When Empathy Hurts Your Feedback
Empathy is the signature skill of good feedback. But it has a silent cost.
Ask others whether they’d prefer to get feedback from someone who’s highly empathetic, and the answer would be a resounding yes. The ability to empathize with others is a critical leadership skill, especially when conversations turn tense. These individuals can anticipate how others are likely to think and feel, are well-equipped to express genuine care and compassion, and find ways to communicate in a constructive manner.
There’s just one problem: Empathy might be derailing your leadership effectiveness.
The underside of empathy
According to a recent study, high-empathy leaders actually became less effective after giving negative feedback. The higher these individuals scored on standard questionnaires designed to measure empathy, the more distressed and inattentive they became after giving the feedback, leading them to report that they became less effective at their jobs and less able to inspire their teams.
In a follow-up study, researchers also found that the more upset the recipients of the feedback seemed to be, the worse high-empathy leaders performed at tasks designed to measure critical leadership skills such as time management and the ability to focus.
The simple explanation is that feedback acts as an emotional contagion. High-empathy feedback givers are more likely to “catch” the negative reactions of others and take these signals to heart. They are quick to observe and absorb how feedback affects others, especially when there’s a demonstrable impact on the moods and minds of their recipients.
Researchers observed a stark contrast among low-empathy feedback givers. Unlike their more empathetic peers, these individuals were less likely to register how their feedback landed and did not bear the brunt of its message. As a result, low-empathy feedback givers did not experience a dip in their performance and even reported higher energy levels after giving feedback to employees.
In essence, we have a performance conversation paradox: Those who are best suited to give helpful feedback end up harming themselves. For these highly empathetic leaders, giving feedback is an energy-depleting experience that leaves them less prepared to do their own jobs even as they enable others to better perform theirs.
Helping those who help others
There are ways to protect against the costs incurred by high-empathy feedback givers. The following practices can help:
For some leaders, it might be necessary to carve out recovery time after providing negative feedback. This could mean giving feedback before a scheduled break or at the end of the workday.
Create a buffer
If feedback can’t be calendared this way, leaders should acknowledge the hit to their overall effectiveness and perform subsequent tasks that don’t require heaving lifting. Check email. Catch up on reading. Look over meeting notes. Avoid anything that requires a high degree of cognition or complexity.
Rather than beat themselves up for falling down, high-empathy leaders should take a moment to reset and reflect. True, their empathy powers may come at a cost. But they also produce a measure of comfort and connection for others in a moment of vulnerability. Better to focus on how others have been served and strengthened by this type of leadership than to give into frustration.
Empathy is the signature skill of effective feedback, but it has an underside. By identifying its hidden costs, leaders can positively impact others without taking a personal hit.
Put on your feedback game face
With feedback, what we show matters more than what we say.
You’ve crafted the right message. You’ve carefully prepared your points. You’ve chosen an appropriate time and place to have the conversation.
So how come your feedback fell flat?
Good managers know how to hone their message. They make sure it’s specific, timely, fair and driven by dialogue. These are important attributes of effective feedback, but they’re only part of the equation. Savvy managers understand the invisible truth about feedback:
What we show matters more than what we say.
Our face is a storefront.
It’s an important but often ignored element of feedback. Researchers have noted the role of “social cueing” in performance conversations. When critical feedback was expressed with inviting body language—such as smiles and nods—it left a surprisingly happy mark on the moods of the recipients. Framing tough feedback with positive facial expressions softened its blow and created a rosier overall impression. A simple tweak in affect made bad feedback seem better.
The opposite held just as true: When positive feedback was delivered with negative cues—like a scowl or frown—it was perceived by others to sound critical and unsupportive. People filtered what they heard with a sense of disappointment and failure, even though the actual words being spoken were complimentary.
More tellingly, the effects of negative social cueing tended to hit harder and last longer. While it’s natural to remember bad performance reviews from bosses or critical comments from friends, the residual impact is stronger when visual cues are used. In the same study, employees who were treated to positive reviews with scowls and frowns recalled these feedback encounters more intensely and in greater detail than those who received a brighter version of the bad news. Apparently, our “feedback face” leaves a very strong impression.
