That’s why I hate it when I hear parents threaten their kids with something like, “I’m going to count to three and then you had better behave.” Kids are very quick at picking up the message that their parents don’t mean business until at least two of the numbers are counted out.
Remember, perception is critical.
Black Bart knew that. Indeed, his very name stirred fear. He terrorized the Wells Fargo Stage Line for 13 years during the 1870’s and 1880’s. He roared in like a tornado in the Sierra Nevada’s, spooking the most rugged frontiersman.
In journals from New York to San Francisco, Black Bart became synonymous with the perils of the frontier. And indeed, he was credited with robbing 29 stage crews — all without firing a shot or taking a hostage.
His weapon was his reputation. His ammunition was perception. A hood hid his face and so no victim ever saw him and no artist ever sketched him. No sheriff could track his trail.
As it turned out, Black Bart wasn’t anything to be afraid of. When the authorities finally tracked him down, they didn’t find a blood thirsty bandit from Death Valley. They found a mild-mannered druggist from Decatur, Illinois. The man whom the papers pictured as storming through the mountains on horseback was so afraid of horses that he rode to and from his robberies in a buggy.
Black Bart was Charles E. Boles, the bandit who never fired a shot, because he never once loaded his gun. But Black Bart knew that the perception he created was more powerful than any gun he could ever shoot.
The lesson is simple. The perception others have of you is just as important as any words you might ever use to persuade someone to do what you want them to do.
So ask yourself, “How do others see you?”
Tom Hendricks, a Field Vice President at American Express, learned that at my Journey-to-the-Extraordinary experience. He says, “Your Journey program opened my eyes. I learned what makes me tick and what makes those I live and work with tick. Now it’s a cinch to get cooperation and teamwork from others.”
► 2. Help others see the cost of not cooperating with you.
The bottom-line question in any act of cooperation is, “What’s in it for me?” So it’s important that you let them know what they’re going to get.
But it’s also important to let people know what they’re going to lose if they don’t go along with you. I learned that from a flight attendant. As our plane approached the gate, some passengers were about to stand up
Seeing this, the attendant announced, “We have invested a lot of money to ensure that your flight has been safe and comfortable. We are also looking for ways to save money and this aircraft is participating in a new experiment. To reduce costs, we are asking for volunteers to help clean the cabin upon our arrival. Those wishing to volunteer for cabin clean-up, please stand before we come to a full and complete stop.”
Not a single passenger left their seat until the plane was at the gate and the seat belt light was turned off. Obviously, that attendant knew how to get cooperation by helping people see the cost of not staying in their seats.
Along similar lines, I saw a creative road sign on I-95 approaching Deland, Florida. A yellow diamond-shaped sign warned, “Narcotics Inspection Ahead.” There was no inspection, but those drivers who saw the sign panicked and made an illegal U-turn were immediately stopped and searched.
Yes, you need to let people know “what’s in it for them” if they comply with your wishes. But it doesn’t hurt to also let them know about the painful consequences of not going along with you.
► 3. Create a perception of scarcity.
G. K. Chesterton said, “The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost.”
You see this “deadline” tactic being used in advertising all the time. And you hear about the “limited time offer” because these techniques work. People hate to lose their choices and their chances.
The same thing goes for personal relationships. I’ve had sobbing spouses sit in my office saying they will do anything to get their loved one back. And yet their loved one walked away because he/she had been ignored for years. They weren’t valued until they were lost.
I was amused by the way one church group used the scarcity principle to get a new pastor. As Linda Sawyer reported, her mission church in Alaska was losing its minister. A pastor-seeking committee was formed; all the proper papers were filled out, and many phone calls were made to the Board of National Missions in New York City. Months went by without any sign of the church getting a new minister.
Finally, in frustration, the committee chairwoman dashed off one more note to the Board. It read, “Forget the minister. We’ve found sinning is more fun.” In essence, the chairman implied there would be a scarcity of righteousness if they didn’t get a new minister.
It worked. The new minister arrived in two weeks.