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3 Simple Steps to Create Urgency and Change Minds

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By Rob Jolles

To master the art of influence, you must master the art of urgency.

My research on influence and persuasion, spanning three decades and four continents, imparts this revelation: Four out of five people readily admit that something in their life requires a change. The rub? They just as readily admit that they aren’t doing anything about it yet.

This is why influence requires urgency.

To create urgency, you must ask a sequence of probing questions. These probes guide others to arrive at their own conclusions, not yours, so you will be influencing people, not manipulating them.

Three types of probes support three surprisingly simple steps—steps that cause people to stop procrastinating and start creating positive change.

Step 1—Use Identifying probes

A person can’t solve a problem without first admitting that it exists. Still, most people resist this step, especially when they minimize their issue or, more commonly, fear taking action.

Helping people admit that a problem exists requires asking questions that help them to consider the issue—or identify the problem.

Use Identifying probes such as, “What concerns do you have about not fully investigating your investments in the market?”

Fast tip: The word problem can press people’s buttons. Use softer words in its place, such as concern, challenge, or obstacle.

Step 2—Use Developing probes

To influence people, you must resist the temptation to “just do it”—to quickly deal with the issue and move on. You have to be patient and dig deeper. Your goal is to keep the conversation going.

This requires asking questions that help people to contemplate the what-ifs—or develop the problem.

Use Developing probes such as, “How much have you lost in the market so far? And what had you intended to use that money for?”

Fast tip: The more dire the concern, the more dire the need. And the more dire the need, the more urgency people feel to address it.

Step 3—Use Impact probes

It isn’t easy to get people to look down the road. But if you want to change their minds, it’s essential.

This requires asking one final, hard-hitting question to help them to comprehend the consequences—or determine the impact of the problem.

Use Impact probes such as, “What do you think the ultimate consequences of your investment decisions will be to your family’s future?”

Fast tip: People don’t generally fix small problems; they fix big ones. Impact probes help them recognize the potential for a small problem to become big.

Influence requires urgency. Study and practice these three steps, and you’ll be ready to change minds.

Rob Jolles is a global speaker and trainer specializing in influence and persuasion, and is a multi-best-selling author. His new book is How to Change Minds: The Art of Influence without Manipulation (Berrett-Koehler, 2013). For more information, visit jolles.com.

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