The force of our faces.
It comes down to a basic truth about communication: The mind believes what the eye sees. When people are talking to us, our brains are scanning their faces for tell-tale signs – something that lets us know what they really believe. A wince, perhaps, or maybe parsed lips. The slant of their eyes. The face is like a storefront that shows the interior goods. It offers public clues about private thoughts. Because our faces reflect our true feelings, most of us helplessly reveal ourselves long before we finish speaking.
Isn’t it interesting how this phenomenon has found its way into everyday expressions? We admire the people who manage to put on a “brave face,” maintain their composure with a “straight face,” or act so deceitfully they are nothing but “two-faced.” Unless you’re talking to someone with a “poker face,” it’s plain to see what’s simmering beneath the surface just by looking.
Prepare your feedback game face.
So how can we prepare our feedback game face? By taking a basic inventory of our non-verbal expressions:
Facial expression. Smiling and frowning can actually activate the muscles in other people’s faces as well. We internally register what another person is feeling by experiencing it in our own body. Smiling is so important to social interactions that we can discern whether someone is smiling even if we can’t see them. Make sure to smile appropriately when giving feedback that’s complimentary.
Eye contact. We can predictably tell someone’s emotions from their gaze. Eye contact is the crucial first step for resonance, a term psychologists use to describe a person’s ability to read someone else’s emotions. It’s also important for creating a feeling of connection. Make and maintain eye contact when you’re giving someone feedback.
Voice. From infancy, we are acutely aware of other people’s voices. The tone of our voice, more than the words themselves, can give away how we feel. Calibrate your voice when you’re speaking, especially when feedback is delicate.
Posture. The way we’re sitting — slumped or tall, arms open or crossed — transmits a message. If you’re giving feedback, you are probably in a position of power. Use your posture to telegraph support, not strength. Keep an open posture, hands at mid-section. Crossing your arms across your chest or folding your hands tightly on your lap may comes across unfavorably to another person.
Feedback can be revealing, but we need to be mindful of what and how we’re revealing when we’re giving it. What we show matters more than what we say.
Lead Like a Coach
To lead like a coach, help others find their lane and excel there.
Getting feedback, especially when it’s critical, can challenge our status, elevate our stress, and compromise our relationships. And that sting isn’t just limited to those on the receiving end – the aversion to feedback can also affect the managers who have to share it. Many worry about stirring up workplace drama or causing hurt feelings.
Others feel completely unprepared to deliver effective feedback due to their lack of training or people savvy. When the time comes to discuss performance issues, some managers try to disguise their feedback with a praise sandwich, talk around the issues, or simply dodge the conversation altogether.
Based on my work with leadership teams, it’s clear that impactful feedback starts with a coach approach. By changing the frame used to deliver feedback – from “window gazing” to “mirror holding“ – leaders at all levels can adopt a coaching mindset driven by a partnership model that’s built around development and growth.
Not only does this coach approach lead to more helpful conversations about performance, but it plays to people’s strengths, flows with the rhythm of work, and produces healthier relationships between managers and their teams.
Ask about what went right.
Developing a coach approach to giving feedback starts with a bent for curiosity. Rather than presume facts or prescribe solutions, leaders should aim to learn as much as they can about a situation from the employee’s point of view.
Unlock the potential of your employees by asking questions that focus on their strengths and stories of success. As they reflect on these peak moments, you’ll get a better sense of how they got there – and how you can partner with them to do it again. Some examples of strengths-focused questions include:
- What brought you the most satisfaction while working on this campaign?
- What have you learned about yourself from working on this project?
- Did this particular task play to your strengths?
As leaders listen in, they may detect new pieces of information that change the makeup of their feedback. And for the employee, these questions provide an opportunity to retrace performance highlights and describe significant accomplishments along the way.
Make it a natural part of work.
