Eliminating Reactance and Resistance to Persuasion and Influence
Before you even made the appointment or the date, they were afraid that you were going to manipulate them….
You have 2 massive problems in attempting to influence others. No one ever told you about them…because they know NOTHING about it…
Resistance and Reactance
Imagine a friend is going to open up. They’re going to tell you a secret that most people won’t admit about themselves. It goes like this… “Kevin, you know, it’s hard to admit this but you were right. It seems like every time you say something, I say ‘no’ and then a few months later, I say, “You were right about…”
This person is being vulnerable with you because they really don’t understand themselves. Sadly the person (she who confesses!) is ahead of the rest of the population by miles because they are eventually able to admit these reactive moments in their experience with you.
Here’s a secret. Every human has reactant responses to at least SOME (types of or specific) people in certain contexts. Most people are reactant mode in almost all life situations. It’s simple logic. Humans are “off” until something/someone enters the vicinity that turns them “on.” They are now reactive. Very little wakes up a human. He sees friend, an unimportant intruder or foe and not much else.
The initial “no” Kevin heard from his friend was reactance, not resistance. Reactance is the fear of being manipulated or sense of losing freedom of control over themselves, their life, their destiny.
Reactance and resistance are not the same thing. And when you look carefully, you see they have different characteristics.
How YOU manage both of types of repulsions is also different.
As the woman became more aware of her impulsive reaction (“you know you were right, I just didn’t feel it at the time”) you observe a strong but dual connection between the two people. It’s obvious when I tell you that the person trusts the other person enough to be in the presence of this person yet is afraid of losing freedom of choice.
It’s very easy for people to have two intentions in any moment.
In other words, the initial reaction was “no.” That “no” is manifest in all kinds of different expressions of emotions.
It’s hard to not take this personally but the fact is that their reaction would have been “no” if you had said, “can I give you $5,000 with your dinner at no extra charge?”
That’s how reactance works.
Reactance is in part is about brain history. That history can go back 20 years or 20,000 years into human history but it really isn’t simply about today. Sure the TRIGGERS are there today but the actual ROOT is in your brain and was likely in the brains of your ancestors.
Reactance is the fear of the loss of some kind of control, typically though not always being manipulated against “their will.”
In your history or the history of your ancestry, more often than not when you (or your ancestors) were manipulated, you had a bad experience.
You logically know that often enough when you were manipulated things turned out fine, if not brilliantly. But the things that HURT and CAUSED PAIN in life were deeply rooted in the PAIN of doing something you were pushed into doing.
I want you to clearly understand this:
20-40%% of the time in your life you WERE manipulated and you thank god for your “decision.” Awesome experience. I bet you never remember SAYING, “Thank god I was manipulated…”
60-80% of the time in your life you WERE manipulated and you curse god for your “stupidity.” Terrible experience. I bet you remember saying, “He conned me into it.” “She suckered me.”
…or if reactance is rooted even deeper into your human self, 20-40% of the time that your ancestors were manipulated things turned out beautifully.
and if reactance is rooted even deeper into your human self, 60-80% of the time that your ancestors were manipulated things turned out poorly or you (or your ancestors) FELT terrible.
Example: Jane sees a persuasive attempt or any basic kind of communication, “you look beautiful today” or “you can do so much more, you are amazing,” the reactant brain says things like, “what makes you say that?!” “How do you know, are you god?” “What’s in it for you?”
The reaction to or from her friends might be, “can’t trust him,” “don’t get screwed again!” “BE CAREFUL,” “Remember what happened last time.”
People RARELY remember the times they were manipulated and things turned out for the better.
Because sometimes when they were manipulated they believed (truly) that the decision they made was really theirs and of course, for the most part it wasn’t, but things were as good or better than what they were fearful of happening.
It’s true that thousands of times in your life YOU were manipulated and it did NOT turn out poorly! So wait… Am I saying that thousands of your time you were manipulated and you might have felt bad, out of control, or even horrible in the moment. And what happened in these experiences? You went along without too much kicking and screaming and you had a great experience.
Here’s a secret.
The “LAST time” is really not the last time you were manipulated and you were afraid. The “LAST time” is really the last time you were afraid of being manipulated that DID BECOME a disaster.
If it were not so, there would be NO new experience this time.
In other words, had she not gotten screwed by buying a similar product or having been in a similar situation last year, she wouldn’t be flipping out today. The alarms went off long before you opened your mouth. The Emergency Broadcasting System was ready to trigger before she knew you were going to walk in the door or even into her life.
