No one buys a $57,000 watch to tell time

I came across this paragraph in a blog post by sales professional Grant Cardone.

“No one buys a $57,000 watch to tell time. People buy things to solve problems. The cost of the item isn’t what matters. Once the buyer is able to see the problem the product solves, their decision becomes much easier to resolve. Get to the “why” and the sale will follow.” Grant Cardone (original article at Entrepreneur magazine)

How do you get someone to buy something that they do not need?

Cheap Casio Watch, Photo Credit: yeniceri

Just as nobody really buys a $57,000 watch to solve the problem of “what time is it”, nobody does an expensive MBA just because they want to know more about business.  Nobody hires an expensive consultant just because they need to finish a simple project.  Nobody hires an expensive coach just because they need help with discipline.

Cheap watches tell the time.  Cheap MBAs teach you about business.  Cheap consultants can get projects finished.  Cheap coaches can help you with discipline.

A casio watch can be bought for €2.99.  It tells the time as well as the $57,000 watch.  Why are they different?  The casio watch has 8 functions.  The $57,000 watch tells the time, and the date.  The casio watch allows me to change the time.  The $57,000 watch requires a trained technician to move the clock forward an hour.

Why does someone pay the $56,997.01 difference (and get less functionality)?

There is something else we are buying when we buy.

“Bread and Water. Everything else is marketing.” Tony Anagor

I did an interview with Tony Anagor, one of the coaches who works with my Leadership Communications courses at IESE Business School.  Tony said “Bread and water.  Everything else is marketing.”

What did he mean?

Once I have food and shelter, I can survive.  I don’t need anything else to survive.  I want other things, but I don’t need them.

If I say “I need friends, I would die without my friends”: it is not literally true.  I want friends.  They make my life worth living.  They add to my life.  They are not needs in the way of food and shelter.  I wouldn’t value highly a lonely life, without friends.

If I say “I need an iPad.  All of my friends have an iPad.”: not true.  I really, really want an iPad.  However, the reason that I want it is the important thing for a salesman to find.  Why do I so need an iPad?

I want it because it might remove the anguish of feeling left out.  I want it because it might give me a sense of importance in having an “in-demand” item.  I want it because I like playing with new technology.  I want it because my friends are playing some online game and I am less connected because I am not involved.

6 Keys to Get Your Email Read [Video]

6 Keys to Get Email Read

Here are 6 keys to engage the reader when you ask for some help via email:

  1. Indicate the social connection between sender and reader – where did you meet?  who put you in contact?  “We met at the Foundum Unplugged conference 2 weeks ago”
  2. Understand the readers perspective – what context (background information) does the reader need to take a decision/act upon the email?  This is often best provided as a url link to supporting information so as to keep the email body short.
  3. Explain why the reader was specifically selected as a source of potential help.  “I am contacting you because you have over 8 years of experience in the industry”
  4. Show that you have already made some effort to understand the domain before asking for help.  “I have spoken to X and to Y, I have read Z book.”
  5. Keep it short.  Many emails are much too long – the sender has no edit process before sending the “draft” email.   (Here’s a nice email policy called three.sentenc.es)
  6. Clarify exactly what is wanted: No effort to clarify what you are asking for.  ”Help” is too vague. What do you want the reader to do when they finish reading?  “Meet next Monday”; “Call me to set up a site visit”; “Forward the email to John”.

What gets email read in your inbox?

What tips do you have?

The Real Reason Why Audiences Love Reality TV

I was watching the UK version of the TV show “The Apprentice” a few months ago.  This particular week’s challenge was to sell caravan and camping equipment at a trade show.

Early on, there was a key decision to make: Which model of caravan would the team try to sell?

Now, this was a trade show where the typical attendee was 60 years old and the teams had this information.  This was not a show directed to young people, nor was it an audience that would be represented by the word “innovative”.  This was people looking for solid, reliable caravans.

