Vanessa Bohns – You have more influence than you think: How to get to yes and learn to say no 

Have you ever felt invisible or inarticulate – especially when it comes to asking for what you want? 

Given the sheer volume of books in bookstores right now on the subject of influence – how to get more, how to get people to do what you want, how to speak up. You could be forgiven for thinking that we are hopelessly lacking in power. 

Yet, what if instead of a lack of knowledge, we actually have a lack of awareness about the real power of our words, actions and presence when it comes to influencing the actions of other people. 

Basically, in the words of my guest today, what if we all have tons more influence than we think?

Whether attending a meeting, sharing a post online, or mustering up the nerve to ask for a pay rise, the research shows that we tend to assume that our actions and requests are going to be declined, or at least that we will have to convince, persuade, or metaphorically drag people across the line to join us. 

The truth according to today’s guest could not be further from that. In fact the research that people are always TWICE as likely to agree to your request than you believe. Twice as likely!

Unless, of course, you lose the opportunity by not asking directly for what you want.

Today’s Guest 

Vanessa Bohns is a social psychologist and professor of organizational behavior at Cornell University. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, First company, list goes on. Her first book, You Have More Influence Than You Think, offers science based strategies for observing the effect we have on other people, reconsidering our fear of rejection, and even sometimes pulling back to use our influence less. It’s I would say, essentially a call to stop searching for ways to gain influence, get more influence than you have, and to start recognizing the influence that you already have and get smarter about using it.

Instagram   @profbohns

Twitter:   @profbohns

You’ll Learn

  • The distinction between consent and compliance – and why that’s essentially for using your influencing powers for good and not evil.
  • Why people are predictably and reliably always twice as likely to say yes to your requests than you think they are.
  • Why so many people say yes when they actually mean no – and how to tell the difference.
  • Practical ways to ask for what you want that stack the odds of a yes even further in your favor.
  • How to effectively say no in those moments where we can’t find the words – and why the direct approach is always best.
  • Finally, why we have more power than we could ever imagine as part of a crowd – and how the currency of our attention can fuels or destroy the most important conversations of our time.

When I started researching Vanessa’s work, I thought I knew where I wanted this conversation to go. 

I thought this was going to be a conversation about getting people to say ‘yes’ more frequently, or at least tapping into the powers of influence we all have – that most of us underestimate. 

And it definitely was both of those things.

However, what really stuck with me, was how difficult we find the word no. Both saying it, but also creating the environments or relationships where we are likely to hear it. 

How different would our leadership, advertising, fundraising, parenting, or political campaigns be if we genuinely wanted consent? Active, well-considered agreement – rather than compliance driven by fear, drama or obligation. 

On the flip side, how different would our lives be if we believed Vanessa’s words that: “Saying no is a complete sentence.” 

What if the people around us knew that they could 100% trust our ‘yes’ because they could also 100% trust the clarity and the conviction of our ‘no’. 

For me, I started this conversation wanting to hear more of the word yes in my life. However, I finished it committed to both saying and hearing more of the word no. I’ll leave it up to you which of those you struggle with the most.

References and links mentioned

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