You’re READY! How to Prove Your Competence & Win People Over, with Jack Nasher

You're READY! How to Prove Your Competence & Win People Over, with Jack Nasher

You’re READY! How to Prove Your Competence & Win People Over, with Jack Nasher

My guest is Jack Nasher and he is the founder of the Nasher Negotiation Institute. He’s a leading negotiation expert and one of the world’s best-known experts on deception detection. He went to Oxford and was the youngest appointee to get a full professorship at the esteemed Munich Business School at the age of 31. He’s also now a visiting faculty member at Stanford University.

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He applies his passions for reading people in a number of ways, and now also performs as a mentalist at the world-renowned Magic Castle in Hollywood.

He’s got a new book out. It’s called Convinced: How to Prove Your Competence and Win People Over. We’re going to talk about the book, some of his adventures, and most importantly dig into some strategies to help reinforce that you are confident, you’re ready, you’re worth listening to. So, let’s get to this.


  • Convinced!: How to Prove Your Competence & Win People Over Book 


Jack. Welcome to DREAM THINK DO, buddy.

Thank you very much. Thanks a lot. With that intro, I don’t even have to say anything.

It’s done. We’re already done. Thanks so much for being on the show, Jack.

Yeah, that was good.

Alright. I so want to get into the content of the book because it’s awesome, but you’re a negotiation expert, you are a reader of people, a mentalist. Is this something you’ve always been drawn to? Were you doing this kind of stuff when you were a kid?

Well, yeah. I mean, it’s a skillset. It’s not that I was born with some ability. I wish I were you know? Some aliens kidnapped me and gave me this, but it didn’t happen.

You know, when I was a kid I loved magic. I had a magic set, and I would perform at children’s birthday parties, weddings, and all of that. Then when I studied psychology I found that there is a different sort of magic and yes, it’s called mentalism, and that’s kind of mixing magic with psychology. So, basically it’s using your five known senses to create the illusion of a sixth sense to be able to read minds, to know what people are thinking, and it’s very interesting to see, you know, what you can actually do. How can you influence people?

And I do that on stage, I do that in Hollywood, I do that for various functions and events. It’s fun. It’s just the other side of psychology.

Right. I mean, it is a fun application for a lot of serious science and psychology here.

Well, to be honest, it’s actually more honest negotiations because at least you tell them at the beginning that you’re going to deceive them. Negotiations are not like that.

That’s a great way to look at it. Yeah.

In a negotiation, of course, you want to get the max and you don’t want people to find out that you used psychological tactics and techniques, which you sometimes do, but it’s always up to my clients what they want to use. I’m like a doctor. I’m just telling you what’s possible and it’s up to you to decide what treatment you want.

Yeah. Absolutely. And, I mean, to have the moniker of deception detection. Tell me more about that. How does that work for you?

Well, yeah, it’s interesting because actually, the reason why I got into that many years ago was that I was quite naïve you know? I believed stuff.


And so I thought, “I’ve got to do something against that.” You know? Because I always felt that people could easily take advantage of me. Even though I studied psychology I never heard of any studies concerning deception detection, but then as I looked into that, actually there were hundreds of studies. Paul Ekman is the only one you kind of know, Microexpression, you’ve probably heard of it.

And there was a great TV show “Lie to Me” on Fox with Tim Roth.

Great show and there is a lot of scientific stuff going on that people don’t know about. I read everything about it for a year you know? I kind of made notes for myself, and then I had so many notes and I kind of wrote a handbook for myself and I noticed, “Wow, this is actually a book.”

But that’s when it turned into a book and it was published in many countries; in China, in Russia, in Germany, not in the US interestingly. Because I wrote it in Germany.


Yeah, I lived in Germany at that time.

So, anyway, it was published in many countries and I became this lie detection expert. So, all over Germany they invited me to all of these shows and I had to tell them, you know, is this person telling the truth. They tested me and it worked out really well. I was surprised myself that I could really do it.

And yeah, so I went to almost every TV show here. Switzerland, Austria, so all over the German-speaking world.

I’ve kind of been busy doing that for the last five years now, but my main job is negotiations, helping people and companies negotiate. I just got an email now from a startup. Somebody wants to acquire them, a quite big investor, and they just call me and they say, “Okay, next week we have the negotiations. Please help us.” And I prepare them for a day and tell them all of the psychological dynamics going on, I read the emails of the other side, they tell me what’s going on, and we devise a plan.

And of course, part of this is detecting deceit. Seeing if they are really honest when they say “Well, we can’t pay you more.” Or, “This is our interest.” Is that really their interest? What is their actual interest in a negotiation?

Yeah. Awesome. So, you know, as that example, you’re helping this startup negotiate a potential buy right?

Do you need to be in the room to be able to detect those kinds of things?

Oh yeah. When it comes to reading people, yes, if I want to read somebody of course it helps. I mean, just something about the negotiations usually I’m not involved in the negotiations. Sometimes I am. Sometimes I even leave the negotiation.

I was in Houston, Texas for an oil and gas platform, I was actually leading the negotiation even though that wasn’t planned, but we just had to do it because the team wasn’t prepared, but usually, I prepare the team, and the key to deception detection is asking the right questions.

So, there are some ways to ask the question and look for a certain reaction. If the person is honest there is a certain reaction, and if the person is bluffing, or lying, or whatever you want to call it there is another reaction. So, I tell them, “You ask this question and you look for either this or that reaction.” And from that, you pretty much know.

