A little known influence approach to sidestep resistance

A little known influence approach to sidestep resistance

An ‘indirect but powerful quote’ is a useful tool for CIOs leading projects that impact a lot of users, from executive peers to discerning customers.

Do you remember the last time you had the flu…I don’t mean a bad cold, I mean the flu. I’m talking sweating, high temperature and can’t get out of bed… very sick.

If you can remember how you felt, you’d think getting a flu vaccination would be a “no brainer”. Especially if your company provides them for free.

For years people have tried to convince me to get a flu vaccination. However, I’ve always thought getting one was just for the young, the old and those with weak immune systems. I couldn’t see the point, since I almost never get the flu (only once in the last 12 years)…..I’d also heard stories of people actually getting sick from the vaccine and I also was aware that it wouldn’t protect me from new strains.

So, every year I’ve turned down the free company vaccination offer. This year was no different.

Astoundingly, just after the round of company flu injections this year, I had a conversation which changed my mind, in an instant, where all others had failed.

Read more: CIO Upfront: Is your influence tool chest missing this effective approach?

Next year, I will have the vaccination…..I’m now even contemplating paying to get one this year.

You might want to start now, mentally noting and collecting interactions, stories and conversations, which you could use to help get your ideas across.

Campbell Such, Bidvest

What changed my mind?

Read more: Unfazed by rapid change

What was the secret?

What worked where all others had failed?

It is the story of two influencers – one who showed just how powerful the right approach can be.

Here’s what happened:

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Three days apart, the subject of the flu vaccination came up in separate conversations with two managers I know.

The first manager (I’ll call her Sue) explained that she thought I should get the flu vaccination. Sue told me that she gets it done every year and I should too. She saw it as “no brainer” since she knew it was free for me. Sue couldn’t understand why I didn’t. I felt my resistance to being “told” kick in and explained that “I haven’t had the flu for years and can’t see the point”. I left the conversation with Sue with no thought of changing my mind.

Alan (the second manager – not his real name) had a very different approach. Near the end of a meeting, Alan mentioned a presentation he’d attended, where he’d heard a world renowned doctor talk about health challenges for senior executives and the staff in their organisations. He told me that this doctor covered a range of topics but was particularly passionate about the benefits of getting a flu vaccination every year.

Alan didn’t just tell me that the doctor had strongly recommended everyone should get a flu shot every year. He did something subtly different….but massively more powerful.

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He quoted word-for-word what the doctor had actually said and acted it out as though he was the doctor saying it himself:

“Get a flu shot every year. You’d be crazy not to. The vaccines are safe with no evidence of any risks. They protect against the known strains – which are also the most likely ones you’ll come in contact with. But the big reason to get the vaccination is that the flu damages your organs! Every time you get the flu it damages them a bit more. Don’t risk what that cumulative damage can do over your lifetime!”

By doing this Alan delivered the message in a very powerful way that completely bypassed any resistance I might have had. And in that instant I realised I needed to get a flu injection.

There are two key parts in this powerful, easy to implement, influence approach:

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1. Tell the other party what you want to tell them by quoting what someone else has said to you.

2. Use the same voice, tonality and body/arm movements that this other person used as they told it to you. You effectively act out what they did, mimicking them, as you are telling it.

By doing this you completely bypass natural resistance. The person you’re communicating with hears and considers whether there is a benefit for them – they don’t react to you. It works because you’re not telling the other person what to do; you’re just relaying something you had heard.

The key to this approach is that the other person’s automatic resistance to being “told what to do” doesn’t kick in. Because it’s someone else’s words or something you have said to yourself, they don’t have anything to react to or resist. They just hear it and get to make up their own mind about whether it could make their life better. It’s the seed of an idea, or change, that can take root and grow so they feel it’s their own. It gets a chance to become “their idea”.

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Won’t they know what I’m doing?

It’s highly unlikely, because all you’re doing is telling them a story and acting it out. It’s just normal, everyday behaviour, like when a friend or colleague enthusiastically recounts something that someone else told them.

In fact, what happened to me graphically illustrated the real power of it, because even though I knew what was happening, Alan still got the message through and it changed my mind.

This is a powerful influence approach. It’s easy to use…..once you get over the initial odd feeling of mimicking someone else.

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You might want to start now, mentally noting and collecting interactions, stories and conversations, which you could use to help get your ideas across.

As Vince Harris says in his outstanding book, The Productivity Epiphany, “You’re off your rocker if you don’t use the power of placing suggestions inside of quotes when talking to other people.”

Related: Ready, set, grow! Campbell Such of Bidvest New Zealand exemplifies the new breed of CIOs delving into revenue generation strategies.

Read more: How do we really make most of our decisions?

Campbell Such is GM IT for Bidvest, a wholesale food distribution business and a top 50 company in NZ. He has a varied career in New Zealand and internationally, working in technology, management and roles in marketing and sales. Reach him at and through his blog.

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