Monday, August 27, 2012

Influence Technique - the Benjamin Franklin Effect

Benjamin Franklin is known for many things..
  • Printer (built numerous printing businesses and was even responsible for printing all paper money for Pennsylvania & Delaware)
  • Newspaper Owner
  • Inventor (invented first original American musical instrument - the glass harmonica (Armonica), which even Bach & Beethoven wrote music for)
  • Musician (played violin, harp, guitar &, of course, the Armonica)
  • Inventor (Franklin stove, bifocal glasses, Lightening rod, Rocking chair, Odometer...)
  • Politician (one of the famous signatures on the Declaration of Independence)
  • Educator (formed an Academy for higher learning which, in 1791, was officially renamed... The University of Pennsylvania)
  • Developer (established the first circulation library for the colonies, first volunteer fire company, first insurance company, first  hospital...)
Truly a gifted and insightful man, despite having been born the son of a soap and candlestick maker, with little or no education.  Like many with drive and intelligence, he did not allow his lowly station to preclude him from learning all he could.  He was passionate about self-improvement and went out of his way to network with anyone that had something he could learn.  As a result, he became very adroit at human relations, at influencing and persuading others.

Perhaps one of the best-known persuasive techniques employed by Franklin, which is now credited to him and known as the Franklin Effect, plays against our intuitive belief that we do nice things for those we like and do not go out of our way to do anything nice for those we dislike.  

What Franklin's study of human nature determined though is that our brain cannot uphold contradictory information.  If we believe that we would only do nice things for those we like, then the logical implication is that if we do nice things for people...  we must like them!

In his biography Franklin described a particular situation and gentleman that was not a fan of his.  In fact, this particular gentleman delivered a long speech to the legislature denigrating Franklin, in an effort to prevent his reelection into his role as Clerk of the General Assembly.  Although Franklin won the role, he recognised that this colleague could gain more influence in the legislature that may impact Franklin's future opportunities.  Franklin therefore realized he would need to turn this individual into a fan.  

When faced with a similar dilemma, most of us would follow the more common route of going out of our way to say and do 'nice' things for and about the other party.  However, Franklin was not willing to be seen as servile in any way, nor did he want his influence attempts to be obvious.  Instead, he employed a much more subtle technique.

Franklin was well known as an avid book collector, reader and library founder, all of which gave him a reputation as a man of exemplary tastes.  His adversary also happened to have a private collection of books.  Franklin therefore sent him a letter asking if he could borrow a particular book from his private library.  This book though, was very rare and difficult to come by.  The rival, flattered by Franklin's request, sent the book right away. Franklin read it and sent it back a week later, accompanied by a simple thank you.  That's it!

The next time that the legislature met though, Franklin was approached by his adversary who engaged him in conversation for the first time.  In Franklin's own words he explained that this gentleman  "ever after manifested a readiness to serve me on all occasions, so that we became great friends, and our friendship continued to his death." 

Most of us, in trying to build a bridge between ourselves and someone we dislike, would think that the easiest way to do so would be to do a favor for them, to do something nice.  Not so.  They may feel the necessity to reciprocate in kind, but then they are merely paying off a debt.  To shift their thinking about you permanently, you need a different approach.  Instead of doing them a favour, you need to get them to do one for you.  In so doing, their brains begin to modify their beliefs about you.  

We believe that we would only do a favour for someone we like.  Therefore, if we have done a favour for someone... then we must like them.  We can't hold inconsistencies to be true in our brains, therefore our brains sort them to make sense of them.  Getting someone to do you a favour will go a lot further to making them feel more positively disposed toward you than your doing them a favour ever will.  

So... stop spending all of your time doing for others...  get them doing for you!  You'll seem a lot nicer for it!

Oh... and... could I ask you to do me a favour?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Change your Posture... Change your Thoughts

We are hearing a lot in the media lately about how to 'read' someone's body language to uncover their feelings about our product, the situation, the offer, or even us.  But little seems to be written about the impact of body language on how we feel.  When learning to read and interpret the body language of others, instructors will often have you shift your body into the position of the other party. When you are standing or sitting exactly like them, question yourself about what you are feeling while in this posture.  Odds are... it's similar to what they are feeling.

As much as we can use this to help us understand others, it has another important lesson for us.  If we can shift how we feel by shifting how we sit or stand, then we can strategically Craft our thoughts and feelings by modifying our posture. Want to feel more confident?  Adopt a more confident way of standing and moving.  Want to feel happier? Start smiling.  Want to feel more energetic?  Stop slumping and shorten the length of your gestures, moving your limbs a little faster when speaking.

You want to feel more positive, energetic and happy about life?  You can take the long route and explore why you aren't those things already, eliminate barriers and obstacles to those feelings, and then forge ahead to experience more of them in your life.  Or...  you can adopt the body language of someone who is positive, energetic and happy and... begin to feel and experience more of them in your life.  Either path gets you to the same place.  One just gets you there faster.

