changingminds.org

How we change what others think, feel, believe and do

| Menu | Quick | Books | Share | Search | Settings |

The ChangingMinds Blog!

 

Blog only:

Feedburner

See also: Blog Archive

and: Blogs by Subject
and: Other people's blogs

 

So here's the ChangingMinds Blog, from site author, David Straker. This is my more personal ramblings, though mostly about changing minds in some shape or form. Please do add your comments via the archive or the right-hand column below.  -- Dave

 


Sunday 05-July-15

What do you say to a grieving person?

When you meet someone who has suffered a bereavement, where a relation or someone they know has died, what do you say? It can be a tricky situation as even if they seem fine on the surface, they may be quite fragile inside.

A simple way is just to say 'I'm so sorry' and 'There are no words'. Because you are and there aren't.

Do not disagree with them. Their beliefs may radically change, from atheist to religious and also back the other way as a non-believer blames God or a religious person feels they have been abandoned by their deity.

Don't say things like:

  • How are you doing
  • It's God's plan/she's now an angel/watching over you/other religious stuff
  • Everything happens for a reason
  • Maybe it's for the best/they're not suffering any more

In other words, don't try to explain it. And remember that your goal is to make them feel better, not to relieve your discomfort. When people say 'Don't cry' they usually mean 'Your crying is making me feel uncomfortable'.

To show that you care, look to help them in practical ways. Just sympathetic listening, without interruption or looking uncomfortable, can be a huge help. Sometimes it helps to do practical things for them, but beware of taking away those things that they could do to retain some sense of normality.


Sunday 28-June-15

Kings, mobsters, celebrities and superheroes

Kings, mobsters, celebrities and superheroes. What have all these got in common? Certainly, many of us will admire them, either openly or perhaps secretly. However, the critical commonality is unconstrained power, the ability to act outside rules that govern us, the wherewithal to choose without concern for consequence.

Kings have, through history, held absolute power. To become and stay king in troublesome times meant they had to use that power too, sometimes cruelly and supported by a sycophantic, corrupt elite. Mobsters are not far from this model, ascending by violence then ruling by fear and whim. It is the primitive force which creates hierarchies that both pollutes and holds societies together. It is only recently, historically speaking, that at least some of the world has found more sociable means of living together.

Celebrities are a modern phenomenon where fame and pseudo-royalty offers a showcase of fake perfection. Yet this illusion can again seem too real and the sense of invulnerability can lead them to suicidal disdain for their fans and forays beyond the law into financial arrogance and the spiral of narcotics.

A trap for the ultra-powerful is opulent elitism, where they create a cocoon of extreme luxury. This makes them soft and disliked and opens the way for invasion, coups or revolution as the tides of empires wax and wane. Even celebrities rise and fall in tabloid kingmaker games where they are pumped up and knocked down, perhaps reflecting our dual fascination and revulsion with high position and unbound autonomy. This vision of the mighty falling gives us pleasure, hope and teaches us lessons as our banana-skin schadenfreude joy reminds us that we are ultimately all alike and pride goes before the fall.

Superheroes may seem to be another class altogether, yet they, too, break laws, often violently. This group represents a human ideal, a cartoon abstraction of the all-powerful person whose morals are beyond reproach and whose transgression is purely for good. They are the vigilantes we secretly want to be, relentlessly bringing down those who would hurt us. Even more secretly, we know that if we had those super-human powers we would become corrupt kings and vain celebrities. Philosophical cartoon authors know this as they show the heroes' inner struggles and the fallen supervillains who balance super-powers in titanic battles.

Yet reality is not a comic, though fiction often reflects our constant tilting at wish-fulfilment. Each of us struggles with power, fighting it, gaining it and holding its exhilarating, terrifying reins. Few of us gain power over many, though we all have the potential for atrocities. For most of us our struggles are local and internal, though each choice we make is an act of power that together define our lives.


Sunday 21-May-15

When do the parts become the whole?

Margaret Thatcher, the notorious UK Conservative prime minister of the 1980s, once said 'There is no such thing as society.' While this may be seen as a heartless view, there is a strange truth about it, though only in the sense that 'society' it's less tangible. Yet it is very real, nevertheless, and we each gain from it. Just imagine if you couldn't walk down the road without fear for your life.

But how does society start? When does a group of people gel and start helping one another in an organized way? Is it when they have their first public meeting? Is it when they establish or enforce explicit social rules? It is a tricky question. Looking at it in a reversed way, you might also try taking people out of a group until society vanishes.

The challenge can be applied in all kinds of other situations. When, for example, does a brain become a mind? And how many pieces can you take off a car before it is no longer a car?

The boundary, it seems, between a cohesive whole with its own identity and a set of parts that lack that wholeness, can be rather vague and difficult to delineate.

