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The Trigger Chronicles

ESSENTIAL FACTORS IN THE PERSUASION EQUATION

Video Review: Political Persuasion Hollywood Style

Neuroscience may have proven its power, but savvy politicians have always relied on messages meant for the emotional brain.

A great example of the long legacy of political persuasion from Hollywood’s golden age is the 1949 American film noir written, produced, and directed by Robert Rossen, All the King’s Men.

Reportedly based on the real-life political career of Huey Long, who served as the 40th Governor of Louisiana from 1928 to 1932 and as a member of the United States Senate from 1932 until his assassination in 1935, this Hollywood version depicts local boy Willie Stark as a facts-and-figures policy wonk who learns the power of emotional triggers.

Here’s a brief look at how the film depicts the persuasion education of Willie Stark.

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.

GEICO’s Masterful Use of the Consistency Trigger

What do camels, fishermen, scapegoats, free-range chickens and Dora the Explorer have in common?


They’re all the subjects of the current video ad campaign for GEICO Insurance, where people, animals, or fictional characters are shown engaging in, or being subjected to, apparently absurd behavior, but which turns out to perfectly congruent with who they are. A voice-over announcer concludes, for example:

“If you’re a free-range chicken, you roam free. It’s what you do. If you want to save 15% or more on car insurance, you switch to GEICO. It’s what you do.”

Launched in 2014, the campaign is a another in a series of satirical and sometimes outrageous TV spots designed to grab attention and entertain. But in the case of the “It’s what you do” campaign the Martin Agency, GEICO’s longtime advertising firm, is either intentionally or inadvertently pursuing the activation of a powerful emotional trigger. From the original book edition of The 7 Triggers to Yes:

People are slaves to consistency and conformity. Our internal guidance system compels us to be consistent with the way we see ourselves and the way we see our admired peers. From birth forward we create an internal databank recording emotional feelings based on beliefs and past performance.

The amygdala employs this past performance databank as an easy, safe, comfortable, non-thinking guide to make current decisions and to generate action… When we learn what others have done in the past, what they will be consistent with, we gain incredible power to persuade.

By depicting surprising and amusing scenarios of behavioral continuity, and then likening them to the viewer’s own neurological attachment to continuity and conformity – it’s what you do – the GEICO spots are all about activating the Consistency Trigger.
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Trigger Basics: How to Engage the Emotional Brain

The most successful people in the world are those who can get things done with and through others. By applying new scientific breakthroughs, it’s easier than ever to get “Yes!” decisions and actions.

Getting others to act on our ideas, proposals, solutions and offers is what business is all about. Even the most solitary professions eventually have to rely on engagement and support from others if success in the wider world is to be achieved. Marketers, salespeople, and entrepreneurs rely even more on the ability to get attention, engagement, and decision. If we hope to become more successful at influencing others’ decisions, it stands to reason that we might start with a deeper understanding of the human decision process in the first place. Easiest place to start? How about a brief look at our own decisions…

Life’s Challenges

Let’s face it, life is a challenge. But it would be worse – much worse – if it weren’t for the role the emotional brain plays in making our lives less chaotic.

Consider this: Every day is an avalanche of decisions. Get out of bed now or snooze? What to wear? What for breakfast – stick to the diet or enjoy? Which route to work? Stop for gas now or on the way home? Listen to the news or some new music? Which music? At work it’s the same. Get that report out first or answer the emails and voice mail? Take a call or let voice mail pick up? What are the boss’s priorities? What are yours? Whose do you execute first?

All day long, requests and decisions drive activities. The need to decide is incessant; the issues never stop, never let up.

Dealing with this many decisions sounds difficult. It could be. If we had to use logic, reason, and cognitive thinking – if we had to rationally evaluate and think through each decision – we’d be trapped, locked in place, unable to move in any direction as we analyze, evaluate, contemplate, measure, and critique the options. We’d wind up dazed and immobile.

