365 Ways To Persuade And Motivate: #3 Small Steps

screenshot of 5k appOne of the best ways to motivate people is to stimulate a desire for mastery. People are naturally curious and this curiosity helps people master their environment. People want to learn, improve, and master skills and knowledge.

One of the things you can do to stimulate this sense of mastery is to break things into small steps. Why is that important? Because it makes it easy for people to see their progress, and seeing progress makes people want to keep going.

If you’ve ever used one of the exercising applications, for example “Couch to 5k” or the “10k runner” you will know what I mean. These are apps that you use on your smartphone. They map out an exercise period. You turn on the app as you start your exercise session and the app tells you what to do along the way. At the beginning a voice says for you to walk for 5 minutes to warm up. After that the voice tells you to start running. Two minutes later the voice prompts you to slow down and walk. During the exercise session your screen shows your progress. (See the picture at the top of this blog post). You can see how much time you have been exercising, how much time you have left in the session, and how much time is left in the particular part of this session (for example, you have 30 seconds left to run before it’s time to walk again).

You also get feedback on where you are in the entire 9 week program, for example, you are on Day 2 in the 3rd week. By breaking the entire 9 weeks, and each particular session into small steps, the app can always be showing progress, and that constant feedback on progress towards the goal is very motivating.

You can apply this principle to anything that you want people to do and/or keep doing. Other examples are having people learn a language, or master the steps to be a barista at a coffee shop. Or keeping your audience’s attention and engagement while you are teaching a seminar.

What do you think? Have you used this technique of breaking things into small pieces and showing progress to keep people motivated?

To learn more check out our 1 day seminar on The Science of Persuasion.

365 Ways To Persuade & Motivate: #2 Use The Word “Because”

picture of people waiting in lineIn the first blog post of this new “365” series I cited new research on eye contact. But sometimes I think it’s important to go back to “foundational” (i.e. old!) research. So #2 in the series comes from research conducted in 1978.  Ellen Langer (Professor of Psychology at Harvard) published a research study about the power of the word “because”.

Langer had people request to break in on a line of people waiting to use a busy copy machine  on a college campus. (Remember that this is in the 1970′s — there weren’t computers and printers. People did a lot more copying back then, so there were often lines waiting to use a copy machine). The researchers had the people use three different, carefully worded requests to break in line:

  1. “Excuse me, I have 5  pages.  May I use the xerox machine?”
  2. “Excuse me, I have 5  pages.  May I use the xerox machine, because I have to make copies?”
  3. “Excuse me, I have 5  pages.  May I use the xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?”

Did the wording effect whether people let them break in line? Here are the results:

  1. “Excuse me, I have 5  pages.  May I use the xerox machine?” [60% compliance]
  2. “Excuse me, I have 5  pages.  May I use the xerox machine, because I have to make copies?”[93% compliance]
  3. “Excuse me, I have 5  pages.  May I use the xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?” [94% compliance]

Using the word “because” and giving a reason resulted in significantly more compliance. This was true even when the reason was not very compelling (“because I have to make copies”). The researchers hypothesize that people go on “automatic” behavior or “mindlessness” as a form of a heuristic, or short-cut. And hearing the word “because” followed by a reason (no matter how lame the reason is), causes us to comply.

They also repeated the experiment for a request to copy 20 pages rather than five. In that case, only the  “because I’m in a rush” reason resulted in compliance.

So what does this all mean?:

When the stakes are low people will engage in automatic behavior.  If your request is small then follow the request with the word “because” and give any reason.

If the stakes are high, then there is a little more resistance, but still not too much. Use the word “because” and try to come up with at least a slightly more compelling reason.

What do you think? Has this worked for you?

Here’s the research citation:

Langer, E., Blank, A., & Chanowitz, B. (1978). The mindlessness of Ostensibly Thoughtful Action: The Role of “Placebic” Information in Interpersonal Interaction.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36(6), 635-642.

To learn more check out our 1 day seminar on The Science of Persuasion.

New Series: 365 Ways To Persuade & Motivate

If you’ve been following my blog posts for a while you probably know that a few years ago I did a series called “100 Things You Need To About People”. It was a popular series that finished in April of 2011. Since then I’ve been writing individual blog posts, and wondering if I could/should come up with another series.