The contestants on BBC’s The Apprentice show

The team lead, lets call him Joe, asked for advice from one of his team members, who I will call Tom.  Now, Joe has already agreed with the rest of the team that they should choose a proven, well-priced model…

Joe: “So, Tom, what do you think? Should we go for the hip, modern campervan or the older, proven model?”

Tom: “I think we should go for the modern one.”  (I am surprised at this advice)

Joe: “Really?  I like it a lot more…  but… are you sure it is right for this market?”

Tom: “I think we can manage it.”

Joe: “Right, ok…  I’ll go with your advice.”

Skip forward to the end of the week…  Joe is in the boardroom defending why his team did so incredibly poorly.  It was clearly because he chose a caravan that would be impossible to sell to the actual audience of the trade show.

Tom was playing the game supremely.  He was being friendly to Joe and acting the part of a loyal team member, whilst really setting Joe up for a fall.

We see the Manipulators for what they are

In real life this happens all the time, but it is very hard to see – because the manipulators like Tom are very good at the act, and we only see how they deal with us.  We don’t see or hear what they are saying to others behind our backs.

Modern western society forces a dilemma onto its citizens: How do I maintain a good balance between good, long-term, trusting relationships and individual achievement.  The achievement often has to come by me winning and another person losing.

Machiavelli first put down the principles of individual achievement over trusted relationships back in 1500s in his book The Prince.

TV Series such as The Apprentice, Survivor and Big Brother are exquisitely designed and edited to open a clear window for the viewers into the scheming, manipulative words and actions of the competitors.  They can often go for weeks believing that Tom is a wonderful friend in the house, whilst the audience has known for weeks that Tom is playing the true friend to several others and manipulating the whole house.

It is addictive watching.

I think it is addictive, because deep down we all know the game.

Accepting Feedback

At the end of every course I teach at IESE Business School, all participants give extensive feedback on their experience of the course, the facilities… and on my role as a teacher.

When the summarized feedback reaches me a couple of weeks later, I open the pdf in a state of nervous tension.  I am preparing myself emotionally for the news contained in the report.  If the report is positive, I start to relax and enjoy the feeling of professional competence.

Photo Credit: Ben Heine

However, the last few quotes on the report are always the “areas for improvement”.  I get tense again, and start already to justify myself before I even start reading.

I love positive feedback.  I hate “developmental” feedback.  I pretend sometimes to appreciate it, but I resist it fiercely inside my mind.

I am pretty sure that I am not alone.

I rationally know that it is the developmental feedback that can most help me improve, but I find it very hard in the moment to accept it and work with it.  I feel it as a personal attack, not as an objective opinion of a friendly student who wholeheartedly wishes to see the institution of IESE Business School improve with their advice.

What do you do to “accept” developmental feedback?  Are there any things that have changed your willingness to be open to and even seek out developmental feedback?

 

Conor Neill’s TEDx Talk: Who Would You Bet On?

I had an opportunity to give a talk at TEDx University of Navarra.  You will find here the video and a transcript of my speech.

Now over 700K views of this talk

November 2017

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zXCiv4sc5eY]

If you had 1000€ and you could invest that money in someone’s future, who would you bet on? Is it yourself?

Here is a wonderful 1 page summary of the TEDx talk from @in.sight.out

Social Media

Thanks to Sara Navarro Cuesta for being the first to share: Thanks to IESE Business School for a widely-read tweet

Transcript

Who would you bet on?

Imagine you had the two hundred people you know best in the world sat in this room and i gave you this deal:

you come, today, come up here to me, you give me a thousand euros and you give me a name, and for the rest of that person’s life I will pay you ten percent of everything they make, every month, month after month, month after month.

Ten percent.

Who would you choose?

Imagine that. Here in the room, if you look around the faces you see in this room -some good faces to bet on in this room- but if you put the two hundred people you know best from school, from university, through family connections,… Who of all the people you know, will be the one person that you would put on my paper and bring to me? Who would you bet on? I was asked this question seven years ago. The man in the picture is Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett, at times the richest man in the world.

Warren Buffett doesn’t invent things;

Warren Buffett doesn’t sell things;

Warren Buffett doesn’t manage a company.