The simple truth is that our brain doesn't know the difference.  It believes that if we are standing, sitting, or moving a certain way then we must 'be' a certain way and it makes it so.  Pretty powerful stuff.  The following are 5 examples of shifts you can make in your body language to experience more of these in your life...


To appear more powerful to others and, more importantly, to feel more confident and powerful in your interactions, you need to learn to adopt a more powerful pose.  Powerful people take up space so plant your feet firmly (at least shoulder width apart) and open up your limbs.  You want to make more expansive gestures, ending them away from your body.  Elongate your spine, ensuring that your shoulders are back, your head is up.


Willpower implies that we are feeling challenged, but that we are pushing through.  It therefore has a tension to it.  You want to feel willpower in those moments when yours are slipping?  Tense up your muscles.  Studies show that when you firm up your muscles you can better withstand pain, take unpleasant medicine, resist temptation, etc.  So the next time you are faced with the display case of 'goodies' en route to ordering your 'skinny' latte, don't slink on past and avoid eye contact with the case, tighten up your muscles while elongating your spine.  This will give you the willpower you need to resist and will also communicate to your brain that you have the strength to do it again, and again, and again.

Insight.  If you are trying to solve a particularly difficult problem... lie down.  Let's face it, we often solve major issues or come up with our best ideas after we sleep on them.  Lying down increases our propensity for arriving at creative solutions.  Sure, they may think you're a little crazy at work (you might want to ensure you're in a room with a closed door!) but hey... it works!


We all have times where we need to influence or persuade the thinking or decisions of others.  Know that hand gestures are critical to helping increase the persuasiveness of your argument.  The most effective gestures, of course, are called Illustrators; those gestures that help to support and illustrate the point you are making.  Any gestures that help your audience to 'visualize' what you are saying, helps to bring them closer to your message and find it more agreeable.


It is generally safe to say that most of us could do with feeling happy more often.  As mentioned earlier, if you want to feel more happiness... smile.  The smile is the only universal gesture that there is.  It transcends gender, age, culture, socio-economic status, or ethnicity.  A smile... is a smile.  Babies in the womb smile.  Those born blind at birth smile when happy.  Research has shown that the simple act of smiling, whether you mean it or not, releases endorphins into the body that help you feel good and... happier.

The bottom line... if you are feeling an emotion that isn't serving you then shift your posture and body language to one that does.  That simple shift will move you into a mindset that will be more productive for you and will net you more positive results.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Speaking Tips of the Pros

You have all likely heard the statistic that more people fear standing up and delivering a speech than they fear dying.  Jerry Seinfeld said it best when he said..
“According to most studies, people's number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”
Puts it into a different visual context doesn't it?  We know that, because most people fear public speaking, that those who are capable of doing so are viewed as possessing many more positive leadership traits than simply the ability to speak.  They will be viewed as more confident, likable, attractive, decisive and so on, simply because they spoke credibly.

For the lay-person then, the implication is that any time spent becoming a better and more effective public speaker (and note that any time you are speaking out loud, to an audience of one or more, you are technically speaking in public!) will help you position yourself more positively with that audience. It will always prove to be time well-invested.

To help you improve I have gathered for you some of the best tips to consider when preparing.  These aren't the technical aspects of delivering a solid speech, but some of the impactful, but often overlooked, elements for you to consider that I use with my clients.  The Pros know and do these.

Tell Stories.  We've loved 'em since we were kids!  Stories keep us engaged, make us wonder what's going to happen next and are memorable.  You could tell your audience what you want them to know OR... you could tell them a story that delivers the message for you.  Which would you rather listen to?

Don't Speak to Impress.  Novices often try to sound smarter, confident, professional...  by trying to impress their audience.  Note though, that this is all about you.  It is all about how good you are, how much you know, how important you are.  Audiences don't care about you (yet!), they care about themselves.  Make your speech all about them, show interest in and respect for your audience, and they will listen to what you have to say.

Prepare... and Prepare Some More.  Yes, you must know your content.  BUT....  don't memorize it!  Too scripted a speech will feel soulless to your listeners.  Know your content well enough to be able to let go of it, and just talk to your audience instead of at them.  Doing this will build you instant credibility.

Make Eye Contact.  I know that many books on delivering speeches tell you that you can look at people's foreheads, or above their heads, and they won't know.  People know.  You must connect with your audience and your eyes are a primary tool to help you make that connection.  Don't try to fool 'em...  they are smart and know the difference!  Even short eye contact, acknowledging their presence in the room, is a personal enough connection for them to feel more positively disposed to you.  Avoid their eyes at your own peril.

Focus More on How than What.  Inexperienced speakers put all of the time and effort into creating the content of their speech, the 'what' they are going to say.  However, they miss then focusing on 'how' they are going to deliver it.  The 'how' of the message provides all of the secondary cues to your audience, the cues that tell them how they should feel about what you're telling them.  This is the emotional component of your message.  You may have the right content, but if 'how' you deliver it looks and sounds like you're bored or scared, it will negatively impact the strength of the content received.  When practicing your delivery, tape yourself to hear and see your 'how'...  is it saying what you need it to say?

