TIME psychology

4 Secrets to Being More Persuasive, Backed by Research

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Face-to-face persuasion is much more effective than the same message via phone or e-mail

1) Give One Reason, Not 10

Via Brain Candy: Science, Paradoxes, Puzzles, Logic, and Illogic to Nourish Your Neurons:

At a Kinko’s, a customer asked to cut the long line for a copy machine, saying, “Can I jump the line because I need to make copies?” (Duh …) Another used the phrase “Can I jump the line, please?” The result? Ninety-three percent versus 24 percent success, respectively. But providing too many reasons or explanations decreases the power of any one reason. Researchers showed this by asking college students to come up with two or eight reasons why their test load shouldn’t be increased. Those who came up with only two reasons were subsequently much more set against increased testing.

(To learn how to get people to like you, click here.)

2) Make Your Pitch Short And Confident

Via Brain Candy: Science, Paradoxes, Puzzles, Logic, and Illogic to Nourish Your Neurons:

Cut ummm, I mean, isn’t it?, and even the ubiquitous like. All equivocate and detract from the authority of your message. Also cut the overall time of your delivery. Researchers at the University of Sydney found that a long, hesitant pitch nixed sales for a scanner, even when the scanner was better and cheaper than others presented.

(To learn how to win every argument, click here.)

3) People Are More Suggestible When They’re Tired

Via Brain Candy: Science, Paradoxes, Puzzles, Logic, and Illogic to Nourish Your Neurons:

Resistance requires effort. Hit your target when his defenses are down. Thus the late-night infomercial. Or wait until he’s hungry. If you need immediate results, blitz his mental resources before launching into your persuasion.

(To learn how FBI hostage negotiators convince people, click here.)

4) Make Your Request Personal

Via Brain Candy: Science, Paradoxes, Puzzles, Logic, and Illogic to Nourish Your Neurons:

Including a mint with the check increased tips 3.3 percent. When a waiter offered the mints himself, tips increased 14.1 percent. Likewise, researchers found that a handwritten Post-it note requesting a survey’s return generated 39 percent more responses than a typed request. And face-to-face persuasion is much more effective than the same message via phone or e-mail.

(To learn how to use FBI negotiation techniques to lower your bills, click here.)

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Join over 205,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

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TIME psychology

How to Increase Mental Toughness: 4 Secrets From Navy SEALs and Olympians

Know what’s really interesting? Learning how Navy SEALs build mental toughness to handle deadly situations.

Know what else is really interesting? Learning how Olympic athletes deal with the pressure of competition when the entire world is watching.

Know what’s the most interesting of all? When you find out they do a lot of the same things.

Mental Links To Excellence” is a research study of what Olympians do to prepare for their big day. And so much of it lines up with what I learned researching SEAL training and talking to former Navy Seal Platoon Commander James Waters.

The best part is you and I can use these methods to perform better at work and in our personal lives.

Let’s find out how…

1) Talk Positively To Yourself

Your brain is always going. It’s estimated you say 300 to 1000 words to yourself per minute. Olympic athletes and SEALs agree: those words need to be positive.

One of the Olympians said:

Immediately before the race I was thinking about trying to stay on that edge, just letting myself relax, and doing a lot of positive self-talk about what I was going to do. I just felt like we couldn’t do anything wrong. It was just up to us. I said, “There’s nothing that’s affecting us in a negative way, the only thing now is to do it, and we can do it . . . I just have to do my best.”

SEALs use the same method — and they do it in a far more terrifying scenario. How terrifying?

You’re underwater with SCUBA gear. An instructor suddenly swims up behind you. He yanks the regulator out of your mouth. You can’t breathe. Then he ties your oxygen lines in a knot.

Your brain starts screaming, “YOU ARE GOING TO DIE.” But you have to keep cool, stay underwater and follow procedure to get your gear back in working order so you can breathe again.

And this happens over and over — for 20 minutes. Welcome to the dreaded “pool comp” section of SEAL qualification.

You get 4 attempts. Why? Because you need them. Only one in five guys can do it the first time out.

Want to see just how scary it is? Watch this video from 8 mins to 10 mins, 5 seconds:

The danger here is panic. And SEALs are not allowed to panic… even when they cannot breathe. They must think positive to keep calm and pass “pool comp.”

So how can you use this?

Got a big presentation at work coming up? Encountering obstacles? You need to remember the 3 P’s.

Permanence, pervasiveness and whether it’s personal.

Pessimists tell themselves that bad events:

  1. Will last a long time, or forever. (“I’ll never get this done.”)
  2. Are universal. (“You can’t trust any of those people.”)
  3. Are their own fault. (“I’m terrible at this.”)

Optimists look at setbacks in the exact opposite way:

  1. Bad things are temporary. (“That happens occasionally but it’s no big deal.”)
  2. Bad things have a specific cause and aren’t universal. (“When the weather is better that won’t be a problem.”)
  3. It’s not their fault. (“I’m good at this but today wasn’t my lucky day.”)

When talking to yourself, be an optimist, not a pessimist.

(For more on how to think positively, click here.)

Okay, so you’re talking to yourself positively. What else do Olympians and SEALs agree on when you need to be at your best?

2) Setting Goals

You hear this a lot. But you probably don’t do it. Specifically, ask yourself what you need to achieve right now.

From the Olympian Study:

The best athletes had clear daily goals. They knew what they wanted to accomplish each day, each workout, each sequence or interval. They were determined to accomplish these goals and focused fully on doing so.

SEALs are taught to set goals too. Sometimes really small ones, but it’s enough to keep them going when every muscle in their body is screaming for them to quit:

With goal setting the recruits were taught to set goals in extremely short chunks. For instance, one former Navy Seal discussed how he set goals such as making it to lunch, then dinner.

And what happened when they achieved those goals? SEALs set new ones. The focus is on always improving. Here’s former SEAL Platoon Commander, James Waters:

Eric, this gets at my point of the SEAL experience, this constant learning, constantly not being satisfied. That’s one of the interesting things about the community: you never feel like you’ve got it all figured out. If you do feel like you figured it out, you probably aren’t doing it right. If you’re not willing to learn from other people then frankly you’re not doing all you need to do to be the best operator you can possibly be. It’s a culture of constant self-improvement and constant measurement of how you’re doing. That’s a theme I think that all SEALs would agree is critical.

So how can you use this?

Ask yourself, “What do I need to do to make this presentation better?”

Write your goals down and track your progress. As Dan Pink notes in his bestselling book on motivation, Drive, nothing motivates you better than seeing progress.

(For more secrets on how to build grit — from my interview with Navy SEAL platoon commander James Waters — click here.)

You’re thinking positive and setting goals. But how do you get ready for the unexpected problems that always pop up at the last minute?

3) Practice Visualization

Close your eyes. See the big challenge. Walk through every step of it. Sound silly? Maybe, but the best of the best do this a lot.

From the study of Olympians:

These athletes had very well developed imagery skills and used them daily. They used imagery to prepare themselves to get what they wanted out of training, to perfect skills within the training sessions, to make technical corrections, to imagine themselves being successful in competition, and to see themselves achieving their ultimate goal.

Again, SEALs are taught to do the same thing:

With mental rehearsal they were taught to visualize themselves succeeding in their activities and going through the motions.

So how can you use this?

Visualize that presentation. But don’t merely fantasize about being perfect and just make yourself feel good. That kills motivation:

Results indicate that one reason positive fantasies predict poor achievement is because they do not generate energy to pursue the desired future.

You want to see the problems you might encounter and visualize how you will overcome them.

