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Friendship Trigger

To Produce Real Emotion, Fire On Multiple Triggers

You don’t have to literally produce emotions in order to activate the emotional brain and be persuasive. But it can be awfully powerful when you do.

The more you understand about the nuances involved in persuasion and influence the more you realize how challenging it is to hit all the right notes and really connect emotionally in an authentic way, especially in the ultra-condensed timeframe of a video spot.

This piece, directed by Michael Clarke for Freeride Entertainment and Leo Burnett Chicago on behalf of Samsung is especially successful on the metrics of emotional persuasion. It doesn’t hurt that Kenworthy himself is a ready-made bundle of persuasive triggers to begin with – authority, friendship, consistency and hope personified. He’s even got the word “worthy” in his name.

Samsung know what they have, here. They even call it “Letters of Influence.” And what’s admirable in particular about that title is that the influence being highlighted is a loop, a virtuous cycle between Kenworthy and his friends and fans and family.

Celebrity endorsements are something of a no-brainer for brands because they are an immediate and direct route to certain emotional triggers like Authority and Consistency. But success depends on who the celebrity is, and to what degree consumers can identify with them. It was only a short time ago that an out gay athlete would have been, if not untouchable, then at least controversial; a risky bet.

What’s especially successful about the Kenworthy spot, then, is the framing of his sexuality as yet another challenge to overcome in the pursuit of excellence and, indeed, authenticity. Samsung has done what was thought to be impossible: turning an avoided minority experience into something universal.

Party Persuasion: Small Talk for Big Gains

Those for whom “small talk” is a natural extension of their personality or interests are more likely to be more naturally persuasive.

Dad was a great salesman, an extremely successful entrepreneur and businessman, but hated small talk – at least of the kind that accompanied non-business situations . My mom, on the other hand, could teach a master class in small talk. And I’ve come to understand that if my mom had had business aspirations of the kind that fueled my father, she probably would have been more successful than he, simply because of her remarkable skill at small talk.

Mom’s ability to broaden her network of contacts in virtually any situation that includes other people – I’m talking the doctors office, the grocery store, her many volunteering efforts – is legendary. She literally makes friends everywhere. The fact that her “agenda,” such as it is, has more to do with social business than commercial business, is beside the point. When asked what makes her so good at meeting people – at the icebreakers and small talk that so readily paralyze or bore the rest of us – her answer is both simple and genius:

I'm really very interested in other people.

Not everyone can get out of their own way in social situations even if they are genuinely interested in other people. Still others are just not that interested! And that’s okay. But if your business depends to some extent or at some point on engaging the interest, cooperation, and facilitation of other people, it’s vital to appreciate the value of the social currency we call small talk.

How valuable is it? Neuroscience says it’s critical. Breaking down skepticism and fear, putting people at ease, is the only doorway to trust, which is the foundation for one of the most essential emotional triggers associated with cooperation, support, and decision-making.

The Friendship Trigger

Relationships are more than rapport, and friendship is more than friendliness, but icebreakers and small talk are the garden gate. And if you’re in a business – or at a point in your business – where you need to build networks, you’ll want access to a lot of gardens to leverage your chances for a bountiful crop.

So, what can we do to be more effective in those awkward first-meeting moments?

  • Receive others rather than present yourself.

    Stop worrying about the impression you’ll make and instead concern yourself with making the other person feel comfortable. There’s nothing more appealing than someone who conveys an interest in you. Be that person. Be open and welcoming. Beam.

  • Cultivate curiosity.

    In a media driven world of information technology we’ve become so accustomed to the passive acquisition of content that we’re losing our inclination to ask questions. Be an investigator. It’s not intrusive, it’s interested.

  • Replace anxiety with compassion.

    The moment you feel that twinge of anxiety upon walking into a room of strangers, make a conscious commitment to feeling compassion for others. It will not only put you at ease, it will draw others to you, and put you in the right frame of mind for engaging them.

  • Listen and reflect.

    It takes a certain amount of courage, a leap of faith, to resist the common temptation to formulate what you’re going to say rather than to to truly listen and absorb what others are saying. Try it. You may be surprised at how much easier and more effective it is. Reflecting is simply the technique of restating – sometimes spinning or interpreting – what the other person has said. This accomplishes two important things: It’s shows you’re listening and it keeps them talking.

  • Set aside judgment.

    You’re not going to like everyone. Keep in mind that some of your own inclination to discriminate is based in your own insecurities. When you are first meeting people, give them a wide berth. You never know who’ll they’ll turn out to be, or how potentially important to your business.

Relationship or Just Rapport? Here’s How to Know.

When we talk about the importance of the Friendship Trigger as a foundation for influence and persuasion, we’re focused on the development of trust. The extent to which this can be accomplished in brand relationships, e.g. through media and marketing, is more limited than what’s possible in direct business relationships, but critical nonetheless – the Clinton campaign, for example, used some savvy communication techniques to try and activate the Friendship Trigger as part of their initial announcement media.

In direct business relationships there’s a wide gap between developing a relationship and merely establishing rapport. Rapport is about manners, personal style, and respect – vital precursors to relationship building, but essentially superficial; not enough of a foundation to establish trust and lay the groundwork for influence and persuasion.

So, how do you know when you’ve graduated from rapport to relationship?

According to a recent article in the Harvard Gazette citing a new report from researchers at Harvard Business School, Columbia Business School, and INSEAD, the European business school, the test of whether you’ve actually succeeded in establishing a relationship may be sarcasm.

That’s right, sarcasm.

“To create or decode sarcasm,” explained Harvard researcher Francesca Gino, “both the expressers and recipients of sarcasm need to overcome the contradiction (i.e., psychological distance) between the literal and actual meanings of the sarcastic expressions.” In other words, the conversational participants need to be able to interpret – and believe – the intended message beyond the apparent one. And confidence in that interpretation requites a single important factor: trust.