If it's Important, it's Worth Saying Twice.  This point speaks to the value of repetition.  Don't count on your audience hearing everything that you say the first time.  If you have one key take-away message for your audience, make sure that you have said it more than once in your speech.  Repetition is memorable. Martin Luther King Jr. didn't tell his audience once that He Had a Dream...  he repeated it over and over until it became his audience's dream as well.

The Rule of Three's.  Taking the concept of repetition a little further is the rule of threes.  Our brains work in interesting ways and one of the tricks to helping our brains remember informational content better is to cluster it in groups of three.  Have three main points, use three examples of a point, repeat a key message three times.  Breaking your information down into three distinct clusters of information helps to ensure that it gets remembered.  ("Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness", "Blood, Sweat and Tears", "Friends, Romans, Countrymen", "Stop, Look, Listen"... 3 Wise Men, 3 Stooges, 3 Musketeers, 3 Bears... get the point?)

Feel First, then Think.   Get your audience to feel you and your message first, then you have them listening.  To do this you want to hijack their Amygdalas. What?  The Amygdala is the emotional power center of the brain.  It governs the fight or flight response, and it's responsible for the release of chemicals that put us into a heightened state of arousal and it triggers our emotions.  For your speech, you want to ensure that you turn 'on' the Amygdalas of your audience, so that they feel and react to the content of your message.  You therefore want to ensure that you connect with your audience before you say anything of substance.  Get them feeling, and you've got them listening.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The True Purpose of Communication

Regardless of 'what' we are communicating...
Regardless of 'why' we are communicating...
There is only one true purpose for communicating.
The purpose of ALL communication is to influence.  
We may have a primary purpose for our communication of sharing information but we will always have a host of other secondary purposes, at least one of which is to influence our audience... about us. As you are speaking to anyone, about anything, you are also attempting to convince them that you are...
  • important
  • knowledgeable
  • desirable
  • capable
  • competent
  • confident
  • an expert
  • passionate
  • energetic
...and so on. Unfortunately, most of us focus only on the need to get the primary information out and don't focus on the delivery of any secondary messages, missing out on significant opportunities to craft the way that our audience thinks and feels about us and about the information we're sharing. 

What's important to note though, is that whether we craft those sub-textual messages or not we are still delivering them.  They just might not be saying what we'd like them to say.  Becoming a strong communicator does not mean that you have to learn to love giving speeches, but it does require you learn to present you and your message 'well', by learning to say what you mean in a way and tone that strengthens, rather than diminishes, that meaning.

For example: you can't simply 'tell' people you are passionate about your topic and expect to be believed, if you don't deliver your topic WITH passion.  people will need to hear it, to see it, in order to believe it.  In fact, you shouldn't have to 'tell' people that you are passionate about something. Telling them should be redundant because they should be able to see it and hear it, to feel it, for themselves.  It is much stronger for them to experience it.  That will be infinitely more memorable for them and will become part of their definition of 'you'.  

You are communicating sub-textually already.  Every time you say anything.  In order to begin using this messaging more consciously, to influence others to see and hear desirable messages, you must begin by being clear about what those messages are.  Ask yourself what you want your audience to think and feel about the information you are sharing with them and, perhaps, even what you would like them to do with it.  If you are ultimately building to a call-to-action your delivery of the information should help support that.  Additionally though, you need to also ask what you want your audience to think and feel about you.  How do you want to be seen?  What is the branded message you want to build and deliver?  

In order to strengthen these two main secondary-messages, to influence your audience to respond how you would like, use audiotape to 'play' with your method of delivery. The following are the top 3 vocal elements to listen for and to play with...
  • Speed.  Pay attention to the pace of your delivery.  Let it speed up a little to show excitement and passion, slow down a little to appear more thoughtful and thought-filled about your subject. Bear in mind that at all times you need to speak at a speed that your audience can listen without a lot of undo effort.
  • Volume.  Again, you need to speak at a volume level that can be heard easily, in whatever venue you are speaking in. Beyond that though, we naturally tend to speak a little louder than normal when we are excited about something and a little softer when we are more reflective or sharing something serious.
  • Variability.  Listen for the amount of variation present in your speech.  Too flat an affect will sound boring.  Your audience will find your topic boring and label you the same.  You want to have enough variation to hold the interest of your audience. This is your baseline.  Play from there. Add more variation and animation when story-telling, trying to add energy, build commitment and engagement, passion etc.  When communicating something serious and absolute, use a little less.  Don't go completely affect-less, but to make something sound like it's a done deal it will need to be delivered in a way that does not sound like it is open for discussion.  Less variation helps accomplish this.
Understanding how to use your secondary messaging systems is a key trait of all great communicators.  Not only does it help you to strengthen the credibility of your main message, but it serves to heighten your personal credibility too.

(Want a review of your videotaped delivery?  Contact us about setting up an online review session.