Dan Coyle, the expert on expertise, says it’s an essential part of how US Special Forces prepare for every dangerous mission:

…they spend the entire morning going over every possible mistake or disaster that could happen during the mission. Every possible screwup is mercilessly examined, and linked to an appropriate response: if the helicopter crash-lands, we’ll do X. If we are dropped off at the wrong spot, we’ll do Y. If we are outnumbered, we’ll do Z.

(For more lessons from top athletes on how to be the best, click here.)

You’re visualizing the big day and walking through how you’ll deal with adversity. Cool. But how do you take that to the next level like the pros do?

4) Use Simulations

Visualization is great because you can do it anywhere as often as you like. But in the end you must make practice as close to the real thing as possible.

From the study of Olympians:

The best athletes made extensive use of simulation training. They approached training runs, routines, plays, or scrimmages in practice as if they were at the competition, often wearing what they would wear and preparing like they would prepare.

And SEALs didn’t just visualize either. Before the raid on Bin Laden’s compound they built full-size replicas of the location so their training would be tailored to what they would face.

Via Daniel Coyle’s excellent book The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills:

When U.S. Navy SEAL Team 6 mounted its May 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, it prepared by constructing full-scale replicas of the compound in North Carolina and Nevada, and rehearsing for three weeks. Dozens of times the SEALs simulated the operation. Dozens of times, they created various conditions they might encounter.

Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel Mike Kenny agreed:

In Army parlance they say, “train like you fight.” Don’t screw around and say, “Okay, when it’s for real then we’ll really ramp up.” No, you need to do that now. You need to train as hard and as realistic as possible, because this notion that when it’s for real and the stakes are high, that’s when we’ll really turn it on and rise to the occasion… that’s not what happens. You will not rise to the occasion. You will sink to the lowest level of your training. It’s the truth.

So how can you use this?

How will you deal with the fear of standing in front of a big crowd when you give that presentation?

Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, and an introvert herself, is now a professional public speaker. How did she overcome public speaking fear?

She practiced in front of small, supportive groups to desensitize herself — she used a simulation.

From my interview with Susan:

I really had to desensitize myself to my fears of public speaking. I did that by practicing in very small, very supportive and very low-speed environments where it didn’t matter if I screwed up. And eventually you get used to the strange feeling of being looked at, which used to make me feel horrified. You become accustomed to it over time and your fear dissipates.

(To learn how to overcome your problems the way Special Forces operatives do, click here.)

So Olympic athletes and Navy SEALs agree on a lot. Let’s round up what we’ve learned and see how it can work for you.

Sum Up

Here’s what Olympic athletes and Navy SEALs both do to be the best and achieve mental toughness:

  • Talk Positively To Yourself: Remember the 3 P’s: tell yourself bad things aren’t permanent, pervasive or personal — but good things are.
  • Setting Goals: Know what you want to achieve. Write it down. Focus on progress.
  • Practice Visualization: Don’t fantasize about getting what you want but see yourself overcoming specific obstacles.
  • Use Simulations: Always make your practice as close to the real thing as possible.

Olympians and Navy SEALs, by definition, are the best at what they do. But the methods they use to get there are things we can all use.

And those techniques aren’t based on muscles or natural talent. They’re all about good preparation and hard work. Apply those and you can get there too.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said:

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Join over 205,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

Related posts:

How To Stop Being Lazy And Get More Done – 5 Expert Tips

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New Harvard Research Reveals A Fun Way To Be More Successful

TIME psychology

5 Shortcuts To Bonding Deeply With a Romantic Partner

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

How do you get to crazy love — or get crazy love back when it’s gone away?

Forget the silly relationship books, let’s look at the real science and get some answers.

Here are 5 shortcuts to bonding deeply with a romantic partner:

1) No More Boring Date Nights

No more dull dinners telling the same stories and hoping you have fun.

What’s at the root of seduction? Surprise. From my interview with Robert Greene, author of the bestseller, The Art of Seduction:

Seduction involves a degree of surprise, which is generally the first thing that disappears after you’ve been in a relationship, and why there’s no more seducing that goes on. Everything is familiar and you’re no longer surprised by the other person.

Couples don’t need more “pleasant” activities — you need more exciting activities to make sure you’re feeling the “butterflies” around each other.

Researchers did a 10-week study comparing couples that engaged in “pleasant” activities vs “exciting” activities. Pleasant lost.

Via For Better: How the Surprising Science of Happy Couples Can Help Your Marriage Succeed:

Those who had undertaken the “exciting” date nights showed a significantly greater increase in marital satisfaction than the “pleasant” date night group…

Why would doing anything exciting have such a big effect on a relationship?

Because research shows we’re lousy about realizing where our feelings are coming from.

Excitement from any source will be associated with the person you’re with, even if they’re not the cause of it.

When I spoke to the top researcher of romantic love, Arthur Aron, he said the same thing:

After a while, things are sort of settled and there isn’t much excitement, so what can you do? Do things that are exciting that you associate with your partner. Reinvigorate that excitement and the main way to make them associated with the partner is to do them with your partner.

So no boring, lame date nights. Go dancing together or anything else you can both participate in as a couple. No documentaries — research says you should go see horror movies or suspense thrillers.

(To learn the 4 most common relationship problems — and how to fix them — click here.)

Okay, no more dull dinners. You’re taking tango lessons or going skydiving. Awesome. So how do you fix the nagging little problems in your relationship to take it to the next level? That’s easy… Don’t.

2) Don’t Reduce the Negative. Increase the Positive.

We spend a lot of time trying to fix things in our relationships. Turns out we’ve got it backwards. Unless they’re critical, don’t focus on reducing the negatives. Couples thrive when they increase the positive things.

Via The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work:

…an interesting new body of research suggests that how we support people during good times, more than bad times, affects the quality of a relationship.

Research shows trying to change people doesn’t work:

…when participants (N = 160) focused their relationship improvement attempts on changing the partner, individuals reported more negative improvement strategies, lower improvement success, and, in turn, more negative relationship evaluations… results suggest that targeting the partner may do more harm than good despite that relationship evaluations pivot on whether the partner produces change.

John Gottman, the #1 guy on making relationships work, says 69% of a couple’s problems are perpetual. These problems don’t go away yet many couples keep arguing about them year after year.

Via The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work:

Most marital arguments cannot be resolved. Couples spend year after year trying to change each other’s mind – but it can’t be done. This is because most of their disagreements are rooted in fundamental differences of lifestyle, personality, or values. By fighting over these differences, all they succeed in doing is wasting their time and harming their marriage.

So ignore the bad. Increase the good stuff.

(To learn the four things that kill relationships, click here.)

So you’re not trying to fix what’s broken, you’re doubling down on the things that make you two happy. What else do you need to do?

3) Get To Know Them. Really Get To Know Them

Couples who communicate are 62% more likely to describe their relationship as happy.

Via 100 Simple Secrets of Great Relationships:

In studies of marriages of various lengths, couples with a high degree of intimacy between the husband and wife—that is, couples who shared their innermost thoughts—were 62 percent more likely to describe their marriage as happy. – Pallen 2001

Emotional, personal information exchange promotes powerful feelings of connection. Asking and answering the right questions can create a lifelong bond in just one hour.

Via Sam Gosling’s book, Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You:

Arthur Aron, a psychologist at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, is interested in how people form romantic relationships, and he’s come up with an ingenious way of taking men and women who have never met before and making them feel close to one another. Given that he has just an hour or so to create the intimacy levels that typically take weeks, months, or years to form, he accelerated the getting-to-know-you process through a set of thirty-six questions crafted to take the participants rapidly from level one in McAdams’s system to level two.

