One of the most overlooked aspects of persuading, influencing and ultimately loving people – and to love them is to exert the greatest influence we can ever exert – is to meet their deepest psychological need. Which is what? Probably to respond to the great question everybody is asking, consciously or subconsciously, whenever they enter a room with at least one other person present in it. That question is quite simple, but before proposing it we need to be aware of the dangers of love.
Put at its most basic, it’s all very well wanting to influence people, wanting to love them in fact, but there is always a necessary corollary: namely, that to the exact degree that we influence and love people, so we must be prepared to be influenced by them. If we love them, then we will hear their voice and respond accordingly. So many people in sales and business think that they can learn influencing tricks and yet be immune to the two-way exchange that real influencing is; they can, for a short while, but people rapidly see through that superficial vapidity, and eventually turn away in disgust.
No, the question that needs to be addressed in persuading anyone is this: How do I get strokes round
here? And the easiest way of conceptualising this is to think of your cat or dog, because that is what they are continually thinking about – how do I get strokes round here? Meow! First, for them it’s food, but rapidly after that they literally want strokes, physical strokes, and if you were never to stroke your pet, then it wouldn’t really be a pet – it would be an animal that you kept (which is why, incidentally, snakes, lizards, fish and others of that ilk aren’t really pets in the way cats, dogs, and horses are: the stroking makes a massive material difference to how we feel about them and how we can feel about them).
But for humans, while physical stroking is essential, especially in young children where it plays a vital role in building self-esteem and self-acceptance, there comes a point where the stroking morphs into the emotional and psychological: people are asking, how do I get my psychological strokes round here? What are the rules by which I get recognition? How can I be accepted for who I am?
And of course, people are different. The strokes they need are not the same; there are basic strokes that work for most people, but some people have really specific needs, just as they have different motivators from others. With that in mind, then, here are some good ideas to help you stroke people
First, do you make good eye contact? Good eye contact indicates recognition and openness to them. Then, what about listening? Most people need a good listening to because they have a story they want to tell, and which nobody most of the time is heeding. Part of good listening is, of course, to ask good questions – to find out more about their story, and to let them embellish it.
It’s always powerful, as Dale Carnegie observed long ago, to use people’s names – they like it – it reaffirms their identity and shows that you have registered them as important enough as to remember their name.
More subtly, it’s sometimes a good thing to ‘give yourself away’, at least a little. Ever had that conversation where you are telling somebody something and you realise after half an hour, that you have learnt nothing about them. This is particularly disorientating with professional counselors – they are doing their job, and so are not really involved despite the fact they appear to be listening. What can you reveal about yourself?
Start rewarding people for good behaviours, good ideas, and good expressions: that’s a stroke that most people love profoundly! You have really noticed them when you reward them – think, how your young children respond to this – it’s amazing.
And on this rewarding people campaign, carry around an address book, postcards and a pen, because the simple acknowledgement of a postcard can have a tremendous effect. So it should be apparent that all these ideas are leading up inescapably to the conclusion that one should plan to stroke people. Don’t make it something you accidentally do, when you can recall you should. Make it a habit and plan to do it. On the other hand, don’t be over numerous in your intentions, as that can be self-defeating.
Never allow ‘discounting’: if someone ignores you when say ‘hello’, repeat your greeting; if someone says, ‘That’s nothing’ when you praise them, be specific as to why it’s something.
Finally, loosen up and use humour: people like their funny bone being tickled, and there needs to be more of it about - without of course trying to be a joker. And on the subject of trying, remember: doers do and tryers try – stroking people is not about resolutions in the New year, but it is about practical steps here and now.
If you can give strokes like those I have mentioned, then you find a wonderful thing begins to occur: you start receiving strokes too. Strokes that you want, strokes that answer your deepest psychological needs and wants. Ain’t that good?