Warren Buffet takes one decision every day:

Would I bet on this person?

And the results would seem that he does this quite well. But seven years ago when he asked this question to a hundred and fifty MBAs. In my mind, three or four faces came to my mind…

Three or four faces…

And I hope as you’re thinking about this now

-Who would you bet on?- Some faces come to your mind. Some faces come to mind. People you know,

if you have this bet to make you choose them.

So let’s work a little bit on this.

If we’re gonna do this properly which we put together a process.

The question:

What criteria will you use in making this decision?

What criteria is your mind already using when it puts up a couple of faces in your mind’s eye?

What are you looking for when you see in someone the capacity have a massive impact in the world? I’m assuming you wanna do this bet well, because you do it well you can use that money for a lot of good causes.

What criteria would you use?

One idea -let’s go through some ideas- one idea: let’s get the two hundred people present in the room to bring their grades from school and university and we put them in order from the best to the worst grade and we choose number one.

Good idea?

The really scary thing is if I asked a group of twelve-year-olds they would laugh at the idea. Twelve-year-old already see the grades in school is not the criteria.

What are the criteria we’re using?

What about best friends? Patxi, I’ll choose you if you choose me! Best friends! Wonderful for friendship but a very dumb-way to take this decision.

What criteria would you use?

What criteria is your mind already using when it starts to put some ideas in your mind?

Who would you bet on?

So if grades from school isn’t it; best friends isn’t it; What would you use?

Now Warren Buffett takes this decision everyday, and Warren Buffett has three criteria.

But before I get into these three criteria of Warren Buffett

I wanna move to the world of psychology -I studied psychology- and to this day, from the beginning of psychology, there’s one test that above any other tests in life predicts future success on every measure: wealth, quality of relationships, grades in school, length of relationships, happiness, measured on every scale wether qualitated or quantitated

And the test is called the Marshmallow Test.

This here is a marshmallow.

The marshmallow test can be conducted on children three or four years old: the psychologist brings the child into the room and says “this is yours, this is yours to eat. I need to leave the room for a couple of minutes, when I come back if it’s still there you get two”.

And the psychologist leaves the room.

And the kid looks at the marshmallow: its his marshmallow! you can use it in any way you want.

So fifty percent eat the marshmallow; fifty percent don’t eat the marshmallow.

And the fifty percent that don’t eat the marshmallow go on to live lives that are qualitative and quantitatively better than the kids that do eat the marshmallow.

But you can go and look at this on Youtube.

You can go and see this experiment being carried out. And what is most illustrative is what the children do that don’t eat the marshmallow.

The kids that eat the marshmallow do something similar:

they stare at the marshmallow, they look at it.

The kids that don’t eat the marshmallow -can you imagine three-year-olds, four-year-olds? it’s kind of obvious- the kids that don’t eat the marshmallow: they put their head on their hands, they get up and stare at the wall, they look at their shoes.

Because at the age of three they’ve already realized how little power they have over themselves, over their own nature.

The lesson:

the diet fails in the supermarket, not at home. If I go to the supermarket and I buy chocolate, and that chocolate gets to my house, my willpower might get me through one day, it might be getting through the end of the week, it might get me to the end of the month, I might last a year…

But one day something bad will happen: I’ll come home tired my willpower will not be there and I will eat that chocolate.

The marshmallow test: the most powerful tool, on three or four-year-old children, to determine the quality of their lives the rest of their life.

Now, marshmallows don’t work on grown adults, so I wouldn’t recommend we use the marshmallow test to make your decision of who’d you bet on.

Let’s go back to Warren Buffett and his three criteria:

the three criteria of Warren Buffett.

And Warren Buffett makes this decision pretty damn well: sixty billion dollars of Net worth through deciding “would I bet on this person or not?”. And if you look at the structure of a lot of his deals he takes ten percent of all the future income of this person, of this team, of this company, on these three criteria.

The second criteria of Warren Buffett:

Energy.

Energy is health and a bias to action:

healthy people, people who don’t get ill often, people when they get a cold there back to work tomorrow cuz they recover quick, they sleep well.

