My mom and my grandfather always used to say knowledge is power. Read, read, read. Talk seldom, listen often. More people read less today than 30 years ago. Newspaper sales have decreased while online news subscriptions have increased. I had two friends who worked for the Virginian pilot for a couple years until they got laid off after the 2008 recession. The recession just tipped the bucket for a lot of businesses that were sitting on the edge of decline already. We leave in a marvelous age where we can report and read news in real time. We can also look up almost any information within seconds thanks to powerful search websites. The internet is and will continue to morph into an efficient outsourcing of our brain. There’s no need to carry around a Rolodex anymore or remember phone numbers and dates of birthdays because we can store those in our phones. Powerful people, in a social sense, know a wealth of information. The ancient powerhouses like Michelangelo, Leonardo Di Vinci, and Albert Einstein knew about various different fields of work.
Powerful people don’t have to be heard. The best influencers are powerful listeners. If you just sit back and listen to people they will teach you a lot. Loose lips sink ships. Sometimes if you just sit back, listen, and ask the right open ended questions, you can find out the scoop at the office or the next big change with the school board. This information can be used as leverage for something later down the road.
I love talking to senior citizens, they have so much knowledge and insight on the ways of the world. Some have a story for everything. A lot of times we might look at a person’s outer image to judge the usefulness of their stories. This will cause us to miss out on useful connections. Two of my favorite bands, Kiss and Metallica, are considered weird amongst certain clichés of people, not in the heavy metal scene. Yet, they’ve sold out hundreds of shows, millions of albums, and toured all around the globe. Obviously, their message resonates with someone. It is apparent people understand them and are gravitated towards them. No matter what your message or passion is, there is at least one person out there who understands you. There is someone who can level with you. You just have to keep your eyes open.
It’s good to learn things about the world but let’s start with the easiest thing, yourself. What do you know? What things are you good at? What is your specialty. Are you a master or a specialist? The skill that you are freakishly good at, that would blow the minds of students at a high school talent show, will be what we want to focus on. This is the trick you can whip out at a small dinner party to show off your entertainment skills. A few years ago I was at a pretty intimate dinner party with neighbors in the riverside community where my friend lived. We were all gathered in the kitchen as the food was finishing up cooking. There was a young girl there named Samantha, who worked as an accountant. When the current conversation seemed to die down she told to check out a neat trick. We watched as she went into the cupboard to grab four different glasses. She listened for the sound of crystal with the tap of her spoon. Next, Samantha filled the crystal with different levels of water. She delicately dipped the tips of her fingers in some of the water then rubbed them around the edges the crystal. We watched and listened intently and after a couple notes we could make out a tune. When Samantha was finished we all clapped in astonishment. From that point on, she was the highlight of the party. Everyone wanted to know the 5W’s.
So, find out what you are good at. See if there are any clubs for that at your school or in your community. Join the club, take the class, master the course, and take over the scene. I’ve always been good at creating art with my hands. I’m good at organizing colors on things like furniture, clothes, and posters. In high school, I started with basic art classes to work myself up to ceramics class. By the time I got to the top classes I was the only guy in the class. My artwork also had a reputation for being unique. A few classmates would always have something interesting to see about my work or petition me for advice on theirs.
Now, I take jewelry making classes at a local bead gallery downtown. I’m still the only guy and I receive lots of petitions for jewelry design ideas. I’m always meeting new people there. My guy friends are surprised when they find out I made some of the jewelry lying around my home. Interesting art pieces are always a talking point. It is good to have a few laying around your home. When I was growing up, my mother asked for my opinion on her clothing and shoe choices because she wasn’t good at it but she knew I was.
Being assertive means standing up for yourself. These type of people are seen as powerful. They stand up for what they believe is right without stepping over others. They are the lions of the group, that believe, encourage, and fight for their friends. If you apologize for little things quite frequently, try analyzing what you are apologizing for and if it is really necessary. Are you really sorry that you forgot to leave the orange juice out for your wife? Does she care that you are sorry? You can look more confident by laughing things off. Do your peers feel that your apologies are legitimate? Accept that bad things happen, people make mistakes, then move on. If you never apologize for anything, then it’s time to start taking responsibility for your actions. New friends will be attracted to your mature desire to take the high road. Stand proud when you own up to something that you did. The opposite sex loves that. If you are considered over-assertive then try to take time to observe other people’s viewpoints. Find the positives in their ideas. Take a chance on someone. Get to know them as a person then you will be able to trust them easier. When in a negotiation, practice being silent, let someone else voice their ideas, and evade conflict with employees. Your coworkers will notice how silent you have been. You will have more attention on you that way versus being aggressive. Dr. Ames and research assistant Mrs. Wazlawek from Columbia Business School conducted a psychological survey that found that the key to developing the right amount of assertiveness is self-awareness. When engineers build bridges they can look at the math and tell that there is too much structural support in one section of the bridge. However, it is hard for us to notice how overly assertive we have become.
Skills to use – Reverse Psychology and Courage
Reverse psychology not only works on kids but adults as well. This behavior works the best on people with sensitive ego’s and people who hate being ordered around. Managers don’t like being told what to do because they are used to telling other people what to do. If you have an awesome idea at work and your boss isn’t as open minded as others, try telling him how bad it would be if we went with in direction ABC. Tell him you don’t care what direction we take the project in as long as it’s not going ABC because that would just ruin things. Sometimes the quickest way to acquire something isn’t the most direct way. Part of dealing with different personalities is learning who you can directly ask for things with and why you have to work through some hurdles with first. Truthfully, we are all little kids at heart. As the average life span increases we strive to look younger. Everyone has a little childhood left inside them. It’s just buried under the mundane responsibilities of our daily lives. We want to be held, adored, etc. we are curious, greedy, and naive by nature. Being original takes courage. Lots of major media heroes are revered for their courage like Asland, Thor, and Elsa. Everyone liked those characters because they could count on them. Their courage affected their persona, making them look more powerful. You could have something in common with them. As you go about your day look for someone you can help. Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. It is surprising how little things are appreciated by some people. People remember the strangest little things about you that you wouldn’t have even thought twice about. Talk, listen, observe, find out what is on their mind, and you will get your chance to shine.
Elicitation is something that you may or may not have done unknowingly. I did it before I even knew it was an important skill. It is the process of covertly extracting information from someone through conversation without letting them know the intended purpose of the conversation. If mastered, you can use this skill to find out things about people to use for later. I’ll let you decide what to use the information for. A master will also be able to detect and deny elicitation techniques used against him or her.
The FBI practiced elicitation before I did though, take some tips from their online counter-intelligence training. Serious businesses use this tactic for non-public information gathering from competitors. It is a combination of body language, poker face, and great conversation skills. To practice your elicitation skills, try planning a surprise party for someone. If it is someone you don’t know then it will make the exercise more challenging. Discover their food tastes, gift ideas, likes, and dislikes without them knowing. Here are some personality traits that are the most common to exploit: politeness to newcomers, appealing to an inflated ego, desire to feel knowledgeable about a topic, and tendency to gossip.