Just like the coaches who give real-time guidance from the sidelines, leaders who adopt a coach approach match their message to the moment. They don’t wait until review season rolls around to hold conversations about work. Instead, they provide just-in-time feedback that turns the very nature of work into a model for partnership.
If you manage a relatively small team, consider a 15-2-1 approach: Devote fifteen minutes every two weeks to coaching each of your employees. Scheduling time to talk about performance under relaxed conditions helps normalize feedback as something that happens routinely between managers and employees, not just when something goes terribly wrong or unexpected. If your team is too large to command this much time, consider chunking groups of employees and scheduling casual meet-ups based on project functions or team roles. The effect – weaving feedback into the workday – can be equally powerful.
Listen for ways to offer support.
Acting more like a coach can relieve managers of the prescriptive and often uncomfortable rituals of feedback – a hasty run-through of recent accomplishments, followed by a lengthier (and often limited) analysis of deficits and improvements. In its place, managers engage in thoughtful conversation with employees about their current strengths, future goals, and ways to bring those elements closer in line.
This is your chance to flip the feedback model and ask employees about how you can help them pursue their most important priorities for growth. Making this shift keeps the focus of the conversation on actionable change, but comes across in a far more supportive and non-threatening way. Some of the ways you can prompt employees for feedback include:
- How can I help you take action on this?
- Is there something I can do to help you achieve your goals?
- How can I help you recreate the conditions of your success?
The best leaders don’t force others to become miniature versions of themselves – they inspire us to become the grandest version of ourselves. Adopting a coach approach that’s powered by partnership does just that – and allows people to set the terms for their personal and professional success.
Make your message matter
Feedback needs to deliver more than just a strong message.
In case you haven’t noticed, feedback has made a comeback.
What was once a system of “command and control” has shifted to a dynamic of “converse and connect.” Leaders are paying more attention to the message of feedback by holding themselves accountable to basic norms: Is it clear? Is it intentional? Does it tackle the tough issues, or simply dodge and disguise them? Feedback today is exchanged more frequently and with greater frequency than in years past. And more people, particularly individual contributors, now feel empowered to ask for feedback instead of waiting breathlessly for it to arrive.
That’s all very encouraging, but it’s not enough. Feedback isn’t just a report. It’s a relationship. Our job isn’t just to tell others about their work — it’s to show them how their works matters. How they matter.
We need a message that matters.
When we recognize the unique knowledge, expertise and experience of others, we show them two things:
- Your work matters.
- You matter.
Mattering is the currency of connection. When people sense that they matter, they’re more likely to feel a stronger sense of being and belonging. They experience a surge in oxytocin, the chemical responsible for lowering social inhibition and heightening our desire to be with others. And the cycle of connection is self-sustaining: The more of it we enjoy, the more of it we seek.
The downstream effects are powerful. When leaders deliver a message of mattering, they build social capital and trust. They create environments where success is counted in team wins, not personal victories. And they instill a deeper sense of purpose in everyday practice. Feedback can fuel stronger results and relationships when we give more attention to why things matter, not just why things are.
Account for expertise.
Feedback preferences change with time, especially at various career stages. For novices, it’s a desire for reassurance: They want more coaching and context to help them choose the right path. For experts, it’s a passion for progress: They look for candor and clarity to help them advance on their chosen path. Whether it’s honors foreign language students describing their ideal teacher or savvy shoppers looking for guidance on beauty care products, experts want bare-knuckled feedback. Novices want it delivered with white gloves.
Taking those preferences into account, feedback must look and sound different depending on who you’re talking to. Tailoring our message to someone’s preferred method shows that we understand what this person wants and needs from us at this moment. Not only will this be a welcomed gesture, but it’s more likely to bring desired results.
Hone your empathy.
Empathy is the signature skill of mattering, and the better we are at understanding how others are feeling, the stronger our feedback. For some, empathy comes naturally. For others, it takes intentional practice. But our capacity for empathy starts even at a young age.
