How to Convince Anyone of Anything: The Power of Persuasion

Persuasion is a tricky but important art. It is hard to know when the right time is to use it and how we should be doing so. However, there is a proper way and a proper time! On this episode of The Motivational Intelligence Podcast, Sean Johnson and David Naylor talk about the power of persuasion, how to know when the right time is to use it, and why people ultimately believe certain things to be true. While it may seem really complicated, what it really comes down to is intent- are we using persuasion for the other person’s benefit or simply our own? If it is only for our own benefit, it likely isn’t morally right. Also, a big factor in getting someone to believe what is being said is actually very focused on emotion, not logic like most people believe. Logic is actually the last thing we truly think of when making any kind of decision. Interested in learning more about how you can apply this to situations in your own life? Check out the newest episode of The Motivational Intelligence Podcast titled “How to Convince Anyone of Anything”, and as always be sure to check us out on social media. What would you like us to discuss next? Let us know!

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Episode Transcription

How to convince anyone of anything

Sean Johnson: All right, here we are. We’re back. What’s happening, Dave?

David Naylor: Not a whole lot, Sean. Here to pick my brain, as always/

Sean Johnson: One of these days you’re just going to run out of brain to pick, I think. Did I just do it today? Did I just do it?

David Naylor: Yes! This is a question of how much of a wise-ass response do I want to put out there, if it all?

Sean Johnson: Yeah…

David Naylor: What you just saw with the wisdom of age, you know.

Sean Johnson: Maybe. If you still got brain left to pick,   I wanted to talk today about persuasion. So I think everybody can relate to the feeling of how it can be frustrating when you’re trying to convince somebody of something, something that you know, or think you know and getting other people to buy into it, whether it’s from a leadership perspective or a sales perspective, or everywhere. We’re always trying to persuade people.

So, I wanted to kind of dive into how this whole thing works and how we can maybe, you know, walk away with a better understanding of: how do we really make decisions? How can we really persuade people, what really influences them? What kind of tools and takeaways can we use?

David Naylor: It’s a good topic. It’s interesting. So often, we’ll see, especially as we’re going into corporations and things like that, you’ll have people get incredibly frustrated because they can’t persuade their boss of something or they can’t get the support that they want.

So you see a lot of angst happen as an outgrowth of people struggling on this front. So, a worthy topic.

Sean Johnson:    Okay, cool. I feel like probably the more bureaucratic the culture or organization, the more frustrating that is. So I wanted to start in more of a philosophical place, by starting with, we have this notion that we convince people of things. Is that accurate? Can we actually convince people of something?

David Naylor: Absolutely. You can really convince almost anybody of almost anything. That brings up certain ethical concerns and things along those lines.

Given time, the more extreme of what you’re trying to convince somebody of, you have to use different techniques. Isolation helps, removing factors which would run contrary to what you’re trying to convince people of.

But yeah, it’s been pretty well proven that on the most extreme, its brainwashing. Yeah, you can pretty much convince anybody of anything, if you know what you’re doing.    I don’t want to say I can, cause I don’t want to have that level of responsibility, but it can be done.

Sean Johnson:    Okay. So before we get into the nitty gritty of it, you brought up a good point, which is at the ethics of it. So before we go to the dark arts…

David Naylor: All of a sudden Dr. Evil is coming out…

Sean Johnson: Right? How should we be thinking about it ethically?

How do we know when, before getting into how we actually do this, how should we know when we should be using it, using these techniques?

David Naylor: I think a lot of it really comes down to intent.  So are we trying to convince somebody of something that is in their best interest? A shared, mutual best interest or purely our own self-interest? Anytime we’re trying to convince somebody, of something that really is purely to benefit us, or potentially even run contrary to their own best interests, then you’ve just crossed over that ethical line.

So it really does come down to intent, I think, from that perspective.

Sean Johnson:  I would wholly agree with that. So now that the ethics are, are pinned down, let’s start broad. Psychologically, what causes people to say yes?

David Naylor: To a very large extent, if you think about it from a psychological perspective, every decision that we make is rooted in one of two psychological drivers. We will make decisions that we see that in some way, shape or form, psychologically enhance us. So if you look at that from a broad perspective, what is enhancement?

Enhancement could be internal or external. It could be externally something that enhances our future opportunities. It could be something that enhances our life.  It could be something that offers us advancement opportunities or in some way externally benefits us.

But enhancement could entirely be internal as well. It could be. It enhances our perception of ourselves or the way that we believe others will perceive us. So we will decidedly make those decisions that we perceive enhance us, either internally or externally.

The other driver of why we say yes is preservation.  So really the opposite of enhancement in that sense. While enhancement is about either internally or externally benefiting us,    preservation is much more about protecting our current stature, our current perception.

