The Brilliant Influence Blog is Moving

When I started writing my second book, I thought how great it would be to do a blog associated with each one.  Since then, I have been maintaining blogs, linked to:

  • The Management Models Pocketbook
  • The Handling Resistance Pocketbook
  • Brilliant Influence
  • Brilliant Time Management
  • Brilliant Stress Management

This is proving too complex, so I have decided to consolidate these into one blog, on my principal website at

To read blogs linked to the Brilliant Influence, please go here.

Action, please

If you subscribe to these posts, please would you re-subscribe to my blog here, in the sidebar.

If you want to subscribe to my separate email newsletter, just let me know your name and email address, and I’ll send you valuable extra tips and thoughts every month.

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Mindless Action

Ellen LangerI opened my talk at the Winchester Cafe Scientifique on 4 July with a description of an experiment conducted in the late 1970s by Ellen Langer of Harvard University, and her co-workers, Arthur Blank and Benzion Chanowitz of the City University, New York.

In a paper entitled “The Mindlessness of Ostensibly Thoughtful Action: The Role of Placebic Information in Interpersonal Interaction”, Langer and her colleagues described a beautifully simple experiment.

A Simple Favour

Would you do a favour and let someone go ahead of you when you were about to use a photocopier?

Queue for PhotocopierThe researchers asked 120 students if they could use a library photocopier first, just after the student had reached it.

The experimenter asked in three different ways:

  1. “May I use the Xerox machine?”
    Giving no reason
  2. “May I use the Xerox machine, because I have to make copies?”
    Giving no real reason
  3. “May I use the Xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?”
    Giving a reason

The Power of “because

When the request was a small one – the experimenter had only five sheets to copy – 9 out of 15 (60%) of the students asked obliged without hearing a reason (Request number 1). With a reason (Request Number 3), 15 out of 16 (94%) agreed.

Here’s the surprise – with no real reason (Request number 2), 14 out of 15 (93%) were prepared to oblige. The reason is clearly not important; what was important was that there was a reason – the students heard the word “because” and that was enough.

Higher stakes: Bigger “because

Is “because” sufficient in all cases? No. When the experimenter made a bigger request, to copy 20 pages, only 6 out of 25 students (24%) obliged with both of questions 1 and 2.

With a real reason, however, 10 out of 24 students (42%) were prepared to be generous. So to agree to a significant request, we need a significant reason.

Winchester Cafe Scientifique


… takes place on the first Monday of the month, at The Bridge Patisserie, 20 Bridge Street, Winchester. Tables start filling at around 7pm and it is usually standing room only by 7:30.
The Cafe resumes, after a summer break, on 3 October, with “What can mankind do to reduce global warming?”

And here is the bonus…  It is free to attend the cafe, with just a voluntary donation to meet the organiser’s costs.

Up to date information here.

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Influence and The Apprentice’s Jim Eastwood

The Apprentice on, I posted a blog on my main website, describing how Jim Eastwood, candidate in this years UK series of The Apprentice, is able to influence colleagues, buyers, sellers and the public.



Jim’s techniques can be summed up in seven points:

  1. Build rapport.  Take an interest in the person you are talking with,
    show you like them, and listen to their point of view.  Use charm and
    flattery to enhance people’s liking for you.
  2. Be clear what you want, and politely ask for it.  Negotiators should
    always ask for a final concession.
  3. Be confident and stand your ground.  Keep your emotional register
    pretty flat.  This way, you come across as credible and authoritative.
  4. Give the impression that you know something others don’t
    – to intimidate them from taking risks. “Don’t you think that…”
  5. Give a single clear reason in support of your argument.
  6. Do people favours by supporting them and by conceding minor points,
    so they owe you a favour in return. This works in negotiations and on
    a team level.  Call in those favours soon after.
  7. Harness your supporters to create an alliance against anyone who
    disagrees – then isolate them.

For the full article, take a look here, or click on the image.
More Apprentice

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The Psychology of Influence

The Psychology of Influence

I will be speaking at the Winchester Cafe Scientifique on Monday 4 July 7 for 7:30pm on:

The Psychology of Influence

How to get more of what you want, change minds and see promises kept


  • What difference can one word make, when you are in a hurry?
  • Why does doing you a small favour make me more likely to do you a big one later?
  • How can one question make me more likely to keep my promise?  Why was my mum right to put a premium on my title “Dr”?
  • When will we stop and help a stranger and when will we walk on past?

All of these questions and more have been explored with fascinating psychology experiments over the past fifty years, which have taught us ever more about how persuasion and influence work.  In an entertaining an thought-provoking talk, I will describe some of them.

Where and when?

The talk will be around 20 minutes with plenty of time for a lively Q&A session.  The events are well attended and the coffee, tea and pastries are fabulous.  I hope you can join me at The Bridge Patisserie, 20 Bridge Street, Winchester.  Tables start filling at around 7pm and it is usually standing room only by 7:30.

