Influence anyone in seven minutes or less. Now that’s a provocative sounding title, isn’t it! C’mon man, really? Seven minutes? Seven minutes and I can get them to do anything I want? Uh…NO, that’s not what I said. There is a line that we have to draw between influence and manipulation. We know that leadership is influence. And if you’ve been listening to this podcast for ANY amount of time, you’ve heard me say that ten times if you’ve heard me say it once.
When I think about leadership as service, when I think about leadership as serving, I think about helping others to discover what they are capable of – helping them to maximize their potential – and I’m not being cliche here. I’m saying imagine the most extreme you, the most incredible you, that’s the journey I want to take with you. That’s the destination.
But here’s the kicker…I can’t do it for you. You’ve all heard the 12th century proverb: “You can lead a horse to water…” and you know the rest. So the challenge is getting me to want to be my best me. I have to want it. You have to want it. No one can want you all the way to becoming your best you. But when it’s your idea, when it’s your desire, then baby watch out. It’s like the trigger gets flipped and your brain says, that’s right…I want it and I’m going to get it…
I recently picked up a great book that I want to share with you today. The book is called Instant Influence by Michael V. Pantalon, PhD. Dr. Pantalon is a psychologist and research scientist at Yale’s School of Medicine. The subtitle is deceptive: How To Get Anyone To Do Anything-FAST because it makes you think of how you are going to superimpose your will on someone else and it really couldn’t be further from the author’s intention.
At first, you are going to be skeptical until you see the power in the scientific method he uses. So what I want to do is give you a brief overview of the book, an example from the book, and then I want you to check it out for yourself and see what you think.
So how does this work? Well, it only works if someone believes they want it. Have you ever tried telling (or shouting or screaming) someone what to do? How’d that work out for you? For some very good reasons, our brains aren’t receptive to being told what to do. So Dr. Pantalon starts with these four assumptions:
1. We are free to choose how we behave.
2. Other people can threaten that freedom by attempting to impose control.
3. We tend to react very negatively when our freedom is threatened, making us more resistant to the control being applied.
4. Our freedom can be restored by asserting self-determination and taking control ourselves.
When you are working to influence someone, your choice of words is VERY important. It starts by affirming that the influencee does not have to do anything. It’s actually referred to as The Law of Psychological Reactance. Reinforce autonomy. Choice belongs to you. Here’s how it sounds:
- “This is your choice, not mine.”
- “It’s completely your decision.”
- “You’re free to do whatever you want”
- “I can’t make this choice for you – it’s up to you.”
Remember, you want them to connect with their desire, not yours, to change. He offers six steps that lead to change. I’m going to go through them, describe them briefly, then give you an example from the book.
Step #1: Why might you change?
So the question isn’t why can’t you get to the gym more? This just leads to excuses/reasons why I can’t. The irrational and way more effective question is why might you like to get to the gym more? His reasons are going to be way more compelling than yours! Avoid focusing on negative behavior and look for the desirable behavior.
A follow-up question to the one above might be why have you gone to the gym previously? It’s important that you are able to reflect what you hear as a response to the question. When the influencee hears his or her words being repeated to them, they see more clearly what it is they want. You are looking for the spark that starts their fire!
Step #2: How ready are you to change?
It’s simple: on a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 means “not ready at all” and 10 means “totally ready”, how ready are you to make that change? All this question is meant to do is reveal how motivated I am for change. Pantalon says the numbers aren’t really that important. A high number doesn’t mean I’m defintiely going to change and a low number doesn’t mean I’m refusing. For all my cynics in the audience who assumed the response was “1”, Dr. Pantalon says it would be a result of the first step being too big or unmanageable. But no matter what, you reinforce their autonomy. Nobody is making you do anything here.
But here’s the funny thing, we immediately ask the next question:
Step #3: Why didn’t you pick a lower number?
It’s usually a bit shocking to the influencee that you didn’t ask why they didn’t pick a HIGHER number. No, we want to know why we didn’t pick a LOWER number. If the influencee believes that you want them to go to the gym more often, they might be confused about your asking them why they weren’t LESS motivated. They are going to begin hearing themselves indicate the reasons why they are ready to make a change.
Step #4: Imagine you’ve changed. What would the positive outcomes be? or Now tell me how you’ll benefit from that.
This is pretty intuitive. This is powerful. Make the outcome real to the other person and they will realize how much they want it! If they can’t, then take the opposite tack and ask him to imagine things staying exactly as they are for the next three weeks and then describe the possible outcomes of that. Keep them focused on positive interpretations of outcomes (changing your diet might help you lose weight and keep you healthier instead of if you keep going like this you will gain more weight and might have a heart attack). Believe it or not, people are more likely to act on positive outcomes, not avoiding negative ones.
Step #5: Why are those outcomes important to you
You are encouraging the influencee to dig deep for personal reasons to take action. Dr. Pantalon encourages going Five Whys deep. For each answer ask why. It can get emotional when you get to the fifth why. It’s not easy to get here and when you do, you will find the real reason that drives the desire for change.
Don’t stop reflecting what you are hearing. The influencee has to know that you understand what they are saying. You understand their why. Their belief that things could be better.
Step #6: What’s the next step, if any?
We’ve moved away from the whys of change and we asking for the hows. What’s the next step, if any? Those two words reinforce their autonomy once again. It’s still up to her to decide whether there will be a next step. Taking a structured approach to encourage change can often be the trigger for the influencee to take control themselves.
Finally, here is some advice for applying the method:
- Start small
- Allow for the possibility that any problem might have many different solutions
- Focus on action, not decisions
- Don’t judge or self-censor – be open to the process
- Prepare to be surprised
- Trust the process
- Consider consulting an expert
- Motivation is key
- Affirm the influencee’s right to say no
So now what? I would ask you to do two things: 1) start practicing using the six questions and 2) do yourself a favor, fill in the blanks that I couldn’t possibly cover in this short episode by going out and getting your copy of Instant Influence by Michael Pantalon – you won’t be disappointed.
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