How do you get people to support your goals?

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Eric Barker  -  

 

People want to feel that they’re a part of something.

They want to feel a thing is theirs, that they contributed, and that they have some ownership of it.

These may seem like platitudes but research is showing just how important these feelings are to leadership, influence and motivation.

Duke University behavioral economist Dan Ariely discusses this in his book:  The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home.

Years ago, Pillsbury noticed that their cake mixes had poor sales. They theorized the buyers didn’t feel the cakes were “theirs.” By removing a few of the ingredients and requiring users to do more, sales increased:

One theory was that the cake mixes simplified the process to such an extent that the women did not feel as though the cakes they made were “theirs.” At the time, a psychologist and marketing expert by the name of Ernest Dichter speculated that leaving out some of the ingredients and allowing women to add them to the mix might resolve the issue. This idea became known as the “egg theory.” Sure enough, once Pillsbury left out the dried eggs and required women to add fresh ones, along with milk and oil, to the mix, sales took off.

Dan Pink, author of To Sell is Human, discussed a very similar phenomenon in sales research when I interviewed him:

Basically, these two scholars, they started studying Hollywood pitching. They did a very exhaustive study. Basically what they found, which you know, I’m sure, from your screenwriting days, is that pitching isn’t about convincing somebody, pitching is essentially about inviting them in.

That’s essentially their view. That changed my view on it a little bit. I think pitching is like, “Are you with me?” and actually that’s not the way to do it. The way to do it is, “Here’s the pitch. What’s your contribution?” When the other side contributes, it actually builds something, and it’s usually a little bit better, but also the other side is more invested in it and so forth. The idea of pitching is to begin an engagement with somebody, not to necessarily convince them right there. Then I outlined the six successors to the elevator pitch which are all I think really interesting, backed by some of the social science.

What’s really interesting is, it doesn’t take much.

Just like adding eggs was enough to give a feeling of ownership over a cake, relatively minor adjustments like reordering words increased feelings of ownership and warmth toward ideas and solutions:

Via The Upside of Irrationality:

…we concluded that once we feel that we have created something, we feel an increased sense of ownership—and we begin to overvalue the usefulness and the importance of “our” ideas… Would the simple act of reordering the words to form the solution be enough to make people think the idea was theirs and consequently overvalue it? …even reordering the words was sufficient for our participants to feel ownership and like the ideas better than the ones given to them.

So how can you leverage this?

Lectures, rants, pitches and direct orders need to become conversations if you want the support of others.

Incorporating even their smallest contribution can help people feel a part of something and join your cause.

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What’s the most important question you should be asking?

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Eric Barker  -  

 

I don’t spend nearly enough time on Quora. There’s some great stuff there, including a crowdsourced list of thoughts on “What is the single most illuminating question I can ask someone?

Some of my favorites from the answer wiki:

  • “What’s the most unexpected thing you’ve learned along the way?”
  • “If you could call yourself five years ago and had 30 seconds, what would you say?”
  • What would you do with your time if you could afford to quit your job?
  • Someone gets a text message from you, and for whatever reason they’re not sure it’s actually you. They’re worried that someone may have stolen your phone. What could they ask to make sure it’s really you?
  • What is the craziest belief (the one that fewest educated people will agree with) that you hold?  Why do you believe it?

Questions have power that statements don’t.

The Socratic method really does help you learn. Rhetorical questions are more persuasive than statements. Hypothetical questions can be used to manipulate you.

What else can questions do?

 

Questions connect you with others

Researcher Arthur Aron (author of Handbook of Closeness and Intimacy) has shown that which questions you ask can dramatically affect whether you connect with someone and how deeply.

Via Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You:

Arthur Aron, a psychologist at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, is interested in how people form romantic relationships, and he’s come up with an ingenious way of taking men and women who have never met before and making them feel close to one another. Given that he has just an hour or so to create the intimacy levels that typically take weeks, months, or years to form, he accelerated the getting-to-know-you process through a set of thirty-six questions crafted to take the participants rapidly from level one in McAdams’s system to level two. 

But how effective can this be really? In under an hour it can create a connection stronger than a lifelong friendship.

Via Click: The Magic of Instant Connections:

What he found was striking. The intensity of the dialogue partners’ bond at the end of the forty-five-minute vulnerability interaction was rated as closer than the closest relationship in the lives of 30 percent of similar students. In other words, the instant connections were more powerful than many long-term, even lifelong relationships.

So what are some of the questions?

1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?

2. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?

3. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?

4. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

5. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?

6. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?

7. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future, or anything else, what would you want to know?

8. How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?

9. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?

10. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?

 (More of Aron’s questions are here.)

 

Questions connect you with yourself

Saying positive statements is supposed to increase your self-esteem and confidence. “You can do it!”

But research is showing that asking yourself if you can do it might be an even better approach. Dan Pink explains in his book To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others:

The researchers instructed the first group to ask themselves whether they would solve the puzzles — and the second group to tell themselves that they would solve the puzzles. On average, the self-questioning group solved nearly 50 percent more puzzles than the self-affirming group. 

Why does this work? Dan explained in my interview with him:

…before an encounter, get over that idea that you should say “You can do it,”… Instead, look at this research that I write about, about interrogative self-talk and instead ask yourself, “Can you do this?” When you ask yourself something, you respond actively, and in the active response are the strategies, tactics, the mechanisms for getting it done.

I had to do a big interview. I thought it through, but instead of saying on the morning of it, “You can do this,” I actually used this. I said, “Can you do this?” I said, “Can I do this? Well, yeah, because I find this stuff really interesting, and I researched the hell out of it, and I think I can talk well about any aspect of it.” “Can you do this?” “Well, I actually went and listened to previous interviews that this guy had done, and so I have a good sense of his style.” “Can you do this?” “Yeah, I have a good sense of what might be some of the tougher questions, and I have fairly good answers for those.” So what I’m doing is, I’m kind of rehearsing, and it’s much more muscular than simply going in there and saying “Oh, you’re awesome, Dan, you’re awesome, you’re just fantastic.” You know? I think that moving from “I can do it” to “Can I do this?” is really, really powerful. It’s a more muscular way of getting prepared for something. 

Questions are powerful. As Picasso once said:

Computers are useless. They only give you answers.

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What does it take to have a happy and meaningful life?

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Eric Barker  -  

 

Roy Baumeister (author of Willpower), Jennifer Aaker (author of the Dragonfly Effect), Kathleen Vohs and Emily Garbinsky have a new paper that explores the similarities and differences between happy and meaningful lives.

Here are some highlights from the research:

1) Happiness and meaningfulness are related, but distinct.

Happiness and meaningfulness were substantially and positively intercorrelated. As Table 1 shows, the correlations in the two surveys were .63 and .70. Thus, in this sample, being happy and regarding one’s life as meaningful are similar, related attitudes. 

2) Easy lives are happier and difficult lives are more sad. If anything, the trend seemed to be the opposite for meaningfulness. Being healthy and frequently feeling good were both connected to happiness but neither had any connection to meaning.

Finding one’s life to be relatively easy was linked to more happiness. Finding life difficult (a separate item) was linked to lower happiness. Neither variable correlated significantly with meaning, and in fact the trends were in the opposite direction for meaning as compared with happiness. Considering life a struggle was negatively correlated with happiness but approached a significant positive relationship with meaningfulness (consistent with the view that some people live highly meaningful but not very pleasant lives, perhaps because their meaningful activities require strenuous and unpleasant activities). Thus, finding one’s life easy or difficult is a matter of happiness and not of meaning. 

Good health is certainly a very basic and rather universal desire. How healthy people considered themselves to be was a positive contributor to happiness, but it was irrelevant to meaningfulness. Healthy and sick people can have equally meaningful lives, but the healthy people are happier than sick ones.

Good and bad feelings often arise from the satisfaction versus thwarting of desires. The more often people felt good, the happier they were. The more often they felt bad, the less happy they were. Neither was related to meaning. 

3) By and large, money had a big effect on happiness but had little effect on meaning.

Being able to buy the things one needs had a significant positive relationship to happiness but was irrelevant to meaning. Another item that asked about being able to buy the things one wants (as opposed to needs) yielded quite similar results. Scarcity of money reduced both meaningfulness and happiness, but the effect was considerably larger on happiness than meaningfulness. In terms of variance accounted for, monetary scarcity was twenty times more detrimental to happiness (5%) than to meaning (0.25%). Overall, then, having sufficient money to purchase objects of desire (both necessities and luxuries) was important for happiness but made little difference as to whether life was meaningful. 

4) Thinking about the present was connected to happiness. The more people thought about the past and the future, the more meaningful their lives were — but less happy.

Meaning links experiences and events across time, whereas happiness is mostly in the moment and therefore largely independent of other moments.