And here is the bonus…  It is free to attend the cafe, with just a voluntary donation to meet the organiser’s costs.

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Brilliant Influence Interview

Rob BrownI was recently interviewed by Rob Brown, for his terrific website Business Building for Bankers.  This website is designed to help banking professionals increase their influence and win more business.  Rob already has an archive of interviews with great professionals and I was pleased to spend half an hour with him discussing the principles of influence.


The interview was slanted towards the banking sector, but all of the ideas are applicable in all business and workplace contexts – and in life generally.  Rob has edited the interview into 25 minutes, in which we pack a great deal.

  • The three critical areas where you need influence as a banking professional.
  • How influence will help you if you want to be seen as a serious prospect for career advancement.
  • Exactly what influence is and what it isn’t, and how influence can change the odds in your favour.
  • Why everyone in leadership and management needs influencing skills to convince people.
  • Why influence is poorly understood and how few people learn influencing skillsafter childhood.
  • The power of how you look and what you say to influence others.
  • Why everyone is born a great influencer.
  • That influence is coachable and available to those willing to learn a few simple principles.
  • Why excuses simply don’t work in taking responsibility for our influence and our communication.
  • Why people are too content or too lazy to become the influential powerhousethey could be.
  • The two critical ways influence has changed over the years.
  • What the great influencers know and do that lesser people don’t.
  • Why influence is legitimate control over people, situations and outcomes.
  • That bankers who can influence simply stack the odds and give themselves an edge.
  • Why ‘context‘ is key in influencing others.
  • The easiest way ever of influencing someone.
  • Why influencers are great at ‘reading people’.
  • Great ways to build credibility with those you want to influence.
  • The ‘your Doctor would tell you’ principle of expert status to make people act the way you want them to.
  • Why you must ‘look the part’ for more influence.
  • The power of obligation and giving gifts to induce the actions you desire.
  • The power of your spoken and written communications to win trust and gain influence.

Listen to our interview here.

If you can’t see or use the sound cloud player, then just click here.

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Persuasive email subject lines

These days, one of our most important writing skills is the ability to draft a short “subject line” for our emails.  So it amazes me how carelessly many people approach the task.  But it matters – because we get so much email.  So your email in my inbox is competing with so many others to get read.

And before you say: “but most people read all of their emails” consider this: have you ever accidentally skipped an email on a busy day and not found it until you tidied your inbox days or weeks later?  I know I have.  Your subject line needs to grab my attention and compel me to open it.

Here are some tips:

  1. Make it clear who the email is from – especially if your email address will be unfamiliar to me
  2. Keep it brief – but not at the cost of obscuring the message.  Your subject must let me know what your message is about
  3. If it’s urgent say so  – but only if it really is.  If you get a reputation (which will stick after one or two slips) for claiming fake urgency, you’ll never lose it
  4. Hyperbole (grossly exaggerated statements) will make your email look like spam
  5. “Show me the money” – use your subject line to demonstrate why I should read your email
  6. … or at least get me curious

and finally:

7.    Write it so it means something to me – rather than to you

I thought of writing this when I got an email from someone whose name I did not recognise, with my home address as the subject line.  I immediately sniffed spam or phishing.  Actually it was neither: it was a quotation for some repair work that we need and I was waiting for it.  To the administrator in the office, my address made it easy to file her email to me.  To me, it failed to tell me who it was from, what it contained, why I should read it – or even trust it, or how urgent it was (very).


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Coffee Shop Influence

I got another stamp on my coffee shop loyalty card yesterday.

As I took it from my wallet, I momentarily brought out the wrong one and I compared the two cards.

imageOne had nine boxes when I got it: the other had ten.  Both schemes work the same way: Collect a stamp with each tea, coffee or juice, and when the card is full, trade it in for a free drink.

One card had ten stamps to collect and the other had only nine…

Until I looked carefully, because then I noticed a difference – which makes a big difference to the psychology.


imageOn the card with ten boxes, the first box was pre-stamped.  So, when I got my first paid stamp, I already had 2 out of 10 – or one fifth of the stamps.  With the other, when I first got a stamp, I had one out of nine – a far smaller proportion.

With both cards, one paid stamp leaves eight to get and two paid stamps leaves seven…  But the second card is the more effective.

Advice for Coffee Shops – How to make this more effective

It is tempting to say “have twelve boxed with three pre-stamped”.  The proportions are even better – your fisrt paid stamp takes you to one third collected.  But take this too far – and you’d need research to know how far is too far – and people will see through the ruse, negating its value.

… but this will work

Rather than have the first space pre-stamped, leave it blank, but instruct the baristas or waiting staff to “do you a favour when you get your first stamp: “I’ll tell you what – I’ll give you an extra stamp because you smiled at me”.  Not only will this personal approach trump the pre-printed stamp, but it will probably earn your staff a bigger tip too!

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