What happened in Arthur Aron’s lab when he had grad students ask each other these personal questions? Well, two of them ended up getting married.

No time for tons of questions? Share the best event of your day and have your partner share the best event of their day. And celebrate their successes. It works.

Here’s what Arthur told me in our interview:

Celebrating your partner’s successes turns out to be pretty important. When things go badly and you provide support, it doesn’t make the relationship good, but it keeps it from getting bad. Whereas if things are going okay and your partner has something good happen and you celebrate it sincerely, you’re doing something that can make a relationship even better.

But it’s not all talk. Research shows touching is powerful too. (Want something really powerful? Touch their face.)

And look into their eyes. It can make people fall in love. Seriously:

In two studies, subjects induced to exchange mutual unbroken gaze for 2 min with a stranger of the opposite sex reported increased feelings of passionate love for each other.

(For that list of questions that made people bond deeply in just an hour, click here.)

So you’re doing exciting stuff, focusing on the good things and really getting to know each other. What else should you spend time talking about?

4) Reminisce About the Times You Laughed

You don’t need to be together very long to do this. What made you two crack up on those initial dates? Bring it up and have another laugh about it:

…couples who reminisced about events involving shared laugher reported higher relationship satisfaction at the post-manipulation satisfaction assessment as compared to couples in the three control conditions. The effect was not attributed to positive mood induction as mood scores across groups were similar.

And here’s a bonus: more laughing means less fighting.

Via 100 Simple Secrets of Great Relationships:

When both partners in a relationship thought the other had a good sense of humor, 67 percent less conflict was reported than in couples where neither thought the other had a good sense of humor. – De Koning and Weiss 2002

The other thing to emphasize when reminiscing? Similarity. The single strongest predictor of marital well-being? Feeling the two of you are similar.

Believe it or not, even having similar fighting styles was a good thing. It was related to double-digit drops in conflict and a double-digit increase in satisfaction.

Via 100 Simple Secrets of Great Relationships:

While people may employ many different conflict resolution strategies in a relationship, when both partners use the same strategy they experience 12 percent less conflict and are 31 percent more likely to report their relationship is satisfying. – Pape 2001

(To learn the recipe for a happy marriage, click here.)

Okay, so you two are laughing. What’s the right perspective to take when you’re out together?

5) Pretend You’re on Your First Date Again

On first dates we make an effort and effort draws people together:

In a follow-up study the researchers told participants to make an effort with their partners and then their enjoyment of the social interaction improved in line with their predictions. This suggests we can all have more fun with our partners and friends if we make an effort.

Studies show pretending time with a romantic partner was a first date makes it more enjoyable:

Across a series of studies, participants underestimated how good they would feel in situations that required them to put their best face forward… participants who were instructed to engage in self-presentation felt happier after interacting with their romantic partner than participants who were not given this instruction…

(To learn how to be a good kisser, click here.)

We’ve learned a lot. Let’s round it up and learn one more killer thing that can actually build a positive feedback loop in your relationship…

Sum Up

To bond more deeply with a romantic partner make sure to:

  • Kill the boring dates. Do new exciting stuff. Dancing, suspenseful movies, learning new things together.
  • Don’t fix the negatives. Build on the positives. You can’t fix most problems. Double down on what works well.
  • Really get to know them. Use Arthur Aron’s questions. And ask about the best part of their day, celebrate it, and share the high point of your day. Touch. Stare into their eyes.
  • Reminisce about the times you laughed. Emphasize similarity.
  • Pretend you’re on your first date again. Make an effort. Put your best face forward.

Want to diagnose how well your relationship is working?

Listen to the story you and your partner tell others about your relationship. John Gottman said it’s the #1 predictor of whether things are working.

Another trick is to hold their hand during stressful times and see how it makes you feel. Less stressed? Bingo.

The sad thing is that over time we often take the other person for granted. But you don’t have to.

By expressing gratitude, research shows you can actually create a positive feedback loop in your relationship:

…gratitude contributes to a reciprocal process of relationship maintenance, whereby each partner’s maintenance behaviors, perceptions of responsiveness, and feelings of gratitude feed back on and influence the other’s behaviors, perceptions, and feelings.

If you’ve got something good together, being grateful can make it even better.

Right now, share this post with your partner and tell them, “Thank you.”

Isn’t that what we all want to hear?

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Join over 200,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

Related posts:

How To Stop Being Lazy And Get More Done – 5 Expert Tips

How To Get People To Like You: 7 Ways From An FBI Behavior Expert

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TIME psychology

How To Be Loved By Everyone

Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Don’t be interesting—be interested

We would all like to know how to be loved by everyone.

In the end, who are our favorite people? Those who understand us and listen. Someone we can turn to and honestly say, “You get me.”

That really comes down to one skill: listening. And it’s something most of us are awful at.

In an age of sub-zero attention spans, focus is a superpower. And focusing on others is even more rare.

When I asked the #1 love researcher, John Gottman, what the best thing to do to improve a relationship was, what did he say?

Learn how to be a good listener.

And it’s no different at the office. Why do nearly 50% of people quit their jobs?

They didn’t feel their boss listened to them.

Via Powerful Listening. Powerful Influence. Work Better. Live Better. Love Better: by Mastering the Art of Skillful Listening:

Another study released by the US Department of Labor concluded that 46 percent of those who quit their jobs did so because they felt not listened to and were therefore unappreciated. Consider this: almost half the workforce will leave their job because they didn’t feel like their boss was listening.

So listening is serious business. You want everyone to think you’re awesome? Want to be a good friend, partner, or leader? Well, listen up. Here we go…

1) Be a detective

Don’t think of a conversation as a tennis match. Instead, see it as a detective game.

Via Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone:

How do you master the skill of being interested— and be sincere when you do it? The first key is to stop thinking of conversation as a tennis match. (He scored a point. Now I need to score a point.) Instead, think of it as a detective game, in which your goal is to learn as much about the other person as you can. Go into the conversation knowing that there is something very interesting about the person, and be determined to discover it.

Rather than having to fake being interested, turning it into a detective game actually makes you interested. And this makes the other person feel special.

Detectives ask questions. And so should you. And when they become engaged in telling you something use a special little technique I like to call: “just shut up.”

Via Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone:

The second key to being interested is to ask questions that demonstrate that you want to know more… Eventually, one of your questions will click and you’ll see the person lean forward eagerly to tell you something with enthusiasm or intensity. When that happens, do the right thing: Shut up. Listen. Listen some more. And then, once the person reaches a stopping point, ask another question that proves that you heard (and care about) what the person said.

(For more on how to get people to like you, from an FBI behavior expert, click here.)

Okay, Sherlock, you’re playing detective. After being curious and interested, what should you do next?

2) How little can you say?

We all love talking about ourselves and it’s hard to resist.

Via Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone:

The measure of self-assurance is how deeply and sincerely interested you are in others; the measure of insecurity is how much you try to impress them with you.

The game we all usually play is: How smart can I make myself sound?

Bad game. You want the other person to feel good. Let them sound smart.

So here’s the game I like to play: How little can I say?

The fewer words you speak, the more points you get. The only exception is asking questions when they pause.

Don’t be interesting. Be interested.

(For more on how to make difficult conversations easy, from a clinical psychologist, click here.)

Eventually you need to say something. What should it be?

3) Can you summarize to their approval?

It’s called “active listening.” Good listeners don’t just listen, they make it clear to the other person they are listening by paraphrasing what they’ve heard.