That’s how reactance works.
Reactance is often best described as the fear of being manipulated or the fear of having control taken from YOU.
And when it isn’t that specific fear, it’s the brains preparedness for things to be a disaster in the future that were a disaster in the past.
None of this has anything (only rarely) to do with YOU, except of course, that YOU are now walking in the door completely innocent of all crimes you are about to be accused of.
Reactance is so common that it’s easy to understand how people often are in full reactant mode and then six months later they realize that the other person was right, or wasn’t trying to hurt them, or wasn’t trying to be a jerk.
This all begs the question, “Is there a ‘reactant’ personality?”
Answer? Not so much a personality as a behavior. And a predictable behavior at that. People change as they grow. They experience situations where they were hurt, ripped off, manipulated and paid big prices for these distressing experiences.
When people are afraid they do one of three things.
If someone consistently behaves in one of those three ways when faced with triggering situations, you have to know that reactance will be observed…now.
Attempting to “fix” these moments either in advance or after the fact, is difficult.
Here’s what YOU will do…and here’s how you reduce this terror other people experience for no good present reason whatsoever.
Behavior: It’s a funny thing. Especially when it comes to FEAR…Reactance
Let’s look at reactance where you logically might not have guessed there was any in your brain…but it turns out there is a lot more than anyone would have guessed.
Two cities come to mind when you think of being entertained while you take a walk. You know, places where the street performers are really good and even captivating. Seattle and Las Vegas come to mind. And Vegas wins this one.
I’m walking down The Strip in Vegas with someone I care about. I’m with my girl. I’ve walked these exact sidewalks and paths with some of my favorite people in the world.
Remember as we move on that the rolodex doesn’t get in the way of reactance. Reactance happens before your Rolodex gets to have a crack at any situation you find yourself in!
Invariably there are street performers who are a lot of fun. Some of the street performers are remarkably talented. They play instruments that range from makeshift drums made from milk cartons to nice guitars. Some street performers are dressed as Minions, Mickey Mouse, showgirls, and so on.
They are hoping of course that people will drop money into a hat as they pass.
I think I’ve given money one time to someone in Vegas out of hundreds of days walking the strip. That seems puzzling when in general, I’m a fairly giving person. We walk down the street and see those those claiming to be homeless and I often feel disdain. They got all the way up here on a bridge between Palazzo and Wynn (two massive hotels) which is an accomplishment all by itself….and I’ve felt compelled to give…nothing. Disdain. And I’ve had relatives who were homeless for quite some time in my closely knit family.
I’d like to tell you why but I’m not sure.
I fly to Spain this summer. (Don’t go to Spain in the summer. It is as hot as Alabama and as sticky as Lousiana.) Barcelona is a beautiful city. I walk the streets with a good friend. And in the strangest places there are street performers not on the main streets but the back alleys which hundreds of years ago are where philosophers and musicians from the 17th century and long before came.
On the main streets I saw no beggars which was surprising. As in Las Vegas and Seattle, I gave nothing to the street performers even though I sat and watched these guys play with a group of 30 for say 10 minutes. (A long time for me to be anywhere on this planet.) I enjoyed these two guys playing guitar…flamenco…tough guitar music to play. I was impressed.
So now I’m in Nice, France. There are no beggars but there are plenty of street artists like there are in Las Vegas or Prague. These folks are painting stuff. Some with spray cans. I hadn’t seen that before. I felt compelled to buy some of his work but not make a “donation.” I didn’t, but I could have had it been more convenient to transport stuff around town.
Then twice, in Sofia and twice in Warsaw at different times I was asked for zloties or leva. And I pulled out my wallet. I never give someone a single leva or a single zloty. In Sofia I gave the little 7 year old girl 20 leva. (about $13) This of course drew attention. That’s a days wages for 1/4 of the adult population. I was by myself heading for lunch. Once in Warsaw I pulled out 10 zloties ($3 in paper money not coins) and gave it to a similar little girl, maybe 6 or 7 years old.
So what is it that causes me to say ‘no’ or simply walk on by in some places. (I’m always much more generous by myself than when I’m with another person. This has always surprised me.)
And I hate being asked to give money to someone on the street. I have given money to men on rare occassion, never older men or women but often to children, particularly kindergarten age kids.
So why am I “resistant” to the pleas of an 80 year old woman asking for one leva when I give the next person who asks, a school age child…10 or 20 leva?
And for the scope of this specific article, you have to ask, “is Kev simply REACTANT to being manipulated by adults as he walks down the Vitoshka in Sofia?
