propose to give you $10 for this item but, really, I have $50 in my pocket. Feel free to take advantage of me.” That’s just not what we do.

Pete Mockaitis
Sure thing. “This is my daughter’s favorite stuffed animal in the world and in her favorite color. She’s absolutely going to love it. Hey, how much?”

Fotini Iconomopoulos
Yeah, “She’s going to have a temper tantrum if I don’t get it. What are you going to charge me?” So, those are the scenarios where you’re not going to share very much information. And as you move along the spectrum, you build more trust, the consequences to the relationship are greater. It is a more complex and creative negotiation so it’s not just about cash.

So, if you think of in the middle of a spectrum, I would call like a job offer negotiation would fall in there, where, yeah, salary is still going to be likely the most important thing, but there’s other things in the mix that we’re going to throw in there, and maybe it’s bonuses, and maybe it’s a car, or maybe it’s flexibility and other things that I can attach a tangible value to. And if you don’t share with them what would be important to you, well, then it’s going to be very difficult for them to come up with a solution that’s going to be tasteful to you.

Pete Mockaitis
“If I don’t know what you want, how can I give it to you?”

Fotini Iconomopoulos
Exactly. And then, of course, when you have the closest of collaborative negotiations, those are the ones where there’s a merger perhaps happening, or you’re talking about the negotiations at home with your spouse or your child or somebody with whom you have the greatest amount of trust, you’re going to be a lot more transparent there.

So, it depends on where you are in the spectrum and the amount that you’re going to share with them but you also still have to pause and say less in those moments, to go, “What information is going to be helpful to moving forward and what information is going to be harmful that they can use against me?”

So, even in that job offer thing, there’s a balance. And so, with most of my clients, when I’m working through high-stakes negotiations with a lot of these corporate folks who hire me, we actually come up with a list of, “What information are we going to share now to build a little bit of trust? What information are we going to hold back until later to make sure that, well, I need to know that I can trust them and they’re not going to take advantage of me? And what information is completely off limits altogether? Never going to tell them what the secret family recipe is, or raw material costs and that kind of thing.” And we’re very clear on those things before we go into any type of negotiation.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s good. The raw material cost, well said. Well, so then let’s hear are there any particularly unique, novel, unconventional approaches or recommendations that you put forward that we should know about while we’ve got you here?

Fotini Iconomopoulos
I would say one of the easiest ones is that there’s too often this assumption that negotiation has to be this tough and nasty, banging-my-fist-on-the-table kind of conversation, and that is rarely the type of approach that is going to get you the best results. I’d say the one that gets you the most results is going in and asking questions in a curious mindset. If you can go in there and be curious about somebody instead of defensive or instead of tough and arrogant and so on, that is likely going to get you much further.

And I would say when you can make them be curious about you, then they’re going to want to find a way to deal with you. And I will tell you from personal experience that when I used to work for a consulting firm, and I worked for large corporations before that, and when I left and I quit my job and I went into self-employment, it was actually unintentional. I just quit my job because I knew I needed a change of some kind in my life.

And when I quit, I had all of these clients who called me up and said, “Fotini, when are you going to come back and work with us?” And I’d say, “I don’t work for that company anymore.” They said, “We didn’t hire the company. We hired Fotini. We liked dealing with you. We want to deal with you.” And the reason they were doing that is not because I was giving them these massive discounts, and not because I was puffing up my chest and being demanding, like, “You must do things my way.” It was because I was taking the time to get to know them a little bit. I was curious about them and I was understanding a lot more and acknowledging some of the challenges that they were facing.

They were learning a little something about me as well and they got to know the person behind the negotiation title, if you will, and that made them want to deal with me. So, my entire business exists today because I thought of the person and not the Excel spreadsheet. We don’t conduct negotiations on spreadsheets. We are dealing with humans, and humans are crazy and psycho at many times so we need to think of the psychology more than anything.

Pete Mockaitis
Humans are crazy and psycho. That’d have to be our pulled quote for the interview.

Fotini Iconomopoulos
I’ve been known to say people are psycho in my MBA classes, and my students loved that one. I don’t live that down.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, could you bring this to life for us with a story in terms of, “Okay, we’re putting into play some of these principles and we saw a cool outcome”? Like, “Oh, it was more than about just price. There was some emotional elements. Saying less was helpful.” Can you tie it together with a bit of a finale story? No pressure, Fotini.