Bias to action: people have a tendency to take action over thinking about action.

Energy is about vitality and a bias to action.

The third criteria of Warren Buffett:

Intelligence.

But not chess intelligence, not business school intelligence, not sitting in a room for four years designing a strategy intelligence.

He’s talking about adaptive intelligence: when you’re running down the street and a lamp post is coming towards you, adaptive intelligence is the intelligence to see the pattern, see the lamp post coming and change your course just enough but instead of taking it in the forehead you take the blow on the shoulder and you keep moving.

So number two: energy.

Number three: intelligence.

But without number one Warren Buffett and I would rather you were dumb and lazy.

Without number one you’ll be a danger to yourself.

Without number one you’ll be danger to your family and to society.

Number one, Warren Buffett’s number one criteria…

Number two is energy. Number three, intelligence. But without this those two are dangerous.

Number one is integrity.

But integrity is that you say no to most things.

Integrity is really about an alignment between what your calendar says you do and what you say you. And if you say yes to most requests, if you can’t think of the time you said no in the last day, in the last week, your life has been divided into thousands of little pieces and spread amongst the priorities of other people.

So to live an integral life, to live a life true to your own values means that you say no very often.

Integrity, energy and intelligence.

Do they seem like good criteria?

Do they seem like good criteria?

They worked for Warren Buffett… They seem like good criteria?

Did you use these criteria in taking this decision? in choosing the one person to own ten percent of all their future income?

These three seem like good criteria for me, I use them, I often use them.

They seem like good criteria. Now, there’s a person in this room that without paying me a thousand Euros, without doing anything different, without raising your hand, without moving, you owe more than ten percent: you own one hundred percent.

The person in this room that you don’t have to pay money, you don’t have to go to me, you don’t have to speak to anyone, and you will own one hundred percent of everything, month after month, after month.

So I very much hope that you each day work very hard to maximize integrity, maximize energy maximize intelligence.

Because if you bet on someone else for ten percent, I damn well hope, you put everything you can into maximizing these three in your own life.

And given that we got a few minutes, How about some tools?

I’ll leave you with some tools: one tool to maximize your intelligence, one tool to maximize your energy, one tool to maximize your integrity. And you can put these into action right now.

Intelligence: write stuff down.

If you write down ideas you’ve had today, if you write down people you’ve met, describe things that are going on, six months from now you won’t be the intelligence of one moment: you’ll be the accumulated intelligence of six months of ideas, six months of things written down, six months of people’s quotes.

When I was fourteen years old my biology teacher made us write down five minutes everyday, whatever we wanted. I remember day one. Pen touched paper: “This is stupid, What are we doing?”

Day two, again: “This is stupid. What are we doing?” Day three: “He’s still doing this!”

Day four: “Strange thing happened to me on the way to school today…”.

Day five: “My brother said something to me this morning…”.

I’ve written everyday of my life since I was fourteen years old. I know where I was every day of my life since I was fourteen: I know what I was thinking, I know what I felt like, I know who I was with.

Start writing down your life, it’s the most valuable resource you have: your own life. But so few people take the time to document it. Write your life down, describe the marshmallow.

Energy: high-performance athletes. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last five years interviewing the high-performance athletes of Spain: Josef Ajram, Kilian Jornet, Miquel Suñer.

Josef Ajram: ten times he’s competed in the Marathon des Sables. Two marathons a day, six days across the Sahara.

And Josef tells me: he finishes because he never thinks about more than fifteen minutes ahead. He runs for fifteen minutes he stops, has a drink, another fifteen minutes, another fifteen minutes, his mind never goes beyond fifteen minutes.

He says “anybody can run for fifteen minutes”.

He’s run the Marathon des Sables because he’s never, ever, let his mind see more than the next fifteen minutes.

Miquel Suñer swims open water, without a wetsuit, across the english channel. No wetsuit! Forty two thousand strokes to leave the english coast over to france.

Fourteen, fifteen-degree water; the cold seeping in with every stroke. How does he do it?