Nature’s Triggers to the Rescue

Fortunately, nature – by way of our brain’s limbic system – has provided us with a highly effective, simple solution to easily get through so many decision-making moments. This system resides in the most primal area of the brain, and is activated by our own personal databank of internal “triggers.”

The take-away summary from recent brain research focused on this “emotional center” is this:

We are not thinking machines. We are feeling machines that think.

What is a trigger? What is this powerful internal navigation tool that initiates quicker, easier decisions? A trigger is an emotion-based, “gut-feeling” shortcut that helps us avoid the pain of rational thinking, of laborious cognitive mental analysis. We are pre-programmed to comply with offers, opportunities, and requests when those request activate the appropriate triggers.

The secret for persuasion success is to determine which triggers can be activated for each situation. The odd irony of this need for quick, easy, emotion-based decisions is that the more sophisticated and complex our lives get, the more information we have, the more we need and rely on simple ways to help us make those decisions. The smart entrepreneur, executive, or sales rep understands this need and communicates accordingly.

The exciting science of live brain imaging reveals that one emotion-based brain component, the amygdala, is the first to receive most outside stimuli – requests for decisions. The amygdala has two choices. It can make an immediate emotion based decision tapping into the life long database we build. Or, if no prior emotion is triggered it can send the request to the pre-frontal cortex for lengthy, rational, time consuming cognitive evaluation. Here’s a newly discovered scientific fact: Reason and logic do not persuade. They might back up an emotional decision, but they do not heavily influence the decision.

To get what you want through others you must activate their emotional triggers.

How Exactly Do You Activate an Emotional Trigger?

Triggers are activated when communication engages the emotional brain faster, easier, or more strongly than it does the analytical brain. Triggers remain dormant when communication gets “stuck” in the pre-frontal cortex, in the “brain pain” of analysis. Persuasive communication makes a beeline for the limbic system, where the amygdala can drive perceptions and decisions with such irresistible force as to be completely oblivious to facts or evidence.

Of course, it’s ideal if facts and evidence also support your “triggerized,” persuasive messaging. But if all you have is facts and evidence alone, your likelihood of being persuasive will be extremely small.

Although persuasive communication can function in every mode or dimension of message transfer – across all five senses and through the elements of every media channel (e.g. words, symbols, pictures, audio, etc.) – a lot of persuasion can be accomplished through essentially two aspects of written or verbal communication: what we say and how we say it. A simple way to think about this is activating triggers by either topic  (the content of our communication) or tactic (the style of our communication or the words we choose).

Understanding what the triggers are and why they work is like getting the essential strategic guidelines for persuasive communication. But then it takes some practice to fill in all the tactical details to really make it work. Here’s a classic example of a tactical (versus topical) persuasive communication solution, a brief video we often use in our learning programs as an especially compelling example of “words matter” when it comes to persuasion:

 

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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
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Making the Hillary Brand Persuasive

The firestorm of criticism and controversy struck fast and loud. Benghazi? Emailgate? No, branding.


The fact that the public now seizes upon a logo design as the central response to a political campaign launch just goes to show how sophisticated we’ve become about media communications. It’s also something everyone can weigh in on and have some fun with, unlike policy issues or ideology. The level of passion and even vitriol around Clinton’s new campaign logo may have been something of a surprise, but I daresay the campaign is not complaining. For as much as they may have wanted its message to resonate more than its identity design in the campaign announcement video, people are talking. A lot. And not about Hillary’s private email server.

hillary-clinton-campaign-logo-meme

Generating media buzz (and virtually burying Marco Rubio’s announcement in the process) is only part of what the Clinton campaign is achieving so far. Make no mistake: This campaign’s communications organization is already proving itself to be extremely savvy, with some clear competence in successful persuasion methodology. This stuff doesn’t just happen.

