On this episode, Kurt and Steve interview Jonah Berger. Jonah is a Marketing Professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and a world-renowned expert on word of mouth, social influence, consumer behavior, and how products, ideas, and behaviors catch on. He has published dozens of articles in top‐tier academic journals, and popular accounts of his work often appear in places like The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Harvard Business Review. Berger is the bestselling author of multiple books including Contagious: Why Things Catch On (hundreds of thousands of copies are in print in over 30 languages) and Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces that Shape Behavior. Berger is a popular speaker at major conferences and events and often consults for companies like Apple, Google, GE, Coca‐Cola, Vanguard, 3M, Kaiser Permanente, Unilever, and The Gates Foundation.
We all have them in our lives: difficult people. Admit it…when you heard “difficult people” you automatically thought of a couple by name, didn’t you!
So what is a difficult person? This person is difficult by nature and/or disagrees with you and may even actively work against you.
For a difficult person, use these techniques:
- Find a common belief and establish a common ground.
- Use appropriate humor to break the ice.
- Don’t start the presentation with an attack on their position.
- You are only trying to persuade on one point; don’t talk about anything else that could trigger disagreement.
- Because of your differences, they will question your credibility. Increase your credibility with studies from experts or anything that will support your claim.
- They will try to find reasons to not like you; don’t give them any.
- Don’t tell them you are going to try to persuade them.
- Express that you are looking for a win-win outcome rather than a win-lose situation.
- Show them you’ve done your homework.
- Respect their feelings, values, and integrity.
- Use logical reasoning as clearly and as carefully as possible.
- Use the Law of Connectivity and the Law of Balance. (Maximum Influence)
On this episode, Kurt and Steve read some listener mail from an business owner who finds himself dealing with a lot of calls from prospects just wanting quotes. They discuss how the power of “no” can draw prospects into a conversation where actual value can be established. This then unfolds to a discussion about the power of questions.
Of all the tools in your persuasion toolbox, questioning is probably the one most often used by Power Persuaders. Questions are used in the persuasion process to create mental involvement, to guide the conversation and to find out what your prospect needs. Questioning is a very diverse and useful tool. An important study observed hundreds of negotiators in action in an attempt to discover what it takes to be a top negotiator. Their key finding was that skilled negotiators ask more than twice as many questions as average negotiators.
How do you form a good question? First, design your questions ahead of time. The structure of your questions dictates how your listener will answer them. When asked to estimate a person’s height, people will answer differently depending on whether the question asked is “How tall is he?” versus “How short is he?” In one study, when asking how tall versus how short a basketball player was, researchers received dramatically different results. The “how tall” question received the guess of 79 inches whereas the “how short” question received the guess of 69 inches. Words have a definite effect on how people respond. “How fast was the car going?” suggests a high speed, but “At what speed was the car traveling?” suggests a moderate speed. “How far was the intersection?” suggests the intersection was far away.
One facet of questioning is the use of leading questions. Stanford professor Elizabeth Loftus researched how leading questions influenced eyewitness testimonies. In one project, her subjects watched a one-minute multiple-car accident. One group was asked, “About how fast were the cars going when they smashed into each other?” The second group was asked, “How fast were the cars going when they hit?” The third group was asked, “How fast were they going when they contacted?” The first group estimated that the cars were going about 40.8 miles an hour, the second group estimated 34 miles an hour, and the third group estimated 31.8 miles an hour. The same question led to three different answers just by using different words.
Leading questions not only alter the way we interpret facts, but they also influence what we remember. In another study conducted by Loftus, subjects who were asked, “Did you see the broken headlight?” were three times more likely to answer yes than subjects who were asked, “Did you see a broken headlight?”
When you are probing for information, it is a good idea to ask open-ended questions. It is too easy to respond to a question that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” For example, instead of saying, “Do you wish you had decided differently?” ask, “How did you feel after you made that decision?” Then the person’s answer can be used to lead into your more detailed questions—”Why did you make that decision?” or “What do you wish you could change about your decision?”— without seeming to intrusive.
A good rule of thumb is to start with the easiest questions first. You want to draw your audience into the conversation and help them feel relaxed and comfortable. People are encouraged by answers they know are right. Begin the conversation by starting with a general topic instead of a specific subject. You need to get the wheels in your listeners’ minds rolling before you ask them to answer the more specific questions.
On this episode, Kurt and Steve interview Rob Kendall, of www.conversationexpert.com. Rob has devoted his life to understanding how humans converse with one another and what makes them go wrong…and right. Rob its the author of BlameStorming and WorkStorming.
If you know that you need to have a challenging conversation, it’s worth preparing thoroughly for it. The preparation time may be disproportionate to the length of the conversation itself, but if the conversation’s important enough, your preparation will rarely be wasted. As a friend of mine was always told, ‘Prepare thoroughly and deviate with confidence’.
There are a number of things to consider:
1. Time and place.
What’s the appropriate time and place for the conversation? If you squash it in between other meetings, you have no leeway for it to overrun. Is it best to have it now or later? And is it best to stay in the office or would it be more conducive to have it outside?
2. Set it up to succeed.
Would it be beneficial for the other person to know (broadly) in advance what it’s about, or not? At a minimum, you may want to make sure that they’ve cleared enough time in their diary, so they don’t arrive and say they only have 15 minutes free.
3. Set the context.
Once you meet up, make clear to them what you want to speak about. If you beat about the bush too much, the other person will wonder what on earth’s going on, and may not even be clear what you’ve said.
4. Make your commitment clear.
This is vital and can often be missed. When you start a difficult conversation, you need to set the context. Take this example of Mia, who’s given some feedback by her boss. She’s highly regarded at work and is seen as someone with the potential for promotion in the coming year, but her boss assumes she knows this and starts their conversation by saying:
As you know, we’ve gathered some feedback from your colleagues and there are a few areas that have come to light that I want to discuss.’
Mia’s immediately on the defensive, while her boss is surprised that she’s not being more constructive. It would help if he began by saying:
‘Mia, you’re highly valued and we’re really keen for you to progress to a more senior role. You’re already exceptionally strong in some areas, and need to develop in others.’
5. Make the distinction between ‘facts’ and ‘stories’ or ‘opinions’.
A fact may be: ‘You’ve been late 3 times in the last 10 working days’.
A story or opinion would be: ‘You’re unreliable.’
There is nothing intrinsically wrong with having opinions, but it’s better to state it this way: ‘I have an opinion that you’re unreliable.’
6. Acknowledge their perspective.
Ask them questions so that you can understand their perspective (this doesn’t mean you have to agree with it). And then listen. If you’re not prepared to listen, don’t bother asking, but don’t expect much engagement from them either. Prior to a meeting most people spend their time thinking about what they want to say, but it may be even more important to consider what questions you want to ask.
7. Get clear what’s going to happen next.
Obviously this depends on the situation, but it’s worth agreeing together a clear action or a date to review things after some reflection time.
8. Be aware.
Lastly, be aware that – however well you conduct the conversation – what you say might come as a shock to the other person.
In her 1969 book, On Death and Dying, Elizabeth Kübler-Ross introduced a hypothesis based on her work with terminally ill patients. In the majority of cases she found that patients went through a spectrum of different emotional states: beginning with denial then leading to anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
Her model has since been adapted to fit a broader set of situations where someone receives unwelcome news. The instinctive response is often to deny it, followed by feelings of anger, withdrawing to lick their wounds, and finally coming round to acceptance. You may need to give someone room to go through this process, while remaining available to speak to them if other questions and concerns arise.