Via Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone:

Another way to show you’re interested is to summarize what the person is saying. For instance, is the person regaling you with the story of a nightmare vacation trip? If so, repeat back some of the money points of the story: “Holy cow! You broke your leg, and you still made the flight. Unbelievable.” (Another good move, if the conversation offers an opportunity, is to ask for advice: “That’s amazing— you grow all of your own herbs? Tell me: How do you keep your cilantro from bolting?” People love offering advice, because it makes them feel both interesting and wise.

Here’s another game I like to play: Can I summarize what they said to their approval?

Say, “Am I hearing you right? So what you’re saying is…” And then paraphrase what they just told you. If they say, “Exactly”, you earn a point.

(To learn the techniques of an FBI hostage negotiator, click here.)

The goal is to let them talk, not to solve their problems… but what if they really do have a problem that needs solving?

Cynics say you can’t tell anyone anything. And they’re right. But there’s another way…

4) Don’t try to fix them. Be Socrates.

People do need help. But nobody likes being told what to do. Um… difficult.

The key here is that everyone wants to maintain autonomy. Tell them how to solve their problems and they’ll resist.

Instead, ask questions so that they solve the problem on their own.

Via Powerful Listening. Powerful Influence. Work Better. Live Better. Love Better: by Mastering the Art of Skillful Listening:

“How can I listen to this person in a way that enables him to solve his own problem?”

Ask questions that might gently guide them toward a solution.

Former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss recommends questions that start with “How” or “What.” These get someone thinking and talking instead of just replying “yes” or “no.”

(For more on the four most common relationship problems — and how to fix them, click here.)

So you’re really listening now. But it’s not all about the words…

5) Monitor your body language

Maintain eye contact. Don’t stare at them like a predator but good listeners hold eye contact for about 75% of a conversation.

Via Powerful Listening. Powerful Influence. Work Better. Live Better. Love Better: by Mastering the Art of Skillful Listening:

In healthy conversations, the listener makes eye contact 70 to 80 percent of the time according to researcher Michael Argyle.

We all know crossed arms is a bad sign. In fact, keeping an open body posture actually helps you remember what they say to you.

Via Powerful Listening. Powerful Influence. Work Better. Live Better. Love Better: by Mastering the Art of Skillful Listening:

Researchers have discovered that as the listener’s outward responsiveness increases, so does their retention level. In one study, listeners who crossed their arms when they listened retained 38 percent less than listeners who kept their arms at their sides and assumed an “open” body posture.

Touch their elbow. It’s a neutral spot and helps create a bond.

Via Powerful Listening. Powerful Influence. Work Better. Live Better. Love Better: by Mastering the Art of Skillful Listening:

Research from the University of Minnesota finds that gently touching a person on the elbow creates a momentary bond. The elbow is the one “safe,” nonthreatening place to touch, and when conversing this type of touch creates a predisposition for rapport and cooperation.

(For more on how to read body language like an expert, click here.)

Now here’s where the experts get really helpful.

There are a number of things we all do when listening that we think are helping, but actually they’re hurting our relationships. Here’s how to dodge those landmines…

6) The mistakes you don’t know you’re making

There’s a quote by Frank Luntz that’s worth committing to memory:

It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear.

Mistaking the two is the source of a lot of bad conversations and strained relationships.

In his book, Lost Art of Listening, Michael P. Nichols gives some great examples of things we often say that we shouldn’t:

  • Don’t say: “That reminds me of the time… ” because what they’ll hear is: “I can top that.”
  • Don’t say: “Haven’t we talked about this before?” because what they’ll hear is: “Why are you still hung up about this?”
  • Don’t say: “No, actually…” because what they’ll hear is: “I am right; you’re wrong.”
  • Don’t say: “I understand” because what they’ll hear is: “I get it. You don’t need to keep talking.”
  • And don’t say: “I know how you feel.” Instead, ask them how they feel.

(To learn how to win every argument, click here.)

Okay, you’ve done a great job of listening to me. Let’s round this up so you can do a great job listening to everyone else…

Sum up

Here’s what you need to know to be a great listener:

  • Be a detective. You need to be interested. The best way to do that is to play detective and be curious.
  • How little can you say? Ask questions. Paraphrase to make sure you understand. Past that, just shut up.
  • Can you summarize to their approval? If you paraphrase what they said and they reply, “Exactly” — you win.
  • Don’t try to fix them. Be Socrates. Help them find their own solution. People remember their own ideas best.
  • Monitor body language. Eye contact and open postures are good. Touch their elbow to help create a bond.
  • Review the common mistakes we all make. And then don’t do them.

Listen and people will listen back. In fact, they’ll do more than that. They will come to trust and love you.

To quote David Augsburger:

“Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.”

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Join over 200,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

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4 Secrets for a Happy Marriage

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Everything you know about marriage is wrong

Being married in the modern world can be difficult and confusing. What are the rules for a happy marriage? It doesn’t seem like there are any easy answers.

So I called an expert.

Stephanie Coontz serves as Co-Chair and Director of Public Education at the Council on Contemporary Families and teaches at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA. She’s the author of Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage and The Way We Never Were: American Families And The Nostalgia Trap.

We hear a lot from psychologists and therapists on the subject of marriage but what’s fascinating about Stephanie is she studies the history of marriage. She’s looked at what marriage has meant through the ages, what worked and didn’t, and how it’s changed in the modern era.

Here’s a talk she gave at the PopTech Conference:

To put it simply: everything you think you know about marriage is wrong.

We’re gonna learn the truth, find out why modern married life is so confusing, and get a few tips on how you can make your own marriage much, much better.

Here’s what she had to say…

1) Everything You Know About Marriage Is Wrong

Everybody thinks marriage used to be better “back then.” Nope.

Marriages in the past weren’t better. In fact, they weren’t even about love.

Via Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage:

Certainly, people fell in love during those thousands of years, sometimes even with their own spouses. But marriage was not fundamentally about love. It was too vital an economic and political institution to be entered into solely on the basis of something as irrational as love. For thousands of years the theme song for most weddings could have been “What’s Love Got to Do with It?”

Not only were marriages not based on love, the idea that they might be was terrifying.

Via Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage:

In ancient India, falling in love before marriage was seen as a disruptive, almost antisocial act… In China, excessive love between husband and wife was seen as a threat to the solidarity of the extended family.

So what was marriage about in the so-called “good old days”?

Getting in-laws. Seriously. Here’s Stephanie:

Marriage was not about the individual relationship between the two people involved, or more than two people involved, but it was a way of getting in-laws.

Think “Game of Thrones” here, folks. Marriage was about getting in-laws for purposes of politics, consolidating resources, or increasing your family’s labor force.

Why do you think for the longest time a kid born out of wedlock was called a “love child”?

Of course, people did fall in love back then. And they would have liked to marry the person they were in love with but, at the time, it just wasn’t practical. Here’s Stephanie:

People correctly recognized that marriages based on love were potentially very destabilizing. It was going to lead people to demand divorce if the love died. It was going to lead to people refusing to get married. They were very frightened by this and they thought, “How can we get people to get married and stay married?”

But the world changed. We no longer need to rely on in-laws for protection from barbarian hordes or producing good heirs to the throne.

So love hijacked marriage. And today’s marital equality has resulted in higher marital satisfaction.

And beyond satisfaction it’s led to other really nice things like fewer suicides among women. And guys get a great benefit too: your wife is far less likely to murder you.

Via Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage:

Economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers found that in states that adopted unilateral divorce, this was followed, on average, by a 20 percent reduction in the number of married women committing suicide, as well as a significant drop in domestic violence for both men and women. Criminologists William Bailey and Ruth Peterson report that higher rates of marital separation lead to lower homicide rates against women. But a woman’s right to leave a marriage can also be a lifesaver for men. The Centers on Disease Control reports that the rate at which husbands were killed by their wives fell by approximately two-thirds between 1981 and 1998, in part because women could more easily leave their partners.