In one study, researchers gave a group of infants ranging from 14 to 18 months old two bowls of food, one containing Goldfish crackers and the other filled with broccoli. Naturally, the infants showed a stronger preference for the crackers. As they ate, so did the adults — but they expressed visible disgust while eating the crackers and obvious delight while eating the broccoli. When researchers asked the infants to pass them food, nearly 70 percent gave them broccoli. The infants may have liked Goldfish more, but they sensed that their companions liked broccoli even better.
Deliver with care.
While it’s important to show others we know them, we also have to show them carefully. Individuals who received negative feedback with encouraging social cues (such as smiles and nods) were more likely to interpret the feedback positively, while those who got positive feedback with negative emotional signals (frowns and scowls) felt worse about their overall performance.
Feedback thrives when the message finds the mattering. Tailoring our feedback to the unique needs of individuals and telegraphing our intentions carefully helps others feel more visible and valued at work. Feedback is ultimately about what do for others, not to them. And when they feel they matter, their work will matter, too.
Mental Health and Wellbeing Still Matter
The return to work has redefined the way leaders operate within and beyond the office, but one thing hasn’t changed: Mental health and wellbeing still matter. A recent study by Mind Share Partners, in partnership with Qualtrics and SAP, showed a decline in the mental health of nearly half of respondents since the onset of the pandemic. Nationwide, almost half of Americans report the coronavirus crisis is harming their mental health, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll. We all know someone who’s reeling from a rise in workplace-related anxiety and stress.
It could even be us.
While treatment of serious mental health concerns should be left to trained professionals, there are steps that every leader can take to alleviate the toll on employee wellbeing. These practices can provide a much-needed lift to those who may be experiencing heightened fears about their emotional and even physical health.
Care for employees with high-touch communication.
As teams continue to work in hybrid and flexible arrangements, it’s crucial that managers remain visible by communicating with frequency and intention. By staying in regular contact with employees, leaders can spot signs of emotional wear-and-tear before they become more pronounced. More importantly, dedicating time and resources to these check-ins sends a clear message to people that their emotional health matters.
Scarcity of time is no excuse. For especially busy clients, I’ve recommended a “15-2-1” approach: Spend 15 minutes once a week talking to two members of your team. Making these conversations ritualized and routine eases some of the discomfort and stigma that may arise when discussing mental health (“This doesn’t apply to me” or “I’m doing fine, why bother?”) and can yield positive, business-oriented results for managers and employees alike.
For high-touch communication that goes beyond trite greetings, try these helpful prompts:
- Do you feel like you have enough time to get your work done in a reasonable manner?
- How do you feel at the start and end of your day?
- Are you finding ways to stay connected to the team?
- How can I support you?
Allow others to reframe and refocus.
Researchers have demonstrated the restorative effects of reframing and refocusing in alleviating emotional pain. According to one study, individuals who suffered setbacks but then envisioned a brighter future through “prospective writing” experienced a sense of post-traumatic growth. Other studies have shown that individuals coped better with significant life changes when they actively focused on their core values and beliefs.
These are not clever tricks to bypass real concerns. Rather, they are powerful frameworks for helping your employees gain control over fears both real and imagined by enlisting the support of those closest to them. Leaders can play a pivotal role in facilitating this process simply by showing up for their employees with offers of compassion, concern and commitment. Just knowing that someone is there to help is all the reassurance we need.
Pay attention to physical indicators and nonverbal cues.
Individuals who are struggling with stress and anxiety often show signs of distress. Early indicators include changes in behavior and mood, as well as nonverbal cues like alienating body language and disposition. Attentive leaders should be aware of the following red-flag behaviors by employees:
- Exhibiting excessive nervousness, restlessness, or irritability
- Acting overly passive, worried or tense
- Avoiding group gatherings, whether in-person or virtual
- Showing visible signs of fatigue, aches or pains
For leaders, paying attention pays off: Researchers have found that people volunteer less information and speak less articulately when talking to inattentive bosses, whereas attentive bosses — as measured by their awareness of nonverbal cues — receive more relevant and detailed information even without having to ask for it. Before you can advocate for others, you need to notice how they communicate their unspoken needs.
