Influence: How To Influence Others by Combining Visualization with Procedural Thinking

“If you paint in your mind a picture of bright and happy expectations, you put yourself into a condition conducive to your goal.”
– Norman Vincent Peale

How To Influence Others by Combining Visualization with Procedural Thinking

Why are the ‘for Dummies’ guides so successful?

Perhaps it is because many people like to have things spelled out for them in such a way that they can visualize how they would proceed, ‘step-by-step‘ – i.e. as if they were dummies.

Of course they aren’t dummies, but having such a step-by step guide offers re-assurance that they haven’t missed anything.

Why We Like ‘How-To’ Guides

This kind of need for re-assurance is natural in most people.  Being able to visualize ‘how’ you would do something, exactly how you would do something is a very powerful mechanism indeed.

In NLP* terminology, this is referred to as ‘procedural thinking‘, i.e. when people want to find out the right way to do a certain thing, step-by-step.

In sales, customers will often ask for the ‘How’ as part of the buying process, “How does it work?”, “How do I use the product?”, “How do I get support if it doesn’t work?” etc.  In most cases these questions will be part of their criteria for buying the product – i.e. they will make their buying decision based on being satisfied with the responses to these questions.

More specifically they will make their buying decision if they can clearly visualize a workable solution to their ‘How’ question.

Breaking Down Complexity

People often need a step-by-step process for doing things. 

Particularly when things get very complex. 

We can be overwhelmed with the apparent complexity of a thing or concept until we are given a step-by-step way through it. Such procedures are like maps that we can mentally follow to find our way.

Let Me Spell It Out For You…

I just realized that a ‘How To’ article explaining how much we like ‘How To’s’ probably needs a really specific example detailing how to do this 😉

I do give a few more examples below but here is a very specific example from my own recent experience…

Yesterday we had a plumber fit a radiator in our little cottage (our bedroom didn’t have one until yesterday since I split our room in two to make a bedroom for our daughter).

When the plumber came to take a look at the job and give me a quote, he described in detail where he would lay the pipes, how he would get access to run the pipes where they needed to go and what the finished result would look like. He also told me exactly how long the job would take and how much it would cost.

In other words, I was given a step-by-step run down of what the job would involve, what the risks were, how much disruption there would be, how long it would take and how much it would cost, so that I could visualize the job actually being done and what it would look like when it was finished.

By managing my expectations and providing me with the ‘How’ of the job, my buying decision in the above example was made much easier. Happy with the price quoted and the step-by-step explanation of the job, I agreed right away.

Just three days later we are very happy with our new radiator and that plumber has another satisfied customer who would gladly recommend him or use him again.

Now Use This Information To Motivate Others

With this information about the thinking process, you can use it to motivate others to act.

For example, if you want someone to use a new application on their computer, show them how it works – give them a brief demo – or even better, step-by-step instructions down to the most basic actions for one of the more useful tasks or functions of the program. Think of the TV adverts which ‘show’ how products are used – these are powerful motivators because they let the audience visualize themselves using the product.

In a business meeting, paint a picture by exploring with someone the steps they would take in a given scenario.  When that scenario arrives they will feel more comfortable because they have visualized it previously and are therefore more prepared for it. In this case, it may be important to consider the level at which this visualization takes place, but again, offering step-by-step solutions to possible scenarios can help significantly to influence and sell an idea to others.

Final Thought

A task may seem immense and unmanageable – but when you break it down into many smaller pieces with clear step-by-step instructions, the path becomes clear and the task seems altogether easier and completely achievable.  It may take time, but by breaking things down into more clearly understandable components, the impossible becomes possible, suddenly we understand ‘how’ to navigate our way to getting the entire thing done.

Helping people to see and believe in a proven and effective procedure to do something is a very powerful motivator. Try this kind of ‘picture-painting’ technique when it feels appropriate to do so and you should see some immediate results.

* – Neuro-Linguistic Programming


Influence: How To Influence Others by Combining Visualization with Procedural Thinking — 3 Comments

  1. You’re so right. When you break things down step by step, you turn them into these little chunks of information that become so much easier to understand. As a whole, things can be complex and hard to understand, but broken down become simpler.

    I’ve learned something similar to this being a teacher. We call it scaffolding. It’s when you break a complex task down into smaller parts so a complex project becomes just a series of simple steps. It becomes even easier for people to understand if you model things which is kind of what you did by giving your example.

    • Hey Steve,

      I hope all is going well over there in Morocco (are you still there?)…

      Scaffolding… I like it.

      And there was me thinking that meant ugly iron bars against the side of your house 😉

      There is also a concept known as ‘chunking’ in NLP terms which is all about breaking problems down (or the opposite in the case of someone being too much in the details) – i.e. ‘chunking up’ and ‘chunking down’ (which I know sounds like it could mean something else too).

      … and don’t get me started on Modelling. I love Modelling (not that kind of Modelling!)

      • Yeah, I’m still in Morocco. I’ll be here until a few days after the new year. I’m picking up a lot of French, seeing sites when I can and of course teaching. And I’ve been doing scaffolding lately too as part of that teaching. It’s all good.

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