So if it’s external, it’s keeping our lives where it is right now. Keeping our lives from sliding backwards or in some way, shape or form becoming more negative than they are today. If it’s internal, it’s more about jeopardizing our perception of ourselves or how others perceive us.

The interesting thing about it is there has actually been a fair number of studies in this regard.  There’s a huge self-esteem component of that that also factors into persuasion.  If somebody is more well-grounded from an esteem perspective, their decision making mechanism will tend to be more rooted in enhancement.

Therefore, if you’re trying to convince them of something, if you speak more to that enhancement instinct, you’ll move them more. If an individual struggles more from an esteem perspective, which studies show that a larger percentage of the population does,   they tend to be much more driven by the preservation side of things.

So, we see this a lot of times if you look in from an organizational perspective, oftentimes you’ll see employees who fight harder. So if you’ve got somebody who’s on a commission driven comp plan, and year in and year out they tend to make around $50,000 a year.

Then they’ll roll into a new year, they have a couple of big sales they make in the first half of the year, they get to $50,000 income halfway into the year. And if you sit with executives and you ask them, so you know, what does this person do in the second half of the year? Almost universally executives will come back and they’ll go, “They coast,” and why? Because this person’s worked to their belief system, right? The crazy thing is if you roll into the next year, and that person is now in December, and they’ve made $40,000 for the year, you’ll watch them, they’ll kill themselves the, the last half of the year, that last month of the year, trying to get themselves closer to that $50,000 number.

So they’ll actually fight harder to keep from sliding backwards, then they will to move forward because they’re more driven by that preservation instinct than they are by their enhancement instinct.

Sean Johnson: Interesting. So I think that makes a lot of sense, and it’s probably where rule by fear comes from.

David Naylor: Oh, absolutely. The easiest way to manipulate somebody who has an esteem problem is with guilt. In fact, oftentimes you’ll watch people who struggle with an esteem perspective try to manipulate others with guilt very often too, because they assume that because guilt is a trigger for them, it’s a trigger for everybody else.

Sean Johnson: Right. Well, that’s an interesting point too, maybe we can get into it a little bit more, I think that’s probably the reaction or the impulse for a lot of people is they try to persuade other people, probably unconsciously, but they’re trying to persuade other people the way that they are persuaded and they make decisions by what they’re driven by without really understanding what the other person is driven by.

David Naylor: And that’s part of what drives the frustration that people have when they’re trying to convince somebody of something but that person’s not moving in the way and in what they fail to realize is they’re trying to, in essence, sell that person on why this person should say yes to this or support this decision.

But they’re selling it purely from the perspective of what’s important to them, rather than thinking about “how am I communicating this in a way that means something to the person I’m trying to convince?”  You know, that’s a big aspect of persuasion, right? Speaking to that person in their own language or thinking about “how am I communicating this in a way that means something to that person?” which may be in a means that totally doesn’t relate to how it resonates for you.

But you know, you have to convince that person in a framework that aligns with how they process and what matters to them.

Sean Johnson:    Some of the language that we’ve used around that is profiling somebody and understanding their motivational profile.

Before we get into that, cause I think that’s a good spot to go, but to tie up, what’s really driving people to make decisions?  So it’s either enhancement or preservation and esteem being a big part of that, right? If they have proper esteem or grounded esteem, they’re more driven by the enhancement, right?

As we know, large majority of people do have esteem issues. So they’re driven by more the preservation, the fear, the guilt, right?

David Naylor: Or some combination thereof. And so if you understand those two drivers, Part of what you do is as you’re communicating with people and you’re trying to convince them of something, you make sure that as you’re communicating, you’re showing them how by saying yes to this, you know, it’s going to in some way, shape or form enhance that person’s life or enhance how others perceive them or enhance their opportunities and how if they don’t, this is potentially how things could slide backwards for them. So if you can speak to those two drivers as you’re communicating with a person, regardless of where they fall from an esteem perspective, or if they’re just kind of middle of the road, you’re hitting on two triggers.

Sean Johnson:   Well, it’s really giving kind of stakes to the decision, right? Like, here’s the good stakes and here’s the bad, right? That makes a lot of sense. So when people are being persuaded,  or they’re making these decisions, whether it’s for enhancement or preservation, I wanted to touch on logic versus emotion because I think we like to think we’re a lot more logical than we actually are. So where is this coming from? How much of these decisions or to the way that we’re persuaded is driven by logic versus emotion?

David Naylor: You know, it’s an interesting question.  In one of our other podcasts, we talked a little bit about the human mind, right?

And we talked about, in essence, the three tiers of how our brains evolve, right? So, you know, the most primordial aspect of the human mind, which is the oldest aspect of our human mind is very much fight or flight too, you know? So that’s a huge emotional component there.

The McMillian aspect of our brain, which is the next oldest, is really the center of emotion, beyond just fight or flight. But all of the other emotions that we feel, the youngest part of the human mind is the logic driven side of things.

