Kevin Hogan

International Speaker

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Controlling the Power of Interruption

They pick up their phone and look at their message. They see the message about a stressful challenge at the office. Or maybe a friend has a problem. Maybe it’s their daughter. Now the phone is right in their face and YOU are going to be the next thing they see after they see that stressful challenge.

Most people don’t know that this emotion is tagged immediately into their very next experience.

Almost certainly, you experience this everyday yourself.

You experience an interruption, and then very next conversation you engage in has an emotional carry over from the interruption you just experienced.

Obviously when it comes to important conversations, these interruptions often do a lot more damage than you wish they would.

Imagine you are talking with someone special. Your child, a little baby, your spouse, your girlfriend, a potential client.

Then someone’s phone rings and whether it’s yours or theirs, one of the people in your conversation feels frustrated, angry, irritated, hostile or sad.

That feeling BEGINS the very next part of the conversation with the special person you were speaking with before the interruption.

And of course, the most remembered and most critical aspects of a conversation are the beginning and end.

Interruptions don’t simply push “pause” on a conversation, they dramatically CHANGE the conversation.

And obviously you can’t stop the interruption.

YOU have a problem.

If you knew how often an interruption, particularly from a phone, messed your life/business up, you’d banish them forever…if you could. They kill sales, frustrate marketing messages, mess up families, hurt relationships.

The interruptions happen every single day when you are in the process of persuading someone. Sometimes you get lucky and they cause an almost instant “yes.”

Because most people don’t know how to optimize an interruption, they most often end up with an instant “no.”

But, it’s not the interruption that typically determines “yes” or “no”… it is your USE of the interruption that will determine “yes.”

SOMETIMES, it even pays to have an interruption planned in advance!

That’s right. There are lots of opportunities, and sometimes, the ONLY opportunity to save a situation is with a well timed interruption.

Let me explain…

Trump Beneficiary Interruption Trend

Donald Trump has been the beneficiary of interruption trends, and no one has likely ever benefited more than the current U.S. President.

Whether he is aware of the power of his interruptions, or the benefits to HIM from the interruptions of the other party, the remarkable fact is that almost ALL tweets that are inflammatory whether tweeted by Trump or Democrats, dramatically benefit the President.

Here’s how it works in this fascinating U.S. highlighted drama:

a) The Democrats are disgusted with the President and the online news is filled with opinions and stories about yesterdays tweets or his public statements, which even when innocuous sound inflammatory.

b) The President has long forgotten whatever yesterdays news was and today he tweets about the Iranians or the Saudi’s or the Democratic primary candidates or something else.

c) Whatever the subject the Democrats jump on the President and change the direction of their rage/frustration/anger/hostility to whatever the President said today.

d) This changes the story about what happened yesterday. The Democrats have essentially told the world that yesterday’s story wasn’t important and that today’s Tweet is the REAL problem.

e) In hypnosis this is almost identical to the process of creating amnesia in a patient about something that was hurting the patient.

f) The pain of yesterday is now literally a thing of the past.

g) There’s not much reason for The President to be concerned about today’s reactions to his public communication because it too will be determined to be as not important as it vanishes into amnesia. That is the power of an interruption and how it works to the advantage of generally inflammatory individuals.

President Tweets to Interrupt

The President tweets about something new every day. Sometimes he changes the conversation in a few hours. And because of the nature of the human brain, that means people forget X and then are directed immediately to Y.

That means Trump’s Tweets have the same effect as a genius strategy loaded with daily tactics that would cost most people millions of dollars.

I doubt whether the President understands the psychology of why he has so much support when he is so ‘unpopular’ but this is the key reason. The story keeps changing and that plays to the President’s favor.

1) The President tweets opinions on everything from fake news to commenting on the upcoming democratic primary races to how amazing he is and what a disaster someone he’s upset with. He does all of this with an apparent randomness.

– The volatility of the content of the tweets brings all attention to the content of THIS tweet and creates amnesia for everything else happening that day.