Because his mind is never further than stroke, stroke, breath; stroke, stroke, breath. Hour after hour, swimming, but he’s never allowing is mind to go anywhere beyond: stroke, stroke, breath.

With the marshmallow: deal with one marshmallow at a time, one marshmallow at a time.

What’s the next step? Do not let your mind jump forward and see the biggest thing. Alpine climbers see the next inch.

Ranulf Fiennes, oldest man from europe to climb Everest: failed three times; on his last attempt his wife said “Ranulf, climb it like the horses”.

He looked at her: “What you mean like the horses?”.

She’s an animal trainer: “A horse has no concept of the finish, a horse runs until it collapses. Climb everest one step at a time. Ask yourself one question: “can I take one more step?” “Yes!” take it. “No!” pause. “Yes!” take it, “Yes!” take it.

And on one of those steps he stood on the summit.

Energy: deal with next unit, one marshmallow at a time, one marshmallow at a time.

Integrity: Do you know how a child spells love?

How does a child spell love?

T-I-M-E

This world is full of good intention… But, the way you see if an executive really is behind an initiative you open their diary and you count the hours.

If you say your parents are important to you, open the diary and show me the hours.

The coherence between a diary and your values is where integrity begins.

And it’s kind of horrific when you start to count, when you start to look and start to become aware of where your time goes… So little of my time really goes to the things that I know and I mean to do. So often I slip off into facebook and what was supposed to be a minute, is an hour, and then lunch comes.

But those minutes, once you start to get the minutes dedicated things that matter…

And the truly important thing to remember about the marshmallow test is that there’s hundreds, and thousands, and millions of marshmallows in your life: hundreds of little decisions, minutes after minute, day after day that all sum up.

And success in life is not one massive good decision, not one marshmallow not eaten;

and failure, is not one marshmallow eaten, or one poor decision.

Failure is repeated bad decisions;

success, is repeated, consistent, good habits.

We so underestimate what we can achieve in a year and so overestimate what we can achieve in a day. A page a day and you have a book in a year: you’ll never write a book in one day.

But this time, once you started dedicate the time right, I had the privilege is spending a day with Kilian Jornet -probably Spain’s top athlete, ultra man- when I met him he just finished running the Lake Tahoe Rim Run: 288 kilometers, 19 kilometers of vertical ascent and he run it in 36 hours.

What the hell goes through a man’s mind as he runs for 36 hours?

But when he runs, do you know what the other competitors say about Kilian?

“He looks like he’s enjoying it”.

The other runners are suffering and they’re looking down:

Killian is running touching the leaves as he runs past, smelling the smell of the forest, feeling at the end of the track beneath his feet.

He runs for thirty six hours because he’s absolutely there, his mind is nowhere else but in the run, in the path, in the forests, feeling completely alive.

But when you do get your diary too much up to your values, getting your life one hundred percent present, and experiencing every little piece,is what took Killian to be #1 in the world in the hardest sport in the world.

So the lesson, rule #1 for success -and I brought a few for all of you to see if you can achieve it- the rule for success: when you have a marshmallow don’t stare at it.

The diet doesn’t fail because of weakness of will, the diet fails because the chocolate is there.

If you want to stop watching television take the batteries out of the remote.

If you want to do more exercise, put your running shoes next to the door.

It’s small, small changes…

And when I come back five years from now, and I ask: “Who did you bet on?

the answer that I want:

Yo mismo! (Spanish for myself)

When I come back ten years from now, the answer that I want is “Yo mismo!”

And twenty years from now, I want you to have written stuff down;

I want you have dealt with one step at a time;

I want you to make sure your diary aligns completely, you say “no” to the things that don’t fit with what’s important to you.

And twenty five years when I come back here I will look out on the most successful group of people, because they’ve lives their lives fully.

Who would you bet on?

