How to Change Minds

"The fear of the unknown often outweighs the pain of the present."

- How to Change Minds, page xix

As a human being, your job is to influence others.

People need help. Sometimes that means persuading them to take an action that will make their life better, but one that they wouldn’t take themselves without your influence.

We do it all the time. “Try this, you’ll like it.” “Let’s eat a salad this time.” “This book changed my life, you should read it.”

But when you learn how to do it using specific tactics (that are proven to work) it begins to come close to the line between influence and manipulation. Author Rob Jolles, president of Jolles Associates, Inc., an international training consulting corporation, is very committed to knowing the difference between influence and manipulation and helps you understand it throughout How to Change Minds as he takes you through the most important lessons he’s learned in his thirty years of selling and training.

Filled with high level concepts, detailed strategies and blueprint, this brief book is gold for anyone who wants to influence someone else. Isn’t that everyone? (Well, humans only.)

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

Influence, don’t manipulate

"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."
- How to Change Minds, page 10

It’s a fine line, especially for those who influence others on a regular basis to earn money (salespeople), but it can be very distinct. The difference between influence and manipulation is whether or not you truly believe that the person you are trying to influence will be better off by being influenced by your words.

As Dan Pink has explained, to sell is human, so it really doesn’t matter what you do to earn money, we should all choose to be influencers and not manipulators. Jolles calls manipulation ‘unethical influence.’  He says that you must really believe in your solution, down to your very core, otherwise “you will be building a wall with no foundation, and eventually it will crumble.”

When you see the many scenarios that would have a better outcome with skillful influence, you begin to understand the importance of mastering this process. There’s the parent who gets their child to spend more time reading than playing video games; there’s the doctor who gets a patient to stop smoking; there’s the accountant who convinces us that it’s better to have a professional guiding your business through corporate tax requirements rather than the painful process of an audit. Whether it’s a coach, friend, business partner, consultant, parent, or manager, any profession would benefit from understanding the process of ethical influence.

It all depends on your real intent. Do you want to help, or are you influencing for selfish reasons?

It’s usually a natural process for me because I think I’m too transparent. If I don’t really believe in something, it’s going to be obvious to the person, and therefore I won’t be very convincing. On the other hand, when I know something works, I can’t help but tell others about it. After reading this book, I’ll be just a little more skilled in how I influence.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Ask questions and listen

"Those who manipulate don’t ask for trust. Those who influence don’t need to ask for trust; they earn it."
- How to Change Minds, page 39

Jolles emphatically states that if there’s any techniques learn from the whole book, it should be the ones around asking questions and actively listening. That’s because building trust is the foundation for true influence, and the best way to earn trust is to care about the other person. And how you show that you care is to find out what they care about. One of the best and fastest ways to show you care is to ask questions and listen in a way that is truly authentic and sincere.

The author lists four A’s to help you remember:

  • Ask open questions – His favorite for new connections. “Everyone has a story, what’s yours?”
  • Actively listen – Make eye contact, focus on the person talking and nothing else.
  • Aim your questions – Let the other person paint the picture.
  • Avoid problems – Don’t surface issues that weaken trust

Since I’m naturally curious, I do ask questions, but now I can have more of a guiding purpose, to what end is my questioning besides just satisfying my curiosity. If I can see a way to help them, it’ll be a less selfish endeavor.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Fully explore the problem

"The more the people you are communicating with talk, the more they like the person they are talking to."
- How to Change Minds, page 42

To influence people, after you build trust, you need to help them reveal the severity of their problem. Usually, the reason we don’t change is because we downplay the effect or consequences that the problem causes in our life. We’ve made it this far and we’re still okay. We’re not as bad off as that guy. It’s easy to rationalize the reasons why we don’t change. So a good influencer helps us shine the light on our problem, revealing deep down what we know needs to change, in a way that provides us the internal motivation to fix what needs fixing.

Jolles has 3 steps for what good questioning should accomplish.

Step 1: Identify the problem – Be curious and probe, using a lot of restating to get them to reveal the core obstacle.

Step 2: Develop the problem – Explore various angles to demonstrate how significant this problem can be.

Step 3: Determine the impact of the problem – This is going for the jugular, because it’s the most painful part of the process. You are getting them to agree that because of this, you can’t do that. Or whatever the ultimate impact is that they are trying to deny or are unwilling to accept.

Jolles answers the question, “Is this being mean?” by reminding us that our ultimate goal of influence is to make things better for that person, and sometimes it requires creating painful acknowledgement to develop sufficient motivation for real change to occur from within

This book provided the blueprint, from a time-tested experienced expert, for how to change someone’s mind and therefore their actions or behavior. Is that something that might be useful for you?

Where are your biggest needs for influence?

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Rex Williams

ABOUT Rex Williams

I'm a curious connector of people and ideas. I crave learning new things and invoking a creative twist to my methods. By day, I work as an engineer, general problem solver (and recently video producer) at the Boeing company as I fight the status quo and start movements, but after work I hang out with entrepreneur and rabble-rouser types online (like this group...
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