Is the Horse Thirsty? The Truth About Influence
I am sure you have all heard the saying that “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” That may be true, but if you can, “convince the horse that it is thirsty,” there will be no need to lead the horse to water or make it drink. The greatest challenge in influencing people is convincing them that they have a need even when they think they don’t. This need can fall into several categories: a product, a service, an idea, a personal challenge, etc. This may seem like manipulation to many, but I prefer to call it positive influence. Besides, manipulation is not necessarily negative. What is fundamentally important here is the INTENT behind the action!!
As a young boy, one of my aunts used to say to me, “Don’t swallow seeds, a tree will grow in your stomach!” Untrue? Yes. Manipulation? Yes. Positive influence? Absolutely!! It made me cautious about tiny seeds and certainly may have protected me at the time. After all, they were only trying to look out for me by making me aware of possible danger (a need I didn’t know I had). It is, however, not necessary to use this type of influence with adults simply because we, for the most part, have a clearer understanding of logic.
Some time ago, I was 100% satisfied with my cell phone. I felt I had no need or want for a different phone. That is until I saw the feature on a competitive phone of being able to write on your cell phone screen with a stylus. I have to say, I was slightly disturbed!!! I was thinking that this would definitely be a great feature to have….and I don’t have it. All of a sudden, my 100% satisfaction with my phone dropped to 80%. I suddenly started to suffer from the ever-so-common disease of “MORE.” Does it sound familiar? However, I didn’t change my phone. As much as I thought how great it would be, I simply wasn’t disturbed enough. This example tells us two things: The first is that people sometimes don’t know what they don’t know (it can be a need, a problem, or a personal challenge). It is a state of unconscious incompetence or ignorance, but we can move them to a state of conscious incompetence or awareness, which is a good place to be as there is now a better chance of having the WILL to change. Secondly, some people are simply not disturbed enough to fill the need, deal with the problem or challenge even when they are aware of the issue.
Whether we are influencing children or adults, the common denominator here is EMOTION and we must access this if we really want to “up our game” in the area of influence.
There is a fantastic analogy in the book “Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard” by Chip and Dan Heath. The book talks about a “Rider”, an “Elephant”, and a “Path”. The “Rider” represents you, the “Elephant” represents your emotions and the “Path” is where you want to go. If the “path” is not clear, the “Elephant” will not be motivated and even if the Rider knows where he/she wants to go, it probably will not happen. The goal is to motivate the “Elephant” and the only way to do that is to clear the “Path”. A clear path is a strong motivator for anyone.
Bear in mind that in order to lead people in a particular direction, they are more likely to “buy-in” if they see a clear path.
Here are 5 factors that give us a better chance of influencing people and facilitating change through emotion:
1. PASSION FOR WHAT YOU DO:
Salespeople, for example, can add value by improving a customer’s life, but customers will frequently see if they are being manipulated. They will also recognize the people who really care about leaving them in a better position. If I were to ask: “Without giving me a job description, why do you do what you do?” What will your answer be? It is not the easiest question to answer because some employees just have a job for financial reasons. The question is actually asking “what is your purpose?” If for example, the employee knows that he/she is there to improve someone’s life by providing great service and he/she has the desire to do it, then this would be the right employee to have. That person would have a tremendous amount of passion for getting the job done. Passion is not a thinking animal. We don’t have to say we are passionate about what we do, people just know that we are. One of Roberto Cialdini’s Principles of Persuasion is AUTHORITY. When you know what you are about, more respect will come your way and so will your ability to influence. Be good at what you do!
2. GIVING A REASON:
This is by far the simplest one but often the most ignored. We are often so caught up in getting things done, we simply make quick requests. But actions have a lot more power when we know why we want to take a particular course of action or why not. Whether it is an email, phone call, or face to face, it is a good idea to get into a habit of giving a reason when giving an instruction. It will take a bit longer to create your message but the result is a more powerful message adding clarity for the receiver of the message as well as the task.
What does a red traffic light do? For the most part, it encourages people to stop regardless of what they may be thinking or feeling at the time. It is uncomfortable to break it unless one is in a hurry and wants to take a risk. Individuals often continue their negative behaviour if they feel comfortable doing it. Organizations use processes such as performance assessments to ensure that standards are consistently adhered to. Even if the behaviours in a performance assessment document are not naturally part of an individual, the fact that they are being enforced can allow for the creation (through effective feedback and coaching) of a habit within that individual even if it may feel uncomfortable for him/her at first. This is a form of positive influence and certainly not manipulation.
Here are some signs that incorporate both reason and discomfort:
Another aspect of discomfort is how people make decisions to buy.
“Customers do not make decisions based on needs; they make decisions based on problems. The bigger the problem, the bigger the need. The bigger the need, the more customers are willing to pay.” – Rob Jolles
If you think about it, how many of you have things that you need to do right now? Are you doing anything about it? You are more likely to do something about it if not filling the need becomes a problem because having the problem is uncomfortable.
4. CHANGE THE PERCEPTION OF THE CHANGE:
You get an idea of how people perceive a particular task through conversation. Allow them to break down the task into steps and set the deadlines for each step. The idea is to demystify the journey because small targets lead to small victories, and small victories can create the motivation to move forward. If we shrink the change for people, the more they feel to “buy-in” and the faster they will act.
Progress is a powerful motivator for all of us. This is the reason why companies use such things as recognition, autonomy, development of skills and increased responsibility for their employees. They all signify progress and are all extremely powerful in creating the right environment for employees. Behaviours of individuals will depend on the type of environment being created, regardless of the amount of skill and knowledge they may have. It will make them want to act. Action usually precedes motivation. Think about the times when you don’t feel like exercising or you don’t feel like starting a project. If you start, the motivation will come. It’s as simple as that.
“Clarity on how to think without clarity on how to act can leave people unmoved”- Daniel Pink
In conclusion, I will say this; we have to act, so make the jump. We can help others to do the same. Show them that they are making progress because they may not realize it. It will take some level of mental and verbal agility on your part but practice this and you will never regret it.
Founder of V-Formation Training and Development
Professional Speaker and Trainer
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