How to Change Minds

Summary Written by Rex Williams
"The fear of the unknown often outweighs the pain of the present."

- How to Change Minds, page xix

The Big Idea

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

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.

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Insight #2

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?

Read the book

Get How to Change Minds on Amazon.

Rob Jolles

A sought-after speaker and best-selling author, Rob Jolles teaches, entertains, and inspires audiences worldwide. Rob draws on more than thirty years of experience to teach people how to change minds. His programs on influence and persuasion are in global demand, reaching organizations in North America, Europe, Africa, and the Far East. And in showing clients not just “how to” but also “why to,” he stirs individuals and companies to create real, lasting change.

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