So even if you look at how we evolve, we automatically are going to default to the older aspects of things. So logic is the furthest away from what’s driving the decision making mechanism. So you’re right, we like to convince ourselves that we make logical decisions, but its nonsense.

We make very emotional decisions and then what we do is we try to justify those decisions afterwards.

Sean Johnson: Exactly.

David Naylor: I remember years ago working with a group and there’s a lady in the group and she had these leopard print, very high heeled shoes that she was wearing.

And I’m up in front of the group and I said “Can I borrow that shoe for a moment?” And she kind of looks at me funny, but she takes it off and she hands it to me. And I said, “let’s look at these shoes for a moment. Was this a logical purchase or an emotional purchase?

The group just kind of starts laughing. And I said, “It’s not that they’re not attractive shoes, but let’s face facts, you know?” If you were buying logical shoes, you would buy flats. You know, you would buy something that had good support for your foot.

You would buy, you’d be buying orthopedic shoes, you know? So really our decision making process is much more emotional than it is logical.

Sean Johnson:    Oh, yeah.

David Naylor: If you can give people that you speak to the emotion, but you give them the logic on the backside of it, now you’re equipping them with it, so that they can feel good about their decisions.

Sean Johnson: That’s a major point too is what will actually cause them to make the decision is more emotion. But, you know, the logic part of it can still be a tripping point that you need to equip them with to overcome.  What is the justification so that they can point to it and say, “See, I’m rational?”

David Naylor: Exactly. So now, when my spouse comes and asks me about this decision or something like that, then you know, you can back it up.

Sean Johnson: I did it because of this X, Y, and Z.

Versus just a,

David Naylor: Versus just a “no, honey, it was purely emotional, there’s no logic to it at all.”

Sean Johnson: Yeah, exactly.

David Naylor: “I spent a lot of money and there really is no reason why I did, it just made me feel good.”

Sean Johnson: So let’s circle back around to motivational profile. If we are making decisions more based on emotion and justifying them after the fact with logic, how do we know what the profile is of somebody, or how do we know what their emotional driver is, and then how do we speak to that?

David Naylor:    So, there’s kind of two different things. From a motivational perspective, there’s a multitude of different motivational drivers that we all have, which are, in essence the things that light a fire in us or will drive us and you can get a sense of a person’s motivational driver if you’ve observed them for a period of time. Also, different motivational drivers will tend to cause people to gravitate towards certain career paths many times.

So for example, one of the motivational profiles of individuals are competition driven people. So somebody who has a competition driven motivational profile, you’ll tend to see them be more active in sports. You know, if they’re not a professional athlete, they will tend to go towards more competitive type career paths, sales being one of them.

Recognition is another motivational profile of people.   In fact, if you look in sales careers, you’ll tend to find sales people will gravitate towards one of three motivational profiles. They’ll either be competition driven, there’ll be recognition driven, or they’ll be financially driven.

So those would kind of be the triggers for them in life. There are people who are knowledge driven and for them, they’re very driven by, by learning and trying, they’re voracious readers. Candidly, you are a knowledge driven profile.

Sean Johnson: Oh, that’s probably fair.

David Naylor: You probably didn’t notice that before, but if you pay attention to people, you’ll notice those things. There are people who are attention, visibility driven profiles.

They’re probably the most dangerous of the motivational profiles of people because a recognition driven profile is somebody who wants to be recognized because they’re successful. So that drives them to do better. An attention visibility person, they want the limelight, but they don’t really care how they get it. So they can seek it out from a negative perspective, just as much as a positive perspective.

Sean Johnson: It doesn’t really matter if it’s good or bad.

David Naylor: So a lot of times in organizations, they’ll be the shadow warriors who will be having the meeting at the water cooler after the meeting and selling other people on, you know, they’re the kind of the quiet leaders in an organization who will move in negative factions because they want to be seen as important.

They want to be seen as influential and they don’t care whether it’s on the positive or negative, that makes them candidly, kind of a pain in the ass from a business perspective.

Sean Johnson:  And pretty much every other perspective.

David Naylor: Exactly. So having a sense of a person, from a motivational profile, it’s helpful in persuasion because you understand somebody’s triggers a little bit more. That’s a little different than the emotion, that’s more of a motivational driver than an emotional driver.   The emotional driver is going to be much more tied to those two instincts, that preservation or the enhancement side of things.

They will tend to be either more internal or external for an individual. So that internal or external can be either preservation or either enhancement. So internal is much more how somebody is perceived, how they perceive themselves, that side of things, where the external is more about the external environment in that, you know, is it opportunity? Is it fear? Is it the keeping from sliding backward, the loss of opportunity? Those types of things.

So from an emotional driver standpoint, you’re more looking at, for this person is it more of the internal or external focus that you want to speak to for somebody?

