The Easiest Way To Change People’s Behaviour

An excellent (and short) article by Peter Bregman on the Harvard Business Review blog. It turns out that the easiest way to change people's behaviour is not through threats, not through 'leadership', but by making it easier for them to do what you want and harder for them not to. (thanks to Mollie Dierbeck for the heads-up).

Sometimes tiny changes in the way the environment is set up can have big results. For example, I know from being a trainer that if you want people to talk to each other and feel part of a group, you arrange the chairs in the training room in a circle. If you want them to shut up and listen to you giving them information, arrange the chairs theatre-style in flat lines.

In my small-group NLP courses, I arrange the chairs in a single shallow horseshoe shape which gives a nice blend of participation and focus on the trainer. In Appreciative Inquiry facilitator training, I arrange the chairs 'cabaret style' with round tables, to encourage participation in workgroups.

What changes could you make in your working or home environment to make yourself or your team more productive?

Influence: Credibility – Develop your confidence (1)

you like to be more influential? In some contexts, such as sales, the
answer will be a no-brainer – "YES!" And actually, being more
influential will benefit you in pretty much any situation – making sure
that people are open minded enough to make the right decision,
contributing to a more positive emotional climate at work, or
convincing an interview panel that you are the right person for the

I'm focusing particularly on business and work here, but you may find these tips helpful in other contexts too.

generally teaches us that establishing rapport is the first step to
getting people to listen to you. In business (and increasingly in other
areas of life), however, there is a vital step that you need need to do

Establish Your Credibility

People are busy,
especially in business, especially these days. They don't have time (or
just as importantly, they don't feel they have time) to indulge people
or to hear them out on the off chance that they might have something
interesting. Instead, they employ quick-and-dirty mental strategies to
save them time and energy.

One of these strategies that comes
into play when you call them, or start your presentation, or even just
meet them socially, is to ask themselves, before they've even heard the
first word you say, something like "Is this person worth spending time
listening to, or are they a time-waster?"

From their point of view, you are worth a listen if:

  • you seem to know what you are talking about
  • your knowledge and experience is relevant to them, AND
  • you are someone they can take seriously

will make their judgement based largely on non-verbal factors – how you
dress, how confident and at ease you seem, and (for certain situations)
other factors like how educated you seem to be.

Of course you
can't please everyone. In the recent US presidential election, there
was a certain section of the white electorate who were never going to
vote for a black candidate, no matter how inspiring his oratory or how
well-qualified he was for the job. Fortunately, because Barack Obama
did everything that was within his power to establish his credibility,
he was able to change enough people's minds to achieve his historic

Now, you may not have Barack's powers of oratory, but
there are other things you can do to reassure people that you are worth
listening to. The most important – far outweighing the content of what
you say – is to be at ease with yourself.

Here's why: when a
group of people show up for a meeting, they are unconsciously looking
for a leader – and while you're presenting, that leader had better be
you. In these situations our unconscious minds are constantly scanning
the body language, facial expressions and voice tonalities of the
people present to pick up clues about the state of their relationships
to each other, and their relative status. One of the more obvious clues
to low status or inexperience is: does this person look nervous? Are
they sweating, is their voice trembling, do their facial expressions
express discomfort? Do they sometimes look around as if trying to find
an escape route?

All of these manifestations are the outward
signs of an unresourceful internal emotional state. If you get your
state sorted, they won't happen. You won't have to put up a front of
confidence, because you will actually be confident. So how can you do
this? In the next few newsletters I'll be sharing some practical tips
to make yourself more confident – here's the first one:

Relax – instantly!

and mind are one system. If your body is relaxed, it's impossible for
your mind to stay nervous. So use quick, effective techniques like
peripheral vision and centring to get yourself calm yet alert in the
moments before you step up to speak. These methods are described in the
web article "5 Ways to Relax Instantly" on my web site.

If you're attending our NLP Foundation Skills Diploma course in February, or the one-day Introduction to NLP course that I'm doing for Dreamcatchers on December 8th, you'll learn and practice these skills.

Relaxation CDOr
if you would like to take your 'background' levels of anxiety down, so
that you are starting from a calmer baseline, invest in my Relaxation CD (or download the relaxation audio for your iPod) – details at