In his Inc. article defending the logo design, Edward Cox compiles opinion from branding consultants who point out various attributes being evoked, from Clinton’s “forceful personality style” to the convenient way the logo is likely to function across multiple media channels, sizes and formats. Ashleigh Hansberger of the Motto agency comes close to the mark when he interprets the right-pointing-arrow as “the campaign moving forward.” But it’s undoubtedly meant to suggest more than that. It’s about more than just the campaign, and about more than just momentum.

For branding in general, and identity design in particular, success depends on a great deal more than just a weekend and a whim, Marissa Mayer notwithstanding. When produced by intelligent, experienced shops like Pentagram, visual design decisions are explicitly mapped to strategic imperatives drawn from extensive, often voluminous, research. The trick is not only to create a visual expression of some often esoteric ideas, but also make it look both fresh and inevitable, like it wasn’t the result of copious data mining. Whether or not Pentagram achieved this for its Democratic campaign clients I’ll leave for others to decide, but what is obvious to those of us who traffic in the techniques of influence and persuasion is that Hillary’s people are evidencing some very definite decisions about the emotional triggers they are looking to activate in the amygdala-driven brains of the voting public.

daily-cartoon-150413-hillary-690

The evidence is not exactly subtle. But it’s absolutely on-point.

The video itself delivers almost entirely on a powerful emotional driver that can be fairly easy to accomplish in direct relationships, but which is devilishly challenging to achieve in media communications: The Friendship Trigger. This is the foundational emotional trigger, the one without which all the other triggers are much less reliable in their potential to persuade. The core of this trigger is sameness, wherein despite all superficial differences, we agree with one another on some fundamental parallels in our nature; about shared experiences or common values.

Clinton’s announcement video delivers on this emotional trigger almost exclusively. And does so in a uniquely effective way. The method conventionally used in political advertising to evoke the (usually absurd) idea that “I’m just like you” is to show the candidate interacting with the kinds of people with whom they want to be identified. This almost never works to activate the Friendship Trigger because most of these recorded events only serve to make the candidate look even more unusual and set-apart. They’re so conspicuously in the spotlight, so obviously the center of attention even as they’re trying to be “one of the folks.” Who exactly is this similar to except other candidates and celebrities? The other problem with look-at-me-I’m-among-the-people optics is that we, as viewers, are observers, not participants.

Clinton’s 2015 campaign announcement video avoids both of these pitfalls by having the candidate herself alone, in a casual sidewalk setting, speaking directly to us, but echoing a series of similar workaday intentions by regular Americans to move, grow, change, connect, and succeed. The candidate is not merely among us. She is one of us. Or so the campaign hopes we’ll believe.

In her 2008 campaign video – imperiously poised in what appears to be a White House room, check-boxing her credentials – Mrs. Clinton launched her campaign not with the Friendship Trigger but with the Authority Trigger. It backfired (as the Authority Trigger is inclined to do if not properly timed), and by the time she regained a hard-won standing as relatable, it was too late. The momentum had turned decisively in favor of her opponent. Triggers matter.

Now back to the logo. That it’s all about forward is evident even to a child. That it’s so massively bold and unequivocal, without nuance even, has been the source of a lot of the criticism. But I would suggest that the Clinton campaign is being ham-handed like a fox. The forward or future concept addresses what is almost certainly the single biggest liability that Mrs. Clinton faces in her bid for the presidency: that she represents the past. When evaluating the vast mix of elements that combine to create a brand, a hierarchy must be created, and in many cases – certainly in the case of a political campaign in the age of information and social media – the identity design, the logo mark, sits atop the messaging priority pyramid because of its ubiquitous visibility… It will. Be. Everywhere.

The Clinton campaign has chosen forward to the future as their brand essence not just because it’s a tried-and-true political campaign concept, but because it evokes the sharpest (check out how sharp those arrow points are) possible contrast to what is likely to be her greatest political challenge. Hillary launched her campaign with the Friendship Trigger, but her identity design is all about the Contrast Trigger.

MEH Hillary logo

How Mentalist Derren Brown Masterfully Triggers Yes

Entertainers instinctively know how to persuade an audience. Then there are those, like the remarkable Derren Brown, who raise it to an art form.