Sean Johnson: Okay. Got it. So, for the emotion. The motivational profile is a little bit more,   maybe surface?  Surface level meaning that it’s, you know, kind of where they’ll light up a little bit?

David Naylor: Exactly. It’s what likes this lights a spark in this person.

Sean Johnson:   Okay. And then the emotional driver is more where they’re making their decisions from. So you mentioned internal or external and it being enhancement or preservation focused.  How do you tell if there’s somebody that you’re trying to convince, how do you tell where they fall?

David Naylor: If you listen to somebody speak, it’s amazing what they will tell you, without really realizing that they’re telling you those things.  So, you kind of get a sense of somebody, whether they’re internally, externally validated, how much effort do they put into driving others perception of them?

Did they spend a lot of time and energy selling others on who they are and why they’re valuable? Those kinds of things? Or is it that something they don’t really spend a lot of energy and effort on because they’re more internally validated?

So, that gives you a sense of, are they more driven by an external perception or an internal perception?

Sean Johnson: Okay. So once you have a feel for where they fall from a motivational profile perspective, but particularly from an emotional profile perspective, emotional driver perspective. How do you perceive, is there a step by step process? Are there different techniques based on where they fall in that spectrum? How should we be thinking about that?

David Naylor: Well. First and foremost, if it’s something that’s important that you’re trying to convince somebody of, the key piece is doing exactly what you just said, taking the time to think about it.  What most people will do is they’ll just go and have a conversation with somebody without really planning ahead of, okay, where is this person coming from? What is most important to this individual? How are they going about making this decision?  How am I presenting it in a way that speaks to their enhancement or speaks to their preservation instincts?

So, most people kind of shoot from the hip when it comes to persuasion and then in turn, get frustrated because they see it so clearly in their mind and why doesn’t this person see it? You know? And rather than stepping back and saying, okay, if there’s something that’s in this person’s best interest and they’re not moving, rather than looking in the mirror and saying, “The problem is not them. The problem is me. I’m not communicating this in a way that is hitting this person’s triggers.”  So if you’re sitting down and premeditating if this is something of importance, it’s worth a little bit of forethought.

Sean Johnson:   Well, you told me this story, probably a year or two ago, but I remember,   you talking about a conversation you had with Ben.

David Naylor: You listened, you really listen sometimes. You validate me!

Sean Johnson: Externally focused. No, but I remember a story you told about Ben.

David Naylor: I’m really interested in seeing where this is going because I don’t remember what the story is.

Sean Johnson:. It was something where you mentioned you had planted a seed with him, you were driving in the car, you planted a seed with them weeks beforehand, and then you had a conversation with him about kind of positioning him a little bit better to accept advice and feedback from you and you ask him a couple of questions. Are you remembering now?

David Naylor: No, not entirely

Sean Johnson  This was a few years ago, but I remember being very impressed that this was something that you said, like, “yeah, I planted the seed with him, in this way three weeks ago. And then I waited and I waited and I waited. And then I just kind of found the right moment three weeks later. And I asked him these three questions, and you know, bam, he got it right there.”  I think that’s something that’s so many people don’t do. They don’t either take the time or have the foresight to really understand or put the effort into what’s really going to move them.

David Naylor: Well, I think I remember what you were talking about.   I think with our kids,    and as parents, you know, obviously you’re trying to raise your kids with a perspective of what’s going to enable them in life and, and also with a force field, to protect them from all of the negative influences, which would cause them to default to limiting perspectives.

There’s many times where Michelle and i with the kids, you know, we’ve sat down and had conversations, candidly I think it’s been one of the best things that we’ve really done as parents is to have those conversations around “what is it we’re trying to anchor in the kids thought process right now?”  “What is it that we’re trying to help them to see?” Then we’ll create kind of a coordinated attack, in that perspective. And of course, we say things differently and you know, from different perspectives than that,  but it’s that kind of cross vectoring that I think really helps.

But you know, with kids too, especially as they get into their teen years, you know, we’ve all been through that. You know, that phase where our parents got really dumb and didn’t know anything. That’s the hardest time when as a parent you so often see them, going down pathways or grabbing onto perspectives that you know are limiting.  They’re not giving you the window to help them to see that. And that’s where that layering effect really makes a big difference. You know, Joe said something to me years ago and it was wonderful parenting advice.

He said, “Your kids will give you windows where you know you’re connecting with them, but they’re rare.” And so what most parents will do when you’re, when their kids give them a window is they try to budge their way in. They’re trying to get in everything they wanted to get in for the last month, in the head.

He said, “What happens when you do that is they turn the cartoons on and they closed the window, and then it becomes that much longer before they give you that window again,” and I remember he said “What do you want to do? When your kids give you a window, you want to be like a sniper; get in, take your shot and get the hell out of there as fast as you can.” And it was wonderful advice because they don’t have time to shut you down. And so you can go in and you can plant a seed or you can deliver that theme and that was the other thing with whether you’re trying to convince your kids or trying to convince yourself or trying to convince somebody else. Having those themes that you’re working, and then coming back and reinforcing those themes makes a big difference. And that was decidedly something that we did with the kids.

