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How to Overcome the Barriers to Change with Jonah Berger, Ep #153

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Why are people reluctant to change? What are the barriers to change? How do you overcome them? According to Jonah Berger, you have to find the catalyst that’s needed to create the change to overcome those barriers. In this episode of Negotiations Ninja, Jonah talks about the 5 most common barriers and how to overcome them to create lasting change. Don’t miss it!

Jonah has been a marketing professor at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania for 13 years. He researches social influence, word of mouth, and why products, ideas, and behaviors catch on. A couple of years ago he wrote Contagious: Why Things Catch On and more recently wrote the book The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone’s Mind

Outline of This Episode

  • [1:53] Jonah’s background in the industry
  • [3:42] Change minds by reducing reactants
  • [6:30] Bypassing the anti-persuasion radar
  • [9:30] How many choices should be available
  • [13:14] Endowment: stick with what you know
  • [19:28] How to frame the cost of inaction
  • [20:18] How corroborating evidence is a catalyst
  • [23:00] How to connect with Jonah Berger

Everyone desires change—but how do they achieve it?

A couple of years ago Jonah wrote the book Contagious and it completely took off. The great reception allowed him to learn how organizations were doing business. He got to see how different organizations approached challenges in different ways. But everyone had one thing in common: something they wanted to change:

“It’s clear that marketers and salespeople want to change—whether it’s the customer’s mind or the client’s mind. Leaders want to transform organizations. Employees want to change their boss’s mind. R&D members want to change their colleagues. My parents want to change their kids’ minds. Startups want to change industries. Nonprofits want to change the world. But change is really hard.

So Jonah asked the question: Could there be a better way? Could there be a different approach to changing minds and driving action?

You can change minds by reducing reactants

When most negotiators try to change minds, they use a type of approach that Jonah calls pushing. They push more information, facts or figures, reasonings why something is a good idea, etc. In the physical world, pushing works. You push a chair and it will move across the floor. The problem is that people don’t like to be pushed. They often dig their heels in and push back. So if pushing doesn’t work, what does?

Jonah notes that successful negotiators do things differently: “Rather than say, ‘Well, how can I get someone to do what I want them to do?’ Instead, they say, ‘Well, why hasn’t that person done that already? What’s preventing them from doing the thing I want them to do? What are the obstacles or barriers in that person’s way and how—by identifying those barriers—can I mitigate them?’ ”

In Jonah’s book, he identifies what he thinks the 5 key barriers to change are: reactants, endowment, distance, uncertainty, and corroborating evidence.

Catalysts help chemical change happen faster and easier—not by adding more temperature or pressure—but by removing barriers. It helps the same change happen with less energy. So you must ask the question: How do I get rid of the barriers that are in that person’s way and help them change?

How do you bypass someone’s anti-persuasion radar? How many options should you give people to choose from? How does the cost of inaction impact someone’s desire to change? Keep listening to hear Jonah’s thoughts!

Corroborating evidence: a catalyst to create change

What are you wanting to change? Is it relatively easy to change, or more difficult? Sometimes if you just shift things around a little bit, it’s easy to get someone to move. The thing you’re asking them to do isn’t that risky, expensive, or novel.

For someone dealing with a boulder—something expensive, risky, challenging, and new—you’re going to need a lot of evidence to get someone to change. You’ll need a lot of proof to get them to change their mind.

But the evidence can’t just come from you

People discount what is being said if the proof can’t be backed up with other sources. The idea of corroborating evidence is that if multiple people are saying something is true, then it must be true.

Some things require more proof and evidence—but it needs to come from different sources. We need multiple people saying the same thing and supporting the same argument. That’s why—in a business context—you want testimonials from an existing customer.

The best way to change someone’s mind is to have them talk to someone who has experienced the change and seen a positive impact. It’s not just about the volume of the evidence, it’s about the credibility as well.

To hear the full discussion about overcoming barriers to change and hear some practical strategies and eye-opening stories—listen to the whole episode!

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect with Jonah Berger

Connect With Mark

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