10 Things we Hate about Bosses

Great Place to Work Organisation

10 things that employees surveyed last year by the Great Place to Work organisation said contributed to poor management:

  1. Lack of Recognition and Appreciation – employees who believe that managers do not really appreciate the work, energy and effort put in during their days and sometimes evenings
  2. Poor Communication – employees want to find out about their company performance and direction from their boss, not the rumour mill, nor the newspapers
  3. Thoughtless Interaction – passing by without a smile or any acknowledgement
  4. Inconsistent Behaviour – broken promises, it is often the smaller broken promises that really grate upon the employees; say one thing, act differently
  5. Favouritism – we all have favourites, good managers learn to appreciate diversity
  6. Exclusion from Decision Making – the less control employees feel, the greater they suffer from stress
  7. Lack of Clarity and Vision – unclear expectations, unclear connection between the work employees are doing and the overall mission of the company
  8. Egotistical Managers – taking credit and passing blame
  9. Treating Employees like Numbers – a transactional relationship, where emotion and fun has been lost in translation
  10. Ignoring Performance Issues – it frustrates good performers when poor performers are not being challenged

*Based on Great Place to Work employee surveys worldwide

TED Education: What could Joshua Bell do?

This post is a follow up to the TED-Education post yesterday: What Aristotle and Joshua Bell teach us about Persuasion.  If you haven’t already watched the lesson, you’ll need to as background to the material in this post.  You can watch it here on TED Education.

TED Education: What Aristotle and Joshua Bell teach us about Persuasion

What could Joshua Bell do to get his music heard in the subway?

What could you do to improve the chance that someone listens to your ideas? How do you work on the Logos, Ethos and Pathos of your ideas that you will to share?

My answer is available in the 1:20 audio clip here on the blog:

What do you think?

How do you work on the Logos, Ethos and Pathos of your ideas?  Comments welcome here.

The original lesson is available at TED Education.

TED Education: What Aristotle and Joshua Bell can teach us about persuasion

I wrote “Give a TED talk” on my bucket list 4 years ago, today I feel happy to see the idea come to fruition. It is not a TED Talk per-se, i.e. it is not up there on a stage, but in my mind almost better – a lesson from my class, and a concept that is very important today. We are increasingly overloaded with information, but need to be more and more careful how we trust this information. We want to connect to the meaning behind the information. As the lesson says “Ethos and Pathos are missing”…

What Aristotle and Joshua Bell can teach us about Persuasion

Imagine you are one of the world’s greatest violin players, and you decide to conduct an experiment: play inside a subway station and see if anyone stops to appreciate when you are stripped of a concert hall and name recognition. Joshua Bell did this, and Conor Neill channels Aristotle to understand why the context mattered.

Lesson by Conor Neill, animation by Animationhaus.

View the full lesson, additional resources and the quick quiz on the TED Education website: here

Joshua Bell, “Poet of the Violin”

Often referred to as the “poet of the violin,” Joshua Bell is one of the world’s most celebrated violinists. He continues to enchant audiences with his breathtaking virtuosity, tone of sheer beauty, and charismatic stage presence.

Aristotle

Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher ofAlexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics,government, ethics, biology, and zoology. Together with Plato and Socrates (Plato’s teacher), Aristotle is one of the most important founding figures in Western philosophy. Aristotle’s writings were the first to create a comprehensive system of Western philosophy, encompassing morality, aesthetics,logic, science, politics, and metaphysics.

Aristotle’s Rhetoric is an ancient Greek treatise on the art of persuasion, dating from the 4th century BC. The English title varies: typically it is titled Rhetoric, the Art of Rhetoric, or a Treatise on Rhetoric.

Video: Dealing with Objections

You finish your pitch and the customer says: “Your product is too expensive!”.  You arrive home, you’re a few minutes late: your partner says “You are always late!”.  At a dirty plate left on the table: “you never wash the dishes!”

What do you say in this moment?

How do you handle objections?  It is possible to take proactive control of your emotional state.  You can practice a habit of not reacting like a viper snake or a cornered bear.  It will improve how you sell, it will improve how you manage… and it will improve the quality of your relationships.

Aikido Conversation

An Aikido Dojo

I posted a short video yesterday to my YouTube Channel explaining a concept that I teach in my class on persuasion: “Aikido Conversation”.

