Kevin Hogan

International Speaker

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Why Persuasion Attempts Fail…How to Fix the Problem

No one wants you to know this….

All too Often You Heard, “NO!” and it had Nothing to do with You

why did she say no She just got written up at her job. She felt really ripped off, like a big penalty that changes the outcome in a football game from “win” to “lose” or getting audited by the government.

She felt hurt, angry and frustrated. This was just what she needed going into her date tonight.

They meet for dinner and he suggests they go to London for the holidays. And she just freaks out at the suggestion.

“I have a lot to get done here. I can’t just get up and go!”
And of course she had been hoping he would ask her to do just this for the six weeks they have known each other.

The conversation ends and the guy is stuck as to what could have possibly gone wrong? Something wrong with suggesting a trip to London? What the heck? Did I say something? Was I rude? I have not got a frigging clue. Maybe there is someone else. THAT would make sense.

This is how real life works on this planet.

He looks at the NINE and sees a SIX because she gave him a very different context than what she was experiencing.

And then there’s you. Today you’re meeting someone new. Maybe it’s a new girl or a new client.

Before you even MET the prospect, customer, girl, client…. Before they saw your ad or presentation today… two things happened that would change their minds from yes to no. (A dozen actually but two in particular you want to think about for today.) It’s unusual that “things happen” that will change a no into a yes, and I’ll explain the reasons another day.

For the most part, people will ‘lean to yes’ and as the day goes on, something pushes them to no, and it has little to do with you or your product, or your request.

If you were going to ask your boss for a raise today, you’d want to know that they had a good morning, or make sure they did, and that they were already in a pretty good place.

First, in our example of asking for a raise, BOTH you and she had a set of feelings, thoughts, emotions and expectations earlier in the day about everything from eggs and bacon to the news to the clothes your daughter and her son wore to school.

Second, you BOTH have unconscious preconceptions about every type of person you are both going to meet today.

All of these notions are based on what you’ve experienced, been told by Mom, Dad, media, and the overheard experiences of those close to you with others.

For example, a woman (man) might hate men (women) because of something bad that happened to them decades ago.

Now you, the nice, kind charming person that you are…you are going to meet this person and attempt to persuade them.

You have no idea what’s about to happen…but you should have known it was an absolute possibility they would be reactant to you and your proposal…and prepared for it long ago. But you didn’t.

Instead people tend to “wing it” and “go with the flow.” The only predictable flow is the direction a river or your restroom flows. Humans, CAN’T go with the flow and end up with great solutions because the contexts of life wipe out their choices, decisions, and ultimately their success, happiness and fulfillment.

And the person who believes themselves to be persuasive or have “natural charm,” are simply fooling themselves.

You can be the most charismatic human on the planet but if you don’t know the s.ation the other person is, you will both lose today. And that’s how simple…and complicated…life, business, decisions are.

People are very wrapped up in what they think matters in influencing others. They really believe they will do fine, because the outcome is all about them-Selves. But…it’s not. In fact, 70% of their decision has nothing to do with you…

These people are almost always what I call, “good starters.” But because they are only aware of themselves, soon they fall apart in just about every imaginable context.

And in our hypothetical day we’ve been talking about here, things don’t get better as the day goes on.

When you walk in the door you are going to trigger past experiences that person has had with other types of people that you remind them of.

Prepare for this every single day.

It’s really simple. The girl who got written up, and then “freaked out” at the possibility of going to London with this very nice guy….well…her new boyfriend needs to be aware of the fact that Brianna is not responding and reacting as Brianna, but as Brianna plus her emotional state, plus her rolodex in her brain.

Being aware of this singular fact will increase your persuasiveness exponentially.

The new boyfriend doesn’t just need Brianna to like him… he needs the girls, the parents, the kids and dog to like him.

I call this “The Rolodex” if Brianna doesn’t actually talk with all these people but is influenced by their “being over her shoulder.”

Then of course Brianna’s boyfriend has to deal with any demons Brianna has based upon which old boyfriends he looks and sounds like!

Man, this communication/persuasion/influence/decision stuff is not as simple as having a script to say in any given moment is it?!

Example: Research reveals that if you want to influence someone else, you are more likely to succeed if you look like them, look like a friend of theirs, or look like a family member of theirs.

And that’s just a piece of the physical appearance contextualization. And it doesn’t even matter if they have a great relationship with their relative or friend.  Oh, then there is your voice…There is what you are going to hear and how you carry your Self that all play into the context of an initial meeting.

doing nothing better than something

Doing NOTHING is the easiest, fastest, safest thing people will feel or do when asked and there are competing contexts.

Still this is just the beginning.

Oh…the person you want to influence? Remember they have preconceptions as well. And the preconceptions all contribute to an environment and “chemistry” between two people that is either constructive or destructive.