Certainly Kev understands that there are adults in charge of sending kids out to do the begging for a family or group. And again this isn’t about a poor country or a wealthy nation (I don’t think) as it is about my reaction to the characteristics and identity of the individual and of course, the context.
What is it I’m afraid of?
And why am I compelled to give a little girl in Sofia more money than I will pay for my lunch?
All these people are trying to survive whether by a con, a ruse or legitimately having no clue as to what else to do. Certainly in the U.S. I know that the vast majority of people who live in the streets don’t have to. In the U.S. there are facilities to help but yet they are out with painted signs and hats.
Here’s a scary notion: I don’t think I have ever turned a little child down for a request for money…in my life…ever.
I believe my reptilian brain feels no fear (reactance) of being manipulated even though my rational thinking parts of the brain are quite sure I AM being manipulated. I pull out the wallet for the little child. Every time.
The math seems to work like this with Kevin’s Reactance: 1) Grown men ==>revulsion 2) Grown women ==> no 3) Street performers in general== mostly no with some exceptions. (If they are playing Let It Be, that guy got a $5 bill on my last trip to Vegas. But this is unusual.) 4) The child ==> Yes …and more than anyone will give you this month. And it doesn’t matter who I’m with or if I’m by myself. It’s all about me.
Now before we go on and do psychoanalysis, what about YOU?!
Who do you remember giving to?
Someone who knocked on the door?
A child on the street?
A street performer?
When did you feel revulsion?
When did you immediately say “of course?”
Got a few?
Walking the strip in Las Vegas is one the pleasures of my life. I love the street performers as I do when I saw them in Barcelona. I saw one guy in Bulgaria that was good…
OK the psychoanalysis of reactance…
I’ve been asked by hundreds and hundreds of people on the streets begging for money over the years in Las Vegas. 97% of the time: No. And generally I’m repulsed. Occoccasionally I feel bad, but don’t get the idea that is the norm. It’s not. I am repulsed by adults begging for money. It’s not a considered response. It’s reactance.
When I was a kid in Chicago I didn’t beg. Ever. I sold products, delivered newspapers, cut lawns, shoveled driveways. I never would have been allowed to ask for a penny if it wasn’t earned. It just didn’t happen that way in my Mom’s world. “Taking charity” from strangers was not acceptable behavior. However when they arrive at your door on Thanksgiving and you have no food…well that’s another story for another day!
REACTANCE is a POWERFUL FORCE
The fear of being taken advantage of runs deep within most of our psyches.
But I gamble on the children. I watch it in my behavior over and over again. And why?
I believe that it’s because I see children as mostly innocent bystanders in life. Adults? I have a different feel. If I know someone is working I’m more likely to help them than if they are not working, have quit a job or sit on theri butts. This is me. And I definitely sense that there are a lot of adults out to cheat you. I can tell you stories about American Airlines, Lufthansa Airlines who have flat out cheated me. Best Buy who ripped me off. And Dish TV who ripped off my step dad in a seriously great con, worthy of The Sting. And these are just the companies. And then the humans that go home from these companies… yeah… humans had something to do with the ripping and the off…
So now you’ve seen how Kevin is REACTANT and toward whom!
Knowing that this man is revulsed by many and disgusted with a whole bunch more…how do you INFLUENCE this man who is reactant and in fact greatly reactant?! Your turn…
If our little self-psychological analysis is remotely accurate and if it maps over to other parts of life (and it probably does), how does a guy influence someone with a built in (reactance) revulsion toward not just you but most of the gender.
It should strike you as a profound challenge to know that this IS human nature. People are reactant to losing freedom, freedom of choice, and to being manipulated. They are afraid something is going to happen. So your efforts really should be focused FIRST on how to take down that barrier and THEN on your message.
Imagine that Bill represents a lawn service company, a roofing company, a pest control service or perhaps a local charity. It really doesn’t matter what he does, he’s on his way up to the house. He has read this article and he knows in advance that walking up to the door it will be tough to get it open more than a crack.
He knows that whoever opens the door is going to say (or think so loudly they don’t need to say) they “aren’t interested,” that they strongly prefer to NOT buy from people who go from door to door.
Early in my sales career I sold all kinds of products and services door to door. I can confirm that this is true.
The fear of losing freedom of choice or being manipulated is largely seen cross culturally with particular biases known to be event greater against people who are dissimilar to themselves.
It makes little difference what the product or service is. You must bring the barrier down.