Well, I’m jumping in again, starting today. I’ve decided to do a new series called “365 Ways To Persuade & Motivate”. I’d like to do a blog a day for a year, but don’t hold me to that! I don’t know if I can really get a blog out every single day!

You can check out the first post of the series here.

Hope you enjoy the new series!

365 Ways To Persuade & Motivate: #1 Direct Eye Contact Is Not Always Best

Photo of Presidents Clinton and Ford looking at each other

We’ve all been told how important it is to make eye contact when interacting with other people. Direct eye contact makes you seem trustworthy, confident, and interested in the topic you are discussing, right? All those things are true BUT new research shows that direct eye contact can lessen the effectiveness of your message in one critical situation:

Frances Chen researched people listening and watching videos of other people talking about controversial social and/or political topics. Participants watched videos with speakers discussing topics with a strong viewpoint that was opposite to what the participants believed. Some participants were asked to watch the speaker’s eyes, and others were asked to watch the speaker’s mouth. Participants who watched the speaker’s eyes were LESS likely to change their opinion on the topic than the participants who watched the speaker’s mouth.

Why would this be true? Chen’s hypothesis is that direct eye contact can be seen as threatening.

Implications?:

  • If you are talking to people who agree with you, and trying to get them fired up to take action, then use direct eye contact.
  • But If you are talking to people who don’t agree with you, then you may want to minimize the amount of direct eye contact you have.
  • If you are making a video and you believe that people will agree with you, then look right into the camera lense.
  • If you are making a video and you think people don’t agree with you, then look off to the side instead of into the camera.

What do you think? Have you experienced this difference between eye contact and whether you agree with the person speaking?

Here’s the research citation:

Chen, F.S., Minson, J.A., Schöne, M., & Heinrichs, M. (in press). In the eye of the beholder: Eye contact increases resistance to persuasion. Psychological Science.

To learn more check out our 1 day seminar on The Science of Persuasion.

Red Or Blue?: Research On Screen Color That May Surprise You

a red square and a blue squareHow does color affect our behavior when we are doing things online? Does it make a difference what the color background is? Does it depend on what we are reading or doing? Can you affect people’s decisions and behavior by changing the background color of a particular page or screen?

Research by Ravi Mehta and Rui Juliet Zhu from the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia looks at these questions. In a fairly comprehensive set of different studies Mehta and Zhu found some interesting color effects. I describe the six studies below (but if you can’t wait for the punchline skip down to the “take-aways” section).

STUDY 1

In the first study people were first given anagrams to solve. Some of the anagrams used “avoidance” words, for example ‘prevent’, some of the words were “approach” words, for example ‘adventure’, and some were “neutral”, for example, ‘computer’.  Sometimes the words were on a red background and sometimes on a blue background. People solved the avoidance words faster when they were on a red background (compared to blue or neutral) and they solved the approach words faster when they were on a blue background (compared to red or neutral).

The second task in this study had people read brand descriptions and then rate each brand on a scale from 1 to 7. Some of the brand descriptions had a message of a negative outcome you would want to avoid – for example a toothpaste that would prevent cavities. Others had messages of approach – for example a toothpaste that whitens your teeth. When the brands were on a blue background people preferred brands that were described with the approach or positive description. When the brands were on a red background people preferred the brands that had avoidance messages.

STUDY 2

In the second study people were given a “detailed” task — memorizing words. They were given 36 words to memorize in 2 minutes. Then they were asked to recall the words 20 minutes later. For some people the background screen was red, others blue and others neutral. People who did the task with the red screen remembered more words correctly than people with the blue or neutral background. People with the blue background would remember as many words as red, but several of the remembered words were actually false (i.e., they were not in the set of words originally memorized).

In the second part of study 2 people completed a “creative” task – they were asked to come up with as many creative uses for a brick as they could in 1 minute. A panel of judges rated how creative the list was. Some of the people worked on a red screen, others blue, and others neutral. The color didn’t affect how many ideas people came up with, but people working with a blue screen had more creative solutions than those in the red or neutral.

STUDY 3

In Study 3 people were asked to read sets of names or addresses which were either identical or were slightly different. It was a proofreading task. The participants had to decide whether one name and address matched another. Some people did the task on a blue screen, others on red and others on a neutral color. The participants were also asked afterwards whether they were focusing on avoiding mistakes or going quickly. People working with a red screen were more accurate on the task than people working on a blue or neutral screen. People working on a red screen also were more likely to report that they were trying to avoid mistakes.