Never heard of Brown? He’s one of the world’s leading mentalists, which is like a magician who operates as much on linguistic and social trickery as on illusion and sleight-of-hand. Brown has established a complete portfolio of mind-blowing tricks, including bamboozling a group of impressionable citizens into knocking over an armored car (it was fake, but still).

One of my favorite routines, however, was the one he pulled on well-known British actor Simon Pegg. I’d rather not spoil it for you, so have a look below before you continue reading:

Brown’s brilliant mental maneuvering isn’t only awe-inspiring for purposes of pure novelty. He exercises emotional triggers with more gusto than almost any persuader I have ever seen.

Let’s Break It Down

Brown uses the Friendship and Reciprocity Triggers by establishing that he has bought Simon Pegg a gift. The gift is something Brown told Pegg he would get him for his birthday long before their meeting, signaling that he is indeed a real pal, a true friend. He also speaks to him in a direct, honest, simple and friendly way when they meet.

Brown’s explanation of the feeling you get when you receive a present as well as his live dissection of the possibilities surrounding the box establish him as a leading thinker in the particular topic he is presenting to Pegg, exercising the Authority Trigger.

The key to the trick as a whole (SPOILER ALERT! Watch the video now before reading any further) is to create an environment that takes the participant in the experiment (Pegg) halfway to a specified psychological habitat, then allow that person’s mind to fill in the gaps in a way that makes sense, a classic activation of the Consistency Trigger.

The Reciprocity Trigger allows Brown to get a little from Pegg each time he gives him a little information. This trigger is less the focus of the trick than the Consistency Trigger is, but the entire experiment has a reciprocal feel to it as well.

Brown offers Pegg the opportunity to take his old preferred top present, a leather jacket, rather than his newly preferred present, a BMX Bike. This sets up a clear yet distinct set of choices: the Contrast Trigger in action.

Brown offers Pegg plenty of reasons to choose the present he winds up with. While these are mostly indirect, they still show hints of the Reason Why Trigger.

Finally, Brown allows Pegg to choose his own present and determine whether or not the item in the box is exactly what he wants. He decided it is, pinpointing the present as perfect for him. Even the Hope Trigger has an impact.

Entertainment vs. Business

Derren Brown’s amazing use of persuasion triggers permeates much of his routine, reminding us that anyone is capable of engaging in a little mentalism once in a while. Just remember that, like any technique or tool, the purpose for which it’s deployed is up to the user. If it can be argued that such a virtuoso deployment of persuasion veers into the realm to tricks and manipulation, it’s innocuous because it’s just entertainment.

In business, transactions – sales, agreements – need to be sustained and solid. It’s far too easy these days for a bad reputation to go viral. Shared solutions, win-win agreements are the most persuasive, and even that which is truly in the best interests of a customer often needs persuasive salesmanship. Maybe even a little mentalism.

So go out there, buy someone a gift, and persuade them to like it.

 

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Does the Futurist Vision of Thinking Include Emotion?

In this fascinating TED talk, author, inventor, engineer and futurist Ray Kurzweil offers a cogent description of the neocortex, the thin covering over the surface of the brain where higher-level thinking takes place. He characterizes this aspect of the brain’s functionality as “the great sublimator,” where our primal impulses (driven by the limbic or emotional brain, where the amygdala resides) are filtered and interpreted.

Kurzweil goes on to propose a realistic possibility for an artificial neocortex in the cloud, expanding in potentially exponential fashion our intellectual capability.

Aside from all the controversial implications of such propositions, how does the emotional brain – the part of the brain without which even the simplest decisions cannot be made – play into the futurist vision of artificial intelligence?

