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How to Change Minds: The Art of Influence without Manipulation

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Surely you know plenty of people who need to make a change. But despite your well-intentioned efforts, they resist—because even when it’s in their best interest, people fundamentally fear change. As a salesman, father, friend, and consultant, Rob Jolles knows this scenario all too well. Drawing on his highly successful sales background and decades of research, he lays out a simple, repeatable, predictable, and ethical process that will enable you to lead others to discover for themselves what and why they need to change. Whether you hope to make a sale or improve a relationship, Jolles’s wise advice—illustrated through a bevy of sometimes funny, sometimes moving, always illuminating stories—will help you ensure that influencing someone is never an act of coercion but rather one of caring and compassion.

This enhanced edition contains ten videos totaling over 25 minutes in length. For many of the skills taught in this book, the author provides a video role-play showing that skill in action. In other videos, he underlines the crucial ethical nature of persuasion, and even shares an inspirational story cut from the original book. The full How to Change Minds deluxe experience is not to be missed.

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1 Changing Minds—Changing Lives

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At its core, when you are applying influence and changing another person’s mind, you are taking an idea, planting that idea in his brain, and making him feel as if he thought of it.

Does the quote above disturb you? I’d be surprised if it didn’t. Let’s not waste any time and get right to the heart of the matter. Does that quote define influence or manipulation? Indiana poet James Whitcomb Riley coined the phrase, “When I see a bird that walks like a duck and swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck.” I will show you a repeatable, predictable approach to changing another person’s mind. It’s not always pretty, it’s not always safe, and I’m well aware that the use of the word “influence” bothers people. The use of the word “manipulation” sickens people. Worst of all, the line between these two words can be razor thin. In fact, at times the difference may very well come down to intent, and nothing more. But before you shoot the messenger, please consider the following story.

 

2 Inside the Minds of Those You Are Changing

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Those who manipulate obsess on persuasive tactics they can follow.

Those who influence obsess on understanding the decision process followed by those they are persuading.

For over twenty-five years I have polled audiences regarding the unique decisions they make, and through various economic crises, a couple of wars, and a handful of other historic moments, I’ve learned one important thing: People go through repeatable, predictable steps when they make changes, regardless of the specifics of the decision in question. Understanding how people make decisions is critical when learning how to change minds and influence another’s behavior. As with many great ideas, discovering this process was almost an accident.

I have learned many different sales tactics over the years. When I worked at New York Life, I learned the Live, Die, Quit story, the Hundred Man story, and a few other impressive scripts. When I worked at Xerox, I learned SPIN: Selling, Strategic Selling, and a few other impressive processes. We were tasked with training the salespeople at the Xerox authorized dealerships who were selling our products. It would have been easy simply to teach them the same process the Xerox sales force was using. One small problem: The selling process we used was licensed to be taught only to Xerox personnel. Dealerships may have been authorized to sell Xerox products, but they were not Xerox personnel.

 

3 Establishing Trust

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Those who manipulate don’t ask for trust.

Those who influence don’t need to ask for trust; they earn it.

It all begins with trust. Nothing else really matters, nor will any other tactics that are taught really matter, if there isn’t trust. Can the art of creating trust be learned? Yes. Is there a process that can be defined for creating trust? Yes.

For over twenty years, I have been marching into training rooms all over the world, asking audiences to help me figure out what makes people trust other people. I word the question this way:

I want you to think of someone you trust or have trusted in the past on a very deep level. This could be a parent, a teacher, a colleague, a manager, or anyone else you can think of. Start by telling me how this person makes you feel.

Typical responses include:

He makes me feel important.

She makes me feel intelligent.

He makes me feel as if he cares about me.

She makes me feel as if she is interested in what I’m saying.

All good responses. The next question I ask is this: “Now tell me a little more about the person you are describing.”

 

4 The Blueprint for Changing Minds

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Those who manipulate put their faith in the right argument.

Those who influence put their faith in the right question.

Influence may begin with trust, but it can go nowhere without urgency. To learn the art of influence, you must learn the art of urgency. Remember that fifteen years of research tells us that eight out of ten people are aware they have an issue but they just don’t want to do anything about it. Well, I’m only allowed to say this once, so I’ll say it now: If you master any techniques from this book, master the techniques taught in this chapter. Clearly, I’m setting you up for the most important part of the process here, and yet, as important as I feel these tactics are, that doesn’t mean these tactics don’t elicit some emotional feelings. If ever there was a spotlight on the precarious line between influence and manipulation, it sits right here.

Some years ago I was sitting in a green room, getting ready to speak at a financial conference. Another speaker was on stage, and he began to speak less than glowingly about me. Then I heard these immortal words: “Today we’re going to hear from someone I call a scab picker—a man who believes that you must continue to ask people about their pain!” A few minutes later I took to the stage, grabbed the microphone, and introduced myself.

 

5 Committing to Change

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Those who manipulate believe the more you ask for a commitment, the greater your chances of success.

Those who influence believe you earn the right to ask for someone’s commitment.

So here we are—after methodically creating trust, we earned the right to enter into a conversation—to a guarded area many don’t allow us to enter. Once allowed in, we not only asked questions so as to identify this problem, we carefully, and empathetically, dug deeper. As a result, we allowed those who were feeling this pain to understand the true ramifications of their actions, and thus we created urgency. Take a deep breath, because you’re on the cusp of applying influence and changing another person’s mind. Did you miss it? Take a look at the definition that appears in the first chapter of this book.

