Changing people’s minds – how to turn ‘no’ into ‘yes’
The psychology underlying the power of story to change minds is relatively simple. Whether you are working in tech for legal or wanting to influence friends or family with an idea. If you have the greatest technology but cannot influence people to adopt it or purchase it, it makes life difficult. The best thing about Storytelling is that anyone can do it with a bit of practice.
Changing people’s minds can be tough, especially when they have strongly entrenched views. It turns out that story is a powerful weapon, albeit a surprising one, that can really help turn a ‘no’ into a ‘yes’.
“Sanjay” was one of the participants at a recent Storytelling for Leaders program for a group of Vice Presidents of a global technology company in New York. He described how he recently faced a difficult client situation. The client CIO was planning part of their digital transformation and Sanjay’s company was the implementation partner. Sanjay outlined the planned implementation roadmap which consisted of a proof-of-concept and a staged implementation approach.
But the CIO resisted. He believed that a proof-of-concept and staging was unnecessary and would cost more and take longer. He wanted a ‘big-bang’ implementation to hit time and cost targets.
Sanjay had seen many such implementations and was convinced the proof-of-concept was the right approach. But the CIO was unshakeable in his determination to proceed immediately to full-scale implementation. So Sanjay changed tack.
He told the CIO about an incident in about 2005, in the early days of digitisation. His wife saw an offer from a major US retailer to ‘digitise your photo albums’ and provide all your photos back to you on a CD-ROM. So, she emptied her photo albums and took about 2500 photos into the retailer, filled out the forms and waited for delivery of her new, digital, photo library.
Sanjay was quite surprised when he heard this and asked why she hadn’t taken in a smaller sample, say 50 photos, to make sure the process worked. His wife assured him that everything would be fine. She was very excited. But the call from the retailer didn’t come. So she rang them and was assured that everything was fine and the job would be done within the week. Again, no call. At the end of another week she called again and was told there had been a problem.
Her entire photo history was lost. It included the only photos she had of her mother who had passed away two years previously. It was devastating.
When the CIO heard this experience, he reconsidered his position and agreed to go with the proof-of-concept. Sanjay’s convincing arguments had met nothing but resistance, but his story had changed the CIO’s mind.
From push to pull strategy
Convincing arguments are a ‘push strategy’. When you use argument to influence someone you often meet resistance – because when you push a human being, in most cases they push back, defending their position.
Story on the other hand, is a ‘pull strategy’. The listener pictures what’s happening in their mind which creates a sense of ownership. Stories are like a Trojan Horse for your arguments. They are doubly effective when your story includes the relevant facts and figures.
Using story is no guarantee you will succeed in changing someone’s mind. But I do guarantee that if you add story into your influence toolkit, you’ll have a surprisingly effective new tool to change people’s minds.
About our blogger
David Christiansen is Director Sales and Marketing at Melbourne based ACP Solutions. With over 20 years in business to business sales in 7 countries working for technology and services based companies servicing the legal and accounting sector, David understands how to engage and influence at all levels.
As ACP Solutions continue to expand in Australia, David is passionate about applying compelling business stories to advance the effectiveness of your interactions with others.