So what do we really need to to know from the history of marriage? It’s quite ironic, really…

The big lesson from history is: stop looking at history. Don’t compare your marriage to the 1950’s or any other era. It’s a brave new world. Marriages are based on love and equality now, so the old models don’t hold. Here’s Stephanie:

The most important lesson in history, I think, is to understand that there is no perfect marriage form of the past, even if it has one or two attractive features. Those attractive features are almost invariably connected to some really unattractive ones, to some injustices and some inequities that would be totally unacceptable to us. We need to dispense of the notion that there are models for what we’re doing in history.

(To learn the shortcut to bonding with a relationship partner on a deeper level, click here.)

So marriage based on love and equality is very new. And comparing wedlock today to some “perfect” era in the past doesn’t make sense. So what should we be doing to make marriages work in the modern world?

2) Define What Marriage Means For You And Your Partner

Stephanie says that relations between partners have changed more in the past 30 years than they did in the previous 3,000. So it’s okay to be confused. We’re changing the rules. Here’s Stephanie:

People are always coming up to me and saying, “Oh my gosh, people don’t commit to their marriages. They don’t work at their marriages the way they used to.” But they didn’t used to have to because marriage was so cut and dry. Now we’re trying to build marriages on the basis of absolute freedom. Really, in the last 40 years, we have started to develop, for the first time, a marriage where people come to it with equal legal rights and increasingly with the social expectation that they will negotiate their marriage in ways that fit their individuality, not their assigned gender roles.

So we have more freedom. But more freedom always means more choices we need to make. Marriage used to be an institution with hard rules. Now it’s a more flexible relationship — but that means you and your partner need to do more thinking about what marriage means to you rather than relying on how things used to be.

Via Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage:

The fact that individuals can now lead productive lives outside marriage means that partners need to be more “intentional” than in the past about finding reasons and rituals to help them stay together. A marriage that survives and thrives in today’s climate of choice is likely to be far more satisfying, fair, and effective for the partners and their children than in the past. However, couples have to think carefully about what it takes to build, deepen, and sustain commitments that are now almost completely voluntary.

(To learn how to get people to like you — from an FBI behavior expert, click here.)

So the old rules don’t constrain you. Cool. But there’s not much to guide you either. Ouch. You need to tailor and customize. How the heck do you do that?

3) You Need To Communicate And Negotiate

You’re going to need to talk more. And tell your partner what you want instead of expecting them to know the answers.

Via Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage:

You can no longer force your partner to conform to a predetermined social role or gender stereotype or browbeat someone into staying in an unsatisfying relationship. “Love, honor, and negotiate” have to replace the older rigid rules, say psychologists Betty Carter and Joan Peters.

Can that lead to more arguing? Oh, you bet it can. But in the modern world, that’s a good thing. Really. Here’s Stephanie:

Bickering back in the ’50s and ’60s was a bad sign. If a woman was talking back instead of deferring to her husband, there was going to be trouble. But today, bickering is a good thing. Bickering is absolutely vital to a modern couple coming to marriage with their own habits and expectations and histories. It turns out that 10 years down the line, the couples that didn’t bicker are either divorced or less satisfied with their marriage than the ones who do bicker.

Your marriage will develop, evolve and change. And you’ll need to manage that process to keep it healthy. Here’s Stephanie:

Today marriage is, above all, a relationship. What makes it a good relationship is that you can enter it or not; you get to choose. You get to change your mind. You get to renegotiate the rules over time. You can leave it if it ceases to be good, and that means that you have more negotiating power within it. But it also means that if you can’t negotiate it to mutual satisfaction, it can break up. The same things that have improved marriage as a relationship have made it less stable as an institution and have required us to do more continuous work and change in our marriages than people used to have to.

(To learn the 4 most common relationship problems — and how to fix them, click here.)

Okay, so you’re figuring out what marriage means to you and your partner and you’re communicating. Great. But what’s the big goal here? What should the center of a good marriage be these days?

4) Marriage Has To Be Based On Friendship And Mutual Respect

Fiery, passionate love is great — but ancient societies had a point: basing a lifelong commitment on those emotions can be unstable. What happens when that burning love fades?

So while passion is great, there needs to be friendship and mutual respect to make sure your relationship can stand the test of time.

Via Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage:

Because men and women no longer face the same economic and social compulsions to get or stay married as in the past, it is especially important that men and women now begin their relationship as friends and build it on the basis of mutual respect.

What gets in the way of that? We’re often focused on the qualities in a partner that are mysterious and different. That can be good for passionate affairs but what works for marriage is more often similarity. Here’s Stephanie:

My current theory is that one of the major obstacles to good heterosexual relations right now is that we have inherited this eroticized idea of opposites and difference so that we fall in love with the things that are mysterious and different about the other person. But that’s not a great basis for what we really want in a marriage, which is friendship and similarities of interests.

(To learn the science behind being a great parent, click here.)

We’ve learned a lot from Stephanie. Let’s pull it together and find out one last piece of really good news about marriage.

Sum Up

Here’s what Stephanie had to say about the new rules for a happy marriage:

  • The main thing to learn from history is to stop looking at history. Love-based marriage is still pretty new. Stop comparing yourself to the “perfect” marriages from the past. They were totally different. And they weren’t perfect.
  • Define what marriage means for you and your partner. You have freedom. And that means choices. You don’t get to assume your partner will behave this way or that way.
  • Communicate and negotiate. You won’t get the rules for your marriage perfect the first time you discuss them. Things change and people change, but that’s okay if you keep talking.
  • Base your marriage on friendship and mutual respect. Crazy love rarely lasts. Friendship does.

Marriage isn’t worse than it used to be, but it’s certainly different. Love-based marriage has the potential to be far, far more fulfilling that unions of the past. Here’s Stephanie:

We’re not doing things worse than people of the past used to do. We are trying to do something really much better, but we don’t have roadmaps for it. We’re all struggling to figure out how to get to these new places. Looking backwards will just cause us to trip over things in our way.

Being married today does take a lot more work than it used to. But with a little effort, your marriage can be better than any marriage in history. And that’s pretty awesome.

In my next weekly email I’ll have more from Stephanie, including the two things couples should do to maintain a strong bond over time. To make sure you don’t miss it, join here.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree. Join over 200,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

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3 Quick Tips That Will Make You More Charismatic

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Via The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism:

  1. Lower the intonation of your voice at the end of your sentences.
  2. Reduce how quickly and how often you nod.
  3. Pause for two full seconds before you speak.

Why do these work?

I’ve posted a number of times on the power of your voice. You can predict who will be elected president by how deep their voice is.

Men with deeper voices are more attractive and women are more likely to remember what they say.

The book does a good job of explaining why controlling nodding is key:

Can you imagine James Bond fidgeting? How about tugging at his clothing, bobbing his head, or twitching his shoulders? How about hemming and hawing before he speaks? Of course not. Bond is the quintessential cool, calm, and collected character. He epitomizes confidence.

This kind of high-status, high-confidence body language is characterized by how few movements are made. Composed people exhibit a level of stillness, which is sometimes described as poise. They avoid extraneous, superfluous gestures such as fidgeting with their clothes, their hair, or their faces, incessantly nodding their heads, or saying “um” before sentences.

And pausing has been shown to make you more persuasive.