People will either identify with each other or not. They will either see themselves as being cut from the same cloth (and perhaps liking it or not)…or not.
A simple example of how small this connection or lack thereof can be?

Example: The letter your name starts with will influence people you do business with!

If it’s the same letter, or if that letter sounds the same as yours, you are MORE likely to persuade the other person.

You have the experiences, both categorized and recent waiting for categorization, those that happened this morning, as well as your emotional state of mind going into your sales situation or influential communication.

The same thing is true when people arrive at your website.

Key Point: Everything that happened BEFORE they met you today in real life had a dramatic impact on hearing “yes” or “no.”

Now let’s do something about it.

Context & Persuasion

KEY POINT: All persuasion and influence begins with the context…and there are four basic types of context at work in any persuasive communication.

Which brings you to your FIRST STEP of persuading others!

1. Determine and Control the Context

No matter how good or bad an influencer is or how good/bad the product is, the CONTEXT can turn all most all “no’s” into “yes’s” and vice versa.

How weird would it be to close a sale standing by a railing overlooking a 30 foot drop. Think it might influence the result? You bet.

A context is a pretty easy thing to understand. There are a MINIMUM of FOUR “contexts” going on in any situation!

1. There are the people who are “there.”

2. You are at a place and for some reason.

3. It is a certain time of the day.

4. You and the person you are seeing BOTH experienced certain things before arriving at this moment in time.

People change “selves” or behave differently as the context changes. These changes also change the decisions any one individual will make.

Think about the Holidays.

Maybe you were at the relatives or they were at your place. Maybe everyone their best behavior…at least until you started talking about politics…but everyone was sort of in that “family mode.”

In “family mode” a person often starts acting like they did as a kid with this group of older or younger siblings.

How does this manifest and what does it mean for influence?

grown adults acting like they were children

When people enter contexts they’ve been in before (like family gatherings) they revert to behaving as they did when the context was switched “on” and active.

Speaking styles change. Thinking styles shift dramatically. The words people say change. The decisions people make and who makes them for another…all change.

That’s an example of how you…your Self changes, instantly.

The context and the environment are monster-sized factors in changing and predicting behavior.

Leaving family mode and returning back to influencing others in an “office setting”…

…If someone had been working all day in a setting where they were competing with others for a promotion, they would be thinking more about themselves as a separate distinctive person who is unlike others; their mindset will be independent.

In this case, that person as a shopper at lunch would ascribe characteristics to the product that are opposite of those associated with the display surface. Thus, they would regard the mug, shoe, or watch as hip and modern when it is displayed on a wood table, but natural or traditional on a glass table.

Playing chess or having a game of pool with your girlfriend or spouse will cause different decisions immediately thereafter than would have happened had the two been watching a movie or talking with friends! This is one of the big reasons people say “no” to other people.

What kind of other stuff changes the context and thus people’s decisions in say a retail setting?

What is an example of a context change that no one would ever think about? Ever so subtle but absolutely brilliant…

Many brands are positioned on dimensions such as trendy (e.g., Diesel), traditional (e.g., L.L. Bean), or all-natural (e.g., Aveda). Meyers-Levy’s findings indicate that display surfaces or merchandising can either bolster or damage such product perceptions. For retailers, this insight can also help in choosing displays that offer continuity with their brands.

branding, positioning and persuasion

“Retailers cannot directly control shoppers’ perceptions of their goods, but they can anticipate or manipulate the kind of cognition – self-view – their target consumer uses,” says Meyers-Levy.

To some degree, this could be accomplished by considering customers’ demographic profiles, but marketers could also try to actively shape shoppers’ mindsets.

KEY POINT: Meyers-Levy demonstrated that simply putting up posters that encouraged shoppers to adopt an independent or an inter-dependent self-view had this effect, thereby influencing their perceptions of products displayed on different table top surfaces.

For consumers, these findings offer an opportunity to be savvy. “If a shopper is aware of the tools used to enhance brand reputation or sales,” says Meyers-Levy, “they will be much more likely to make an informed decision, rather than going home with the wrong product.”

That’s a pretty excellent strategy for the moment.

You can remember it this way. We have all the scientific research above. That allows one to know that the context really is a huge factor in persuading others to your way of thinking.

tools to influence buying decisions! But research is a context and the internal associations you have to research might be that research isn’t exciting or that it is all science and not real world.

Here is a real world question.

How do you feel about ice cream cones?

Ask me with any other image and I’d say they are OK. Ask me while I see this image and what do you think the difference is?


Context changes perception and feelings from OK to something fun, sexy, zesty, tasty. The context changes how you feel. In fact, the context is so powerful in this specific case it is difficult to remember the prior context. See what I mean? Go ahead take a peek at it then turn the page.