2) People’s brains are designed to put attention on a maximum of one thing. Yes, some people can be aware of and work on a 2 or 3 things at a time. That small percentage of people can organize information in such a way that they aren’t taken away from 2 or 3 different trains of thought but someone or something else’s outburst.

Most people are thinking about what they are thinking about… until they are interrupted with something more salient (in front of their face/important) that grabs their attention.

When that happens whatever was on the person’s mind is now pretty much…gone.

3) Interruptions that change the mind from something you need solved with someone else change the conversation to the new drama.  That’s a shame when you need the person to solve this specific problem you are connecting about.

– But then the phone or message notification is triggered on someone’s phone and that person feels compelled to check the notification. And that will erase most of what was in the person’s mind before the notification.

As you can imagine if you are attempting to communicate an idea or influence someone about something and the phone rings, you’ve lost. That, “oh it’s nothing” notification kills sales, changes minds back to where they were before and wreaks havoc on business in general.

Most people will forget about what doesn’t instantly and immediately apply to/affect them today and will instead talk about what does.

What matters is your taking full advantage of the Power of Intentional Interruption.

You might remember when you were about to get yelled at on the phone, or door bell rang; or someone showed up in the nick of time, not to save you but they just showed up and by a stroke of luck, you were saved.

Interruptions Make You Lose Sales

Have you ever lost a sale because of an interruption?

You may have never believed it possible that people could have multiple personalities until you have actually been in a conversation, then the conversation is interrupted, and then there is a return to the original subject.

At that point, it rarely “feels” the same, and the discussion does *not* pick up “where it left off.” It never does.

“OK. Now, where were we?”

That’s one of the sentences we’ve all said and the reality is that we never go back to where we were.

Things have changed…a lot.


The Power and Perils of Interruption

When people begin talking about something, particularly if there is a sale to be made, the potential customer is in one frame of mind (good or bad, analyzing or salivating) when the conversation begins; and when an interruption occurs, that frame is gone.

Researchers give us this example: You’re on your computer, about to buy a vacation package when the phone rings. According to a new study, when you return to the computer after the interruption, you may have a completely different mindset-and make a completely different decision.

A recent study’s author, Wendy Liu of UCLA, examined the effects of interruption on purchase decisions and the preferences of decision-makers. She found that even brief interruptions caused startling changes.

“This body of work forwards the view that people’s decisions are often a result of cognitions and information processing made on the spot, rather than simply reflecting their innate likes and dislikes. Thus seemingly innocuous events such as an interruption may affect decisions by changing the thought process,” Liu explains.

Liu conducted four different studies where participants made purchase choices for high-priced luxuries, high-risk investments, or hikes.

She discovered that people who are interrupted in a decision-making process shift their focus from a bottom-up, detail-oriented, and price-conscious process to one that is more top-down, goal-oriented, and price-INsensitive.

Interruptions Change People's Decisions

After interruptions, people focus more on quality, satisfaction, and desirability than on feasibility and price.

“By taking a break from processing a decision, when the person resumes he/she is able to attend to information in a more selective and organized manner. Consequently, the person focuses on his/her primary goals in the decision,” writes Liu.

In today’s low-attention-span world, interruptions are a way of life. Liu’s study has implications for consumers and the companies that market to them. “Whether you choose to have an exotic vacation, invest in high-risk stocks, or buy that big plasma TV may depend on whether you were interrupted when making the decision,” writes Liu.

[Liu et al. Focusing on Desirability: The Effect of Decision Interruption and Suspension on Preferences. Journal of Consumer Research]


Write this down:

Pre-Interruption people most often think Bottom Up, Detail Oriented, and Price Conscious. They are thinking price feasibility.

Post-Interruption people think Top Down, They become Goal Oriented. Desires become the key. Price feasability is NOT what people are thinking about.

Interruption: Understanding How Covert Influence is Used – The Big Picture

Let’s begin with the big picture.

  • What color should your website be to optimize sales?
  • What color should you wear to be seen as attractive?
  • What’s the best hand gesture to use to build rapport?
  • What’s…..

