For the past 5 or so years, a large interest of mine has become human psychology. More specifically, the psychology of persuasion.
The questions I find myself asking over and over are:
- How can I persuade myself to stick to behaviors I “know” I should do?
- And how can I persuade other people to do the same?
Now, I am not a talker. Nor am I an in-your-face preacher. And if I think YOU should do something a different way, I am probably not going to tell you about it (unless you show me you are open to critique).
I am like this because 1) I don’t have all the pieces so I could be wrong and 2) it doesn’t work.
The fact is, we don’t like to be told what to do.
It seems like we forget this, however, when we want to influence and help out others. We think if we just tell them how to do it or tell them why they should do it, than they will logically choose to do it.
If only… (we weren’t so emotional)
Even when it is good advice and we know it, we still want to rebel against it. When people tell us what to do (without us asking), following their direction leaves us feeling like we have less control/power over our own lives.
In short, it leaves us feeling like children.
So please, don’t tell people what to do (Mom and Dad).
And if you are trying to influence someone (including yourself), do some homework.
Here is what’s worked for me.
What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
You want to help someone change?
Show them what change looks like. Show them what a healthy diet can do. Show them what exercise can do. Show them what dedication and commitment can do.
If and when they inquire, keep it simple. Assure them what you are doing/have done is nothing extreme (it’s all pretty basic anyways) and is something that every one of us can do with proper planning and training (ie, so pretty much don’t scare them away).
Show them love, support, and positivity.
In the end, we want people thinking, “If he/she achieved it, then so can I!” and not have them making justifications for our achievements ( “They are obviously privileged…“)
Note: You can’t influence everyone directly. Still, there will be people who will not able to relate to your change experience due to differences in age, sex, and background. Thankfully, however, you can [in a non intrusive way] lead these people to the experiences and people they will be able to relate to.
She is going to be able to influence way more grandmas than I will ever be able to.
You want to help yourself change?
At the root of this inability to change is, most-often, fear (regardless what the surface manifestation is). To help ease this fear, we look towards others who have done what we want to do.
We want people who had the same tools of us (or less) and already achieved what our goal is.
Yes, we want to know how they did it, but really, we are looking for support for the belief that what we want to achieve is possible.
The more belief we can get, the more we feel inspired to pursue.
The reason this is, is because a large chunk of our fears is wrapped up in “wasting time“. Because we are going to die, the life we have left is extremely valuable. Makes sense then that we want to spend it doing things that are pleasurable and fruitful.
For the average person, this means staying away from things that have a low success rate and/or painful.
So the key to change is really reversing this.
To influence ourselves, find ways to make our desired behavior fun and the end outcome more plausible.
This starts with finding the right “inspirational” people.
Note: These people will not eliminate fear (only action will), but they will take away some of the sting.
This “looking to others for inspiration” idea above is based on the SEE – FEEL – CHANGE model.
Basically it equates to this:
See something which accidentally or intentionally provokes an emotion, feel the emotion intensely, and as a result change an opinion or behavior.
When we see a recent picture of ourselves and we see how out of shape we have become, we are utilizing this.
Counter to this, is the ANALYZE – THINK – CHANGE model that is all head and no heart, and often fails to motivate people to recognize the importance of a given problem. Because it doesn’t feel real, it’s too easily forgotten or ignored.
“Here, check out this fact sheet on obesity or the cost of (insert whatever). Pretty shocking, right?”
What would be shocking is seeing that exact same amount of money piled up. Then it becomes real. And with that, comes remembrance.
Inspirational quotes and photos? Both suffer from the same problem. Words alone will rarely get the people going and photos only work if they are relatable.
In the end, we need to see it.
If we want to quit a behavior or adopt one, a great place to start is through finding others who have done the same.
Let’s find out what it LOOKED like.
ps – this idea is from the book Switch: How To Change Things When Change Is Hard. Possible homework?