Sean Johnson:  So, let’s circle back to the techniques, so once we understand their profile, what are the techniques that we can be pulling away from this? I took the time to understand me and kind of get a feel for this person’s profile. I know where I want to get them psychologically. Where do we go from there?

David Naylor:    So, okay, let’s go back to the story.

I don’t remember if this was specifically the one you’re referencing or not, but the one that comes to mind is I remember Ben went through a phase, it was particularly with school,   where everything was like about “what’s the quickest I can get done with my homework?”

“What’s the quickest I can get out to kind of play and do the things that I want to do?” There was just kind of a general lack of effort with regard to school. So my theme with him on that was one of minimums and maximums.

When I had that window, I said, “You know, Ben, in life, you’re going to have to make decisions about how you want to approach things and there’s really only two options. You can approach things with a minimum’s perspective, which is, what’s the quickest I can do this? What’s the least amount of effort I have to put into it? What’s the least amount of thought that I have to use?”  So that’s at minimums focused. And I said “When people focus on minimums, they get minimum outcomes. Does that make sense?”

And he’s like, “Yeah, I guess so,” and I said, “The other perspective is one of maximums, so when somebody focuses on maximums, it is ‘What’s the maximum I can do here? What’s the best I can do this? What’s the maximum benefit that I can gain from this?

What’s the most I can learn from this?’ So when people focus on maximums, they get maximum outcomes.” So that was like the extent of the conversation. That was the sniper shot, when the window was open.

Sean Johnson:  How did you know when the window was open?

David Naylor:  What happens is, they’re in a more relaxed state. You can see in their eyes that they’re listening and considering what it is that you’re saying. The other way you can tell when the window’s open is, are they fighting you on what it is that you’re saying?  Which would tell you the windows closed, or are they actually being a little introspective and considering what it is that you’re saying?  So how much resistance are they putting up, basically? That was a sniper shot that I took, that the theme was minimums or maximums.

Then what I would do is I would come back to it. So in the mornings, especially when I was in town, I would walk them to the end of the driveway or where he would get on the bus. And then right before he’d get on the bus, the last thing I’d say to him would be “Hey, buddy. Remember to focus on maximums today,” and just leave it at that.

And then at night, you know, when I was tucking him into bed at night, I would ask him, “Ben, what were your maximums today?”   In the beginning he’d give me these kinds of bull answers like, “I got a high score in black ops today,” or something like that, you know?

And I go, “Okay, well that’s good.” But I just stuck with it. He of course knows his dad’s a whack and I’m not going away. One day he says to me, “I did the bonus question on the science exam today.”

I said, “Would you have normally done the bonus question?” He goes, “Nah,” and I go, “Great job, buddy.  That was a maximum.” So, you asked about tools and techniques, you know, so there’s the layering side of things. And so you create that theme that you keep coming back to.

So you create the themes, align it with their self-interests so that they can see that by doing this- again, its enhancement preservation. Another big thing when you’re trying to convince somebody of something, is to provide them with overwhelming social proof and something that they can’t debate.

So what does that mean? So for Ben, I remember in that window of time, one of the things he was really into was watching the Supercross races, motorcycle races, inside stadiums. So he and I had watched these together on Sunday afternoons and things.

At the time, the two top racers, one was a guy, Chad Reed, and another guy was a Ricky Carmichael and Ben kind of idolized Ricky Carmichael and he was probably the top guy at the time. So we’re watching a race one day, and I said to Ben, “When Ricky’s out training during the week, when he gets up in the morning, do you think he says to himself, ‘What’s the least amount of time I need to spend riding today? What’s the least amount of time I need to spend in the gym?

What’s the least amount of time I need to spend, you know, doing an aerobic activity?’ Do you think he focuses on what the least amount is, or do you think he asks himself what the maximum is that he could do today?”   And you know, and so then, you know, you could see his little mind whirling and he goes, “He probably focuses on maximums,”   And I said, “Who’s won the most races this year?” And he goes, “Well, Ricky has,” and I go, “So look, he’s getting maximum outcomes.  People focus on maximums, they get maximums.”   You know, so there’s the social proof for sure.

But it was in a realm where he could relate to it. So the more of that social proof, it’s the validation of what it is you’re trying to convince somebody of. What that story also did is it really showed kind of the cause and effect or the “if, then” kind of side of things.

So if you align it with people’s self-interest, so they’re speaking to the enhancement and the preservation instinct. You’re providing overwhelming social proof to really validate why this decision is going to be the right one for them. You show the cause and effect, the “if, then”, side of things. There was a book, I think I should recommend it to you. The book was called “Influence” by Sheldini. One of the things he talks about in that book is public acknowledgement is a big one, too.