For more on how to get people to like you (from an FBI behavior expert), click here.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Join over 200,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

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10 Steps to a Happier Life, Backed By Research

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

I went through a number of great books on happiness and pulled together ten research-based tips that can help build a happier life:

 

1) Cut the small talk. Discuss what matters.

Via Pursuing the Good Life: 100 Reflections on Positive Psychology:

First, happier participants spent more time talking to others, unsurprising finding given the social basis of happiness. Second, the extent of small talk was negatively associated with happiness. And third, the extent of substantive talk was positively associated with happiness. So, happy people are socially engaged with others, and this engagement entails matters of substance.

(For more on how to be someone people love to talk to, click here.)

 

2) Have at least 5 friends you can discuss your problems with.

Via Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life:

“National surveys find that when someone claims to have five or more friends with whom they can discuss important problems, they are 60 percent more likely to say that they are ‘very happy.’

(For more on how to make friends and strengthen friendships, click here.)

 

3) Don’t just cheer people up. Celebrate their good news.

Via The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy, but Doesn’t, What Shouldn’t Make You Happy, but Does:

The surprising finding is that the closest, most intimate, and most trusting relationships appear to be distinguished not by how the partners respond to each other’s disappointments, losses, and reversals but how they react to good news. Flourishing relationships have been revealed to be those in which the couple responds “actively and constructively”— that is, with interest and delight— to each other’s windfalls and successes… people who strove to show genuine enthusiasm, support, and understanding of their partner’s good news, however small— and did so three times a day over a week— became happier and less depressed.

(For more on how to avoid the four most common relationship problems, click here.)

 

4) Write down your hopes and dreams.

Via The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy, but Doesn’t, What Shouldn’t Make You Happy, but Does:

…keeping a journal regularly for ten to twenty minutes per day, in which we write down our hopes and dreams for the future (e.g., “In ten years, I will be married and a home owner”), visualize them coming true, and describe how we might get there and what that would feel like. This exercise— even when engaged in as briefly as two minutes— makes people happier and even healthier.

(For more on how writing can help you overcome anxiety, tragedy or heartache, click here.)

 

5) Live a month like it’s your last.

Via The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy, but Doesn’t, What Shouldn’t Make You Happy, but Does:

I’m currently conducting a one-month-long “happiness intervention” in which participants are instructed to live the month as if it’s their last month. Their instructions are not to pretend that they have a terminal disease but rather to imagine as fully and faithfully as possible that they are about to move a very long way from their jobs, schools, friends, and families for an indefinite period of time. Previous research hints that this exercise should prompt us to appreciate in a profound way what we are preparing to give up. When we believe that we are seeing (or hearing, doing, or experiencing) things for the last time, we will see (or hear, do, or experience) them as though it’s the first time.

(For more on what you can learn about happiness from ancient wisdom, click here.)

 

6) Know what makes everyone happy and everyone sad.

Via Engineering Happiness: A New Approach for Building a Joyful Life:

Their findings confirm what had been found previously: happiness is high during sex, exercise, or socializing, or while the mind is focused on the here and now, and low during commuting or while the mind is wandering.

(For more on what the happiest people in the world do every day, click here.)

 

7) Join a group.

Via Engineering Happiness: A New Approach for Building a Joyful Life:

The sociologist Ruut Veenhoven and his team have collected happiness data from ninety-one countries, representing two-thirds of the world’s population. He has concluded that Denmark is home to the happiest people in the world, with Switzerland close behind… Interestingly enough, one of the more detailed points of the research found that 92 percent of the people in Denmark are members of some sort of group, ranging from sports to cultural interests. To avoid loneliness, we must seek active social lives, maintain friendships, and enjoy stable relationships.

(For more on how to never be frustrated again, click here.)

 

8) For a happier life, set goals.

Via Engineering Happiness: A New Approach for Building a Joyful Life:

In his studies, the psychologist Jonathan Freedman claimed that people with the ability to set objectives for themselves—both short-term and long-term—are happier. The University of Wisconsin neuroscientist Richard Davidson has found that working hard toward a goal and making progress to the point of expecting a goal to be realized don’t just activate positive feelings—they also suppress negative emotions such as fear and depression. According to Michael Argyle, simply having a long-term plan or goal gives people a sense of meaning in life. Progressing toward goals not only gives a purpose to life as a whole but also provides a structure and meaning to daily routines, strengthens social relationships, and helps us weather hard times.

(For more on what the most productive people do every day, click here.)

 

9) Optimism can save your life.

Via Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being:

Within eight and a half years, half the men had died of a second heart attack, and we opened the sealed envelope. Could we predict who would have a second heart attack? None of the usual risk factors predicted death: not blood pressure, not cholesterol, not even how extensive the damage from the first heart attack. Only optimism, eight and a half years earlier, predicted a second heart attack: of the sixteen most pessimistic men, fifteen died. Of the sixteen most optimistic men, only five died. This finding has been repeatedly confirmed in larger studies of cardiovascular disease, using varied measures of optimism…

Men with the most optimistic style (one standard deviation above average) had 25 percent less CVD than average, and men with the least optimism (one standard deviation below the mean) had 25 percent more CVD than average. This trend was strong and continuous, indicating that greater optimism protected the men, whereas less optimism weakened them.

(For more on how to be optimistic, click here.)

 

10) Anticipating happiness will double your happiness.

Via Stumbling on Happiness:

In one study, volunteers were told that they had won a free dinner at a fabulous French restaurant and were then asked when they would like to eat it. Now? Tonight? Tomorrow? Although the delights of the meal were obvious and tempting, most of the volunteers chose to put their restaurant visit off a bit, generally until the following week. Why the self-imposed delay? Because by waiting a week, these people not only got to spend several hours slurping oysters and sipping Château Cheval Blanc ’47, but they also got to look forward to all that slurping and sipping for a full seven days beforehand. Forestalling pleasure is an inventive technique for getting double the juice from half the fruit.

(For more on how to savor the good things and be happier, click here.)

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Join over 200,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

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How To Stop Being Lazy And Get More Done – 5 Expert Tips

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How to Be Productive, Successful and Smart: 9 Tips From Experts

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Expert Tip #1: How To Be More Creative

Your first idea is rarely the best. Always keep pushing and generate more possibilities.

Advice from Andrew Goldberg, writer on Family Guy:

I’m a big fan of writing “alts” (versions). If I come to a joke spot, even if I’m working on my own stuff, I’ll often write three or four or five different alts, and then I’ll show it to friends, show it to my wife, show it to my manager, show it to a director or somebody on the project, and ask them which they think is funniest. Usually the first joke you think of isn’t the funniest. One thing that I’ve learned from TV and working in a big group is, whatever joke is there, you can always beat it. There’s always a funnier joke somewhere out there. So I’m a big fan of writing different versions to find the funniest and the best version.

More from Andrew here.

 

Expert Tip #2: How To Get Promoted

Ask your boss what they want. Make sure your accomplishments are visible. Build relationships in the organization.

Advice from Jeffrey Pfeffer, Stanford professor and author of Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don’t:

First of all you need to figure out what your boss actually wants. Many people assume they know what, how they’re going to be evaluated and the criteria that other people in their organization are going to use, but unless you’re a mind reader you probably would be well served to actually check that out. That’s number one.

Number two, you should make sure that your performance is visible to your boss and your accomplishments are visible. Your superiors in the organization have their own jobs, are managing their own careers, are busy human beings. And you should not assume that they’re spending all their time thinking about you and worrying about you and your career.

And the third thing you need to do, which is, I think, even less obvious, is you need to build relationships with people in the organization. Basically, people are the name of the game. Life is really about relationships and your success in getting promoted and getting raises and getting hired, depends on the quality of the network and relationships you were able to build with a large number of other people inside your company and for that matter, outside your company.

