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Convinced!

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Competence does not speak for itself! You can't simply display it; you have to draw people's attention to it. World-renowned negotiation and deception detection expert, business professor, and mentalist Jack Nasher offers effective, proven techniques to convince others that we are talented, trustworthy, and yes, even brilliant.

Nasher offers the example of Joshua Bell, possibly the world's most famous violinist. In January 2007, at rush hour, he stepped into a Washington, DC, subway station, dressed like any street busker, and began to play a $4,000,000 Stradivarius. It was part of an experiment staged by a journalist of the Washington Post, who expected Bell's skill alone to attract an immense, awed crowd. But Bell was generally ignored, and when he stopped, nobody applauded. He made $34.17.

The good news is that you don't have to accept obscurity: you can positively affect others' perception of your talent. Whether you're looking for work, giving an important presentation, seeking clients or customers for your business, or vying for a promotion, Nasher explains how to use techniques such as expectation management, verbal and nonverbal communication, the Halo Effect, competence framing, and the power of nonconformity to gain control of how others perceive you.

Competence is the most highly valued professional trait. But it's not enough to be competent, you have to convey your competence. With Nasher's help you can showcase your expertise, receive the recognition you deserve, and achieve lasting success.

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8 Chapters

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CHAPTER 1 The Perception of Brilliance: Actual versus Perceived Competence

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If a man today were to take one day away from his current engagement and spend that one day learning the professional approach he would be doing himself and the firm a much greater service than he would be to produce seventy-five, a hundred, or a hundred and fifty dollars a day of income for McKinsey & Company.

MARVIN BOWER (1965)

What do you think would happen if one of the world’s great violin virtuosos performed for over 1,000 people in a metro station, incognito, during rush hour?

This is the exact question Washington Post journalist Gene Weingarten posed to Leonard Slatkin, director of the National Symphony Orchestra, in an interview in 2007.1

Slatkin replied, “Let’s assume that he is not recognized and just taken for granted as a street musician. . . . Still, I don’t think that if he’s really good, he’s going to go unnoticed . . . but, okay, out of 1,000 people, my guess is there might be 35 or 40 who will recognize the quality for what it is. Maybe 75 to 100 will stop and spend some time listening.”

 

CHAPTER 2 The Anticipation Effect: Managing Expectations to Show Your Expertise

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Humans will believe anything you say provided you do not exhibit the smallest shadow of diffidence; like animals, they can detect the smallest crack in your confidence before you express it. . . . If you act like a loser they will treat you as a loser—you set the yardstick yourself. There is no absolute measure of good or bad.

NASSIM NICHOLAS TALEB

Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1977. It was Miriam Lubow’s first day at her new job as an administrative assistant. The young, unconventional company had made a rather chaotic impression on her, and Miriam had not yet met her boss, who was surely away on a business trip. As she sat at her desk, a young guy with disheveled hair, wearing jeans and sneakers, burst in, walked into the boss’s office without saying a word to Miriam, and even proceeded into the inner sanctum—the computer room. Anxiously, Miriam ran to another department: What should she do about this guy who was acting like he owned the place? “Well, you know what,” a colleague replied, “he does. He’s your boss. He is the president.”1

 

CHAPTER 3 Good News, Bad News: Using the Power of Association

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In life, 10 percent is about what happens, and 90 percent is about how we react to it.

UNKNOWN

Yes, yes, no, no, yes, no, yes, yes, no, no.

Without counting the number of words on the previous line, take a guess of whether “yes” or “no” appears more times. Keep your answer in mind, as I’ll return to this question later (and don’t cheat by counting them!).

Do you remember the McKinsey and AT&T story from chapter 1? Though the consulting firm made a gigantic mistake, their reputation was hardly damaged. They were still able to radiate competence despite such a gigantic public failure. It’s important to ask, How can any company or individual appear competent in spite of such an obvious bomb? This ability is even more surprising when considering the asymmetry that exists between the effects of good and bad impressions: negative events will normally make a deeper impression than positive ones because they run counter to social expectations.1 That is why it is particularly important to properly manage bad impressions. However, we should also look at how to convert a success story into the best possible impression of perceived expertise.

 

CHAPTER 4 The Competence Formula: Framing Your Competence

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Smart and hard-working—doesn’t exist

Smart and lazy—that’s what I am

Stupid and lazy—for entertainment

Stupid and hard-working—heaven help us!

