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Pink Elephant Your Way To Influence

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Don’t think of a pink elephant. Did you think of one when you read that sentence? It shows how easily we can we swayed by images. If I had said don’t think of the letters p-i-n-k-e-l-e-p-h-a-n-t, you would have been fabulously successful. What is the difference – both refer to the same prohibition? We are very much susceptible to images, yet we rarely use this facility when we are trying to have influence with those around us.

 
We think that force of will, desire, status, oratory, personal power, connections or wealth is how we can have influence with others. In various circumstances, some of these will work, but most are out of reach to the ordinary punter. What else can we do? Well we can "pink elephant" our way to greatness. We can incorporate images into our conversations to persuade others to follow our recommendations.
 
Getting others to follow our ideas is how we have influence and we have all heard that storytelling is a powerful vehicle for explaining recommendations to others. Like with joke telling though, most of us are pretty average at these skill sets. It sounds easy enough – just tell the joke and people laugh, tell the story and people will get in line behind you. Well we know that few are any good at telling jokes or stories. That is mainly down to a total lack of planning.
 
Professional comedians spend an enormous amount of time working on their content and then perfecting the timing and mastery of the delivery. If you ever watch Japanese rakugo comedians for example, you can really understand the work that goes into this line of enterprise. They sit on a cushion, usually hold a fan in their hand and that is it. Everything else is down to what they say and how they say it. They create multiple characters, locations, situations and dialogue out of thin air.
 
On our own part, we normally spend zero time working on our ability to have influence. We don’t craft our story content, nor do we practice the delivery over and over to have the best effect. We just blurt out of our mouth whatever it is we want and then get discouraged when no one could care less about what we want.
 
There is a simple formula that is a powerful engine for gaining influence. It works on the basis that a good idea is a good idea. The reason for that is because the rationale behind the idea is compelling. If your idea doesn’t engage the emotions and logic of the listener, they are unlikely to be convinced of it’s value. It is a subtle appraoach. Ramming our ideas down the throats of others is the usual way people approach conversion to their way of thinking. This widespread habit has spawned a public of doubters, skeptics, nay-sayers, trolls and haters. We have to recognize that this is our potential audience from the start.
 
So don’t tell people what you want up front. "I think we should hire more sales people right now, to expand the revenues", you say fervently. The immediate reaction to this bold expense plan is to inspire everyone in earshot to get to work on coming up with the thousand good reasons that is nonsense and won’t work. Instead we need to build up some images in our story that lay things out in such a way that the audience leaps ahead of the story. We want them to arrive at their own conclusion, that we should hire more people to raise the revenue. By the time we get to our recommendation at the end of the story they are already there and wondering what took us so long to get to the obvious answer. This is called winning without battle, in this case a battle of wits and intellect.
 
The storytelling should have scenes the listener can see in their mind’s eye. We might say:
 
"Last Friday, I was up on the 44th floor of the headquarters in Akasaka having a coffee with Tanaka san from the CFO’s office, talking about how to achieve the President’s recently announced five year revenue targets.
Interestingly, she said that they had just finished a computer simulation analysis of the results from the last five years. They found that sales per salesperson were averaging around 40 million yen per year.
I was surprised to hear that even first year newbies like young Suzuki san in the sales team, more than covered their costs in the first year.
I always presumed those new hires were a cost to the company.
 
Tanaka san was busy getting ready for another presentation a little later that afternoon, so she walked me over to the gorgeous new dark wood paneled board room on the 47th floor.
 
She booted up her laptop and showed me this line graph on the big 65 inch monitor there, that each year the average increase in salesperson revenue was 50%. I didn’t know that by year three, the salespeople were really starting to pull in sizeable revenue numbers.
 
It was interesting to me that new hires cover their costs and that the real results get going in year three.
 
If we are going to meet our five year targets, we should hire more salespeople right now.
 
If we do that they won’t cost us anything this year and in three years time they will be producing the big numbers we need".
 
Now that story required a little over one minute to tell. This is not a huge burden on the listener’s patience. I included people, locations, images they could identify with to make it real. At the very end, I made a call for action – "hire" and then finished off with the icing on the cake with the benefit of doing that action – "produce the big numbers we need".
 
Don’t "free form" when trying to have influence. Carefully plan what you will say, practice it to get it concise and digestible for your audience. If you do that you will have people follow your recommendations and ideas and that is what we all want, isn’t it.
 
 

 

 

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