Sean Johnson: To keep with their cognitive consistency.

David Naylor: Right. Exactly.

Sean Johnson: I already said this out loud, so…

David Naylor: Exactly and well, and I said it in front of other people. So now, there’s a heightened level of commitment because now if I don’t do it…

Sean Johnson: I’m going to look like an idiot.

David Naylor: And now you go back to the enhancement, preservation instinct.

Sean Johnson:  So, really we’re understanding somebody’s profile and based on the profile and where you want to take them, you’re coming up with a theme. The theme is wrapped in as much cause and effect driven and you’re looking for your window to introduce the theme. You get your window, you take the sniper shot, and you introduce the theme, and then get the hell out of there. So you introduce the team, you take the sniper shot, you get the hell out of there.

And then over time it sounds like you’re reinforcing the theme that you introduced and you’re using social proof to do it, years and stories to do it. Particularly things that are relevant to them. I think with Ben, Ricky was the guy he idolized, so he’s the perfect one.

David Naylor: The social proof also is important because you remember the preservation side of people, what drives buyer’s remorse in people is the preservation instinct. It’s that fear, like, “Oh, geez, I hope I didn’t make a mistake in making this decision.”

And that’s part of the reason why people hate to decide. I remember years ago, there was  a gentleman who I saw in front of a group and he was talking about how people hate to decide and he goes, “You know why people hate to decide? Think about all of the words that end with the letters IDE: pesticide, homicide, suicide, decide, they’re all bad things. No wonder people hate to decide.”

So, the reluctance to make decisions is really driven by the preservation instinct. It’s fear driven.

Sean Johnson: They don’t want to screw up.

David Naylor: Right. Exactly. So the social proof creates the safety net, so you’re showing them that you’re validating why this decision is going to be a safe one for them to make.

Sean Johnson:    Okay. So, you mentioned something last time we talked, and it was more personal, when we were talking about judgment, and you mentioned that over time it was, all of a sudden, it felt like the dam broke.

So is that kind of the same process in motion for those people that were helping you from the outside perspective, like we talked about, you kind of need that outside perspective to be objective. Is this kind of the process that they were following and  that you follow with other people?

Is that why it kind of feels like this all of a sudden?  Over time, if you’re layering this, is that how it happens? Is it feel like, real quick, all of a sudden I changed my mind?  How does that process work?

David Naylor: It’s a lot of the speed at which the decisions get made, or somebody changes their mind.

It has a lot to do with how deeply rooted that belief that you’re trying to change in them is. You know, if you’re trying to convince somebody of something that is very deeply psychologically rooted,  it decidedly takes a lot more time, a lot more energy, a more consistent theme.

If you think about it for a moment, how long has somebody held onto it for? So, our beliefs, our thought process in a lot of ways are like the roots of a tree, so if you’ve got a little sapling, you look at the roots and they’re like hairs, right? So, they’re very easy to redirect. That’s why children are so malleable. But as they get older, they get less malleable because what happens is those thoughts and beliefs of theirs, they grow bigger, and they grow stronger, thus it takes more energy and more effort to redirect them. In adults, those thoughts and beliefs are even bigger, so we’ve all walked down the sidewalk and you see concrete slabs coming up because of the root of a tree is pushing them off. It’s a very old, mature tree.

Sean Johnson: Old dog, new tricks.

David Naylor: Exactly. That same analogy applies to us is as human beings, so if you’re trying to convince somebody who’s 55 years old to change their perspective on something that’s very deeply rooted, it’s a lot of time and a lot of energy, to be able to do that takes a lot of consistency. Whereas, if it’s a relatively minor thing, or, you know, it’s not a very deeply rooted belief, then it doesn’t take anywhere near that amount of energy.

Sean Johnson:    Well, and I think that’s an important distinction too. It’s not necessarily that you can’t convince older people of things. It’s how deeply rooted it is for that person. You know, somebody that is 55 years old, they’ll certainly have deeper held convictions, and it’ll be deeper rooted in certain areas, but it doesn’t necessarily mean what you’re trying to convince them of is one of those things. It could be still a sapling.

David Naylor: Exactly. Is this a belief that they’ve held onto since they were in their teens? Or is it something that’s a relatively new perspective that they’ve recently seen?

Sean Johnson: Okay, yeah, I can see that. So to wrap up, one thing I wanted to do is kind of flip this one 180. So we’ve been talking this whole conversation about how do we convince somebody else of something?  Should we be thinking about that, flipping it around and saying it doesn’t make sense to be trying to convince ourselves of anything?

David Naylor:  Joe’s got a wonderful quote. He said, “The most important sale anybody ever makes in their life is a sale they make to themselves to be their best.”   Ultimately, if we’re going to convince anybody of anything, it really does come down to convincing ourselves.