More from Jeffrey here.

 

Expert Tip #3: How To Make Better Decisions

What would you recommend someone else do if they were in your situation?

Advice from Dan Ariely, Duke professor and author of Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions:

If I had to give advice across many aspects of life, I would ask people to take what’s called “the outside perspective.” And the outside perspective is easily thought about: “What would you do if you made the recommendation for another person?” And I find that often when we’re recommending something to another person, we don’t think about our current state and we don’t think about our current emotions. We actually think a bit more distant from the decision and often make the better decision because of that.

More from Dan here.

 

Expert Tip #4: How To Become An Expert At Something

Make sure you’re getting feedback. Always push yourself beyond your comfort zone. Put in the hours.

Advice from Cal Newport author of So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love:

What you need is a clearly identified sort of skill you’re working on. You need some notion of feedback. So you have to have some notion of, “How good am I at this now, and am I any better now that I’ve done this versus not doing it?” So that’s sort of the coaching aspect of things. And then when actually working, you have to work deeply, which means you have to sort of work on the skill with a persistent, unbroken focus, and you have to try to push yourself a little bit beyond where you’re comfortable. So you should not really be able to easily get to the next step in what you’re doing. At the same time, you should, with enough strain, be able to make some progress.

More from my interview with Cal here.

 

 

Expert Tip #5: Be A Better Networker

Take five minutes every day to do something easy for you that is very valuable to someone else.

Advice from Adam Rifkin, who Fortune Magazine declared the most networked guy in Silicon Valley:

Every day, do something selfless for someone else that takes under five minutes. The essence of this thing you do should be that it makes a big difference to the person receiving the gift. Usually these favors take the form of an introduction, reference, feedback, or broadcast on social media.

But yeah, do something that’s not for yourself, every single day. Expect nothing in return. Over time, these random acts of kindness will really add up.

More from Adam here.

 

Expert Tip #6: How To Pitch An Idea Like A Pro

Don’t try to convince them; try to get them to contribute.

Advice from Dan Pink, NYT bestselling author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us and To Sell is Human:

Basically, these two scholars, they started studying Hollywood pitching. They did a very exhaustive study. Basically what they found, which you know, I’m sure, from your screenwriting days, is that pitching isn’t about convincing somebody, pitching is essentially about inviting them in.

That’s essentially their view. That changed my view on it a little bit. I think pitching is like, “Are you with me?” and actually that’s not the way to do it. The way to do it is, “Here’s the pitch. What’s your contribution?” When the other side contributes, it actually builds something, and it’s usually a little bit better, but also the other side is more invested in it and so forth. The idea of pitching is to begin an engagement with somebody, not to necessarily convince them right there.

More from Dan here.

 

Expert Tip #7: How To Negotiate Like An FBI Hostage Negotiator

Pay attention to emotions and learn to listen.

Advice from Chris Voss, former head of International Hostage Negotiation for the FBI:

I compare a lot of negotiations to dealing with a schizophrenic, because a schizophrenic’s always got a voice in his head talking to him which makes it very hard for him to listen to you.

Now most people in business negotiations, they approach the negotiation, and they’ve got firmly in their mind all of the arguments that support their position. So when they’re not talking, they’re thinking about their arguments, and when they are talking, they’re making their arguments. They view negotiation as a battle of arguments.

If while you’re making your argument, the only time the other side is silent is because they’re thinking about their own argument, they’ve got a voice in their head that’s talking to them. They’re not listening to you. When they’re making their argument to you, you’re thinking about your argument, that’s the voice in your head that’s talking to you. So it’s very much like dealing with a schizophrenic.

If your first objective in the negotiation, instead of making your argument, is to hear the other side out, that’s the only way you can quiet the voice in the other guy’s mind. But most people don’t do that. They don’t walk into a negotiation wanting to hear what the other side has to say. They walk into a negotiation wanting to make an argument. They don’t pay attention to emotions and they don’t listen.

More from Chris here.

 

Expert Tip #8: How To Lead Like An Army Ranger

It’s okay not to know something. Let those who do handle that task.

Advice from Joe Asher, Army Ranger:

One company leader, socially was a buffoon and tactically he was a buffoon. But, he knew he was a buffoon. He didn’t try to be a stud like my first company commander. And when we got into the field, there were portions of the tactics that he knew. It was a signal company, a signal core company. There were portions of it that he knew very well. When it came to stuff that, tactically speaking, he didn’t know, he was okay not knowing it.

We get out there, and I had just come off from an infantry platoon leader, twice. I was a Ranger. I knew tactics. When we got to our site, he said to me – even though I was his XO – he said, “You’ve got the training to protect this site. I don’t. Protect this site.” That’s all he had to say.

So those were examples of company commanders who taught me a very valuable lesson: “It’s okay not to know something.” There are people around you who do know something, and they can teach you. If it’s too grand a knowledge base to pick up right there in the war and that fight, put them in charge. Have them report to you. Put the responsibility on them. If you do that, they will execute that to perfection, and I did.

More from Joe here.

 

Expert Tip #9: How To Be A Better Storyteller

You must surprise your audience.

Advice from Howard Suber, UCLA Film School professor emeritus and author of Letters to Young Filmmakers: Creativity and Getting Your Films Made:

Things are not what they seem.” It’s that to get people to sit on the edge of their chair or to get them involved in your story, the audience has to constantly discover something new.

One of the constants in great stories is that things are never what they seem, because if things are what they seem, why would you read it, watch it, or listen to it?

So, in “Apocalypse Now,” “The Godfather,” “Casablanca,” — you just run off the names of the memorable films — any statement you make about the central character has to be followed by the word “but.” So Michael Corleone is a cold-blooded murderer, but he does it for his family. Rick Blaine sticks his neck out for nobody, as he tells you three times, but then he does, and sacrifices the only thing he’s ever really loved for the cause.

Without the surprise, without the twist, if you don’t pull the wool over the audience’s eyes, then it’s unlikely you’re going to be memorable. It’s precisely the fact that things are not what they seem that makes a story interesting.

More from Howard.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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The Lazy Way to an Awesome Life: 3 Secrets Backed by Research

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

We all want an awesome life. And very often you know what you need to do to improve it… but you don’t do it.

I don’t blame you. Hey, some of that stuff is hard. (I should know. I write about it all the time.)

Isn’t there an easy, passive way where your flaws start correcting themselves, you gain respectable goals and become much, much happier?

Well, at least in theory, there just might be. I called somebody to find out.

Nicholas Christakis, MD, PhD, MPH, is a professor at Yale University and directs the Human Nature Lab there. He is the author (with James Fowler) of Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives.

Here’s his TED talk:

Tons of research (and common sense) shows that the people around you influence your behavior. In fact, they influence it a lot more than you might think and probably more than you’re comfortable with admitting.

But here’s the really crazy part: not only do your friends affect your behavior, so do their friends. And their friends’ friends. Here’s Nicholas:

Across many different kinds of behavior: voting, cooperation, smoking, weight loss and weight gain, happiness, cooperative behavior, public health behaviors, we and others have been able to show that people are very meaningfully affected by the behaviors of other people to whom they’re connected. And here’s the kicker: they are also affected by the behaviors of people to whom they’re not directly connected. When your friend’s friends quit smoking or your friend’s friends friend become nicer and more cooperative, this ripples through the network and affects you. Similarly, when you make a positive change in your life, when you start running for example, or you participate in our democracy and you vote, it ripples outward from you and can affect dozens, hundreds, perhaps even thousands of other people.

