The psychology of motivating, persuading, and informing
Andy McFarlane, manager at Nucor in Seattle, believes he has to change his communication style to match the individual style of each crew member. George Marinovich, wine expert, treats every worker, customer, and vendor with genuine respect and approaches all in a friendly way. Both successfully motivate people by listening, understanding, adapting, and respecting everyone in his sphere of influence thus making each individual feel important—a basic human need we all have. This is understanding the audience.
Understanding the Audience
To continuously improve in our ability to motivate and influence an audience, a good public speaker seeks to understand her audience. This is a complex process that involves many moving parts. For example, a speaker must know why she was asked to speak, who is in the audience, what they expect, what they need, what they know about her topic, how she can benefit them etc. All this assumes she is knowledgeable in her field.
In matters of motivation, a speaker needs to know what motivates the people in the audience. This is where the balance of art and science becomes tricky. In advance, the speaker must determine the audience’s attitudes towards her proposition (the specific thing she wants the audience to do), what motivates the people in the audience, and convey the benefits to the audience by doing what she asks.
The Audience’s Attitude Towards Your Proposition
With any proposition, the audience will have a predisposition ( attitude) towards it. According to Social Judgment Theory, your audience will be “anchored” in one of five categories:
1. They completely agree
2. They have a latitude of acceptance
3. They have a latitude of non-committal
4. They have a latitude of rejection
5. They completely disagree.
In the development process of your message, you ignore two categories: completely agree and completely disagree. You must determine where they are anchored to determine your strategy to motivate them to action. If you ask them to act too soon, you will move them away. If you don’t ask at the right time, you will lose them. They have to be in a latitude of acceptance to successfully motivate them, otherwise you are “too pushy.” If they are not in a latitude of acceptance, don’t ask. Your strategy is to incrementally move them, over time, into this category before you ask them to action. The trick is to identify where they are anchored and proceed accordingly.
According to Abraham Maslow, a person’s needs can be identified in seven categories. The scope of this article will cover three:
1. Shelter and Safety
2. Love and Belongingness
3. Ego and Esteem
Shelter and Safety isn’t just a .357 Magnum under your pillow in a warm, dry, secure home. It is much more. It is a savings bank account, health insurance, retirement plan, reliable car, routine, certainty in life, steady job, comfort zone, etc.
Love and Belongingness isn’t just a partner. It is being a part of something like a community, a church, a club, a social group. It is being a fan of a specific sports team, of an author, of an actor etc. It is wearing hats and shirts with logos, names of organizations, cities or states. It is owning things other people own like the best-selling car, or computer, or cell phone. It is anything that makes people feel part of something—included and like everyone else.
Ego and Esteem is more than being “full of yourself.” It is being special, standing out, having a special parking space, an office with your name on the door, diplomas, certificates, trophies, recognition, large bank accounts, etc. It is anything that makes you feel special and important and a little bit ahead of others.
Convey the Benefits to Doing What You Ask
The last ingredient to motivating the audience is asking in the right way. Dale Carnegie developed what he calls the “Magic Formula.” You ask the audience to action (it can only be one thing) and tell them the benefit they will gain by doing what you ask. It goes like this:
I urge you to (action) because if you do, you will (benefit).
Andy and George continuously improve their abilities to motivate others by making their audiences feel important, knowing their dispositions to what Andy and George are asking, understanding the audience’s motives, and knowing when to ask them to action, then being better able to convey the benefits of doing what is asked. You are probably doing this well right now; however, can you do better? Do you want to do better?