We all cross that bridge many times every day, when you wake up in the morning, when you’re lying in bed in the morning and it’s 6:00 AM, and you roll over and you look at the clock and you’re saying, “Oh, okay, I could get up and go down on the treadmill right now, or go for a run, or I could roll over and sleep for another 45 minutes.”

So what are you convincing yourself of there? Am I convincing myself that I’m trying to lose 10 pounds and therefore I should shy away from that donut that is screaming at me in the kitchen right now?  So we cross that road thousands of times every day, and we make those decisions.

For many individuals they convinced themselves of the things that provide the most instantaneous gratification. The challenge is, we know that everything’s cause and effect in the world, is that if somebody lives their life that way for a period of time, inherently what they’re doing is they’re sacrificing their future in the process.

So, we’ve got to ask ourselves, everything that we do, every decision we make, you know, it builds some type of a momentum for us. Is it building positive, momentous momentum towards our future, or is it building negative momentum towards our future?

Sean Johnson: Yeah I like the momentum analogy. I think that’s a great way to think about it. I think it’s kind of in two parts: before you can convince somebody else of something, you have to first believe it yourself. And I think that’s true because I think it seems like, we as humans have a very good kind of instinctual meter of “does this person really believe it or not?”

And I think it seems like the conviction with which you deliver, whatever the message is that you’re trying to deliver, has a massive impact on whether they believe it or not.

David Naylor: Oh, that’s absolutely true. At the highest level of sales, the best salespeople I’ve ever met are not the most fluent. They’re not the most articulate. They’re not the ones who have the stunning technical knowledge or aptitude or any of those things. They really are the ones who believe the most. To your point, what people really buy from us, is the conviction they see in our eyes because if they see that conviction, it gives them confidence. If they see trepidation, then they’re going, “Well, if this person is uncertain, then why should I be certain?”

Sean Johnson: Yeah, sure.

David Naylor: Yeah, so you’re 100% right. We are exceptionally good at reading those cues in people and I don’t know that many people are necessarily conscious of that.

Sean Johnson: It’s like that gut decision. People just point to their gut.  That “I can’t tell you why, but it just doesn’t feel right.” So, in order to convince others, we must first convince ourselves. Do some of those same techniques apply?  So whether it’s, I’m sitting here and I’m like, “Alright, I’ve got to convince Dave of something,” and I think through your profile and the theme and look for the window and all that kind of stuff. I’m saying “I gotta convince myself first, cause Dave’s going to be able to tell, do I really believe this or not.” Can I use some of the same kind of techniques that we were talking about before too? How do I get myself there?

David Naylor: Yeah, absolutely. The same things work, if you think about the Benjamin Franklin close that salespeople are taught where they do the t-chart and the “if I do, if I don’t,” kind of things.  It speaks to the enhancement and preservation instincts. So if we’re trying to convince ourselves of something, whether it’s convincing ourselves to go to the gym or, you know, we talked about a minute ago that many people, they’ll default to what is most immediately gratifying to them and by default, sacrifice the future. But if someone’s sitting there and really stepping back and if it’s important, like working out. If they go through that exercise and think about, if I start working out or if I start working out consistently, how’s this going to enhance my life?

I’ll give you a real world situation. Years ago I was working for one of our clients. I was talking to a lady, one of the managers in this organization and a wonderful lady, very health conscious, in good shape.

But she smoked. And I remember we’re sitting and talking one afternoon, and she said, “I’ve smoked now for over 25 years,” and I asked her, “I know that you’re health conscious and that you go to the gym, so I’m curious why?

And she said, “When I was a kid, my older sister smoked. I idolized my older sister, so, I thought she was cool, you know? So I started smoking because I want to be coo like my older sister. Now I’m in my mid-thirties and I don’t really think it’s so cool anymore, you know? But nonetheless, I can’t seem to break the habit.” And she had gone through all manner of things to try to overcome this. She’d been hypnotized and she’d tried acupuncture and she had done those nicotine patches and, all of the stuff that people go through.

She said, “I find myself able to quit for a couple of weeks, but then something happens. And I end up with a cigarette back of my hand again.”  So we’re sitting there talking, and I asked her, “Cathy, if you were to quit smoking, what difference would it make in your life?”  She said, “My son’s a teenager and one of my fears is that I’m going to end up with lung cancer or something like that. I might not be around to be able to watch my son get married. So quitting smoking certainly helps me in that regard.” I said, “Well, why else would it be important to quit smoking?”

She said, “It’s expensive to smoke. If I look at what I spend every year just buying cigarettes, I could definitely find another use for that money. If you smoke, people know you smoke, you smell like you smoke. So I wouldn’t stink. My clothes wouldn’t stink.” So she goes through these reasons of how her life would get better if she was to quit smoking,

And I said, “Well, what about the other side, why is it a good idea for you to keep smoking? How would your life slide backwards if you quit smoking?”