So if you spend time with different people, could you become a different person?

Want the laziest way to improve your life? The prescription is simple…

 

1) Hang Around The People You Want To Be

The Longevity Project, which studied over 1000 people from youth to death had this to say:

The groups you associate with often determine the type of person you become. For people who want improved health, association with other healthy people is usually the strongest and most direct path of change.

In Charles Duhigg’s excellent book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business:

In a 1994 Harvard study that examined people who had radically changed their lives, for instance, researchers found that some people had remade their habits after a personal tragedy… Just as frequently, however, there was no tragedy that preceded people’s transformations. Rather, they changed because they were embedded in social groups that made change easier… When people join groups where change seems possible, the potential for that change to occur becomes more real.

Many researchers I have spoken to, from Duke’s Dan Ariely to Cornell’s Brian Wansink, have emphasized context as the most powerful (and most ignored) catalyst for changing your life.

But what if you’re not even trying to make big changes in your life? What if you just want to be treated well? Turns out altruism and jerk-itude also move through networks. Here’s Nicholas:

We’ve shown that altruistic behavior ripples through networks and so does meanness. Networks will magnify whatever they are seeded with. They will magnify Ebola and fascism and unhappiness and violence, but also they will magnify love and altruism and happiness and information.

And the workplace isn’t much different. Behavior is contagious there, too.

Via The 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People:

Psychologists have observed that bad habits can spread through an office like a contagious disease. Employees tend to mirror the bad behaviors of their co-workers, with factors as diverse as low morale, poor working habits, and theft from the employer all rising based on the negative behavior of peers. – Greene 1999

When I spoke to Stanford GSB professor Bob Sutton, he told me his #1 piece of advice to students was this:

When you take a job take a long look at the people you’re going to be working with — because the odds are you’re going to become like them, they are not going to become like you.

(For more on how to get people to like you, from an FBI behavior expert, click here.)

So the people around you can unconsciously affect your behavior in many ways — positive and negative. Let’s focus on one thing we’re all interested in: happiness. Because this is where it gets really interesting…

 

2) Making Friends = Making Happiness

Would an extra $10,000 dollars a year make you happier? I’ll assume you’re nodding. Research shows 10K only provides a 2% increased chance of happiness.

Meanwhile, being surrounded by happy friends makes you 15% more likely to be happy.

Even if a friend of a friend of a friend becomes happier, that means a 6% chance you will become happier.

So the happiness of people you have never met — and may never meet — is three times as powerful as money.

Via Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives:

An extra $5,000 in 1984 dollars (which corresponds to about $10,000 in 2009 dollars) was associated with only a 2 percent increased chance of a person being happy. So, having happy friends and relatives appears to be a more effective predictor of happiness than earning more money. And the amazing thing is that even people who are three degrees removed from you, whom you may have never met, can have a stronger impact on your personal happiness than a wad of hundreds in your pocket.

A happy friend increases the likelihood of you being happy by 9%. An unhappy friend means a 7% decrease.

You don’t need a degree in accounting to figure out what that means: overall, more friends = more happiness.

Spending time making friends has a higher happiness ROI than time spent making money. So next time you meet up with a happy pal, ask them to bring a friend. Even a lazy person can manage that.

Via Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives:

We found that each happy friend a person has increases that person’s probability of being happy by about 9 percent. Each unhappy friend decreases it by 7 percent. So if you were simply playing the averages, and you didn’t know anything about the emotional state of a new person you just met, you would probably want to be friends with her. She might make you unhappy, but there is a better chance she will make you happy. This helps to explain why past researchers have found an association between happiness and the number of friends and family.

Here’s the really interesting part: you can totally rig the system. It’s the scientific version of karma.

With the effect spanning three degrees, there’s a good chance making a small effort to make friends happier will flow back to you.

Nicholas found that if a friend became happy in the past six months there’s a 45% chance your happiness will increase.

(For more on what you can learn from the happiest people in the world, click here.)

So, lazy bones, are you willing to send a couple emails or texts to dramatically increase your happiness? Here’s how.

 

3) Introduce Friends To Friends

Unsurprisingly, people at the periphery of a network have fewer friends and are more likely to be lonely.

And yes, that loneliness can flow back three degrees to you. (And no, you can’t easily track these people down and kick them out of your network.) Know what you can do? Introduce your friends to each other.

Again, happy friends means a 9% gain, unhappy friend means a 7% loss. All other things being equal, I’ll take those odds in Vegas any day. This strengthens the network, and increases everyone’s chance of staying happy.

Via Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives:

At the periphery, people have fewer friends; this makes them lonely, but this also tends to drive them to cut the few ties that they have left. But before they do, they may infect their friends with the same feeling of loneliness, starting the cycle anew. These reinforcing effects mean that our social fabric can fray at the edges, like a strand of yarn that comes loose from the sleeve of a sweater. If we are concerned about combating the feeling of loneliness in our society, we should aggressively target the people at the periphery with interventions to repair their social networks. By helping them, we can create a protective barrier against loneliness that will keep the whole network from unraveling.

(To learn the 4 most common relationship problems — and how to fix them, click here.)

So a few tiny efforts can yield massive positive change in your life. Let’s round up the details and learn two other fascinating tidbits that can change the way you see the world — and make that world a better place.

 

Sum Up

Here’s what we can learn from Nicholas:

  • Hang out with the people you want to be: Behaviors spread like a virus. Make sure it’s one you want to be infected with.
  • Make more friends. Time spent making friends has a higher happiness ROI than time spent making money.
  • Introduce friends to friends. Friends becoming happy increases your chance of happiness by 45%. Keeping the network happy protects you against unhappiness.

Other research Nicholas did turned up something truly heartwarming: friends are family. Quite literally. Here’s Nicholas:

We looked at the genetic similarity between friends and we found that on a very deep level you resemble your friends genetically. What this means is that, basically, your friends are kin that you choose. What we found in one of our papers was that, roughly speaking, your friends are something like your fourth cousin.

And one last thing: keep in mind that Nicholas’ research also gives you great power. And, as all good Spider-Man fans know, with “great power comes great responsibility.” Here’s Nicholas:

It’s very important for people to understand that when they make a positive change in their lives it doesn’t just affect them. It affects everyone they know and many of the people that those people know and many of the people that those people in turn know. If you make a positive change in your life it actually ripples through the social fabric and comes to benefit many other people. This recognition that we are all connected and that in our connectedness we affect each other’s lives I think is a very fundamental and moving observation of our humanity.

When you make a positive change in your life, it affects the people around you and ripples out to others.

So you can be lazy and see benefits by surrounding yourself with great people — but you can also choose to make strides in your life, even small ones, and contagiously pass those benefits to those you care about.

Making yourself a better person isn’t a gift you only give to yourself. It’s a gift you give to the world.

Spread the happiness virus! Share this with friends (and friends of friends, and friends of… you get it.)

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Join over 200,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

Related posts:

How To Stop Being Lazy And Get More Done – 5 Expert Tips

How To Get People To Like You: 7 Ways From An FBI Behavior Expert

New Harvard Research Reveals A Fun Way To Be More Successful

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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5 Things You Need to Know About Habits

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

5 tips with links to the research that backs them up:

  • The secret to breaking bad habits is to not try to eliminate them but to replace them.

For more on the scientific way to build good habits, click here.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Join over 195,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

Related posts:

How To Stop Being Lazy And Get More Done – 5 Expert Tips

How To Get People To Like You: 7 Ways From An FBI Behavior Expert

New Harvard Research Reveals A Fun Way To Be More Successful

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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