A way of finding that elusive edge is to first identify essential elements of the whole and then look for the point at which they appear or disappear. The mind, for example, thinks, so when neuronal activity can be classified as thinking, then mind is beginning. It is not all that easy, though. If a car is defined as transport, a faulty that stops the engine does not stop it being a car. It gets trickier again with the notion of society where there may be debate about what exactly it is.

An important insight is that within a whole, the parts are interconnected, often in complex ways. And this is where the whole is made. Minds are not neurons but interconnected neurons. A car is not a kit of parts but those parts working in harmony.

And yet, despite the difficulties, we ignore the whole at our peril, including in changing minds. When you want to sell, you have to consider how the whole system buys. Sales fail when the sales person forgets corporate influences on the buyer. Teachers trip up when they miss the social structure of the class. And you can get into trouble when you think you can pull on individual levers without causing surprising effects elsewhere.


Sunday 14-June-15

Failure and success in small businesses

I've been watching a series recently on UK TV where Alex Polizzi, a small business owner and expert goes into failing small businesses and helps to turn them around. It's not easy, and what we get down is not necessarily the whole story, but it can make fascinating viewing.

The typical business info which she is parachuted is a family firm, often consumer-facing so consuming viewers can empathise, at least worth their customers. And customer focused is indeed a common issue. When you are struggling to pay the bills, it's easy to blame fussy customers. Yet good service is a key reason why many people go to small businesses and this is common issue to sort out.

Another issue where small firms fail is tidiness. It is so easy to end up with piles of old stock that is valued more by what was paid for it than how it can be converted into revenue, so a good clear-out is a common task. More than this, signage and general branding tends to be antiquated and confusing. It is amazing how much a lick of paint can help, and a complete rebranding exercise can be quite transformational. Of course it also makes great television in the same way as any makeover show causes oohs and wows.

The biggest transformation, however, is the people. In family firms where children feel trapped and their parents think they should be grateful, this can even fall into a quick bit of family therapy. Children get to grow up fast and the old dogs learn new tricks as the whole family gets shock treatment when they are shown successful other businesses, where they may even get a boot camp experience hat teaches them the value of focus and hard work.

In the end, such shows are about the modern business of transformation, where the customer is the product. And because you are watching, you too may be transformed as you learn more about business, life and people, and hence about yourself.


Sunday 07-Jun-15

Are you a cat person or a dog person?

If you have a cat or a dog, you may easily answer this question. Or you may know people who own cats or dogs. Can you complete the sentence 'A cat/dog person...'?

The stereotypical cat person sees the cat partly as a casual friend who is mostly independent and needs little more than feeding. The dog person has a close friendship with a greater loyalty contract. The cast person may well pander to the cat's wishes as the cat trains them, unlike the dog person where the emphasis is on the person training the dog.

Me? I'm a dog person. I've got two Golden Retrievers, who I love for their daft and endlessly good nature. In fact I subdivide dog ownership further as I look with disdain at those with a toy dog ("rat on a stick") or tight-skinned, teeth-baring fighters. I like friendly, obedient dogs. Perhaps this is a reason why I am wary of cats, who have a very limited form of domestication.

Looking more abstractly at this, what is actually going on is an exercise in polarisation, where we define ourselves and others using a black/white polar scale. If you are not an X person you must be a Y person. We can of course also use other categories, such as being an Apple or PC person, rich or poor, native or foreign, etc.

Such stereotyping is inaccurate, but we do it all the time, simply because it makes life easier and is good enough for many situations. It goes particularly astray when it leads us to treat others with disrespect or contempt, but most of the time it is relatively harmless.


Sunday 21-May-15

The power of the 'Yes' option

A big and ongoing issue in the UK is the question of whether it wants to continue to be a member of the European Union. While there are business and social benefits, there are many 'Euro-sceptics' who believe that the downsides, including value-destroying bureaucracy and unrestricted immigration, are ultimately worse for the country than the benefits. And so, in the recent general election, the Conservatives promised to hold an 'in-out' referendum, so the people of the country can decide whether or not they want to continue to be a part of the Union.

A very significant decision has just been made, that will probably delight the Europhiles: The question will be 'Do you want to stay in the EU', rather than 'Do you want to leave the EU'.

It may seem trivial, but the decision in yes/no questionnaire items is a big deal. Why? Because people prefer to say 'yes' than 'no'. If you have a strong opinion, then this is not significant. You know whether to say 'yes' or 'no'. But if you face a question where you are unsure of how to answer, then your unconscious mind will nudge you towards saying 'yes'. This is because society teaches us that being positive is a good thing.