CHARLES DE TALLEYRAND

British author Stephen Potter wrote a serious of humorous self-help books on how to gain an advantage in life. In one of them, he described one of the stories of a legendary Harvard student with the name Fitzjames.1 Toward the end of his second semester, only a few weeks before the all-important final exams, Fitzjames suddenly disappeared. No one saw him at any lecture, seminar, or study group. His fellow students feverishly worked toward the final exams and were hanging on every word their professors said, but Fitzjames was nowhere to be found. On the day of the final, however, he walked into the exam room a few minutes late, sporting a heavy suntan and wearing a Palm Beach jacket. He slowly wrote his exam—and aced it!

 

CHAPTER 5 Verbal Communication: How to Speak like an Expert

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In my youth, I was also slow to speak and quick to act; but in the school of life, I learned that words, and not actions, rule the world everywhere.

HOMER

Without thinking about the question for too long, how would you assess the competence of the ladies and gentlemen who explain the world for us every evening on the nightly news? Few people would doubt their competence.1 In fact, news commentators are widely regarded as very competent, although they do nothing more than read what is put in front of them on the teleprompter (unless they also belong to the editorial group).

The way people speak—loudly or softly, slowly or quickly—has a significant influence on our perception of their competence. When evaluating the intelligence of another person, we prefer to use verbal indications rather than body language.2 In the interplay between these two, verbal and physical, the effect of verbal evidence is the dominant factor. Even when individuals can only be seen and not heard—like when you mute your TV—verbal factors will still carry the most weight. How is this possible when nothing is heard? Because competence killers, such as stuttering, can be perceived through visual observation alone and will, even without sound, have disastrous consequences for the perceived competence of the person speaking.

 

CHAPTER 6 Nonverbal Communication: How to Move like an Expert

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It might be possible to distinguish from behind a blockhead, a fool, and a man of intellect. The blockhead would be characterized by a leaden sluggishness of all his movements; folly is stamped on every gesture; so too are intellect and a studious nature.

ARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER

When I give a talk on nonverbal communication, I begin with the following words: “Put your left hand in front of you, your right hand above it. As soon as I say so, clap your hands together.” Without pausing, I clap, and almost the entire audience does so as well—even though I haven’t given them the command yet. This little demonstration quickly and clearly illustrates my point to the crowd: what you say is less important than what you actually do. To prove the point, having done this little exercise is much more impressive than just reading about it.

Even though verbal communication and the manner of speaking is of crucial importance, the effect of body language is usually stronger on our subconscious than that of the spoken word.1 We see this idea play out in how people consume news. Those of us who watch television end up drawing conclusions about a story or report that are often contrary to the conclusions of those of us who listen to the radio, even though the content of the two mediums is identical.2 When pictures speak a different language from words, the images prevail. In fact, some psychologists consider nonverbal communication to be the decisive key to influencing others.3

 

CHAPTER 7 Beautiful and Popular: How to Increase Your Popularity and Attractiveness

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I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their good intellects.

OSCAR WILDE

More than 100 years ago, US psychologist Edward Lee Thorndike conducted an experiment that seemed quite unimpressive at first glance but turned out to be revolutionary. He asked military officers to evaluate their subordinates based on such diverse aspects as fitness, intellect, orderliness, leadership, loyalty, and reliability.1

Thorndike noted that the officers’ individual evaluations of a person, in most cases, showed surprisingly similar positive or negative correlations among totally different, unrelated qualities. For example, those considered neat were also considered loyal. Those rated as intelligent were also seen as physically fit. This finding made no sense to Thorndike: neatness and loyalty should have no bearing on one another, nor should intelligence have a direct influence on fitness. Thorndike described this phenomenon as “constant error in psychological ratings.” With this study, he instituted the term “halo effect,” the key phenomenon discussed throughout chapter 3. As a reminder, the halo effect shows that positive news radiates positively over every other aspect of a person or event, and bad news does so negatively. Starting with only a few points of reference, this halo effect therefore applies to the entire assessment of a person.

 

CHAPTER 8 Status: The Power of Symbols

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The world more often rewards the appearances of merit than merit itself.

FRANÇOIS DE LA ROCHEFOUCAULD

You can become a management consultant right after elementary school—even if you didn’t graduate. In contrast to auditors, doctors, or lawyers, consultants don’t need any formal training. Specialized knowledge plays practically no role in their services—not the ideal condition to be taken seriously and justify high fees. To avoid this impression, the “world’s newest profession,” as Oxford researcher Chris McKenna refers to management consulting, has deliberately copied the language and symbols of other professions that already have a high status.1 From the outset, these consultants appeared as “Doctors of Management,” describing their activities through medical analogies. By doing so, they added a coating of scientific character to their “expert knowledge” and assured their clients that they would act conscientiously and discreetly, just like an actual doctor.

 

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