From: “What I want to say”

The most important step in persuasion is being able to leave behind “what I want to say” and move to what “they need to hear”.  It requires emotional control that we don’t have as standard.

To: “They need to hear”

When someone gives you an objection, or accuses you of something – the real issue is underneath, not at the surface.  If you react with what “I want to say” you will have a fight, you will lose the opportunity to understand what is really at issue.

How to deal with Objections

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylH5emU7JRA]

Transcript of the Video:

You finish your pitch and the customer says: “It’s quite expensive”… “Your product is too expensive!”

You arrive home, you’re a few minutes late: your partner says “You are always late”

At a dirty plate left on the table: “you never wash the dishes”

What do you say in this moment?

Most of you, and myself included, went through 14 years of school where we were taught one way to respond to questions:

Teacher asks questions “how do you spell cat?”
Student: “C A T”

Teacher: “what is the biological process called osmosis?”
Student puts hand up explains in detail the process through which cell membranes allow water to go from one side to the other.

So for 14 years you’ve been taught that you provided an answer to a question. If you went to university you probably had another 3,4 years where you gave answers to questions…  but in real life, in persuasion in getting to what the other person is really about, what their needs really are the worst thing you can do is give an answer to question. If someone says “your product is too expensive” and you said “no it’s not! it’s only €1000” you’ve lost every chance to understand what else is behind their reasoning.

If you get home and your partner says “you’re always late!”

“No no no! Tuesday I definitely was here on time”… you’re gonna have a crap weekend

You’ve had 14, if not 18 years of training that you answer questions and it’s going to cause fights in your home life, it’s going to cause problems at work, it means you’re not selling anything.

Because when someone says your product is too expensive, that’s not what their real issue is.  When someone says “I will have to speak to my boss” that’s not what their real issue is.

If we had lots of time here I would create a little role-play thing because what happens here in our model of the human brain: the stem, emotion

When your partner says “you’re always late” emotion goes up and what happens is this part disconnects. The way to make someone stupider is insult them, object to them tell them they are wrong. When asked a question there’s an emotional reaction.

Emotion up, Intelligence down

and the higher emotion goes
the lower thinking goes

so if you don’t practice this response you’re not going be able to do it in the moment.  if you don’t practice repeatedly how you’ll respond to

  • “you’re always late!”,
  • “you never wash the dishes!”,
  • “you never do your part of the share!”
  • “your product is too expensive!”,
  • “your competitor is better!”,
  • “you failed us 3 years ago!”
  • “I don’t trust your company!”

if you don’t practice this habit of not giving an answer. You’re not going to be able to do it in the heat of the moment.

So i would say this: when you are asked a question or given an objection what I want you to do is say “I understand”, and repeat in your words what they’re saying:

Them: “your product is too expensive!”

You: “I understand that money is an important factor for you, What other criteria will be used in taking this decision?”

You understand… and you give an open question back. I call this “Conversation Aikido”

Martial Arts

Martial Arts are about using the energy, the force of the opponent against them. In Judo, if someone punches you pull their arm and you allow the energy to keep flowing.  In Karate… don’t be where the energy is arriving.  In Aikido the concept is you go towards the punch, go towards the energy

If someone punches you, if someone asks you a question, if someone objects or says you’re wrong: The Aikido method is go towards and see the world from their view.

In Aikido you learn to go towards the punch, dodge it, and look and you are seeing the world in the same direction as the person who’s attacking you.