At its core, when you are applying influence and changing another person’s mind, you are taking an idea, planting that idea in the other person’s brain, and making the person feel as if he or she thought of it.

People don’t just show up ready to put a patch on their arm to stop a cigarette habit that has consumed them for a lifetime. Let me take a moment and connect the dots for you.

 

6 Initiating Change

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Those who manipulate see an opening as a way to mislead someone into engaging in a conversation.

Those who influence see an opening as a way to determine if there are mutual benefits in engaging in a conversation.

As the shampoo commercial states, “You only have one chance to make a first impression.” When preparing for a critical conversation that involves the influence of another person’s opinion or behavior, that “one chance” usually boils down to about forty-five seconds. These are precious seconds and should be handled as carefully as possible.

When I think of an opening, I think of it as a topic sentence. A topic sentence is intended to serve as an overview of the paper you are writing. Your opening should act like an overview of the conversation you are about to have.

The opening tactics I will be showing you are flexible and can be applied to the opening of any conversation, regardless of your relationship with those with whom you are communicating. The verbiage will change, but the process will not. Personally, I think the most difficult conversation to initiate is one with someone who doesn’t know you very well, so, to make my point, this chapter will focus there.

 

7 “I Object!”

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Those who manipulate see an objection as a stumbling block to change.

Those who influence see an objection as an opportunity to continue to problem solve.

Most people do not naturally study the true potential of their problems. If they did, not only would they quickly fix them, but cost would have much less significance. I’ve noticed that, regardless of their financial status, people never look for the least expensive surgeon when an operation is prescribed; in some cases the issue of cost has clearly apparent life-altering potential.

Now that you’ve learned how to influence behavior, all will be right in your world, right? Let’s see.

Struggling with the ethics involved in influencing another’s behavior? Done.

Need to create trust with another person? Done.

Trying to create a sense of urgency in another person’s mind? Done.

That’s right; there’s nothing like learning about the art and science behind the human drama of influence. Now nothing can go wrong. Or can it? Until now, we have been operating in a perfect world, in which everyone we seek to influence cooperates fully. It’s now time to upset the apple cart, and see what happens when our processes break down and when those we seek to influence cast aspersions on our perfect world.

 

8 How to Change Your Mind

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Those who manipulate struggle with implementation, seeing the mastering of these skills as something they will revisit when it serves them.

Those who influence dedicate themselves to implementation, seeing the mastering of these skills as a way to help others in need of change.

Now that we have our process for changing minds clearly defined and on the table, it would appear that our job is done. We’ve touched all the bases. You have seen why people often avoid change and need assistance when it comes to modifying various habits. You have looked at the inside of the minds of those who struggle with change, and studied why they struggle, and even when they tend to struggle. You have examined a process to create trust, the blueprint for change, and a process to create urgency. You have learned how to begin the conversation, how to finish the conversation, and how to handle conflict within the conversation. But our work is still not done.

In my thirty-plus years of working with audiences, it has always puzzled me why so many people eagerly buy into concepts and processes, but in the end fail to implement them. Well, I think I know the answer, and I’d like to solve this mystery right now. In the words of Walt Kelly, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

 

Who Am I? A “Sto-em”

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A “STO-EM”

I prevent financial tragedies every time I get you to finally believe that your retirement and children’s education are more important than a seven-day cruise.

•••

I save lives every time I get you to stop putting off “what if” and purchase an item that protects you and your loved ones.

•••

I assist you each time I am able to get you to look past your decisions of the moment, and instead look at the “big picture” of your decisions in the future.

•••

I’m the person in the store. You felt put off by all my questions but wound up with a solution that not only saved your business that day, but also saved your job a year later as my product expanded along with your business.

•••

I’m the person who changed your mind about skimping on a business expenditure that was later responsible for bringing you your biggest customer.

•••

I looked you in the eye and asked you some disturbing questions. It upset you, but your anger toward me saved your life and the lives of others on a road you would have been too drunk to drive on.

 

How to Change Minds Worksheet

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Where is the person you are influencing in his or her decision cycle?

What steps would be most critical?

What steps would be least critical?

What are some anticipated strengths and weaknesses of your position?

What objections do you anticipate hearing?

What personality adjustments will you make?

Opening Notes: _______________________________________

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Appendix: Influence without Manipulation

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At its core, when you are applying influence and changing another person’s mind, you are taking an idea, planting that idea in his brain, and making him feel as if he thought of it.

•••

Those who manipulate engage in persuasion regardless of their personal feelings about a solution.

Those who influence engage in persuasion only if their personal feelings support their solution.

•••

Those who manipulate obsess on persuasive tactics they can follow.

Those who influence obsess on understanding the decision process followed by those they are persuading.

•••

Those who manipulate don’t ask for trust.

Those who influence don’t need to ask for trust; they earn it.

•••

Those who manipulate put their faith in the right argument.

Those who influence put their faith in the right question.

•••

Those who manipulate tell others about their problems.

Those who influence allow others to tell them about their problems.

•••

Those who manipulate “push” a person through his statements, telling him about a problem that may exist.

 

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