We are rewarded for being nice. A simple example is that if you ask somebody to help you, then phrasing the words in a friendly way and smiling as you ask will be far more likely to succeed than being negative in your request. And as you probably know, phrasing your question so they say 'yes' to what you want is better than hoping they say 'no'.

For the campaigns around the referendum, this decision allows the Europhiles to be the 'Yes Campaign', and so appear to be the nice people.

Europhiles 1 - Eurosceptics 0


Sunday 24-May-15

Haydn's musical persuasion

In the summer of 1772, prince Nikolas Esterhazy and his court were at the Summer Palace at Esterhauz, in Austria. It was of course before the days of recorded music, but this was no problem for the prince. Being a man of means, he took his orchestra with him to help while away the long, hot days.

Although this was nice for the prince and his court, the orchestra members fell into a deep melancholy as they missed their families back home in Eisenstadt and, as the main entertainment, were not allowed to just 'pop home for a visit'. This only got worse when the prince decided to extend his stay at the palace into the Autumn and the orchestra were even more unhappy about this.

The famous Haydn was the long-time court composer and leader of the orchestra, who ask called him Papa and brought him their troubles. Hearing how they missed their families, Haydn decided to persuade the prince to let his orchestra go home to visit their loved ones. He was not a great orator and so decided to persuade with music.

Haydn's symphony number 45 in F sharp minor is a initially turbulent but ultimately rather sad piece, with a unique ending that has led it to be known as the 'Farewell Symphony'. As the music draws to a close, each of the musicians stands up, blows out their candle and leaves the stage until only two violins are left, playing mutely.

Upon hearing this piece, the prince was overcome with emotion and realized just how much his musicians missed their families. Now fully feeling their sadness, he relented, giving them time to go home for the much-desired visit.


Sunday 17-May-15

Politics and Persuasion in the UK General Election

Canvassing is done. TV debates gone. The UK general election is over and it's all change. Or perhaps some change, as the Conservatives have got in this time with a full majority. Last time they allied with the Liberal Democrats, who provided some moderation for what have been more extreme right wing policies. Under this new government we can expect to have public spending cut to perhaps even below the level (percent of GDP) of the USA, with welfare being a major target.

So how did they do it? Having a much bigger war chest no doubt helped, as did general good news about the economy, though opponents will point to the veneer over any implied depth. Falling oil prices, for example, is not a result of government policy. And reduced unemployment figures has as much to do with how these numbers are measured and viewed as the fostering of value-creating companies.

One of the biggest differences was how the leaders were portrayed, which probably had as much to do with coaching and acting ability as the real nature of the people.

David Cameron, the Conservative leader, has in the past appeared to be a bit bland. In the electioneering, he suddenly got passionate, even getting 'annoyed' when criticized on such areas as the subtle privatization of the health service. He also appeared often in factories, surrounded by workers as he expounded on the importance of business. Interviews with the workers afterwards seemed to suggest they weren't impressed, but that did not really matter -- Cameron was playing to the camera, not them. This was a good move for a Conservative, whose party are often accused of not being in touch with ordinary people.

I saw Ed Milliband, the Labour leader, speak a few years ago and was not impressed with his presentation style. He seemed more bemused at being leader than grabbing the audience with passionate speeches. Even recently, he has done daft things like forgetting to mention the economy in a critical party speech. Nevertheless, here he was, often in the community talking passionately again. He even took the bold step of being interviewed by an outspoken comedian and came off pretty well. But it wasn't enough and he'll be replaced soon enough.

Nick Clegg, the terribly nice leader of the Liberal Democrats saw his share of the votes collapse as he was punished for allying with the Conservatives in the last government. Traditionally the third party that received many protest votes, this time they were the subject of protest. His problem in public was that he was too nice, even apologizing for past political mistakes rather than using the more powerful politics of reframing and moving on.

The joker in the pack was Nigel Farage of the ultra-right-wing UK Independence Party, who stood on immigration and EU membership issues. He provided a string of OMG moments that broadcasters loved, with quotes that allowed him to be portrayed more as foolish than a realistic alternative. Farage played the populist leader, pint of beer in hand and spouting endless 'common sense' platitudes that did not bear close examination. They gave the Conservatives a fright, but in the end, despite getting around four million votes, they got hardly any seats in the UK's 'first past the post' system.

And racing up the outside was Nicola Sturgeon, leading the Scottish Nationalist Party to a whitewash that swept Scotland clean of other party seats. On the bow wave of a narrow recent defeat in the Scottish Independence Referendum, her straightforward and Scotland-centric rhetoric caught the hearts of the Scots who came out in large numbers to give her an alarming number of seats.

In the end, what have we learned about persuasion in UK elections?

First, youth seems to be de rigeur for leaders now, perhaps as a result of Tony Blair's ten years at the top Virtually all leaders are in their 40s, which would never have happened a few decades ago. As Boomers retire, GenX, who have little respect for their elders, are sweeping into power in all kinds of ways now.