STUDY 4

In Study 4 people were given a sheet of paper with drawings of different parts. They were asked to use any five parts and use them to design a toy that someone age 5 to 11 would play with. The parts were printed in either red or blue. Judges (using black and white copies of the design) then rated the designs based on originality and novelty (creativity) vs. practicality and appropriateness (attention to detail). Red toys were judged to be more practical and appropriate than blue. Blue toys were judged to be more original and novel.

STUDY 5

In study 5 people were shown ads for a camera on a computer screen. The ad was presented with a background color of either red or blue. In some versions of the ad there were pictures that showed product details of the camera, for example the lens. Other versions included visuals that were not about the camera, for example, a road sign,  or a map, which would use creative thinking to connect the camera to a road trip. Participants rated the ads for their appeal and effectiveness. When the screen was red people rated the ad more highly when it included the specific product detail visuals. When the screen was blue then people rated the ad more favorably when the visuals were more conceptual.

STUDY 6

In study 6 people were given tasks in black font on a white background screen. They were told that one of the tasks required detailed and careful processing of information and that another would require creative, imaginative and “out of the box” thinking. They were asked to select which color, red or blue, they thought would enhance their performance on each task. People picked blue for BOTH tasks, i.e., they believed that blue would enhance their performance no matter what the task.

Here are my take-aways from this research:

  • If you are using a negative or fear message it will be more impactful if you use the color red. If you are using a positive message then use blue.
  • If you want people to do a detail-oriented task use a red background. If you want them to be creative use a blue background.
  • If you are highlighting detailed features of a product your message will be more persuasive if you use a red background. If you are highlighting concepts of how to use the product then the message will be more persuasive with a blue background.
  • People prefer blue backgrounds over red, even though red might make them get a task done more quickly. They are not aware of the effects that the colors are having.

IMPORTANT NOTE: These studies were all done in North America. There are cultural effects of color, so these results may NOT hold in different parts of the world.

What do you think? Are you willing to use red?

And if you like to read the research:

Ravi Mehta and Rui (Juliet) ZhuBlue or Red? Exploring the Effect of Color on Cognitive Task Performances. Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia, 2053 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z2, Canada. www.sciencexpress.org / 5 February 2009 / Page 1 / 10.1126/science.1169144

 

 

Design For Engagement Live Video event

Join me on June 5th at 12 noon EDT for a FREE live video event via Livestream.

Design for Engagement Live Website Critiques

Wed Jun 5, 2013 12:00pm  — 1:00pm EDT

Come join me in a free live online video event. I’ll be taking website suggestions from the audience and then discussing–on the spot–how to improve the persuasion and engagement of the various websites. While I’m reviewing and discussing each website, you’ll be participating through chat that all participants can see and respond to. We’ll review as many websites as we can get to 20 minutes and then we’ll have lots of time for Q&A. Email your suggestions to me (susan@theteamw) for websites you’d like to see reviewed ahead of time or put them in the comments here, and don’t miss this fun and educational opportunity.

To join the free Livestream event all you have to do is go to the Livestream event page on June 5th, at 12 noon Eastern US time. That’s it! No registration is necessary.

In the meantime, go to the event page now and you can click a link to put the event in your calendar, or follow the event for updates.

I hope you will join me, and don’t forget to submit ideas for the websites that will get the engagement critique, either here in the comments or email me at susan@theteamw.com

 

How To Get People To Do Stuff #6: Hot drinks, soft pillows & heavy objects

Do you think you’d make different decisions if you were holding something heavy in your hand than holding nothing? Or if you were holding a cup of hot coffee instead of a cold drink? Sounds unlikely, but it’s true: Here’s a video about “haptic sensations.” Or, if you prefer, you can read the summary text after the video.

Joshua Ackerman and John Bargh (2010) conducted research where they had candidates for job interviews hand in their resume one of three ways. One candidate handed in her resume on regular printer paper. Another candidate handed in her resume on regular printer paper, but had it clipped to a light clipboard. A third candidate handed in her resume on regular printer paper, but had it clipped to a heavy clipboard. Then they had interviewers rate which candidates were the best for the job. The interviewers gave higher ratings to candidates whose resume they were reading while the interviewer was holding a heavy clipboard.

Holding a heavy object while looking at a resume makes a job candidate appear more important. In fact, any idea you’re considering while holding something heavy (for instance, a book) you will deem to be more important. The metaphor of an idea being “weighty” has a physical corollary.

