Sunday, 25 September 2016

Psychology of Cold Calling

About a year and a half ago I moved from the world of psychology and mental health into the world of recruitment, sales and corporations. They are two very different places. When I started recruitment, I genuinely thought I could get the edge on other consultants and competitors simply through my knowledge of psychology and human behaviour. In all honesty, this just hasn’t been the case. All apart from one area – the mind set in cold calling.
Cold calling is probably one of the most anxiety provoking things a human being can do. No one likes cold callers. I hate them, people that knock on my door, people that call me off a private number, I really hate them. You know nothing about me, why in god’s name did you chose me out of all the people in the world to sell your hair drier to.

This is what goes through my head each time I pick up the phone, smile, and dial. I am the enemy, the time waster, the awkward person phrasing a question in a way that is difficult to shut down, keeping you on the awkward call way longer than you anticipated. I know the person down the other end of the line doesn’t me to call them. They are high level executives making really important decisions on an hourly basis and they definitely don’t want to hear from me.

When I or any recruiter starts thinking like this, they have already lost….

One of the things my mentor said to me the other day made all the sense in the world. “You can talk yourself out of making a phone call”. I quickly realised within my first couple of months that any successful recruiter is going to have to constantly challenge their negative automatic thoughts. When these anxiety provoking thoughts start to creep in I challenge them with the following questions:

1.       Will I die by making this phone call

2.       Genuinely, what is the worst that can happen if this call doesn’t go well

3.       I am not doing business with this company currently, so it genuinely doesn’t matter if this call goes poorly

4.       They have no idea how I can help them, this isn’t a cold call, this is a chance for me to explain how we can help their business going forward

5.       They get calls like this all the time, it comes with their territory

The worst thing a cold caller can do is not pick up the phone. If you talk yourself out of one call due to fear, and then follow it up with the behaviour of not picking up the phone to make a difficult call, you are on a slippery slope. You won’t pick up the second difficult call and it escalates to you starting to avoid mediocrely difficult calls.

All of this experience revolves around the core ideas of CBT. How you think (cognition) and how you behave (behaviour).

To implement these psychological ideas and improve your calls and confidence, you must see yourself as a scientist conducting an experiment. Here’s how your experiment should go: when you go to make a difficult call, note down all the difficult automatic negative thoughts that come to mind, note down all the imagery and horrible things you think could happen, note your level of anxiety and fear out of 10 (10 being the worst anxiety and fear you ever experienced to 0, no fear at all). Then, after all this is noted, make the call.

After the call, go back over all the difficult things negative things that went through your mind and see if they actually materialised. Also, now note your level of fear and anxiety. It’s probably less than the number before the call, mostly because it didn’t end up being an anxiety provoking experience at all, or at least less anxiety provoking. Essentially if a funny way, making the call cures your anxiety.

 If you look around your sales office/recruitment office, you will notice that the people that are not afraid to pick up the phone are the same people that have been there years and years. They have experienced thousands of phone calls and carried out these experiments over and over again, although probably not consciously, but have unconsciously realised that in making a call, their fears and anxiety provoking thoughts never ever materialised.

My advice is simple, check the thoughts that go through your head. Check if they are accurate? Do the thing you are afraid of. Make the tough calls, that’s where the biggest business is, if some client tells you to “fuck off”; it’s not your fault, you have no idea what was going through their head that day. The most successful recruiter if your office would have gotten the same response. People have bad days.

Recruitment is a game for confident, hardworking, funny and positive thinking individuals. Successful recruiters, genuinely share all four traits. They don’t care about being rejected, they take humour from it. Being told to “fuck off” (rarely happens, in fact, it has happened to me once in one and a half years) makes them laugh, they put down the phone and announce “good chat”. This is a mind-set they developed over time, the game has moulded them. They unconsciously understand CBT. They have carried out enough experiments.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

The Psychology of Power and Corruption

One of the central questions concerning power is, who gets it? Researchers have confronted this question for years, and their results offer an argument against the Machiavellian view of power (the idea that people who are willing to manipulate, deceive, backstab, intimidate, and undermine others to get power, usually get it). Instead, research reveals that a person’s ability to get power, even in small group situations, depends on their ability to understand and advance the goals of other group members. When it comes to power, social intelligence i.e. reconciling conflicts, negotiating, smoothing over group tensions always prevails. It is the more outgoing, energetic and socially engaging individuals who quickly garner the respect of their peers and quickly rise through the ranks of social and business hierarchies.

But what are the psychological reasons behind this idea? Researchers believe it comes down to this: “we accomplish most tasks related to survival and reproduction socially (together), from caring for our children to producing food and shelter. We give power to those who can best serve the interests of the group”.

“Social intelligence” is essential not only in rising to power, but in keeping it. Dr Cameron Anderson studied the structure of social hierarchies within college dormitories over the course of a year, examining who is at the top and remains there and who falls in status. He consistently found that it is the socially intelligent individuals who keep their power over time. In more recent work, Cameron has found that modesty may be critical to maintaining power. Individuals who are modest about their own power actually rise in hierarchies and maintain the status and respect of their peers.

