What’s In It For Them?
“There is no human relationship that is not based on self-interest”
― Bangambiki Habyarimana, The Great Pearl of Wisdom
Have you ever done anything you didn’t want to do? You may think that the answer is yes, but is it really. You may not have wanted to go to work today because you’d rather hang out at the beach, but you wanted to go to the beach less than you wanted to continue to have a job, so you went to work. On balance, you wanted to go to work. If a mugger points a gun at you and demands your money, you may not want to give him your money, but you want not to be shot more than you want your money, so there goes the money.
Everything that you or anyone else ever does is because they want to do that thing more than any other option. Let that sink in for a moment.
Now, consider the last time you tried to convince someone to do what you wanted them to do. Were you thinking about what you wanted or what they wanted? Too often, when we are trying to persuade, we think of our own desires and not those of the audience.
Have you ever seen a social media post along these lines:
“Hey, guys. I just started selling BeachogenalucaWay, and I’m really excited. It’s an awesome opportunity. I’m trying to build a team of 20 by the end of the year and really get the word out. Please attend my virtual party and learn about the products!”
Did you do what they asked? Probably not, unless it was a very close friend, maybe a spouse or family member, which I refer to as a “compersive relationshop.” But otherwise? Probably not.
Why did you not help out? Because they didn’t offer you anything you want. They spoke entirely in terms of what they wanted, not what you wanted. Thus you were not interested. There is nothing wrong with that. Your responsibility is primarily to yourself (and those you are responsible for like kids and family). I’m sure you’d be happy to hear that your friend was successful with BeachogenalucaWay, but only in the same way you are pleased to hear that the unemployment rate is down when you already have a job.
What if it was worded this way?
“Hey, guys. I know some people on my friends list have been really struggling to get their weight down and get healthier. I’ve been using BeachogenalucaWay for a few months, and the results have been very good. I’ve never felt better and I’ve lost twenty pounds. I would really like to share because I think it can really help some of my friends. I’ve got an online event coming up. There’s no obligation, but I think that you might learn some really useful information.”
If your friend posted this and you were trying to lose weight, you would be more inclined to log in to their event. The promise of “no obligation” reduces the apparent cost and the piece is in terms of solving a problem that you have, or, put another way, in terms of what you want.
In the book How to Win Friends and Influence People, he discusses the application of this concept with children. People so often tell children to do things because they want them to.
“Be quiet, because it’s too loud in here.”
“Eat your vegetables because I tell you to.”
“Go to bed because I have things to do.”
Naturally that is ineffective. More effective is putting things in the child’s terms. The example in the book is that a there is a child who refuses to eat wholesome foods and they cannot get the child to eat. However, the child also has a problem with a bully who keeps stealing his tricycle. Once they explain to the child that eating well will cause him to grow more rapidly and develop more muscle to be able to stand up to bullies, the child starts eating anything offered. He wouldn’t eat one string bean because his parents wanted him to, but to grow strong enough to defend himself, he’d eat pickled herring if that’s what it would take.
Next time you are seeking to convince and persuade, whether it is to make a sale, earn a vote, or even get some peace and quiet, think about what the other person wants, then put your request in terms that make it beneficial to your counterpart.
Originally published at www.michaelwhitehouse.org on April 19, 2016.