There are two terms that are used for this. Sometimes it’s called “haptic sensation” and sometimes you will find it referred to as “embodied cognition.”  We are very influenced by the meaning that our sense of touch perceives.

You may be surprised to find out all the ways that these haptic sensations affect our perceptions and judgments. Besides the effect for a heavy object, people also react to these other haptic sensations:

•      When people touch a rough object during a social interaction, for instance, if they’re sitting on a chair with coarse wool upholstery, they rate the interaction more difficult than if they touch a soft object.

•      When people touch a hard object, they rate a negotiation as more rigid than if they touch a soft object.

•      When people hold a warm cup (for example, a warm cup of coffee), they judge the person they’re interacting with to have a warmer personality than if they’re holding a cup of cold liquid.

You can use these haptic sensations to get people to do stuff. If you want people to have easier interactions with others, then you might want to have soft furniture, not hard chairs, in your conference room, and use a soft fabric covering for them rather than a scratchy tweed. If you have an important client coming to your office, and you want her to feel warmly about you, get her a cup of hot coffee or tea in a mug that will transmit the heat before you start.

Ackerman, Joshua M., Christopher Nocera, and John Bargh. 2010. “Incidental haptic sensations influence social judgments and decisions.” Science. 328 (5986): 1712-1715. DOI: 10.1126/science.1189993

How To Get People To Do Stuff

bookcoverAre you good with people? Do you know how to get them to do stuff? Are you using tips and techniques you picked up from others or experimented with? If so, I bet that sometimes your strategies work and other times they don’t.

There are 7 basic drivers of human motivation. And if you understand what motivates people you’ll be better able to figure out how to get people to do stuff. That’s the premise of my new book that just hit the shelves. Some of my previous video posts are topics from the new book, and I’ll be posting more video blogs as time goes on. In the meantime, here’s a summary of the 7 drivers of motivation:

The Need to Belong

Have you ever felt left out? Not part of a group you wanted to be part of? It probably made you feel sad, depressed or angry, or all of the above. We are ultimately social animals, and our desire to connect with others is a strong, innate drive. We’re not meant to live alone, and we’ll work hard to be socially accepted. We need to feel that we have a place in the world where we belong.

You can use the need to belong, and the longing for connectedness, to get people to do stuff.

For example:

  • If you use nouns when making a request, rather than verbs – for example: “Be a donor” versus “Donate now” –  it results in more people taking action. That’s because nouns invoke group identity.
  • People are more likely to comply with a request if they trust you.
  • The best way to get others to trust you is to first show that you trust them.

Habits

It might surprise you to learn how much of everything we do in a typical day we do out of habit without even thinking about it. We don’t even remember how those habits got formed.

We hear so much about how it takes months to create a new habit. How could that be, when we seem to have created hundreds of them easily without even realizing it? It turns out that it’s actually very easy to create a new habit or even change an existing one, if you understand the science behind habit formation. You can use the science of habits to help other people create or change habits, so you can get them to do stuff. Here’s a little bit of information about the science of habits:

  • The easiest way to create a new habit is to anchor it to an existing habit.
  • If you use anchoring you can get people to create a new habit in less than a week.
  • An important part of getting someone to create a new habit is to break things into really small steps.

The Power of Stories

What kind of person are you? Are you someone who helps those in need? Do you keep up on the latest trends and fashions? Are you a family person who spends time and energy to nurture family relationships?

We all have self-personas. We tell ourselves, and other people, stories about who we are and why we do what we do. Some of our self-personas and our stories are conscious, but others are largely unconscious.

If you understand these self-personas, then you can communicate in a way that matches those self-stories and thereby get people to do stuff. For example:

  • If you can get people to take one small action that is in conflict with one of their self-personas, that one small step can eventually lead to big behavior change.
  • You can prompt someone to change their own story by having other people share their stories. If someone hears the right story you can get people to change their own self-stories in as little as 30 minutes and that one change can alter their behavior for a lifetime.
  • Writing something down (in longhand, not typing) activates certain parts of the brain and makes it more likely that people will commit to what they wrote.

Carrots and Sticks

Have you ever been to a casino? Think about this: You spend a lot of time and energy trying to get people to do stuff; you may even offer rewards or pay people to do stuff. And yet a casino gets people to pay them!