 

Maya Angelou: Making Emotional Connections

Here at the 7 Triggers we have a special affection for Maya Angelou, who died on Wednesday at age 86 in North Carolina. One of her most famous quotes provides an essential insight for the importance of the emotional connection in business and in life:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Although it may seem at first glance that the quote distinguishes feelings from words and actions, one concludes that Angelou was in fact suggesting a strong correlation, even a caution, about the power of words and actions to evoke an emotional response. And it is the emotional response that remains when words and actions are forgotten.

In addition to her role as one of our era’s most inspirational figures, Angelou was a genuine symbol of human achievement in a most original and authentic way. Born Marguerite Johnson, she grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and Stamps, Arkansas. It was her brother who first called her Maya, and the name stuck. Angelou left a troubled childhood and the segregated world of Arkansas and began a career as a singer and dancer. She toured Europe in the 1950s with a production of Porgy and Bess, studied dance with Martha Graham, and performed with Alvin Ailey on television. She wrote more than 30 books, the most famous of which was “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” an autobiographical coming-of-age story about strength of character, love of literature, and overcoming great adversity. Angelou was a Grammy winner for three spoken-word albums. She was a professor of American studies at Wake Forest University, and was honored with many literary accolades throughout her remarkable career.

It may be easily argued that Angelou’s achievements were based almost entirely on a unique ability to connect emotionally with people, her audiences, and perhaps never more so than in her writing and speaking. She had that unique gift – the gift of the greatest artists and communicators – to use their medium as a source of true kinship, as a way to bridge the illusory gap between us. Emotional connection is about using modes and formats in such a way that the means of connection disappear and all that’s left is connection itself.

Maya Angelou will continue to create those connections through her work for generations.

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Neuroscience’s Most Famous Patient

The story of Phineas Gage himself would be fascinating enough without the century-and-a-half of mythology and obsession that have flourished around the tale of this 19th century railroad foremen whose skull was impaled by an iron rod at the speed of a bullet, and lived for almost a dozen years afterward. Slate has an engrossing account of Gage and the inquiries and theories that have proliferated across various scientific communities ever since.

One of the most interesting aspects of the latest scientific conclusions about Gage’s accident and ultimate recovery is that because the injuries were sustained in the pre-frontal cortex rather than the limbic brain, where the amygdala resides, Gage was for all intents and purposes entirely functional. This astonished the medical profession at the time, and for more than a century thereafter.

For those of us familiar with the most recent scientific inquiry into the emotional brain, however, it isn’t all that surprising. As we reveal in The 7 Triggers to Yes, injuries sustained to the limbic brain render subjects utterly incapable of making even the most rudimentary decisions. Many basic daily functions are compromised under such conditions. Injuries to outer portions of the brain, on the other hand, may be responsible for many other types of afflictions, including sometimes severe personality changes, but basic functional behavior is often unaffected.

If he wasn’t the first, Phineas Gage was at least the most celebrated example of the human brain’s capacity for plasticity and recovery – as long as the trauma doesn’t impact the emotional centers.

Your Brain on Social Media Sharing: Is it Emotional?

What makes a piece of web content go viral? A video of a tiny hamster eating a tiny burrito, for example (7,130,728 views at last count). Or, perhaps more importantly, what’s happening in our brains that trigger us to either share or not share something we consume online?

Sharing of information – gossip, news, humor – is as old as the back fence where grandma would kibitz with her crony next door. But in an age when everyone is a major media broadcaster, decisions about what gets shared can have enormous commercial and cultural consequences.

Nicholas Hune-Brown looks into research investigating what the “buzzy,” trend-predicting brain looks like. Researchers identified significant activity in the temporoparietal junction, or TPJ, in test subjects who were able to select ideas and content that were likely to be adopted and shared – in other words, potentially viral.

The TPJ is part of the brain’s “mentalizing network,” which we use to think about the thoughts and feelings of others. It’s the part of the brain that sparks during successful conversations, when we’re trying to figure out how to communicate, or when we read a book and try to put ourselves in the mind of the main character. While reading the most successful pitches, the interns weren’t just concerned about enjoying a pitch themselves—they were anticipating what others might enjoy. The people most able to make something “go viral” were those who instantly began thinking about how to make the information useful to a larger community.