Money quote:

“…for the first time, our research proposed and has shown that to minimize the relational cost while still benefiting creatively, sarcasm is better used between people who have a trusting relationship.” 

We’ve all been there. We’re inspired to express something sarcastically, but stop ourselves – ostensibly to wonder whether it will be “taken the right way.” According to the new research, that moment may be an ideal test for the perceived level of trust between individuals, and its implications for whether or not a true relationship has been established. If you feel entirely comfortable using sarcasm with no hesitation, chances are you’ve got a relationship. If that little voice in your head stops you, you’ve probably got some relationship-building work left to do.

The Persuasive Power of Curiosity

Brian Grazer is perhaps best known as the other half of the highly successful motion picture duo that includes director Ron Howard. Together, the team produced such popular and critically-acclaimed movies and television shows as Apollo 13, Splash, 8 Mile, A Beautiful Mind, Friday Night Lights, and Arrested Development. His new book, A Curious Mind, is a treatise on the virtues of curiosity, a well-developed attribute of Grazer’s that he has tuned into something of a lifelong quest. It’s a zigzagging hodgepodge of Hollywood stories, business advice, and personal memoir, all built around the central concept of curiosity.

We know from brain science research and persuasion best practices that an active interest in others yields more than just the acquisition of information. It is foundational to the Friendship Trigger, the basis of any needs profile, and an important source of one’s own intellectual and emotional growth. The route to being persuasive is not to inform or compel others about ourselves – our ideas, our goals, or even our products and solutions – but to inform ourselves about others. And then to traffic in the currency of how they feel over what they think. Intriguingly, Glazer’s experience suggests something even more: that the very mindset – the posture, if you will – of curiosity leads to a richer, more fulfilling life; one which offers more surprises, opportunities, and rewards.

There’s a lot to recommend Glazer’s assertion that curiosity is as fundamental to human endeavor as it is under-appreciated for its power to fuel human achievement. But Grazer doesn’t always connect the dots. What is it exactly about curiosity that not only enriches one’s own life but also engages and influences others? Despite suggestive tidbits about his management style (questions in lieu of commands), as well as many intriguing examples of the author’s “curiosity conversations” with the worlds most accomplished people, the question of how this pursuit really works in a tactical way to amplify Grazer’s life and work remains rather generalized; even vague.

The missing connections here may be due to the book’s lopsided emphasis on Grazer’s inquiries with the famous and powerful, those beyond his own sphere of personal and professional involvement. Because he has little if any follow-on engagements with the majority of his “curiosity conversation” subjects, they feel like a series of fascinating though somewhat superficial “one-offs.” They seem like… well, curiosities.

The few instances where we get to look into how Grazer’s constant posture of curiosity works to advance his everyday relationships with everyday people are illuminating and instructive. I was yearning for more depth and detail on how curiosity works to expand opportunity and creativity; how it serves as a catalyst for better relationships, greater influence, and bigger success. Perhaps I was yearning for a different book: less memoir, more guidance. Alternately thrilling and frustrating, rewarding and incomplete, A Curious Mind is nevertheless full of intriguing notions; a highly valuable addition to any robust personal development archive.

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A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (April 7, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 147673075X
ISBN-13: 978-1476730752

The Friendship – Influence Equation

The idea that facts and logic are not very powerful influencers has long been suspected. But not until the advent of live brain imaging has there been such strong evidence to support this theory.

With real-time imaging technology, we are learning more than ever knew about how the brain really processes information. We know more than we ever have before about what really influences others’ decisions and actions.

“Your brain is not a logic machine,” reports top neurologist,Dr. Richard Restak, author of the book and PBS series The Secret Life of the Brain. “Emotions and feelings about something occur before you’ve made any attempt at conscious evaluation.”

The Friendship Trigger

Of the seven primary emotional triggers, the Friendship Trigger is both critical on its own and as a prerequisite for activating the other triggers.

Since birth, the emotional part of our brain has stored data for the friendship trigger. Infants bond with whomever cares for them. Bonding creates trust and liking. We are emotionally hard wired to respond quickly and favorably to those we like, trust and are similar to us.

The secret to successfully activating the other person’s friendship decision trigger is, well, to be a friend. How do we do that? We must share common interests, common feelings and common bonds. When we share common interests, we become friends, we activate the trigger. The great news is that activating the friendship trigger is easy.

Does the Friendship Trigger work?

Bill, a sales rep, needed a critical operation and wanted the world’s best surgeon. Problem: The surgeon took few new patients and would only operate on perfect candidates. Bill didn’t fit his mold. The doctor was a real curmudgeon, and as Chairman of the College of Physicians and Surgeons at one of the worlds top hospitals, a very busy guy. Bill was told to be brief, quick and deal only with the data and facts – no small talk.

Bill violated all he was told. Entering the office Bill asked, “So doc, what do you like to do when you are not working so hard?” The rather surprised doctor glared at Bill for a long minute, and then motioned him around to his side of his desk. He said, “I love blue water sailboat racing.” He logged into his yacht club’s Web site where his 65-foot ocean racer was featured with all his racing credits.

Now Bill is not a sail enthusiast, but he is a boater. They talked about the pleasures of boating. They bonded. They became friends. At each meeting Bill asked, “What’s new for the yacht? He regaled Bill with new GPS equipment, new Kevlar sails and racing stories. Wow! They’re friends.

By activating just one persuasion trigger, Bill persuaded the world’s top surgeon to operate on him. And thanks to that trigger, Bill is alive today. Is the Friendship Trigger powerful? Bet on it!