Change People's Minds Without Forcing Behavior - How to Influence People the Right Way

Jordan Brown

Leonardo DiCaprio taught me forcing behavior doesn't work.

It sounds strange to write this, but it's true.

Because you can't make someone do something.

It's just not possible.

But there's another way.

To influence people the right way, you need to know something in particular about how mental health works.

For that, there's a fascinating lesson in Leonardo DiCaprio's sci-fi thriller.

To Change People's Minds, Forcing Behavior Doesn't Work

But first, let's go through a thought experiment.

Think about a time when you wanted someone to do something.

It could be a friend, or a coworker, or a parent.

It doesn't matter who.

Now think about what didn't work--the attempts on your part that now make you cringe and smile that you ever attempted them in the first place?

Got those past actions in your mind?

Great.

Now think about WHY it didn't work.

I'll go first.

I've had friends and family members that I wanted to make better actions for themselves. So I tried to convince them, with great reasoning, I thought, on my part, WHY they should be following a better path. I tried to force them with my vast knowledge and research.

I thought I was the Wizard of Wisdom.

Guess what happened? I bet it's similar to the past actions that you had floating around in your head a few sentences back.

It did not go well.

Now, it's not like the situation blew up in my face. It just wasn't effective. Forcing a new behavior got me nowhere. It got us both nowhere.

Now, when the people we love in our lives are going down what we think to be the wrong path, it's only natural to want to support them with advice.

But advice is the wrong way to go about it.

To be influential, to actually get your point across, you need something else entirely.


Mental Health Lessons from Inception?

Plant the idea. Don't force behavior.


Did you see the movie Inception?

I'm not a movie person AT ALL, but I saw this one a couple times when it first came out. There was something about the way it showcased mental health / perception / ideas that fascinated me.

Long story short--you're not here for movie reviews after all--is that the movie uses outrageously fascinating cinematography and mind-bending action and suspense to demonstrate that ideas are not forced upon others--they're planted, in a sense.

Leonardo DiCaprio does this by running around on his zany (but cool-looking) adventures as a professional thief and by infiltrating the minds of the people he's targeting.

Now, I know it probably sounds like I'm sending you down a devious detour, but that's not the case at all.

The point is this: If you want to be effective in getting people to make better decisions, you have to use a sneaky approach like Mr. DiCaprio did in Inception.

How to Influence People the Right Way

To get people to do what you want them to do (in a good way, please), you need to follow a few core principles.

Core Principles of Influence:

  1. You must know what action you want others to take
  2. Your heart must be in the right place (You must actually care about the person)
  3. You must be in it for the long haul
  4. You must be flexible
  5. Inception

The only times I've ever been able to successfully influence someone else is when I follow the principles above--and I need to follow all of them.

Action

Convincing others starts with knowing what action you want them to take. It sounds obvious, but a lot of people miss this step.

Clearly identify the desired action before YOU take action.

Heart

If your heart is not in the right place, you're not going to encourage the intended action. You're going to go with any old action that gets the person to change.

But what will likely happen is that they won't change for the better--they won't change in a way that is good for them and for your relationship with them.

Long Haul

This is a process that takes time, and that's why I'm letting you know that you need to be committed to the long term.

Changing minds and hearts doesn't happen over night. As you'll learn in the final step, you're going to need to sneak your ideas into minds. You're going to need to be Leonardo DiCaprio. Except your plan is not going to neatly come to a close at the end of a 2.5-hour cinematic caper. It could take weeks or months before you see results.

Flexible

Flexibility is crucial. It's absolutely key.

Why? Because when you first attempt to influence someone, you'll find out that no plan goes according to plan. People are impossibly complex, and you can't control anything other than your own actions. You will need to learn to adapt.

Inception!

This is the final step. Ready?

You might be thinking, but isn't this the whole point, Jordan? Can't I just incept right from the start?

No! Because you won't be successful.

You need to do the work beforehand to get the results you want.

Only when you're clear on your action, and only when you truly care about another person, can you know what actions you need to take.

And only after you do the work on yourself as well will you be ready to commit to supporting someone for the long haul.

Like Leo D, you're going to need to wind and wiggle your way through outrageous situations until you get to your final destination.

But if you plant the idea in someone's mind enough, and with continued effort over time, one day you'll wake up and realize that the two of you have reached a brand new and much better destination.