Secondly, stage-management seems to have taken over, with carefully-scripted 'informal' scenes and politicians who seem coached into Oscar-worthy performances on every stage. Off-the-cuff comments and interviewer-driven interviews seem to be a thing of the past.

As always a supportive press helps, and much of it is owned by Richard Murdoch who apparently lambasted his journalists for not criticizing Miliband viciously enough. Media management, even with the expansions into online fora is the order of the day, though it didn't seem quite as big a deal as it has in the USA.

All the major parties spent a fortune hiring in experts and I wondered if I should have offered by services. But these days I've found a good work-life balance and somehow the hurly burly of politics this time didn't attract. Maybe in five years I'll throw my hat in the ring, but until then I'll keep on writing this website.


Sunday 03-May-15

Failure and success in small businesses

I've been watching a series recently on UK TV where Alex Polizzi, a small business owner and expert goes into failing small businesses and helps to turn them around. It's not easy, and what we get down is not necessarily the whole story, but it can make fascinating viewing.

The typical business info which she is parachuted is a family firm, often consumer-facing so consuming viewers can empathise, at least worth their customers. And customer focused is indeed a common issue. When you are struggling to pay the bills, it's easy to blame fussy customers. Yet good service is a key reason why many people go to small businesses and this is common issue to sort out.

Another issue where small firms fail is tidiness. It is so easy to end up with piles of old stock that is valued more by what was paid for it than how it can be converted into revenue, so a good clear-out is a common task. More than this, signage and general branding tends to be antiquated and confusing. It is amazing how much a lick of paint can help, and a complete rebranding exercise can be quite transformational. Of course it also makes great television in the same way as any makeover show causes oohs and wows.

The biggest transformation, however, is the people. In family firms where children feel trapped and their parents think they should be grateful, this can even fall into a quick bit of family therapy. Children get to grow up fast and the old dogs learn new tricks as the whole family gets shock treatment when they are shown successful other businesses, where they may even get a boot camp experience hat teaches them the value of focus and hard work.

In the end, such shows are about the modern business of transformation, where the customer is the product. And because you are watching, you too may be transformed as you learn more about business, life and people, and hence about yourself.


 

 

For more, see the ChangingMinds Blog! Archive or the Blogs by subject. To comment on any blog, click on the blog either in the archive or in the column to the right.

 

Best wishes,

 

Dave

Site Menu

| Home | Top | Quick Links | Settings |

Main sections: | Disciplines | Techniques | Principles | Explanations | Theories |

Other sections: | Blog! | Quotes | Guest articles | Analysis | Books | Help |

More pages: | Contact | Caveat | About | Students | Webmasters | Awards | Guestbook | Feedback | Sitemap | Changes |

Settings: | Computer layout | Mobile layout | Small font | Medium font | Large font | Translate |

 

You can buy books here

More Kindle books:

And the big
paperback book


Look inside

 

Please help and share:

 

Quick links

Disciplines

* Argument
Brand management
* Change Management
Coaching
+ Communication
Counseling
+ Game Design
+ Human Resources
+ Job-finding
* Leadership
+ Marketing
Politics
+ Propaganda
+ Rhetoric
* Negotiation
* Psychoanalysis
* Sales
Sociology
+ Storytelling
+ Teaching
* Warfare
Workplace design

Techniques

+ Assertiveness
* Body language
* Change techniques
* Closing techniques
+ Conversation
Confidence tricks
* Conversion
* Creative techniques
* General techniques
+ Happiness
+ Hypnotism
+ Interrogation
* Language
+ Listening
* Negotiation tactics
* Objection handling
+ Propaganda
* Problem-solving
* Public speaking
+ Questioning
+ Using repetition
* Resisting persuasion
+ Self-development
+ Sequential requests
+ Storytelling
Stress Management
* Tipping
Using humor
* Willpower

Principles

+ Principles

Explanations

* Behaviors
+ Beliefs
* Brain stuff
Conditioning
+ Coping Mechanisms
+ Critical Theory
+ Culture
+ Decisions
* Emotions
+ Evolution
Gender
+ Games
Groups
Habit
+ Identity
+ Learning
+ Meaning
Memory
+ Motivation
+ Models
* Needs
+ Personality
+ Power
* Preferences
+ Research
+ Relationships
+ SIFT Model
+ Social Research
Stress
+ Trust
+ Values

Theories

* Alphabetic list
* Theory types

And

- About
- Guest Articles
- Blog!
- Books
- Changes
- Contact
- Guestbook
- Quotes
- Students
- Webmasters

 

| Home | Top | Menu | Quick Links |

Changing Works 2002-2015
Massive Content -- Maximum Speed