Fotini Iconomopoulos
So, for example, a couple of years ago, I renovated a house and it was one of the most awful experiences of my life. I don’t recommend going through, living through renovations and leaving your house.

But there was a lot of negotiations that had to be done in that moment. And I was pulling out carpets and I needed to match the exact same hardwood in the rest of the house to the bedrooms that I was removing the carpets from, and it’s hard to get a perfect match when you’re doing this type of stuff and you’re trying to avoid having to redo the entire house.

[27:05]

So, I go in, there are two retailers in the entire Toronto area that had this very specific brand of hardwood floors and this very specific color that I needed to match. And when I went to the first one, I said, “Here are the specs? How much do you think it’s going to cost me?” And the guy went, “Hmm, it’ll be about 1500 bucks.” I said, “Okay. Thank you very much.”

I went to the other one, and I said, “Here are the specs. How much do you think it’s going to cost me?” And he spent some time and he’s looking at his calculator and he’s punching things in, he said, “It’ll be 1725.”

Pete Mockaitis
$17.25?

Fotini Iconomopoulos
I wish. So, $1,725.00. Which one sounded more credible? The reality is that unround number and that time that he took to make sure that he was thinking through that analysis, if in fact he was, sounds far more credible to most of us versus that cheaper one that goes, “It’ll be about 1500 bucks.” When he came up with that answer really quickly, I went up, “Huh, that doesn’t sound accurate. I bet you I’m going to have some surprise fees and things like that in the mix.”

So, by using things like, these are tactics, like unround numbers, and by using that hesitation, that saying less, and taking your time to build up that anticipation, you can change the credibility factor. If I was looking at it just on a spreadsheet, I probably would’ve made a very different decision. But when I’m looking at it from a holistic, “Okay, this one sounds more credible than this one. The rounded number sounds like it has more risks attached to it. It’s probably going to cost me a lot more. Will it be the same quality that I wanted, and so on?”

We can provoke people and make them think and change their perceptions in many different ways. So, it’s all about considering all of the entire holistic picture rather than just that cell on an Excel spreadsheet.

Pete Mockaitis
And I also want to add, when you talked about renovations, that reminded of the time that I was getting a new garage door put into the garage. And so, I don’t know what the heck that’s supposed to cost but I got a number from my contractor who’s working with a garage door person, and I said, “Well, I mean, I don’t know anything about garage doors, but that number is higher than what HomeAdvisor.com says it should cost, so I’m going to call somebody else.” They said, “Wait, wait, wait, let me go back.”

And so, this happened like three times, I was like, “Well, I really appreciate that you’ve reduced the price and we’re getting closer, but again that’s higher than the HomeAdvisor range, so, yeah, just to check, I’m going to check some others.” They’re like, “Well, let me get back…” It was comical to me in terms of like because I had no idea, had I not spent like two minutes pulling up that page on HomeAdvisor.com, I’d probably say, “Okay.”

But because I did, I was able to save a few hundred bucks. And I think that’s just wild how, in my experience, I’d love to get your hot take on this, it rarely boils down to a genius psychological maneuver or charismatic Jedi mind persuasion trick for me and more so boils down to, “Hey, I’ve done my research and this is sort of like the alternatives and I’m just going to do that if you can’t work with that,” and then that’s that.

Fotini Iconomopoulos
You’re demonstrating your credibility by saying just very few words, you’re going, “Oh, well, when I checked such and such website…” and they’re like, “Oh, crap. Now he knows the jig is up. Now I have to make sure that I appease this person,” and all you said was very few words. You mentioned one website and, all of a sudden, the whole thing changes.

I actually have a really funny story that, again, when I moved into house living, I lived in a condo for many years, and, in fact, I hate house living and I moved back into a condo last year. But when I moved into this house, I forgot how much I hated shoveling snow, and I live in Toronto where we have a ton of snow, and you have to have your sidewalk shoveled within 12 hours of snowfall or you get ticketed by the city, and so I was like, “Screw this. I’m going to find somebody else to do this for me.” And so, I’m very good at outsourcing, and I did some research, and I asked around, and people said, “To get the driveway the size of yours done for the entire winter, you should spend no more than $400 for the next four months.” I was like, “Great.”