Back to the store….

Consumers who stand on carpeted flooring feel comforted, but they judge products close to them to be less comforting, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

In the study, authors Joan Meyers Levy (University of Minnesota, Minneapolis), Rui (Juliet) Zhu, and Lan Jiang (both University of British Columbia) explored the feelings evoked by the two most common flooring types in retail environments: hard vinyl tile and carpet.

“We first conducted a study to show that carpeted floors indeed evoke a greater sense of physical comfort than tiled flooring,” the authors explain.

(Remember this is just ONE aspect of a specific context. They could have just as easily tested lighting, temperature, the number of people in the store, whether it was men or women, elderly people or young children.)

“Based on this finding, we addressed a more practical and intriguing question: would these bodily sensations elicited by the flooring transfer to people’s assessments of products that they observe while shopping?”

The researchers had participants stand on either soft pile carpet or hard tile and view objects that were either close or moderately far away.

When products were extremely far away, individuals’ product judgments were no longer influenced by their bodily sensations.

That’s called “Psychological Distancing.” It’s a pretty important element in influence that no one wants to teach you about because it is easily misused and abused.

People who examined items while standing on a plush carpet judged products that were close as being ***less*** comforting than products that were moderately far away.

“The bodily sensaKevin Hogan on Persuasion Researchtions elicited by the flooring are more likely to be used as a comparison standard, not an interpretive frame,” the authors explain.
The most important elements in influence are the contextual elements. The ceiling and the carpeting cause DRAMATIC SHIFTS in people’s decision making.

In contrast, when items were placed moderately far away, their bodily sensations unconsciously guided their product interpretations.

Is this a life changing take home for you? Read carefully. Participants perceived the more distant products as comforting when they stood on carpet.

In a final study, consumers could more easily make out the contents of a gift basket from a moderate distance than from a close one.

“Interestingly, the results reversed in this case. When viewed from a moderate distance, the gift basket was judged as more comforting when individuals stood on the hard tile floor rather than the carpeted floor.

These results further supported our premise that it is the viewing clarity that ultimately determines the direction of the influence of flooring-induced bodily sensations,” the authors conclude.

People in the United States, Canada, The UK, Australia, tend to see themselves as individuals. (It’s hard for me to think of …me…in any other way.) But the research shows that in lots of other parts of the world, particularly in Asia, people think of themselves as PART of a greater WHOLE.

Because you and I have been raised to be more individualistic, we see things through that “filter.” But the fact is, if you want to really get influence, if you want to understand persuasion, you absolutely want to try on the world and look through the filters of other people.

This is one of the most difficult thing for people to do and yet it separates the smart persuader from the guy who said all the right words.

See why this was for smart people?

Four Categories of Context

Generally speaking, there are four kinds of contexts that everything else happens in:

Mindsets: What the people are experiencing emotionally and what they have experienced particularly that day, and/or in similar situations in the past.

Places: We all respond and react (unconsciously) *very* different in different settings. (Think of your behavior in a library, hospital waiting room, sports stadium, McDonald’s, elegant restaurant.) The “setting” matters. It matters a lot. It’s not that an elegant restaurant is ALWAYS the best setting, it certainly may not be! It requires testing to find out just WHERE the context will be, because EVERYTHING in the environment matters.Kevin Hogan on Intelligent Persuasion Research

People: We also react differently around different people, morphing some of their personality into ours and vice versa. So, when you communicate with someone, who ELSE is around that is going to influence your “client’s” decision, other than you. And yes, the waitress, will definitely impact a decision. So will the service at McDonald’s or the vendor at the sports stadium. The woman in the booth next to you… they all influence…like the gravity of the sun and the moon. It’s quite an interplay.

Things: If I have a video camera on my desk and you walk in, you behave differently than you would have. If it’s facing you and the camera is on, and you know it because you see the red dot, you once again behave differently from how you would have otherwise.

All of the things in the environment including the clothes on *you* persuade. Everything matters. Everything triggers thoughts and feelings. Everything causes other things to happen inside that move you closer or further away from your objective.

Being able to control these variables to their most optimal level is the KEY TO PERSUASION SUCCESS.

The first step is to Optimally Control the Context.

The second step is to Control the Outcome. You ever wonder why some people can point to others and they do their bidding? Here’s how…

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Author of The Psychology of Persuasion, Irresistible Attraction, and The Science of Influence, Dr. Kevin Hogan is trusted by organizations, both large and small, to help them help their people reach their personal peak performance and maximize influence in selling and marketing. Kevin is an internationally admired keynote speaker and corporate thought leader. In Coffee with Kevin Hogan, he shares his research, observations, and how you can apply them in your life – both in business and at home.

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