And she goes, “The one thing that I find is that when I quit, I eat more. And, um. She goes, so I think that, you know, smoking kind of helps me to keep from overeating and also helps me to deal with my stress. I find I smoke more when I’m stressed.”

So I asked her, “Which of those things are you focusing more on? The benefits that you’re going to gain from quitting or the benefits you gained from continuing smoking?”

She’s like,” I never really thought about that before,” I said, “Which is more important to you? Is it more important to you to have some means to kind of relieve that immediate stress? Or is it more important for you to watch your son walk down the aisle?” She said, “It’s not even up for debate.”

Sean Johnson: Right.

David Naylor: So that’s what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to pay attention to yourself to which is driving your decisions.

Sean Johnson:   I think that’s important. It’s true for whatever you’re trying to convince yourself of.  So, for that woman, I understand intellectually, she has that conversation with you and there’s the window. Right?  How is it she’s going to consistently convince herself of that? As opposed to, “I had the conversation intellectually and got to this place where this side is better than that side.”  And I understand that intellectually or rationally or logically, but we don’t make decisions logically or rationally. So how do I get from understanding it rationally to understanding it more emotionally or viscerally?

David Naylor: It really comes down to, what are the themes that we’re using with ourselves? How are we speaking to ourselves? How do we sell ourselves in the value of getting in the gym? How do we sell ourselves on the value of not picking up that cigarette? What’s the messaging we’re giving to ourselves?

Because if we don’t give ourselves a theme, an alternative messaging will default to the past behaviors.

Sean Johnson: Pre- programmed.

David Naylor: Exactly. So, this morning on “Help a Reporter”, one of the requests from a reporter was to entrepreneurs or executives about something to the effect of perpetuating habits that our self benefiting, so how do you make sure that you’re basically protecting yourself in the process of running this business or running this company, or those kinds of things. I remember I read that request and one of the things that went through my mind was the battles that even I face in the morning. I tend to work out first thing in the morning before I come into the office. But there’s decidedly days where I feel guilty for going to the gym and could be in the office an hour earlier. So there’s that kind of tug of war that you feel, right? And have to be able to mentally override that and realize that.

Yeah, I could get into the office an hour earlier, but at the end of the day, the most important thing in my life is my health. Because if I don’t have that, nothing else matters. Any of the other stuff. So again, are you building positive or are you building negative momentum? So you have to create those themes and you have to live with those themes in order to change the behaviors.

Sean Johnson:  Well, that’s all the questions I have on persuasion.  Your brain had not been completely picked. Any closing thoughts or anything like that before we wrap up?

David Naylor: I think that from a topical standpoint, and I love the last question that you went and you went to, which was really about convincing ourselves.  Joe said to me years ago, I remember we were in the parking lot of a shopping mall.

So we’re just sitting in the car having a conversation, and he said to me, he goes,” You now, I’ve been thinking about something a lot lately. Everything in life is cumulative. It’s kind of my cumulative theory.

I remember we’re sitting there talking about it and that’s where he really started talking to me about that Constable momentum. And he goes “If somebody does something one time, it doesn’t really make too much of a difference, as long as it’s not some catastrophic thing, like hurting somebody or something like that. Somebody does something once, because in most cases it doesn’t really make that much of a difference. But if they do it two, three, four, five times, all of a sudden it starts making a difference because everything is cumulative. As human beings, we tend to look at things in snapshots and not think about the cumulative nature of things.”

That was a conversation I always weighed heavy in my head because I really started to look at so many of the decisions that I was making, whether it was, interacting with my kids or Michelle or the decisions I was making with my career, or the how I was even treating myself and looking at, “What am I accumulating here? Am I building positive momentum? Am I building negative momentum?” Because you’re always doing one or the other.

David Naylor:  If you build enough of either one, it starts to matter a lot.

Sean Johnson: It’s compound interest.

David Naylor: Exactly. All of those little decisions that we make, if we use that as a referencing point all of a sudden, what seems like a trivial choice has a lot more weight.

Sean Johnson: Yeah, absolutely. Alright, thanks, Dave.

David Naylor: You’re welcome.

*Transcription edited for clarity


0:44- Intro into persuasion

2:38- Can we actually convince people of things?

4:09- How do we know when we should use persuasion?

6:39- What really causes us to make a decision?

11:02- Understanding the other person’s beliefs

14:01- Logic vs. emotion

17:54- Motivational profiles

23:50- How do you tell where someone falls, emotion or logic?

25:25-How to use what you learn about someone to persuade them

27:13- Dave’s parenting “window”

33:25- Once we figure out how to persuade someone, where do we go from there

35:41- How do you know when the “window” is open?

42:01- The power of speaking things out loud

43:28-Preservation instinct

47:53- Deep rooted beliefs

52:07- Why delivery matters so much

1:00:03- Concluding thoughts

We want to know what you think!

What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Let us know in the comments below!

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