Rob Jolles is a global speaker and trainer specializing in influence and persuasion, and the multi-best-selling author of How to Change Minds: The Art of Influence without Manipulation (Berrett-Koehler, 2013). He offers this advice below:
How can you change people’s minds if you don’t know how they make decisions?
The answer is simple: You can’t.
As a specialist in influence and persuasion, Jolles has been studying the human decision-making process for 30 years. Here’s what he's discovered: People move through six specific stages—a universal decision cycle—whenever they consider making a change.
If you can’t identify where someone is in the decision cycle, you probably won’t understand how to exercise influence at each stage. This is a guiding principle in my process for influencing without manipulating.
To genuinely influence others, whether at work or in life, on issues big or small, start by understanding the six stages of the decision cycle. Only then can you change people’s minds, says Jolles, who offers these tips:
1. The Satisfied stage. In the Satisfied stage, people believe that they have no problems or needs; some even think everything’s going great. But how many times have you believed that a product is good for you only to learn later that it isn’t? In other words, just because people are unaware of a problem doesn’t mean that the problem doesn’t exist.
Fast tip: At this early juncture, it’s critical to establish trust. Ask open questions, actively listen, and avoid bringing up problems. By alleviating the stress that a conversation about change can cause, you’ll build trust.
2. The Acknowledge stage. In the Acknowledge stage, the potential for change emerges; however, there’s no sense of urgency. People in this stage readily admit that something in their life requires a change, but they just as readily admit that they aren’t doing anything about it yet. “It hurts,” they may say, “but it doesn’t hurt that badly.” About 80% of people get stuck in this stage, many for a long time.
Fast tip: Here it’s all about creating urgency. Dig deeper to help people to paint a picture of the situation and to see the potential impact of indecision.
3. The Criteria stage. In the Criteria stage, people choose to seek change and consider their requirements for making that change. Some arrive here by way of a single event, such as a layoff or health scare, while others are provoked by a series of events over time. No matter what, they want to fix what’s broken, and how they perceive their problem shapes how they define what they need.
Fast tip: In this stage, people move from problem to need. Facilitate a conversation that links their problem with ideas that can address it. This way, you help them to understand and articulate what they need.
4. The Investigate stage. In the Investigate stage, people are ready to research their options. Some will leave no stone unturned, while others will skim the surface. Some will be flexible about what they need, while others will be unbending. Some will feel that they have the luxury of time, while others will not. All, however, are searching for a solution.
Fast tip: Now it’s time to connect the need to a solution. Help people to sift through potential solutions and select the right one—the one that best meets their need.
5. The Select stage. In the Select stage, people put their slow, sometimes painful decision process to rest and make their move. Ironically, this stage is usually the quickest, easiest one.
Fast tip: In this stage, people commit to a solution. Ask for the highest realistic level of commitment. Be sure to confirm the benefits, discuss logistics, and reassure.
6. The Reconsider stage. In the Reconsider stage, people have second thoughts—a buyer’s remorse that happens more often than not. The larger the commitment, the more intense the remorse is likely to be. Some people even renege on their commitment and return to the Satisfied stage.
Fast tip: It’s human nature for people to doubt their decisions. Focus on a clear, realistic action plan to help them to stick to their commitment.
About Rob Jolles
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.