Covert Influence in Interruption

The fact is that if everyone’s website were white, then there would be no way to distinguish one X from another.

If everyone wore the same color, we’d all be in prison or private school. (No jokes….)

If we all used the same gestures, we’d all be seen as identical.

What causes influence is rarely a specific sequence of words.

To be sure, there are certain words that in the English language have proven to be more influential than others. Words like “because,” “now,” “don’t,” or a person’s own name.

But when everyone starts using the same words, clothes, lipstick, broker, religion – the potency of that choice is reduced.

You must INTERRUPT what everyone else is doing and be the change.

Interruptions are one of those experiences that people would more often than not avoid. But because interruptions are predictable it pays to know exactly how people respond before the interruption occurs so you know where to go next.

Here’s an example:

If I am raising money for UNICEF or a special charity somewhere in the world, as we do most Christmases here at , I could start by telling you that 1,000,000,000 people go to bed every single night around the world and they are truly hungry. My goal is to cause you to write a check to Oxfam or UNICEF, which I will then match and send to the appropriate agency to help feed people.

But I’ve created a problem for my efforts.

Almost no one but mathematicians and scientists can wrap their mind around 1 billion of ANYTHING. Certainly most economists are unable to grasp what a billion dollars are.

So I explain that there are all these people and that they need food. I want you to help.

I share that you’ll never know what child receives food with your donation. I tell you that this person lives in another country and that they are almost certainly brown or black colored skin. I’ll explain that the chances of them being Christian or Jewish is possible but relatively small.

But none of this is going to “work.”

At no point do you identify with the people, particularly children you will be feeding.

I’ve got one chance to capture your check.

I can interrupt the thinking process you are using to make a decision. I know right now my chances are about 1/200 you will help.

If I’m connecting with you via PC, I could easily use a piece of software that would let me flash an image of a beautiful woman (or man) that you would LIKE to identify with and be reading about.

I can flash to an image of a business meeting where the presenter is making a persuasive presentation and about to close the deal with a potent story.

Or I can flash to an image of ONE child that might receive food if you write that check today.

In each case I have interrupted the BOTTOM UP thinking process where you are rationally trying to debate in your mind the benefits and drawbacks of helping to feed desperate people in a nation you’ll probably never visit.

You’re just about ready to turn to the next page in the article when I flash a photograph of ONE SINGLE CHILD.

Positive Interruptions Change Thinking

I could easily show you photos of millions of starving kids, knowing that showing you a photo of one starving child is extremely persuasive in causing donations.

The fact is that each additional child you add to the picture has a dramatically less “value” appeal.

Why is that?

What happens is the original child becomes depersonalized and the picture becomes overwhelming.

To be influential, you must interrupt and then change the previous frame because now when the person’s mind shifts, they will process from the TOP DOWN. Obviously the message has to be framed correctly; and to frame something it must be different, or seen from a different point of view than something else.

Now I’m simply going to tell you a story about this one child. I will tell you the child’s name. I will tell you about what this child will be “doing” today. I will describe how hunger feels. I will explain just what a single dollar can do for this child. I will explain how grateful this child would be to you if you were standing there feeding the child right now instead of an Oxfam worker.

And the chances that you will write that check and have me match it increase dramatically.

In fact the FASTER I get to the “close,” (write check/send here)the more likely I will meet your newly framed thinking process (TOP DOWN) which doesn’t consider money but looks at the POINT of the conversation, the goal, and if I have done my job you write the check and send it.

… So if there were 100 websites and only one was a white background and all the rest were black, the white site would get a lot of attention. You interrupt the pattern. You now cause the person to think TOP (goal) DOWN instead of BOTTOM (facts/foundation) UP.

The contrast is stark. And contrasts can draw attention.

Attention all by itself isn’t enough, of course.

Feelings and emotions need to be triggered in order to “label” what is being seen/heard/experienced as some emotion (sexy, fun, cool, happy, painful).

Want to know what will work?


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