The very same feelings and behaviors occur in relationships. One partner can be particularly afraid of being manipulated by the other. This is not something that is exclusive to door to door selling. The context simply provides an easy mental movie for you to imagine.
The plan that must move along quite quickly:
- Early in his communication (presentation) he will use a bit of “confusion” or “disorientation” by using a reference word like “sir.” The archaic references causes he who opens the door to think about the word and NOT her wanting to close the door.
- He must “sell” himself, NOT the PRODUCT. The product essentially is unimportant.
- He must create a significant connection between himself and the adult who answers the door. (Begin possible identification)
- He must be absolutely sincere to the point it would be an insult not to trust or believe him.
- He must tell the resident that he would like to be just like him. (strengthen identification)
- He must suggest two choices but suggest the premium sale if it is appropriate thus instead of saying, “whichever would be best for you…” he said, “if you can afford it.” And, of COURSE the man can afford it, living in the 4500 square foot house.
- Early in his communication he noted (if true) that the neighbor guy said Kevin might be happy to be a customer.
- Early on he must comment and suggest that the resident’s standard of living was geometrically greater than his own (if true) and he only could admire and aspire to it. He must sincerely speak of his aspiration to be like the resident.
Sales trainers are so busy teaching people to “close sales” that they forget all the puzzle pieces that actually CAUSE “yes” or “no.”
If Bill fails on any of the puzzle pieces he will very likely have the door closed quickly.
He had 10-30 seconds to capture the residents attention, then his empathy, then his compassion, then his liking and then ask for the sale.
No tie downs.
With everything in place, it will be darn near IMPOSSIBLE to not buy from Bill.
Two things need to happen now.
1) Bill must learn whether he should pretty much expect reactance or not.
2) Bill must learn how to actually make this all play out in REAL LIFE.
Reactance coming…always…how does this work for real?
Just What is Reactance?
How does it sound when you attempt to get someone to lower their “wall?” How does this conversation sound? The word “resistance” really can refer to two very different things. One is more accurately called reactance.
Reactance, according to Dr. Eric Knowles, was once only a term used to describe impeding the flow of an electrical current (or something like that). But now it is also used (more importantly) to describe that gut level, genetic, automatic, reaction to anything that in ANY WAY asks for change to happen. It’s resistance to the influence. It’s the raised defenses against being manipulated and losing freedom of choice.
ANY kind of change.
ANY kind of difference.
ANYTHING that isn’t “the way it is” NOW.
It’s an evolutionary force that is designed to protect the person and the group from danger.
LegendPoint: Only after the homeowner is absolutely certain at the gut level that things are at LEAST safe and optimally DESIRABLE, will they move beyond reactance.
Scenario One: “Kevin, Mr. Johnson next door says you and I have one thing in common. We both hate listening to door to door sales people. Is he right?”
Kevin laughs at the irony and feels the identification. Then Bill launches into what (in this case) is actually a very long question.
“Kevin, I imagine you don’t like people stopping by on Sunday morning. You have a nice lawn but it looks like you have a name brand lawn service that doesn’t finish the job. I have a lawn service that repairs patches like that over there and there…and that doesn’t sell you bogus services that no one needs…and I know that having someone actually come and kill weeds is nice…and one more thing. My costs are half of a company because I don’t have to pay for a 10 story building in New York. Can I tell you what I would do with your yard and then give you a price? If you like what I show you in 3 minutes, can I also show you how to get rid of your current service that’s overcharging you without having to lift a finger to call them?”
Kevin is going to listen and he’s likely to switch.
Scenario Two: “Kevin, I got this picture of your property from Google Earth. I printed it out this morning. Your current lawn service is not taking care of weeds along the street or along the edge of the driveway, here and here. They also haven’t filled in patches. Why don’t lawn services fill in patches? They are lazy people. I hate those patches. You have four here, here, and here and that’s what I can see from walking up your driveway. Those “empty spaces” are going to be weeds next month and they will look like junk. If they fill with crab grass and you know as well as I do that is what generally happens…well…it will take YOU two seasons to fix them. I will fix them… TODAY if you like. Can I give you this piece of paper that shows how much you’re probably paying vs. what you’d pay me and never have to worry about these empty patches in the yard?”
How do you say “no?” It would be difficult to hit on one of the biggest unsolved homeowner frustrations, empty space that eventually become weeds.
Bill is building trust quickly as he brings down walls of reactance.
And it MUST be done quickly or Kevin will become fed up with the intrusion and say “Have a pleasant day.”
Next week, gaining and keeping trust.