Just because we’re back together doesn’t mean that people are back to their old selves. Now’s the time for leaders to prioritize the mental and emotional wellbeing of their employees as a matter of sound practice. Organizations achieve a higher order of purpose when they help individuals experience a deeper sense of wholeness.
Turn stress into strength
Stress can be a tool, not just a toxin. Here’s how to re-work your relationship with stress.
We often hear about the negative impact of stress—how it can raise our blood pressure, interfere with sleep, increase our anxiety levels, and even damage the brain. And it’s true: Stress can have a negative impact on our overall state of health.
But is all stress bad? Could it be that the stress you’re feeling as you struggle to meet a deadline, brace for performance feedback, or fret over your child’s math homework can actually be good for you?
Turns out there’s an upside to stress. In fact, the right amount of stress might be just what you need to increase your productivity, foster better relationships, and increase your quality of life.
Stress forces us to solve problems more effectively, which helps us build skills we may need for future experiences. It also primes us for peak performance. The hormone that’s responsible for causing stress is the same hormone that primes us to get in the zone. Stress has been shown to sharpen our memory, strengthen our social bonds and even make us more creative.
So how can we start saying “yes” to stress and turn it into a strength?
With these three mind-shifts:
Reframe it to tame it
That thing you’re calling “stress” actually goes by another name: excitement. The same feelings you get before doing something exciting look a lot like the physiological signs of stress: Faster heart rate. Increased energy. Deeper breathing. Racing heartbeat.
A simple way to get control over stress is to start labeling it as excitement. Not everything that feels stressful is actually harmful. Not everything that feels weighty is cause for worry. Reframing stressful situations as exciting moments can help you navigate challenging experiences more confidently.
Create a healthy relationship with control
Stress often results from a perceived loss of control. But there are things in life that we simply can’t control: other people’s behavior, a financial crisis, or just plain bad timing. So before you let stress take over, it’s worth asking yourself:
Is there anything I’m doing that’s contributing to this situation?
If the answer is yes, then start making adjustments where you can.
If the answer is no, then stressing over a situation is utterly pointless. If you worry about things that never happen, you’ve wasted your time. If you worry about things that do happen, you’ve still wasted your time!
A healthier way to manage your stress is to control what you can and accept what you can’t.
Make sense out of stress
A good way to turn stress into strength is to treat difficult circumstances as learning opportunities. Stress is not an excuse to shut down. It’s an opportunity to open up. It’s our chance to absorb the teachable moments brought on by adversity. Turn challenge into your advantage. Instead of fixating on why something happened, focus on how you can grow from the experience. Maybe it forced you to become more adaptable. Maybe it prompted you to learn a different set of skills. Or maybe stress provided the nudge you needed to stretch outside your comfort zone and try something new. Don’t try to make sense of why stressful situations are suddenly in your life. Take that energy and make sense of how stress can improve your life.
By making conscious choices that help us build a new relationship with stress, we’ll be better equipped to turn life’s most challenging moments into our most exciting opportunities!
Feedforward: Look forward, not back
Good feedback look forward, not back.
Getting others to accept our feedback can prove challenging, especially when it’s critical. Worried that their feedback may lead to hurt feelings or diminished productivity, managers resort to face-saving techniques like the “praise sandwich” that end up doing more harm than good. The result is a wobbly feedback culture built largely upon evasion, confusion, and self-delusion.
This dynamic can change with a better message — and a bolder mindset. Based on my research and work with leadership teams, I’ve found that when performance conversations are powered by partnership, the landscape shifts. Not only do managers enjoy better relationships with their teams, but their feedback becomes a cause for joy, not fear.
If we want to move people forward, they need a sense of forward progress:
Feedforward is a partnership model that distributes power and increases two-way conversation between managers and their employees — leading to a more authentic and revealing feedback experience that fosters trust, flows with the rhythm of work, and sets the conditions for positive, lasting change. It’s a humbler approach to managing people that focuses on asking questions, not giving orders. I call it the difference between “window gazing” and “mirror holding.”
