How to Make People Do What You Want

First, you need to learn what THEY want.

Welcome to One Thing Better. Each week, the editor in chief of Entrepreneur magazine (that's me) shares one way to level up — and build a career or company you love.

Sponsored by Pollen, the professional development network for independent consultants.

Today’s one thing: Fighting with someone.

That one thing, better: Giving them what they want, strategically.

Made with DALL-E

Someone is bothering you — but you can’t seem to change them.

Maybe it’s an annoying colleague, a stubborn boss, or a challenging client. Maybe it’s a loved one who just doesn’t seem to want what you want.

You’ve nudged. Pushed. Perhaps even pleaded. Nothing works. 

Today, I’ll give you something new to try — and it might change everything. In fact, it might even make you both happier!

But before I share it, I’ll tell you how my mom used this tactic to solve a years-long problem... with a dog.

Stop doing that, Charlie!

That’s Charlie. He’s 11 and lives with my sister and her family. Charlie is a good dog — sweet, listens well, is patient with kids.

But Charlie has one big downside: When he spots other animals on a walk, he goes nuts. How nuts? Well...

My parents live near my sister and sometimes walk Charlie. He’s yanked both of them to the ground, as they gripped his leash tight. One time, Charlie lunged at a cat — and broke my dad’s finger.

Does Charlie know this is bad? Hard to tell. He’s certainly been told! But a decade’s worth of “No Charlie! Bad Charlie!” does not break this habit.

Because of this, my mom is (understandably!) nervous about walking Charlie. But last week, she decided to try something new. She took Charlie on a walk and brought some treats. Here’s what she wrote me in an email:

When I noticed a dog coming down the road, I let Charlie smell the treat in my hand. Then as the dog got closer, I told Charlie to sit. He did, focusing on my hand. The dog walked past us and Charlie only focused on the treat. Wow!

This happened three times! A man even complimented Charlie's behavior! A well trained dog, he said! Now a simple modification allows me to walk Charlie stress-free. I even took him for a three-mile walk by myself the next day. No anxiety for me!!!

Any thoughts on applying this to other life situations?

Clearly, my mom reads this newsletter. Because yes — this totally applies to other life situations.

As I thought about it, I realized that my mom had done something simple and brilliant. I’ll give it a name...

The “Even More” Principle

Let’s hit pause on Charlie for a moment, and instead think about people.

Here are three truths:

  1. Everyone has desires.

  2. Sometimes they act on those desires.

  3. When they do act on those desires, everyone else is forced to react.

For example, let’s say you have a manager. And let’s say that manager wants to know how your project is going. That manager will act upon that desire, and ask you for an update. Then you (and maybe your team) must react by producing an update.

Now let’s say the manager wants even more information and becomes a micromanager. Now you must produce more updates and suffer under this great annoyance.

OK. Simple enough: Desire, act on desire, others react to action.

Now here’s where it gets interesting: Yes, everyone has desires — but everyone has a hierarchy of desires. And if you know what someone’s hierarchy is, then you can take control of a situation.

All you need to do is ask: “What does this person want even more?” 

How to Use “Even More”

Let’s go back to the manager. The manager is asking for constant updates and becoming a micromanager. It’s annoying.

So let’s ask the most important question: “What does the manager want even more than updates?”

The answer here seems clear. The manager may be asking for singular updates, but that’s not what the manager wants the most. The manager really wants to be in the know — to feel involved, heard, and in control.

Now that you know this, you can provide it — on your terms.

I’ve been in this exact situation multiple times. I proactively increased my communication, sending lots of emails and updates. Then the manager felt satisfied and in control, they trusted me more, and they started to leave me alone.

This isn’t about being manipulative. It’s about understanding underlying motivations and deeper needs. Because once you know what someone wants even more, you have a better chance of getting what you want too.

That’s what mom my did with Charlie.

In the past, the dynamic was simple: Charlie saw another dog, he wanted to run toward that dog, and my parents had to hold him back. Charlie acted, and my parents reacted.

Last week, my mom essentially asked: “What does Charlie want even more than running toward other animals?” The answer was treats.

When my mom offered him treats, she gained his full attention. He sat patiently and waited, even as another dog walked by. My mom acted, and Charlie reacted.

Imagine how that scales.

Have an annoying client who’s never satisfied? OK, what do they want even more than the thing they’re harping on? Surely there’s some priority of theirs that isn’t being addressed — and it’s more important to them than whatever they’re complaining about.

Have an overly critical family member? OK, what do they want even more than being critical? Surely there’s some emotional need that they’re trying to express — and it’s more important to them than whatever they’re critiquing.

Have a business partner who’s asking for unreasonable things? OK, what do they want even more than the stuff they’re asking for? Surely there’s some larger goal at the root of their requests — and if you know that, you can find better solutions for them.

This is how you change the dynamic. It isn’t by challenging someone else’s desires — because when someone wants something, they’re not often dissuaded. 

Instead, it’s by identifying what they want even more, and then taking control.

It works with dogs. It works with babies — every parent has learned to redirect a child! But it works in larger, more complicated ways too. You just need to think about the larger, complicated person you’re dealing with. They want things. So do you.

So the question is: What do you want even more than fighting them?

That’s how to do one thing better.

How to Be A Successful Solopreneur

Sponsored by Pollen

Are you a solopreneur? You must hear my friend Nir Eyal’s advice on making it work. He’s an absolute genius about habits and human behaviors — and he’s hosting a free fireside chat on April 16th from 8-9 pm EST.

Learn how to make your time count as an independent. Discover the keys to a focused and fulfilling life and career. It’s happening in partnership with Pollen, a vetted professional development community for independent consultants — so you know it’ll be good!

RSVP now for this insightful session.

P.S. Want to be on the cover of Entrepreneur magazine? We’re launching a new award called “Entrepreneur of 2024,” and the winner gets on the cover. Will it be you (or your clients)? Apply here.

P.P.S. Did you miss last week’s newsletter? It was about how to accomplish a lot — when you don't have everything you need. Read!

P.P.P.S. Want to talk? I’m about to announce my March community call dates — this is when our community of professionals gets together for workshops, networking, and to swap tips and advice. Join now and you’ll get the update this week!

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