So what is the fate of Machiavellian group members who are willing to deceive, backstab and intimidate others in their pursuit of power? Researchers find that these individuals don’t actually rise to positions of power. Instead, their peers quickly recognize that they will harm others in the pursuit of their own self-interest, and tag them with a reputation of being harmful to the group and not worthy of leadership.

Power Corrupts.

Interestingly, studies also show that once people assume positions of power, they’re likely to act more selfishly, impulsively, and aggressively, and have a harder time seeing the world from other people’s points of view. Simply put, the skills most important to obtaining power and leading effectively are the very skills that deteriorate once we have power.

For instance, studies have found that people given power in experiments are more likely to rely on stereotypes when judging others. Predisposed to stereotype, they also judge others’ attitudes, interests, and needs less accurately.

Research has also found that power encourages individuals to act on their own whims, desires, and impulses. When researchers give people power in scientific experiments, those people are more likely to physically touch others in inappropriate ways, to make riskier choices and gambles, to make first offers in negotiations and to eat cookies like the Cookie Monster, with crumbs all over their chins and chests.

Perhaps most unsettling is the wealth of evidence that suggests having power increases the likelihood of our leaders fulfilling the symptoms for a diagnosis of a sociopath. High power individuals are more likely to interrupt others, to speak out of turn, and fail to look at others who are speaking. Surveys of business organisations find that most rude behaviours, like shouting, swearing and blunt critiques, emanate from the offices and cubicles of individuals in positions of power.

Possibly going a little too far, one researcher suggested that people with power tend to behave like patients who have damaged their brain’s orbitofrontal lobes; a condition that seems to cause overly impulsive and insensitive behaviour. So through gaining power, you also lose that part of your brain which is critical to empathy and socially appropriate behaviour!


This leaves us with a power paradox. Power is given to those individuals who advance the interests of the greater good in a socially intelligent fashion.

Yet unfortunately, having power renders many individuals as impulsive and poorly attuned to others needs, making them prone to act abusively and lose the respect of their peers. What people want from leaders is social intelligence, but ironically, this is exactly what is damaged by gaining power.

Lord Acton once said "Absolute power corrupts absolutely"….

If you want to gain and maintain power, please take note.

Friday, 21 March 2014

I love what I do

This one is a little different. Recently things have been hard. I am the type of person who believes winning is of the uth most importance, I hate losing. But over the past few months things haven’t been going my way and I have lost more than my fair share of battles. I recently began comparing myself to others, my friends are all beginning their professional careers and are getting well paid for it. They have wonderful lifestyles and live in exuberant locations. Me, I’m a 26 year old, underpaid assistant psychologist. I live in the middle of nowhere, far away from friends and family…. I constantly say to myself that I need to change career, that I would receive a much higher reward for my efforts elsewhere. Considering the amount of work I put in, I would certainly already be successful in another field….

But then little things happen. When I go to work, money leaves my thoughts. I can honestly, hand on heart say, I have never looked at the clock and said “hurry up 5 o clock”. People’s lives are in my hands, people self-harm in front of me every day. People who have a mother, a daughter, a brother and who have been successful in their own lives……

 I have been spending time with a person with dementia (a progressive illness where a person’s memory, language and other cognitive abilities slowly deteriorate, and there is very little you can do to halt this progression; there is no cure). This guy (let’s call him George, he’s 60 years of age) struggles to communicate with anyone, has no idea where he is, sometimes he thinks he is at work. But at some level (in my subjective opinion) George knows he is deteriorating and knows he is in a mental health hospital. Because of this he can spend days with his head in his hands slouched over in the corner of a room, highly depressed. His family want nothing to do with him. George has no friends outside of hospital. He is in hospital until he dies. George can say two words, “yes” and “no”…. So six months ago I began to find out about this man, George likes art and David Hockney. I started to spend time with him. All I did was sit with George and talk about art. I used to bring in pictures of his favourite artist's work and blabber on about what I liked about the picture, what it meant for me…. I began to notice that over time, George’s reaction to me when I arrived to see him became more emotional. He now cries when I enter his room. But for others, the big improvement is George’s communication. He can now say full sentences, he can ask for a drink when he’s thirsty (before this he used to beat the shit out of people because he was dehydrated and didn’t have the ability to communicate he wanted some water. It used to take up to 5 people to restrain him). He now spends time painting. But for me the biggest improvement is that George doesn’t spend his days hunched over in the corner of a room with his head in his hands, and depressed. Instead he sits up proud… George wasn’t a patient referred to me, just someone I took an interest in. All I did was stimulate his brain by helping him to reminisce over art work and probably connected past times. This all stimulated his long term memory, George’s cognition, and is probably why he is now able to talk…. This all links to why he is now proud again, he was a successful human being, a successful artist, and like me, a winner that hates losing... Apparently dementia is a progressive illness..... It's the big things. I love what I do.