The more time people reported having devoted to thinking about the past and future, the more meaningful their lives were — and the less happy. Table 2 reports the effects. The effects were roughly similar for thinking about the future and the past, and these items individually significantly related to happiness (the more thinking, the less happiness) but had marginal trends toward positive relations to meaning. Another item revealed that the more people reported imagining the future, the more meaningful their lives were, but the less happy. Thus, thinking beyond the present moment, into the past or future, was a sign of the relatively meaningful but unhappy life. Happiness is not generally found in contemplating the past or future.

In contrast, the more time people reported thinking about the present, the happier they were, although this was weak and only marginally significant at p=.07. (The results might be weakened because many unpleasant events force an acute awareness of the present, thereby diluting the statistical effect linking happiness to focusing on the present.) Thinking about the present was irrelevant to meaningfulness. Thus, whereas meaning is found in connecting to past and future, happiness may be mainly in the present. 

5) Time spent with other people was connected to both happiness and meaningfulness. Time spent with loved ones was important to meaning but irrelevant to happiness.

Feeling connected to others was linked independently to both, as was thinking that others feel connected to oneself. Recalling hours spent alone, and predicting future hours spent alone, had significant negative correlations with both happiness and meaningfulness. Frequency of spending time with friends was positively related to happiness and fell just short of a positive correlation with meaning. Percent time spent with loved people was significant with meaning, but surprisingly irrelevant to happiness, possibly because loved ones can be difficult at times. People with more meaningful lives also agreed that “relationships are more important than achievements,” and that item was unrelated to happiness, though it was in the same positive direction and therefore the item did not meet our criteria for inclusion. 

6) Happy people are takers, people with meaning are givers.

Being a giver was positively related to meaningfulness, while being a taker was negatively related to it. Meaning is thus about being a giver rather than a taker. With happiness, the correlation trends were in the opposite direction. Although neither correlation with happiness was significant, their difference was, Z=.350, p<.001. Thus, takers may well be happier than givers. In any case, the clear and strong finding is that givers have more meaningful lives than takers.

…Thus, if anything, pure happiness is linked to not helping others in need. But in everyday life, helping others makes the helper’s life meaningful and thereby increases happiness.

7) Are you a worrier? It’s linked to lower happiness — but higher meaning.

Consistent with intuitions, more worrying was linked to lower happiness. However, perhaps surprisingly, greater frequency of worrying was associated with higher levels of meaningfulness. People with very meaningful lives worry more and have more stress than people with less meaningful lives. Again, we think this indicates that worrying comes from involvement and engagement with important activities that go beyond the self, and beyond the present (worry is ineluctably future-oriented) and so worrying may often be an unavoidable part of a meaningful life, even though it detracts from happiness.

8) Want a quick summary?

Our findings suggest that happiness is mainly about getting what one wants and needs, including from other people or even just by using money. In contrast, meaningfulness was linked to doing things that express and reflect the self, and in particular to doing positive things for others. Meaningful involvements increase one’s stress, worries, arguments, and anxiety, which reduce happiness. (Spending money to get things went with happiness, but managing money was linked to meaningfulness.) Happiness went with being a taker more than a giver, while meaningfulness was associated with being a giver more than a taker. Whereas happiness was focused on feeling good in the present, meaningfulness integrated past, present, and future, and it sometimes meant feeling bad. Past misfortunes reduce present happiness, but they are linked to higher meaningfulness — perhaps because people cope with them by finding meaning.

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Why doesn’t anyone pay attention?

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Eric Barker  -  

The world just gets more and more busy but your brain was never designed to pay attention to multiple things.

Via Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School:

We are biologically incapable of processing attention-rich inputs simultaneously.

Nothing proves this like the research of Dan Simons, one of the authors of The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us.

If you’re not familar with his work on attention, check out the two videos below. Pretty fascinating:

(50% of people don’t notice.)

And:

 

And sometimes you choose not to pay attention

When you’re given a reason to trust something, you scrutinize it less.

Descriptions of research accompanied by brain scan photos were rated as better written than the same summaries without the photos. All the research contained unsubstantiated, dubious claims.

Via The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us:

In one clever experiment, David McCabe and Alan Castel had subjects read one of two descriptions of a fictitious research study. The text was identical, but one description was accompanied by a typical three-dimensional brain image with activated areas drawn in color, while the other included only an ordinary bar graph of the same data. Subjects who read the version with the brain porn thought that the article was significantly better written and made more sense. The kicker is that none of the fictitious studies actually made any sense— they all described dubious claims that were not at all improved by the decorative brain scans.

And when someone you recognize as an expert speaks, parts of your brain actually shut down.