Windows and mirrors: Two views of who people are
“Window gazing” is a process of telling and selling. Ask two people gazing out the same window to describe what they see, and you’re likely to get two different but valid views. Not so in the context of work, where the imbalance of power allows only one view — the manager’s — to prevail. This limited picture of performance is often riddled with subjectivity and bias, as managers ignore, distort, and overlook details related to an employee’s work. That view becomes muddled over time, often resembling a “forgetting curve” punctuated by a sharp initial drop, followed by a slow and steady loss. How can we evaluate something we can barely remember?
The picture begins to change with “mirror holding,” a deliberate shift to listening and learning. Instead of telling their employees what to see, managers guide them where to look. They engage employees in thoughtful conversation about their current strengths, future goals, and how to bring those elements closer in line. Rather than offer directives, managers ask probing questions that help them better understand the picture of work and entrust their employees with opportunities to shape the way forward.
In my work with leaders at all levels, I’ve seen the power of a humbler approach. Mirror holding enlarges employees’ perspectives while expanding their opportunities for dialogue and reflection. It relieves managers of the prescriptive and often uncomfortable rituals of feedback — a hasty run-through of recent accomplishments, followed by a much longer list of deficits. And it transforms managers into people champions who actively promote the growth and agency of their employees. If the sign of a good leader is someone who creates other leaders, then mirror holding is the mark of transformational leadership.
Start expanding someone’s view
Making the transition from window gazing to mirror holding takes deliberate practice, but it’s something every leader can do with the right amount of effort and intent. Here are a few recommendations for developing more mirror-holding in your touchpoint conversations:
Ask “hero questions”
Unlock the potential of your employees by asking “hero questions” that focus on their strengths and stories of success. These questions cut to the heart of employee experience — how individuals perceive their competencies and contributions.
Some of my favorite hero questions include:
- Tell me about a time this month you felt energized.
- What have you learned about yourself from working on this project?
- What strengths have you found most useful on this project?
- Who have you recently helped, and what difference did it make in their work and yours?
Asking employees to look back at these peak moments helps managers better understand what it took to get there — and, more importantly, what it will take to get there again.
When employees hint to a challenge, pay attention to their cues. Is this person holding back? What does that individual’s body language and tone of voice convey? This process of scanning and listening can alert managers to the unseen emotional toll of work and how it is affecting performance.
Try to uncover the employee’s perception of the challenge and how to address it with these prompts:
- What outcome are you trying to achieve?
- What is happening? Why do you think it’s happening?
- What have you tried so far? How have you handled similar challenges in the past?
- Have you tried to resolve this challenge? What happened as a result?
Helping others recognize work challenges can provide the first measure of relief. When issues are brought into the open, both sides gain clarity and can begin working towards a shared solution.
Shape the path
If performance is a journey, then it’s the manager’s job to help shape a path towards commitment. Once employees suggest a way forward, managers should guide their next steps. This steers the conversation towards actionable progress, making feedback more concrete.
Try closing the feedback exchange with questions like:
- How do you think you’ll act on this?
- What is holding you back from achieving your goals?
- What would happen if you tried this?
- How can I help you recreate the conditions of your success?
The best feedback helps others understand their strengths and provides the encouragement and guidance to build on those strengths. Feedforward sets the conditions for positive and lasting change. Making a small adjustment in your mindset can produce a world of difference in your message — and just might help others see themselves in an entirely new way.
Find and Keep Your Motivation
Motivation isn’t a secret. It’s a strategy.
Do you lack the motivation to succeed today? Then you’ve probably bought into the motivation myth.
The truth is, motivation isn’t a secret. It’s a strategy. And with the right techniques, you’ll find your stride and keep it, too.
Find the meaning
A good goal should scare you a little and excite you a lot. And it’s not just about making your quotas. Choose a goal that personally meaningful for you, like “I want to make three people happier today with this product” or “I want to change one person’s mind about this service.” When goals are fueled by passion and purpose, they won’t run out of gas.
