I’ve always thought of myself as an “influencer” but I have also been suspicious of books that claim to give me the power to “influence others”. Either it wouldn’t work, or would be unethical/sleazy, or more likely both.

I’m part way into an audiobook I picked up, called “Influencer”. I’m about 2 disks in (out of 7) but so far I’m pretty pleased. The material is clearly laid out, and seems to give great advice for things that actually work without being scritchy or evil.

So far, here are the highlights I’m getting.

1. Focus on changing a few key behaviors.
1a. “Few” – Target a small number of behaviors that you want to change, like “one to three”. Don’t try to change many things at once.
1b. “Key” – Attempt to find the right behaviors to change. Often, “best practices” in a field of study will already be known, but if not, look for “positive deviance” (where the problem should be found but isn’t) and test your assertions.
1c. “Behaviors” – Don’t describe the outcomes you want. Describe the actual, physical actions one will need to take. Don’t confuse means and ends.

2. Convince others to change their behavior.
2a. People learn new behaviors best through actual experiences. If possible, actually walk people through the actions you want them to do.
2b. People will resist attempts to change. Lecturing doesn’t work. Don’t try to convince/argue/persuade/cajole/preach. Focus on creating positive experiences.
2c. If you can’t actually lead a person through the actions, give them a “vicarious experience”. The best vicarious experience is watching someone else do the action and get a positive result. (Example of snake-phobic people watching someone else handle a snake from across the room)
2d. “show and tell” doesn’t scale as well either, so the next best “vicarious experience” is a Well Told Story. Storytelling engages a different part of the brain than explaining/lecturing. The story has to be told well and completely, and has to be believeable. The listener needs to identify with the character of the story and find it credible. (Example- Mexican soap opera that drives thousands into the streets in search of literacy pamphlets) (This is also why “anecdotal evidence” has near-superstitious power over people)

So far, what this is telling me, is that setting a good example is not enough — I have to be a good storyteller, and I have to tell positive stories in order to “change the narrative” in a few key ways.

The thing I would most like to change right now is my work environment. It’s currently quite cynical, and people tell stories over and over about why things are the way they are and why they can’t change. If I’m going to change the way the story unfolds over the next year, I need to start telling the right stories now, and engaging others in the positive vision I want in ways that encourage the actions we need.

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