It’s SO frustrating… You try to tell others something important. But they’re not hearing.
You tell your team: ” This is what we need to do during the next weeks. First, we need to implement the new IT systems. Then we need to fix the customer interface problems.” NO reaction. Some are staring at their computers. Some are staring at you with a blank face. Some seem to be half asleep.
You’ve just presented your new strategy. ”So this is our new strategy. Any questions or comments?”
Deep silence. No comments. No questions. ”Did they even hear what I said?”, you wonder. Next day, nobody’s talking about the strategy. It’s obvious your message didn’t get through.
You tell your spouse: ”Listen, I would really like us to spend some more time together. Maybe we could have dinner at that new restaurant this Saturday?”.
”Yeah, sure, maybe… But you know what aunt Lisbeth told me yesterday? She bought this new dress, but then it turned out it doesn’t fit her shoes at all. So she went back to buy new shoes also, and ….” Blah blah…
You tell your teenage son: ”We need to set some ground rules regarding your home coming time. You can’t stay out all night!”
”Right… Well, but I need to go now. See ya, bye!”
Influencing others is NOT easy. But what makes it unnecessarily difficult is a common blindspot. A common mistake most of us do when we’re trying to make others listen to us.
Once you understand this blindspot and a simple tactic to overcome it, your level of influence goes way up. It can be one of the most powerful tactics in influencing you’ll ever learn, if you learn it right. Yep. It really can. Keep on reading.
So what is the blindspot and mistake I’m talking about?
When we try to influence others, we often fall into the trap of believing: “we just need to TELL people the facts. Share our information with them.” We think that when we tell people the facts, they absorb the information and change their behavior accordingly. It seems we assume people are rational, and by just giving them the rational information, things work out. But it doesn’t work like that.
It’s actually quite amazing! We try this over and over again, even though it doesn’t work. Especially corporations are FULL of rational information flow.
This is our strategy… These are our goals… These are our processes… PowerPoints… Emails… Information.
And then we wonder: “Why the heck aren’t people doing their stuff? I did send that email. And I told them the facts in the meeting. What’s wrong with them?”
So let me tell you something you know already. And if you don’t know, then its time you learn this deeply. It’s time you understand this once and for all.
So here it is: PEOPLE ARE NOT RATIONAL!
And let me repeat it again, just so you remember this: PEOPLE ARE NOT RATIONAL!
Got it? So now you know this.
Then comes the next question: “So what can I do about it? If people are not rational, then how do I get my message across?” Great. THAT’s a good question.
The answer comes from understanding the fact that people are also EMOTIONAL. You must understand that what ever you say or do, it evokes some kind of emotions in people. Even if you only talk about the facts. Even if you don’t show any emotion yourself (and actually, if you don’t show any emotions, it’s likely to make people feel bad…)
For example, when you talk about the goals of your team, your message elicits emotions in people.
- Maybe they feel anxious. “Oh, I’m stuffed already. I can’t possibly take on anything new!”
- Maybe they feel excited. “This is great! I’ll get started right away!”
- Maybe they feel afraid. “I’m afraid I can’t do what he asks me. If I pretend I didn’t hear, maybe he’ll just leave me alone and I can just keep on doing what I’m used to doing.”
- Maybe they feel indifferent, and your message has not touched them at any level. “This is just same crap as always. Nothing of interest to me here.”
So there are many, many possible emotions that could be relevant here, but now I want to focus on one particular emotion – the most important emotion – that you need to evoke first if you want to influence people.
Because if you want to influence people, the first thing you need to do is to get their ATTENTION.
If you don’t have people’s attention, they will not hear what you say. Their thoughts are somewhere else. They are checked out. The communications channel is closed.
There is one particular emotion that is especially relevant to attention. An emotion that directs your attention. That emotion is CURIOSITY (often also called interest).
Curiosity has been researched thoroughly over the past years, and it is actually a very, very interesting emotion. But now I don’t want to overwhelm you, so I’ll share just a very brief overview of curiosity. So you can improve your influence with it.
What is curiosity and why is it important?
Curiosity is a powerful emotion that has a central role in acquiring new knowledge. It is the emotion behind all science and progress. With the power of curiosity, we have developed modern physics, medicine, IT and internet, and conquered our planet and space around us.
Curiosity has an important message to you: “There is something I WANT to know, and I don’t know it yet.“ It is a powerful emotion when you want to influence others.
Why? Because curiosity:
- directs your attention towards the thing that evoked curiosity
- increases your motivation to learn and get new information
- it improves your memory – we remember better those things we’ve been curious about
- it makes you feel good when you learn what you wanted to learn
This example will help you understand the point:
You’re watching an interesting movie in the evening. You have an early wake-up tomorrow morning, so you know you should go to sleep. But damn, that movie is so interesting… You WANT TO KNOW how it ends… You are so CURIOUS… And you watch it till the end. And next morning, you’re tired.
Yep. Nobody asked you to stay up late. You didn’t get paid any extra for it. Actually, you pay a price for it yourself – you’re more tired today. But the power of curiosity was too strong. You WANTED to stay up and see how the movie ends.
So think about this. If people were as curious towards your message, they’d stay up late just to hear what you have to say! You wouldn’t need to do any extra persuasion or give any extra rewards to make them hear you out. Just getting them curious would do the trick.
Sounds worthwhile, doesn’t it?
So HOW do you get people curious?
Well, the trick is that you have to convey your message in a different way than what you are used to. Don’t just TELL people the information and expect them to listen. Instead, think about these questions, first:
- Am I myself interested in what I have to say? (This is important, because emotions are highly contagious. If you’re not interested yourself, nobody will be.)
- Do I believe people are interested in what I have to say? Should they be? Why is this message important to them?
- How can I make my message so interesting that they just WANT to hear me out?
Then you can think about ways to get people curious.
In principle, it is quite simple: you just have to make people know that you have some important or interesting information that they do not yet have. In principle, you could just say: “Hey, I have something important to tell you.” Already this simple statement can be enough to awaken curiosity. Or you can tell only a part of the story and leave the rest for a later time: “But this is not the whole story. There are two other important points. I will share them with you next time we meet.”
Here are some other examples you can try to get people curious:
- “This year, our strategy will be very different. Be prepared for a surprise!”
- “Hey, I just came up with something… Yes, this is a big insight!”
- “Look, there’s something you need to know. Something important.”
- “You know what? I think we’re missing an important point here.”
- “Tomorrow I will tell you what happens next…”
These are just simple examples, but I hope you get the point. If you want to influence people, you need to get them to listen to you. You need their attention. You need to make them WANT to hear what you have to say. And there’s nothing as powerful as CURIOSITY to make people listen to you.
Go ahead and try this. Try to make at least one person curious TODAY! Then share your experiences in the comments below.
PS. If you found this blog useful, please do me a favor and share it with others!