Shrink the process
Nothing builds success like success. Break big goals into smaller chunks and start building quick wins. Aiming for 500 sales this quarter is a broad goal that doesn’t give you a lot to aim for in the short-term. Shrinking your long-term goals into more immediate targets – like closing 40 sales a week – can deliver a thrill of accomplishment, boost your winning streak, and keep you motivated to reach even higher.
Hold yourself accountable
It’s easy to fall off the wagon when you’re riding alone. Stay on track by sharing your success and setbacks with others. Knowing that others are counting on you – and counting with you – will push you to do your best.
Shift your view
To stay primed, try changing your view of progress. Instead of looking at what’s ahead of you, set a midpoint goal and focus on reaching it. Once you’re there, count down what’s left. It’s a mental trick shown to boost motivation all by changing the way we perceive our gains and growth.
So remember, motivation isn’t something you find. It’s something you create. Follow these four techniques, and you’ll be ready to take action, every time.
Your future self
Your future self is waiting for you. What will it look like?
What if you could fast forward five years from now, ten years from now – and meet your future self?
What would your future self look like? Would it be happy and successful? Thriving at work? Doing well in life? Or would your future self be discouraged? Disappointed? Missing out on all that life has to offer?
If you met your future self, would you discover that the decisions you’re making right now are creating future obstacles….or opportunities?
Things are the way they are because we allow them to be that way. Nothing is life is destined, predetermined or meant to be. It’s decided. Life is chosen. Paths are taken. We are the product of our priorities. We’re the ones, right now, who get to make the decisions, define the terms, shape the roads that ultimately become our future.
Because the future is happening right now.
We don’t get to choose what the world brings to us. But we always get to choose what we bring to the world.
What you look for is what you see. What you believe is what you become.
When you skid a rock across the water, it creates a ripple. It spreads across the surface well beyond its point of impact.
The decisions we make today ripple across time. They reverberate into tomorrow. They become our future. Because our future starts today.
Today – start changing your view of yourself. Start changing your view of the future. Others are looking to you. They are looking at you. And so the question you need to ask yourself is this:
When people meet your future self, what do you want them to see?
The Art of Persuasion
Persuasion works best when you help others convince themselves.
Really good salespeople know how to persuade their prospects. But they don’t do it by pushing them harder. Instead, they push away the hard issues — the barriers that keep others from taking action. You don’t need to be manipulative to win people over. All it takes is a better understanding of how people make decisions.
Persuasion is part art, part smarts. Stick with these principles of persuasion, and you’ll end up getting more of what you want by giving others more of what they need.
Highlight the gap.
When people are pushed, they tend to push back. It’s called reactance, and it’s a hardwired human trait. The best way to convince others is to help them convince themselves. Start by highlighting the gap between the present and future — what is and what could be. Describe the benefits of your product or service — not just the features — and guide others to imagine future possibilities that can come from closing that gap.
Surface the costs.
People resist change because they place more value on what they already have, something known as endowment. In reality, the cost of not taking action — in terms of money, time and opportunity — can be much higher. To be more persuasive, you should surface the costs of sticking with the status quo. Help others recognize that they stand to gain much more by acting than not.
Make numbers sound human.
Some people need data to guide their decisions. Data is good, but data stories are even better. Use math to deliver a message. Instead of saying that your product decreases costs by 30%, put the savings in human terms: “Our customers are happier as a result of the savings we deliver.” Numbers count more when they tell a story.
Shorten the distance.
People have a hard time accepting ideas that exist in a faraway future. To be more persuasive, shorten the distance from concept to reality by asking for smaller commitments and creating easier points of entry. These shrinking strategies let others see progress unfold over shorter intervals, boosting their confidence in you and their willingness to stay the course.
The best way to change people’s minds is to open their minds. Highlight the gaps, surface the costs, make your numbers human and shorten the distance to action, and you’ll find that prospects are ready — and willing — to hear what you have to say.