Via Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy:

Fascinatingly, the fMRI showed that in the face of “expert” advice (even though it actually wasn’t particularly good advice), the parts of the volunteers’ brains involved in considering alternatives became almost completely inactive. It seems that receiving “expert” advice shuts down the areas of our brains that are responsible for decision-making processes, especially when the situation involves risk…

And powerful people are so self-absorbed they don’t pay attention to anyone.

 

So what can you do to improve your ability to pay attention?

Some of the limits are biological but research shows that meditation can help.

Or spend time in nature.

Via 100 Things Every Presenter Needs to Know About People:

Mark Berman (2008) and a team of researchers had participants perform the backward digit-span task, which measures a person’s capacity to focus attention. Next, participants were asked to do a task that would wear out their voluntary attention. After that, some walked through downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan, and some walked through the city’s arboretum. The arboretum has trees and wide lawns (that is, it is a pastoral environment). Following the walk, the participants did the backward digit-span task again. Scores were higher for the people who had walked through the arboretum. Stephen Kaplan (one of the researchers) calls this attention restoration therapy.

While natural settings can be as busy and stimulating as a city, we process them differently, allowing for attention to be restored. Even looking at pictures of nature had positive effects.

What if none of these really help? Is there an upside to not being very good at paying attention?

Daydreamers are more creative.

Via 100 Things Every Presenter Needs to Know About People:

Mind-wandering allows one part of the brain to focus on the task at hand, and another part of the brain to keep a higher goal in mind. Christoff (2009) at the University of California, Santa Barbara has evidence that people whose minds wander a lot are more creative and better problem solvers. Their brains have them working on the task at hand but simultaneously processing other information and making connections.

And so are people with attention deficit disorder.

Via Imagine: How Creativity Works:

Surprisingly, those students diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) got significantly higher scores. White then measured levels of creative achievement in the real world, asking the students if they’d ever won prizes at juried art shows or been honored at science fairs. In every single domain, from drama to engineering, the students with ADHD had achieved more. Their attention deficit turned out to be a creative blessing.

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Dan Pink Explains The Secrets Of Influence

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Eric Barker  -  

Dan Pink is the NYT bestselling author of one of my favorite books: Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (notes here.)

His phenomenal TED talk has over 4 million views:

His latest book is To Sell is Human, where he dives into the science of sales and explains how we can all learn to be better at influencing others.

The full interview was over an hour long so for brevity’s sake I’m only going to post highlights here.

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We’re all in sales now

Eric:  

So you start off To Sell is Human saying that now we’re all in sales. Can you describe how that came about?

Dan:      

Well, for starters, one of the things that I looked at was this belief out there about disintermediation, that salespeople are being disintermediated by the Internet. You have Expedia, you have Auto Trader, you have Amazon, so we don’t need salespeople anymore. If you look at the numbers, as you know, it’s just flatly not true. You’ve got one out of nine people in the U.S. workforce. Their job is to get someone else to make a purchase. Their job is to sell you a computer system, sell you a new suit. Every time there’s a presidential election, I go and get a new suit, so I did my quadrennial new suit this afternoon. The guy there, he’s in sales, too. People selling wheels, whatever. That’s a very significant number of people. That’s one thing I really wanted to make clear. This idea that the Internet is obliterating salespeople is just not accurate. It’s obliterating some salespeople, but in terms of the idea that it’s going to decimate the profession, it turns out to be factually untrue.

The other thing is, I had a suspicion, as you know from the book, that more and more white-collar workers are spending their time in this thing that I call non-sales selling, essentially persuading and influencing and so forth. There really aren’t any kind of data on that. I went out and tried to test the proposition. I went out and did this survey, as you know, of 7,000 adult full-time workers. We basically found people spending 40% of their time in this thing, making the exchange, influencing and persuading.

I think it’s kind of an insight in that most of us think that sales is sort of passé, that we don’t need them anymore. What I’m saying is, on the contrary, one out of nine is still in sales-sales, and the rest of us are in non-sales selling. This is actually a bigger deal than we think. As for how it came about, as you know, it’s the three E’s. I’ll take them in reverse order. Ed/Med: If you look at the numbers, again, all the growth in jobs in this country is in education and health care, which are ultimately about changing other people’s behavior. They’re ultimately about influence.

The second one, and I think this is the most interesting of them of all is the idea of Elasticity… It’s the idea that, in stable and predictable business conditions, segmentation of function inside of a firm actually makes a lot of sense. You do marketing, I do sales, she does accounting, he does strategy, stay in your lane, everything’s working, that’s all great.  But when it’s unstable and unpredictable, it doesn’t work very well. The segmentation doesn’t work. The opposite of segmentation is elasticity. As you stretch across these boundaries, you almost always encompass some form of sales.

