“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
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 visualise 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 visualise ‘how’ you would do something, exactly how you would do something is a very powerful mechanism indeed.
In some NLP* literature, I have heard this referred to as ‘procedural thinking’, i.e. when people want to find out the right way to do a certain thing.
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 visualise 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.
Now Use This Information To Influence 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 visualise 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 visualised it previously and are therefore more prepared for it. In this case, it may be important to consider the level at which this visualisation takes place, but again, offering step-by-step solutions to possible scenarios can help significantly to influence and sell to others.
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