How A Middle-Aged Man From Brody Got His Mojo Back

Influence is one of the defining texts on the psychology of persuasion. Into this post, we explore the six major principles of persuasion and wow you can use them in your life to supercharge your ability to multiply change other people’s minds.

The Psychology of Persuasion Story Surrounding Pluff

You can train your brain to retain knowledge and insight better by understanding how you learn. Once you understand the keys to learning, everything changes—from the way you ask questions to the way you consume information. People will think you have a superpower.

Learning is the act of incorporating new facts, concepts, and abilities into our brains. We start learning in the womb and we never stop; we are always developing new competencies. Every new bit of knowledge we acquire builds on what we already know and gives us a fuller, richer picture of the world. And the more developed our understanding of the world is, the easier it is for us to adapt and pivot when our circumstances change.

Learning is the act of incorporating new facts

Learning is the act of incorporating new facts, concepts, and abilities into our brains. We start learning in the womb and we never stop; we are always developing new competencies. Every new bit of knowledge we acquire builds on what we already know and gives us a fuller, richer picture of the world. And the more developed our understanding of the world is, the easier it is for us to adapt and pivot when our circumstances change.

We know from biology that organisms that can adapt to their constantly changing environment survive and thrive. Those that can’t eventually go extinct. The same is true for us in our life and work. We all know the person at work that hasn’t adapted to the changing times. Their unwillingness to stretch themselves and learn something new makes it seem like they are moving backwards.

The go-to book on the psychology of persuasion is Robert Cialdini’s Influence. Cialdini has spent a lifetime researching the psychology of compliance.

We all employ them and fall victim to them, to some degree, in our daily interactions with neighbors, friends, lovers, and offspring. But the compliance practitioners have much more than the vague and amateurish understanding of what works than the rest of us have. … It is odd that despite their current widespread use and looming future importance, most of us know very little about our automatic behavior patterns. Perhaps that is so precisely because of the mechanistic, unthinking manner in which they occur. Whatever the reason, it is vital that we clearly recognize one of their properties: They make us terribly vulnerable to anyone who does know how they work.

The greatest enemy of learning is what you think you know. When you think you know something, learning something new means you might have to change your mind, so it’s easy to think there’s no room for new ideas. But not wanting to change your mind will keep you stuck in the same place. Overcoming our egos can be one of the big challenges of learning. Therefore, being willing to admit when you’re wrong and adjust your thinking is the thing that will help you learn the most. The first step to learning is recognizing your ignorance and deciding to do something about it.

WHY WE’RE BAD AT LEARNING

One reason why we’re bad at learning is that we bring a lot of baggage to it—baggage we often pick up early in life and then struggle to let go of later. If you can let go of assumptions about what you should do, you can learn much more effectively. One major piece of baggage we accrue is the belief that if we’re not visibly active, we’re not learning. This is incorrect. Learning requires time to reflect. It requires discussing what you’ve learned and letting your mind wander. You need to let go of trying to look smart, and focus instead on trying to be smart.

Learning from experience and reflection

In addition to reading, direct experience is the other main way we learn.

To fill my mental toolbox, I looked around my organization and found some mentors. I watched them, asked them annoying questions, and tried to learn as much as I could from them. I went back to school to get an MBA. I read everything I could about making decisions and the tools I needed to develop.

“The older I get the more I realize how many kinds of smart there are. There are a lot of kinds of smart. There are a lot of kinds of stupid, too.”

— JEFF BEZOS

If you want to supercharge your learning, the single most effective technique we’ve uncovered for absorbing new concepts comes from the famed Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman. The Feynman Technique ensures you understand what you learn. It includes the following four steps:

  1. 1
    Choose a concept you wish to learn about.
  2. 2
    Pretend you are teaching it to a child—a sixth-grader, specifically. Write your explanation down or say it out loud.
  3. 3
    Identify any gaps in your understanding that might show up when you try to simplify the concept; go back to the source material to find the information you need.
  4. 4
    Review and simplify your explanation again.

It works because writing out a concept in language a child would understand forces you to understand it at a deeper level. Sometimes we use jargon and complicated language to hide what we don’t understand. The Feynman Technique lays bare the true extent of our knowledge.

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