“I understand”

It takes some habit to start to be able to give “I understand” and fill in good words so practicing

  • “you’re always late!”…
  • “I understand you feel frustrated”
  • “I understand you feel let down”
  • “I understand…”

You will have to work on this quite a few times over the next 10 years to find the set of words that captures what the other person feels, what’s behind it

  • “What can we do now?”
  • “What happened during the day?”,
  • “What would you like to talk about?”,
  • “What can we do this weekend?”

so that is the way that instead of when you get punched, walking straight into the punch, having a very bad weekend;  when a client says “you’re too expensive!” and you say “No we are not!”: You learn nothing:

  • about who else they are considering
  • what other criteria are important
  • what process they have gone through
  • who else is involved in the decision

I hope that, and this takes 14 years of it being drummed into you… 4 more, 18 if you went to university.  It’s gonna take you at least 18 years to get out of the habit of responding to questions with answers

We live in an uncertain world and we don’t have the answers but by giving the answer we shut down the possibility of hearing what’s really going on in the other person’s mind, in the other person’s business, what other things are going on; so if someone says:

“your product is too expensive” -> “I understand that money is an important criteria for you what other things are important in this decision?”

“I’ll have to talk to my boss in this” -> “Hey, this is an important decision I understand you want to get everyone involved”  “When can I come and meet with you and your boss together?”

…that’s a bit of a closed question…

but the habit here is being good at “I understand” and accepting the energy that is coming from the other person and then giving back an open question

and I guarantee that if you do it 4 times: the answer to your 4th open question begins to be what’s the real underlying need issue, interest of the person that you’re listening to.

The Speech Act Theory of JL Austin

The Words, the Meaning, the Effect

JL Austin’s short book

As we communicate, there are 3 separate processes at play:

  1. what we say,
  2. what we mean when we say it, and
  3. what we accomplish by saying it

A rhetorician would call these 3 separate processes: 1) locution, 2) illocution, and 3) perlocution.  In my courses we use the shorthand “Point X” to refer to the perlocutionary effect.  This is where effective persuasive communication must begin.


Speech Act theory was laid out by the philosopher J. L. Austin in his small book “How to do things with Words”.

Words that Change the World

One difference between gods and men is that a god’s words directly change the world, whereas the words of men depend on action of others to cause the change.  A god might say “let there be light”, and the sun appears.  A man might say “can you turn on the light?” and another person hears, understands and reaches his hand out to the switch.

However, we do have occasions and rituals in which a man’s words do cause a change in the world.  These occasions the speech is called “performative”.  Consider the following statements:

1a) Conor says, “James and Sarah are married.”
1b) A judge says, “James and Sarah, I now pronounce you man and wife.”

2a) Conor says, “That ball was on the line!”
2b) The umpire says, “Point to Rafa Nadal.  Game.”

The a) statements communicate information.  These are non-performative utterances.  The b) statements directly change the state of the world.  The statements of the judge or the umpire are performative utterances.

Performative utterances are not limited to judges, umpires and gods.  Consider:

3a) Conor says, “I would bet on New Zealand to beat England”
3b) Conor says, “I bet you €10 that New Zealand beat England today”

This third examples show the establishment of an verbal contract.  Legal codes in many nations hold these verbal contracts as valid on a par with written contracts.  Performative Speech acts include promising, ordering, greeting, warning, inviting and congratulating.

Types of Meaning

John Searle gives the following classification of illocutionary speech acts:

  • assertives = speech acts that commit a speaker to the truth of the expressed proposition, e.g. reciting a creed
  • directives = speech acts that are to cause the hearer to take a particular action, e.g. requests, commands and advice
  • commissives = speech acts that commit a speaker to some future action, e.g. promises and oaths
  • expressives = speech acts that express the speaker’s attitudes and emotions towards the proposition, e.g. congratulations, excuses and thanks
  • declarations = speech acts that change the reality in accord with the proposition of the declaration, e.g. baptisms, pronouncing someone guilty or pronouncing someone husband and wife

Political Speaking

Politicians often speak in a manner that treads a fine line between performative and non-performative speech.  They make statements that sound like assertive promises, but if you listen exactly to the words, they avoid the full commitment.  We hear the promise, but if later their statement is fact-checked, it can slide by as a non-performative.

This has led to a great distrust in any sort of vague speaking.  If you mean to make a promise, it is important in today’s environment to state it in clear and non-ambiguous terms.

Remove “maybe”, “try” and “might” from your vocabulary.  They turn a performative utterance into a vague, grey mush.

For your words to change the world, be concise and direct with your performative statements.

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