Casinos understand the science of reward and reinforcement. Here are just a few things the science of reward and reinforcement tells us about how to get people to do stuff:

  • If you want consistent behavior don’t reward people every time they do something, just some of the time.
  • People are more motivated to reach a goal the closer they get to it.
  • Let’s say you own a coffee shop and give people a stamp for each cup of coffee they buy. After 10 stamps they get a free coffee. Did you know that as soon as they get that free coffee their coffee buying and drinking behavior will slow down for a while?
  • When you punish someone it only works for a little while. Giving rewards is more effective than punishment.

Instincts

Imagine you’re driving down the road and there’s an accident ahead. You tell yourself not to slow down and look, and yet you feel the irresistible urge to do exactly that.

Being fascinated by danger is one of our basic instincts. Instincts are strong and largely unconscious. They affect our behavior. Sometimes you can get people to do stuff just by tapping into these instincts. For example:

  • People are more motivated by fear of losing than the possibility of gaining something.
  • We are basically all “control freaks”. The desire to control starts as young as 4 months old.
  • When people are sad or scared they will want is familiar. If they’re happy and comfortable they’ll crave something new.

The Desire for Mastery

Even stronger than giving an external reward is the desire for mastery. People are very motivated to learn and master skills and knowledge.

Certain situations encourage a desire for mastery, and others dampen the desire for mastery. You can use what we know from the research on mastery to set up conditions that will encourage and stimulate the desire for mastery, and, by doing so, get people to do stuff. For example:

  • Giving people autonomy over what they are doing will stimulate them to master a skill and will motivate them to work harder.
  • If people feel that something is difficult they will be more motivated to do it.
  • Don’t mix praise with feedback if you want to stimulate the desire for mastery. Just give objective feedback.

Tricks of the Mind

You’ve probably seen visual illusions—where your eye and brain think they’re seeing something different than they really are. What you may not realize is that there are cognitive illusions, too. There are several biases in how we think. Our brains are wired to jump to quick conclusions. This is useful in reacting quickly to our environment, but sometimes these fast conclusions and decisions lead to cognitive illusions. You can use these tricks of the mind to get people to do stuff. For example:

  • If you mention money then people become more independent and less willing to help others.
  • People filter out information they don’t agree with, but you can get past those filters by first agreeing with them.
  • People are more likely to do something if you can get them to phrase it as a question to themselves (Will I exercise each week?) than if you get them to say a declarative statement (I will exercise each week.)

If you understand what motivates people, then you can change and modify what you do, what you offer, and how and what you ask of people. You can change your strategies and tactics to get people to do stuff.

I hope you’ll consider buying the book! If you are interested, my publisher, Peachpit, is offering a 35% coupon code to purchase the book in print or as a PDF. The code is DOSTUFF and you can use it at the book website.

Or, if you prefer Amazon, here’s a link to the Amazon page:

How To Get People To Do Stuff #5: What makes things go viral?

Why do some ideas, articles, videos go viral and others don’t? Check out these ideas and the research in the video:

Here’s a summmary:

Things go viral if one or more of the following is true:

The piece elicits a strong emotional response — either positive or negative
The person who is doing the communicating is passionate and committed to the idea
If there is a compelling story around the idea
If it’s cute or funny (cats in hats, babies, puppies)
If by passing it on to your network it will make you look smart

What do you think? Do you agree with these ideas? With the research? What do you think makes something go viral?

References:

J. Berger and and K. L. Milkman. 2012. “What makes online content viral?” Journal of Marketing Research, 49(2), 192–205. DOI: 10.1509/jmr.10.0353
Jennifer Aaker, The Dragonfly Effect

4 Reasons Why Online Video Is Compelling & Persuasive

Why is online video so compelling compared to text?

I’ve been in my video studio working on my new online video course (Designing For Engagement). It’s a lot of work to create my online video courses (through Udemy.com), but it’s also fun to work on them, and it’s exciting to have people taking and enjoying the courses.

It got me thinking again, about why online video is so compelling as a medium, and so while I was in the studio I made this short video “4 Reasons Why Online Video Is Persuasive”:

Here are the 4 reasons:
#1: The Fusiform Facial area makes us pay attention to faces
#2: Voice conveys rich information
#3: Emotions are contagious
#4: Movement grabs attention

What do you think? Do you find online video more engaging than reading text? Why do you think it is (or isn’t)?