The discovery here is that promotion of an idea or piece of information occurs in the area of the brain associated with empathy, compassion, selflessness. People are thinking about what others would enjoy or appreciate. This is pre-frontal lobe stuff, not the limbic brain. Notice that Hune-Brown refers this area of the brain as a mentalizing network – not an emotional center.

The brain is a highly complex and interdependent system, of course, and there are emotional needs which are undoubtedly met by the mentalizing process of sharing. One’s Consistency Trigger might include, for example, an aspect of self-identity that says, “I am someone who shares passions and joys rather than keep them to myself.” So it’s an emotional trigger that may prompt an inclination to share, while the sharing itself appears to activate the higher functioning, socially conscious regions of the brain.

Read the entire report here.

Is “Connectional Intelligence” on Par with IQ and EQ?

Erica Dhawan suggests in her article at Fast Company  that we should add “connectional intelligence” to our understanding of brain-based acuity. Dhawan has some interesting notions about the special considerations and methods needed to generate passion and galvanize interest – in particular, public interest – around an idea or a cause. But do these tactics amount to an entire category of perception, judgment, insight, and aptitude?

Victor Hugo famously said, “There is nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come.” But as anyone who has tried to create traction around an idea will tell you, getting to that tipping point – that moment when momentum itself seems to be its own driving force – can be a long, hard slog. To accelerate the schedule, Ms. Dhawan offers three principles: Understand Your Context, Have a Courageous Conversation, and Build Your Community.

Here’s our take on these:

  • Understand Your Context – Although “context” is usually about the set of circumstances or facts surrounding a particular situation, Dhawan is talking here more about function than content. In particular: the mechanics of media, or what she refers to as “tools.” The point is to use communication channels and methods that conform with your intended audience.
  • Have a Courageous Conversation – As we know from our immersion into emotional triggers, people want to be liked. They want to feel they belong. Consequently, most people resist the inclination to rock the boat by being confrontational. This sometimes results in a kind of co-dependency on belief systems or assumptions that may be outdated or even untrue. It takes courage to shine a light on incompetence, injustice, mediocrity – and risk becoming unpopular. What many fail to realize, however, is that often the reverse effect is what actually occurs: People will suddenly rally around the truth-teller.
  • Build Your Community – It’s exciting and gratifying to realize that you’ve succeeded in generating interest, consensus, involvement, and dedication around an idea or an initiative. Then you realize that this is only the beginning. It’s critical to maintain communication and provide incentive and motivation for continued participation.

These are solid recommendations for how to leverage your chances for success in propagating a cause or an idea, particularly in a public context. But intelligence categories are another matter.

It would seem that the litmus test for whether a set of principles can be considered an entirely new and undiscovered form of intelligence would be whether or not they can be used as lenses though which to understand virtually any human interaction – not just those that involve certain objectives or activities.

It’s a fairly straightforward exercise, for example, to extrapolate how emotional triggers are involved in each of the so-called “connectional intelligence” principles proposed here:

  • Context –  This is a combination of the Consistency and Authority Triggers. When determining which channels or modes of communication are likely to be most effective with your intended audience, choose those that people use and trust.
  • Courageous Conversations – The Contrast Trigger, straight up. When there is a passionate recognition of “the truth,” it is almost always because it is either counter to prevailing assumptions or light in the midst of darkness.
  • Community – Consistency and Friendship Triggers. If people have expressed support for a cause or an idea, they have an emotional imperative to stay on-course with that determination. Doesn’t mean they’ll always pursue it of their own accord – the key to the Consistency Trigger is to remind people of their existing or previous determinations. It shores up our identity and sense of self. In a team, corporate, or public context The Friendship Trigger is about shared interests and mutual affinities. It’s what binds us together and engenders loyalty and trust.

