Instant Influence

Summary Written by Malcolm Ocean
"If they say ‘I see what you’re doing. You’re trying to get me to talk myself into this,’ a possible response might be 'No, only if there’s some genuine benefit to you. But since we’ve never talked about it, how would you know?'"

- Instant Influence, page 63

The Big Idea

The Law of Psychological Reactance — Reinforcing Autonomy

"We tend to react very negatively when our freedom is verbally threatened... [it] can be restored by such autonomy-enhancing statements as ‘It’s up to you,’ and ‘This is really your decision.’ If we’re motivating ourselves, we should remember that we don’t absolutely have to do anything."- Instant Influence, page 41

“Reinforcing Autonomy” is the second chapter, but I actually read it several months before the rest of the book; it stands so well on its own that a friend of mine lent me her copy to read that section. While this section is not directly part of the six step process, it is valuable on its own for the way it helps reframe questions of motivation.

The law of psychological reactance states that “if someone tells you to do something, you probably won’t feel like doing it, even if you might otherwise have wanted to.” Intuitively, we know this to be true of ourselves and others we interact with. Why then, do we continually barrage people with reasons why they should do something? This is related to reverse psychology.

Insight #1

The Five Whys

"You start by asking, ‘Why are those outcomes important to you?’ For every answer you get, you repeat the question, until you’ve asked it five times. Invariably, the answers move almost magically from the practical and impersonal to the heartfelt."- Instant Influence, page 93

For each of the six steps mentioned above, there are further details that help the steps work better, but this one is particularly powerful. It’s important to note that many people you’re talking to will get annoyed if you just keep saying “Why?” “Why?” so reword it to respond to what they’ve said, e.g. “And why is spending time with your family important to you?”

A key element here is reflective listening: rather than just probing, pause to understand what they’ve said at each level before delving deeper. Reflective listening isn’t taught as part of Instant Influence, but it’s definitely a complementary skill.

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Insight #2

The Dead Man's Rule

"Don’t try to motivate anyone to do anything that a dead man could do just as well."- Instant Influence, page 87

This last point is simple: motivation works much better when it’s a motivation to do something, rather than to not do something else. For example, someone who is dead can very easily not yell at their spouse, whereas a dead man can’t use reflective listening. There are a few reasons for why this reframing is powerful:

1. Everyone is always doing something, so if you’re going to eliminate a behaviour it has to be replaced with a different one.
2. It is much easier to visualize — and therefore perform — a small specific action in a certain circumstance than it is to just avoid some behaviour altogether.
3. In general, positive framings of motives and aims have been shown to be several times more effective than negative ones in producing personal change.

Ironically, the wording used above doesn’t follow its own advice. If you want to reword it so it does, you could say “Only try to motivate people to do things, rather than to avoid things.”

I’d recommend Instant Influence to anyone interested in the science of motivation. The book walks through each of the steps here and provides many examples and exercises to help readers rethink their patterns of interaction.

Read the book

Get Instant Influence on Amazon.

Michael V. Pantalon

Like you, Mike wants motivating ourselves and others to be quick and easy. Over the last two decades, Mike’s work as a psychologist, motivation and addiction expert, researcher, coach, consultant, trainer, speaker, and author of the business best-seller, Instant Influence (2011) has shown that this is possible. Motivating people is not that hard and anyone can be a master motivator. As a coach, he helps his clients appreciate that the most profound way to motivate yourself and others is to realize the following 3 simple yet deep truths: 1) No one absolutely has to change – we are all free to decide for ourselves, 2) Everyone (including you) already has enough motivation, and 3) Unlocking your inner motivation is not a lengthy and mysterious process. In fact, it can be done with a 7-minute method developed by Mike and based on over 3 decades of science. It has to do with asking 6 simple questions about WHY we want to change versus HOW we plan to do so. It’s as simple as that and it will make you an effective and influential leader.

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