So, I put a post up in a local Facebook group with the specs so everybody knew how small the driveway was and that’s when things got really interesting. And one gentleman replied and said, this is all over text, this is Facebook Messenger, and he said, “I would take care of your property for $800 for the season,” and I was pissed. I was so angry, I was like, “You think I’m a woman and you’re going to be able to take advantage of me and treat me like a statistic and get all aggressive? I don’t think so.”

But I pressed my mental pause button and, instead of saying all those things, I said, “Wow, that’s a lot more expensive than other quotes. Thanks for reaching out but that’s too much for me.” And then he came back, and he said, “So, how much are you looking at spending?” And I said, “Well, I’ve got students in the neighborhood willing to do it for $200. I’d be willing to pay for someone more reliable but you’re just way too far outside my price range.” And that was true, I had a neighbor kid who was willing to do it for 200 bucks.

And he said, “So, what do you want to spend? I live at Woodbine and Gerard. The lowest I can do for you is 500.” And that was all in one text box. So, he asked me a question, and before I could even see that question, he answered that question, which means he’s now negotiating against himself. And he gave me his location that if I needed to, I could use to my advantage to go, “Great, then you can work into the very beginning or the very end of your route. No problem.”

And then he said, “The lowest I can do for you is 500,” and it’s almost like cue the dramatic music, it’s “Dun, dun, dah,” because I know the highest I would spend is 400, and if the lowest he would go is 500, that means that we can’t get to a deal. So, I said, “Thanks but that’s still way too much. I’ll have to settle for one of the kids.” And then I put my phone away because this happened first thing in the morning, and I was running a workshop that day with a client, and I never look at my phone when I’m with clients.

And so, what I found was, later on that day, when I checked my phone, the negotiation wasn’t, in fact, over. And many hours later, I saw a message that was waiting for me and it said, “400.” And then, because I hadn’t seen that message, at 5:18 p.m. that day, there was one more message waiting for me, “300.” And that is the beauty, that is the power of saying less and getting more. The less I was saying, the more I was getting rewarded, right?

And so, that’s just that little extra hesitation that you can put in there, and I didn’t have to yell at him or shout the obscenities that were running through my mind earlier. It was diplomatic, it was polite, and it was still fruitful. It didn’t have to be that banging-fist-on-the-table stuff in order to get the best possible deal.

I will tell you, however, I didn’t go with that guy. I just didn’t trust him and I ended up negotiating with someone else to get my driveway and my neighbor’s driveway done for 240 bucks each for the season. Yeah, so she was pretty psyched to have a professional negotiator living next door.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yes, congratulations. And that is a lovely story in terms of tying those things together nicely. And it all started because you had some idea, okay, 400. Like, had you not inquired, even like, “Huh, 800.” If I had to, you’d probably part with 800 bucks to have the snow handled but you didn’t have to. And the reason you knew you didn’t have to is because you’ve got that upfront info and then you just let some silence bring it on down.

Fotini Iconomopoulos
Yeah. I mean, that’s one of my favorites just to show you the value of saying less, and the power of just taking your time for things whether it was intentional or not. That is what people need to learn is that you can talk yourself out of a deal or you can say less and you can get a lot more out of it.

Pete Mockaitis
And do you have any other recommended scripts, or phrases, or key gems of things you find yourself saying often in negotiations?

Fotini Iconomopoulos
Well, I have kind of an automatic reflexive response to the word “No” or the words “I can’t.” And so, my automatic response is, “How could you?” “Under what circumstances?” “If I could wave a magic wand and make everything happen, what would it take in order to make that happen for you?” So, for me, no is not the end of the negotiation. It truly is the start of the negotiation.

And I think that’s something that I learned when I was negotiating with my dad as a kid because, quite frankly, I grew up with the strictest of dads and that was just the only way to get out of the house, “Well, what would it take? Does it mean my sister has to come? Does it mean so and so has to be there? Does it mean my big cousin is going to pick me up? Any of those things. What other scenarios can we come up with?” But by asking really great questions like that and having them in the back of your mind, kind of like as my mental rolodex of, “What could we do to make that happen? How close can we get to my proposal?” Those are all some of the things that are my response to a “No” or “I can’t.”