If it’s time to get your initiative, cause, or idea launched into the public consciousness, then definitely check out Erica Dhawan’s most excellent suggestions. But the notion that “connectional intelligence” is truly a lens through which we can interpret and codify a comprehensive scope of human behavior seems a bit, well, facile. Kudos for the effort. But it’s not a cause about which we’ll be getting passionate.

Create Employee Bonding and Trust

Susan Sobbott, President of American Express OPEN, values emotional triggers very clearly when she says, “Businesses everywhere recognize the need to maximize the potential of their greatest asset—their employees.” She adds that top companies “have found innovative ways to keep their employees engaged and satisfied.” You maximize employee productivity by activating various emotional triggers – Friendship, Reciprocity, Consistency, Hope. Emotional triggers create bonding, trust, and productivity. When you bond with employees and create the right environment, they’ll do anything for you.

Danny Meyer puts a fine point on the persuasive elements of employee bonding and friendship. Meyer owns thirteen high-end New York restaurants. “A productive day for me is much more about human transactions than it is about technical accomplishments,” says Meyer. “It’s looking people in the eye and connecting with them in a way they feel seen.”

Do your clients, employees, associates feel connected with you? Do they feel “seen?” Do you know and record relevant information about every one of them? Are you employing the Friendship Trigger to reach their emotional decision and action motivators? Create trust and great relationships by bonding with all your contacts and your productivity will soar.

Conserve Cash with the Reciprocity Trigger

The secret to getting results with the Reciprocity Trigger is simple: When you give, you get.


Reciprocity is a powerful emotional trigger. It works like a charm with consistent predictable results. Social scientists determine that every culture and every society shares the trigger of reciprocity. Some believe reciprocity is built into our emotional system to maintain the human species. Before cash, the practice of “I give you something, you give me something else” fostered the growth of human existence. Giving, paying back, and bartering were the way of life.

Giving and getting is a cash preservation tool for today’s business owner and manager. Bartering is a huge business. According to Fortune Small Business magazine, “It can help move unsold inventory, put idle staff to work, it can drive new cash business.”  Bob Meyer, publisher of Barter News, estimates that one million entrepreneurs are involved in barter exchanges totaling $10 billion in value. Many businesses give goods and services in return for internet service. The internet itself is a give-and-get facility. In 1980, there were 40 barter exchanges; on the internet today there are 500.

Can you activate the Reciprocity Trigger in your business? Why not? You can offer anything of value in return for work and goods you want. Reciprocity was once the currency of life, and the concept is as valid today as ever.

How have you used the reciprocity trigger or seen it work for others?

Want to Be More Influential? Steal Your Customer’s Glasses.

“A prudent question is one half of wisdom.” – Francis Bacon

How much easier would selling be if you could really see things through your customer’s eyes? Here’s how the pros do exactly that. It’s a process called value profiling and, like many effective techniques, it is not complicated (most salespeople just don’t know it or don’t do it).

SKILL TARGET: Find out what your customer wants, and emphasize those features and benefits which meet their criteria.

It sounds simple, but the steps in the process are critical:

PRIORITY ONE: Develop in advance the questions you intend to ask.

PRIORITY TWO: Include the following:

  • A Consent Statement: Launch right in to “20 Questions” and you risk putting your prospect on the defensive. Plus, you sound like every other “consultative salesperson” out there. Instead, preface your probe with a permission or consent statement: “In order to develop a proposal that best meets the your needs, I’d like to ask a few questions. It’s time well spent, because then I can zero right in on things that are most important to you. Is that okay?”
  • A General Question: “What criteria do you consider most important when purchasing something like this?”
  • The Value Profile: “Which is more important, price or total value?” “Is service a critical issue?” “Do you prefer standard widgets, or custom order?” “How relevant is delivery time?”

TRY THIS: List at least five specific “value” questions you can ask on your next sales call.

Armed with this information, you can develop a highly effective presentation that says to your prospect, “Here’s what you said you wanted.” Then give your customer back their glasses.