Want To Influence People? Stop Making These Common Mistakes!

influence people kid cryingIf you have children, you’ve probably heard one crying, “but I didn’t mean to do it this time,” after getting in trouble.

Young children don’t filter their unconscious. It’s great.

Kid's thoughts pop directly out of their mouth. It’s a wonderful insight into their map of the world.

When I hear my kids say things like “but I didn’t mean to do it this time,” I have to slow down. Red flags start popping up.

I want to scream, “This time? This time!? So, you meant to do it before? Do you understand what you just said to me?”

It’s hard to not do that. I don’t want to teach them how to deceive me (They’ll figure it out eventually but I don’t want to directly teach them). However, I want them to learn to communicate effectively.

I know you’re making mistakes that kill your ability to influence people. They’re small details. You probably never realized how often they occur in your communication. To me, these stick out like a turd floating in a punchbowl at the office Christmas party.

Don’t think these details should be ignored just because they’re small. A small crack in the cement of your walkway expands over time. It never shrinks. One small crack is hardly noticed. But as it grows it becomes impossible to ignore. Minimize these cracks or you'll influence people to hesitate before they get to the cash register.

How To Destroy Your Credibility With One Word

Honestly, it’s not just one word but a group of words. The reality of it really surprised me when I noticed how often this group of words pop up in ‘success’ blogs, on sales pages, in ‘how to’ videos, and every day sales interactions and conversations. These words can destroy your trust and influence people in negative ways.

To tell you the truth, it’s something con-men use well. They use it to emphasize when they can be trusted. However, good con-men overcome the negative effects by picking victims easily blinded by other desires.

Believe me, if you want to rise above a con-man and build trust I highly recommend you strike these words from your vocabulary.

Have you figured out the words yet? I’ve used them in these last three paragraphs.

These are words like:

  • Honestly…
  • To tell you the truth…
  • Truthfully…
  • Seriously…
  • Believe me…

If you’re telling the truth, do you need to tell me you’re speaking the truth now? Were you not truthful before you said, “Honestly…?”

Do you use these words?

Stop. It. Now!

influence people honestly
Honestly! Stop Using That Word! - Tweet This

If you use these often, you’ll need to look inside and grapple with whatever is causing your lack of belief. What’s keeping you from feeling honest? Are you lying? Or are you not sure about what you’re selling?

When I was began my persuasion career I was young and sold retirement planning to teachers. As a teen my grandfather taught me about the stock market. We’d go to the library and research potential investments. I knew 100 times more than the average person. However, I was new, young, and intimidated easily. When I look back, I said “honestly” and “believe me” more than I should have. It came from my personal insecurity.

Think about what you’re selling. If you don’t believe in it stop selling it. Find (or create) something great to sell.

If its personal insecurity, you’ll have to reach inside and pull out what caused you to feel that way. Remove the demon that’s holding you back from delivering your message with full credibility.

These words don’t always mean a person is lying. If you’re on the receiving end, listen for a pattern. What other behavior do you notice? Pay attention to your gut. But most likely, you’ll want to run away. Fast. Very, very fast.

Do You Open The Door To Failure?

When I began understanding how persuasive language works I taught myself to eliminate several words from my vocabulary. I knew if I used them wrong they would do more damage than good. So I eliminated them until I could use them with power. Why? All of these words assume some possibility of failure.

What do I mean when I say these, “assume the possibility of failure?” It means your customer may not buy from you. It means you could not make a sale. Failure in this context means your goal may not happen.

influence people yodaWhen Yoda said, “Do or do not… There is no try,” he was helping Luke (and you) understand the flaw with the word “Try.” It doesn’t exist. When you don’t believe in what you’re doing (selling) you say you’ll “give it a try.” When you try, you’re committing to fail because “to try” means nothing.

You can’t try to type on a keyboard. You can’t try to lift your hand above your head.

"You cannot try to influence people. You influence people or you don’t." - Tweet This

When you ask your customer to “try and imagine using this for the next year,” you’re instructing your customer to fail at imagining. Stop trying to be successful and start committing.

Eliminate the word “try.” Stop giving others, and yourself, a door to failure.

Similar to “try,” you provide your your customer an escape door from buying with these types of words too. Here are some examples with the words in bold:

  • If you decide to start today, you’ll get extra bonus material.
  • You could enjoy the benefits of this product.
  • You might consider the ways this will help you.
  • You’ll really enjoy this but we’ll need to discuss financing first.

In my article Persuasive Language – A Primer On Presuppositions, I discuss Modal Operators of Possibility. (Sorry for the technical language. Read the article if you haven’t.) Words like can, could, might, etc. assume the possibility of something happening, or not. I consistently see is people using one of these words when asking for the sale.

And it makes me want to cry.

  • Do you want to ask the closing question with power?
  • Could you start changing the way you ask today?

Notice the first bullet is a strong request and the second asks if you could. It’s not asking for a solid commitment.

When you use these words (modal operators of possibility) you display doubt in what you’re selling. You left a door open and give your customer permission to walk out.


The word “But” is a hard one to break. When you use the word “but” you dismiss the importance of what came before. Think of “I love you but...” You know whatever is coming after “I love you but...” won’t be good. I love you but your breath smells like cat urine. (Did that send off a mental trigger?)

I have an entire article on this here: Powerful Persuasion With A Couple Little Words. Read it. You’ll learn how to use “but”, “and”, and “even though” with maximum punch.

I recommend you eliminate using these, like I did, until you have a firm grasp how to use them. (notice I didn’t say “try to stop using them.”) You’ll communicate more commitment. You’ll sound more confident. And you’ll become more persuasive, naturally.

Now stop trying to be successful. Stop hoping you’ll be successful. Go out and be successful.

Discovering Harmful Persuasive Language Techniques

Slow down. Notice the words you’re using. Read your sales letter or listen to the way you speak and interpret the words your using literally. What are you implying that can hurt your sales?

Watch political and news interviewers on TV. Listen for what’s assumed in the questions. How are the questions framing the context?

Listen closely to the response. Did the interviewee buy into the assumptions? What do you notice that implies something is not right?

Ignore the content of the conversation. It’s not about which political ideology is correct, it’s about how they ask and respond. Notice the persuasive language. Notice the persuasion techniques used to pull you in and believe their side.

Now, if you were creating a map from what they’re discussing, ask yourself “what are they leaving out?”

Since these are examples of persuasive language that can damage your message, you can learn to use them effectively. (I like to use the assumptions of possibility when discussing a competitor. “You could try their product but notice how much more exciting the product we offer is.”). However, use them with care.

I don’t want you to end up like the child saying, “I didn’t mean to do it this time.” We’ll all laugh at you because we know you meant to do it before. And you were caught, again.

What’s your thought?

Image of child by mrgoose
Image of Yoda by ecastro

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