A lesson from a skeptic on influencing skeptics

Andrea Howe
Category : Weekly tips December 21, 2016

This post is part of our Weekly Tips series.

Do you know Dan Harris? He’s co-anchor of Nightline on ABC News, and the author of 10% Happier, a book about how he discovered meditation “after having a live, nationally-televised panic attack on Good Morning America.”

Dan’s a career journalist; he never set out to become a meditation evangelist. He also didn’t set out to teach us how to influence skeptics (at least I don’t think he did), although that’s exactly what he does. We just have to pay attention to how he writes and talks about his unexpected life focus to learn a very important lesson.

Take a look at this sentence from his bio and you’ll see what I mean:

“Dan Harris is a fidgety, skeptical ABC newsman who had a panic attack live on Good Morning America, which led him to something he always thought was ridiculous: meditation.”

He’s a self-identified skeptic speaking right into the listening of skeptics.

Dan also brilliantly models how to address other audience concerns. Check out this copy from a sales page introducing a two-week meditation program:

  • “Interested in meditation, but allergic to woo-woo?”
  • “I also thought it (meditation) would be utterly impossible for somebody like me who has the attention span of a three-month-old Golden Retriever.”
  • “Despite its PR problem, mindfulness meditation is a simple, secular, scientifically validated exercise for your brain.”

With a few short sentences, he masterfully acknowledges—and largely addresses—the following concerns:

  • Meditation is ridiculous
  • My attention span is too short; it won’t work for me
  • I’m not into woo-woo
  • I’m not into religion
  • I’m religious and meditation will conflict with my beliefs
  • It’s not scientifically-based
  • It’s too complicated

All the while coming across as smart, witty, and (at least to me) charming.

I’m struck by the sharp contrast to how consultants and salespeople are taught to deal with “objections”: to avoid them, defend against them, and/or minimize them. Instead, Dan meets them head on. He even amplifies them.

As Dan says, “Meditation is not going to solve all your problems. But it might make you 10% happier.”

His unintended lessons on how to be influential might make you 10% happier, too.

Make It Real

This week, look for ways to raise other people’s concerns before they do—bonus if you can do it in a witty way. What transpires?

Learn More

TAfieldbook
Read more from our friends at Trusted Advisor Associates on (not) handling objections, or brush up on how important it is to lead by example in Chapter 29 of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook.

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Andrea Howe

Andrea Howe

As the founder of The Get Real Project, I am the steward of our vision and our service offerings, as well as a workshop leader and keynote speaker. Above all else, I am an entrepreneur on a mission: to kick conventional business wisdom to the curb and transform how people work together as a result. I am also the co-author, with Charles H. Green, of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook (Wiley, 2012).

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(1) Comment

Paula Zamarra
6 months ago · Reply

I would say Dan Harris’ description of meditation is a really effective and witty example of Name It and Claim It. Thank you for the much appreciated humor!

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