What I Learned about Influence at Starbucks

Yesterday morning I dropped into Starbucks for a quick breakfast before getting to my first appointment. A man stopped by my table and offered me a free cup of coffee since they gave him two cups by mistake. I told him I didn't drink coffee. "Well, you don't have to be so righteous," he said.

"I only drink tea," I explained. He moved on to the next table and another woman said she didn't drink coffee. Here he was in Starbucks and he couldn't give coffee away for free!

It got me thinking about influence. We think that other people want what we value. Then we try harder to convince them. And I was reminded of the secret to influence.

Years ago I was at a workshop. The goal of the exercise was to convince your partner to do something that person would never do. I said confidently that I would never attend a Scientology meeting. This was going to be a slam dunk. There would be no way they could convince me.

Earlier in the conversation, my partner determined that life long learning was a value of mine. He asked, "What if you left all your credit cards and identification at home and went for the purpose of observing their powerful sales methods and persuasion techniques?" I thought for a moment and to my surprise I agreed!

What changed my mind when I was so vehemently opposed? He knew my criteria for making decisions and framed his idea in those terms.

When you know someone's criteria you'll increase your ability to influence and sell your ideas. And when you don't know their criteria, you'll be like the man in Starbucks. You won't be able to give it away for free.