 

Why sales is getting less sleazy

Dan:  

The reason why people hate sales so much isn’t about the act of selling. All that view of sales as sleazy and so forth is really a view about information asymmetry. It’s not about the act of convincing and making an exchange. I think what’s happened is that it’s inevitably forced us to the high road. I was talking to a friend of mine two days about this, about the ethics of all of it. What I was saying is, like, okay, I just think as a pragmatic fact, this information parity is pushing more people to the high road. They might not have taken the high road…The idea is that this information parity forces people to the high road. It’s not that people have gotten better; it’s just that the low road doesn’t work.

 

Glengarry Glen Ross and the new ABC’s of selling

Eric:

Can you break down the ABCs?

Dan:

Yeah. Well, the old ABCs are Always Be Closing, A-Always, B-Be, C-Closing…

So that kind of steamroller approach is actually not bad pragmatic business advice when buyers of anything don’t have a lot of information, don’t have a lot of choices, and don’t have a way to talk back…

Boom! Run them over. That doesn’t work now. It’s now Attunement, Buoyancy and Clarity, A-Attunement, B-Buoyancy, and C-Clarity.

 

Attunement: Seeing the world from someone else’s POV

Dan:

Attunement, as you know, is perspective-taking, seeing the world from someone else’s point of view… There are some studies about how basically perspective-taking is more of a kind of cognitive skill than an emotional intelligence skill. Really interesting, and this is the kind of thing that you might groove on, there was one study that I write about where basically it was a negotiation. They instructed half of the people to concentrate on what’s the other side feeling, and the other one was to concentrate on what the other side is thinking. Okay? So concentrate on what the other side is feeling and what their emotions are; concentrate on what the other side is thinking and what their interests are. It turned out that that second group, the one that focused on thinking and interests, did better. It did better for both sides of the negotiation, so it’s actually a little bit more muscular skill than that. I’ve actually written about empathy in another book, and I realized like, hmm, these things are kind of different. It’s really perspective-taking. That’s really the key, to understand where someone else is coming from. It ends up being a much quieter capability than the traditional suite of stereotypical sales skills, sort of the glad-handing, back-slapping approach.

 

“Buoyancy”: How to overcome rejection

Dan:

Beyond selling, I think it’s just really good life advice. Ask yourself seriously, is this personal? Is the reason that the setback was entirely your fault? In most cases, it’s not. Is this pervasive? Does this always happen? People say “Oh, this always happens,” but you have to ask yourself more analytically, “Does this always happen?” It usually doesn’t. Then, is it permanent? The number of things that are permanent, that would ruin everything, are relatively small. That’s a very helpful way to recast setbacks for people.

 

Clarity: Why problem finding beats problem solving

Dan:

This idea that when the client, the customer, whoever, knows precisely what their problem is, they can probably find the solution on their own. It’s when they don’t know what the problem is, or when you can surface the problem, or realize that the problem that they think they have isn’t the problem they have. That’s incredibly valuable. That’s an artistic skill, this idea of problem finding.

Seligman and his colleague, Goetzel, I think his name is, did a lot of research on who were the best artists. This move from problem solving to problem finding, from problem solving to problem identification, is huge. I write about it. I think there’s just a sentence in there, but one of the things that really stuck with me was a survey of American school superintendents and then business executives. “What’s the most valuable skill today?” The school superintendents’ number one was problem-solving. The executives had problem-solving, I was amazed, at something like seven or eight, and their number one was problem identification. It’s a big deal. This is what entrepreneurs do. Entrepreneurs find problems, they surface problems, and then come up with a solution to them.

 

How to pitch

Dan:     

Basically, these two scholars, they started studying Hollywood pitching. They did a very exhaustive study. Basically what they found, which you know, I’m sure, from your screenwriting days, is that pitching isn’t about convincing somebody, pitching is essentially about inviting them in.

That’s essentially their view. That changed my view on it a little bit. I think pitching is like, “Are you with me?” and actually that’s not the way to do it. The way to do it is, “Here’s the pitch. What’s your contribution?” When the other side contributes, it actually builds something, and it’s usually a little bit better, but also the other side is more invested in it and so forth. The idea of pitching is to begin an engagement with somebody, not to necessarily convince them right there. Then I outlined the six successors to the elevator pitch which are all I think really interesting, backed by some of the social science.

———————————————

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