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

Fotini Iconomopoulos
I think the one that sticks out to me most when it comes to negotiations, specifically, is the kind of infamous JFK one, “Let us not negotiate out of fear.” It’s about “Not negotiating out of fear but let us not fear to negotiate.” Because if you negotiate out of fear, it’s a Harvard study that I mentioned to you earlier, you’re not going to get great results. And if you avoid negotiating altogether, you’re going to get even less results. So, what can we do to psyche ourselves up instead of psyching ourselves out?

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

Fotini Iconomopoulos
One of my favorites is probably a lot of the stuff that Cialdini talks about. He is definitely one of my favorites. He talks about a study on MBA students and likability of negotiation where they put them into two separate groups, and they told one of the groups, “Start negotiating right away,” and they told the other group to, “Spend a few minutes getting to know each other.”

And the group that started negotiating right away, 55% of them managed to close a deal, and that’s not too shabby. But the group who started negotiating after they got to know each other for a few minutes, 90% of them managed to close deals. And I know most people will go, “Oh, sure, you get to know each other, you like each other, you give them a better deal, and that’s how you close it,” but that’s not true.

What ended up happening is not only that 90% of them closed deals, they also closed better deals. They closed deals that were 12% greater in value, which is pretty remarkable when you think about just spending a few minutes before the negotiation even starts, getting to know the other person, being curious about them, sharing something in common with them. Those are the things that are going to help you move further ahead versus that being very aggressive and trying to be super demanding. It’s likability before the negotiation starts that’s going to get you much further ahead than getting straight down to business right away.

And in our temptation to do things over email and try to be efficient, we kind of skip over that stuff in a virtual world now. And so, we have an opportunity to use that study to our advantage and go, “What can I do to just warm things up a little bit at the beginning of the email or the beginning of our conversation and so on just to get to know this person a little bit more?” That, for me, is the sweet spot of being able to maximize negotiations. And so, Cialdini is one my favorites to lean on over and over again.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And how about a favorite book?

Fotini Iconomopoulos
Surprisingly, right now, I’m reading one called Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey, and I never expected to enjoy it as much as I did. So, that’s been my most surprising book this year.

One of my favorites though that I feel that I recommend a lot to my audiences is Presence by Dr. Amy Cuddy, which I think is a phenomenal one for loads of great tips to build your confidence and show up and be really credible.

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

Fotini Iconomopoulos
I use my mental pause button. Really, that’s it. It’s taking my time to take that meditative breath and think through what I need to say next.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Fotini Iconomopoulos
My favorite habit is reading. Absolutely, 100% it is reading. I read audiobooks now to get even more books when I’m going out for a walk, for sure.

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

Fotini Iconomopoulos
It really is the pause button that people seem to resonate with most, and that’s where the whole “Say less, get more” mantra came from. So, when I talk to my MBA students, or my audiences in keynotes, or even my corporate folks, when I’m seeing people live, I actually give them a little card that has a pause button on it. And so, some of my students even tell me, they’re like, “I have your card on my bathroom mirror,” and, “I have it on my night table,” and, “I have it on my bulletin board.” I’m like, “Why is it on your night table?” They’re like, “It prevents me from getting into arguments with my spouse.” So, that one, I think, is the favorite from everybody in my audiences.

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

Fotini Iconomopoulos
They can go to my website FotiniIcon.com or they can find me on Instagram where I’m sharing loads of stuff all the time @fotiniicon there, and LinkedIn is also one of my favorite social media sites where I share loads of information.

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

Fotini Iconomopoulos
I do. So, I always leave my keynotes and I give my audience as a challenge to put saying less and getting more into practice right away, and there are two very easy ways to do that. The first is ask yourself, “What kind of a question can I ask to learn a little bit more about this person and get more out of this conversation?” And the other is, “Is there a moment where I can be quiet and say less and maybe let my body language do the talking to get more out of a situation?”

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Fotini, this has been a pleasure. Thank you. And I wish you all the best and much luck in all the ways you say less and get more.

Fotini Iconomopoulos
Thank you very much. I hope it comes in handy for you with your kids as well.