And what kind of reactions?

Okay, let me give you an example. There is a very typical example. It’s called the bluff question, by a colleague of mine Tim Taxis who came up with this very good question. It’s a rapid-fire technique the Army uses basically, but you can use it for the business context.

Basically, let’s say somebody says, “Okay. I’ll give you 20 bucks for whatever it is you’re selling.” Okay?

So, now you don’t know if the person is honest or not. It could be a bluff right? It could be that they’re willing to pay up to 25. So, now how do you detect the truth whether this is really the last price they have or the last price they’re willing to offer?

So, you ask the bluff question, and the bluff question goes like this, “So, Mitch, if you don’t pay more we’re not going to sell it to you.” Basically, you say from the beginning, “If you won’t pay more we won’t sell it to you. Are you willing to lose the deal because of that?”

Now, I’m just looking to you. That’s not a big deal that question. But two things can happen now. So, are you willing to give up the deal? That’s my question. So, I look into your eyes, two things can happen. Either you can say, “Yeah sure because that’s all I’m going to pay.” Right?


So, if you’re honest that would be your reaction. You would say, “Yeah, sure.” Very naturally.

But, if you were bluffing then I would notice, and if it’s only a second, a split second or two I would notice you, you’re pondering, because a liar is always thinking about the truth and the lie at the same time, and this is quite stressful.


So, I just look into your eyes and if you are lying or bluffing then you would say, “Well, yeah.” Or you would say, “Well, we can…” But I can see that sense. That little, little thing, and it’s really a split second. I mean, we took many, many videos concerning that. When we tested we had simulations.

You can really see it, but I show it on the big screen in my training, and it’s so easy to spot because it’s a very harmless question. You just say that, “Are you willing to walk away because of that price?” And then you just look into their eyes and they either say, “Sure.” Or they say, “Well, yes.” And then you see the bluff, and then you continue with the negotiation.

So, it’s very simple, but it’s hard to come up with such questions, and that really is worth a lot, only that little bluff question.

Right. Absolutely. Having those things in your toolbox that you can lean on so that you’re not having to overthink it so that you can use those things to navigate it. I love it.

Well, I mean, that’s the kind of tools I know that are in your book as well, just the practical aspects of it. The book is called Convinced: How to Prove Your Competence and Win People Over. So, you’re busy as all get out, you’re traveling all over helping organizations, teaching in classrooms, all of those things. Why in the heck write a book about helping people be more competent or show their competence and win people over?

Well, it’s interesting. Basically, this was my master’s thesis back at Oxford University many years ago.

People say, “Well, politician X, Y is good. Senator X, Y is terrible.” Even though they don’t know anything about his or her work. Right? They don’t know anything. They just see him or her giving an interview once a year and say “Yeah. He’s doing a good job.” Or not. But then you talk to his staff, the people who really work with him or her, and they’ll tell you a totally different story.

At Oxford, politician’s came and gave talks, and then we’d talk to their staff members, you know, or interns, and wow. How different their perception is.

And then I noticed that, you know, we have no idea what we’re talking about most of the time. You know, we think we know a politician, but we don’t know anything about them. Same with CEOs. We don’t really know them. We see their public persona. They give good speeches. Was he a good boss? I don’t know.


Why do we say we like someone or not – whether it’s a politician, CEO or a dentist, without knowing much about them? First of all. And the answer is simple; because we kind of have to make judgments, otherwise it would be total chaos our whole life. But the other question is, well, what do we base our judgments on?

So, I did research on that for my master’s thesis back in the day and I found amazing things. I found that even when I talk to you at a distance how far we are away from each other makes a huge difference in how competent I perceive you and you perceive me. Facial expression, my movement, if I’m more enthusiastic that actually makes a big difference when I talk about my subject than if I’m just sitting like that.

When you give a talk you should move enthusiastically because then people will think, “Wow. He loves what he does. She loves what she does.” And it’s such a difference, and that’s amazing, and it doesn’t make any sense because you can be the best in your field and just stand there and just talk and say great things.


Also, volume affects the perception of our competence when we speak. All of this stuff, and as I said, it was my master’s thesis, and then I was always working on it. For the last 10, 15 years I give talks, and I give presentations, academic presentations. I worked on it again and again, and I was always taking notes, changing stuff, and coming up with new studies. Well, the result is this book about selling yourself.

Actually, that is a prerequisite to a good negotiation, especially if you’re an entrepreneur. You know, clients buy from people they consider to be competent.

Banks give money to people they consider to be competent. It’s as simple as that. Competence is the most important trait in the professional context, and yet people don’t know how to rate it, and this book tells you what to do so the other one, the one at the other side of the table, will say “Wow. That’s unbelievable. He or she is the best I’ve ever seen.”

Right. I love the content of the book and focusing on the competence because as I started to take a look at it I was thinking, you know, as an entrepreneur I’m in negotiations all of the time right? But I’m sure a lot of people don’t necessarily perceive, they wouldn’t say, “Oh, my job is all negotiations.” But we are. We’re all in negotiations all of the time with team members, our kids, all of that, and competence is at the core. It’s a really foundational principle. So, yeah, I love it.

I mean, we’re in negotiations all of the time. I mean, just, every argument is a negotiation about who is right. What movie are we going to tonight? That’s a negotiation.

But you know, the problem is that very often that you negotiate about price, you have to negotiate about price, and people come to me and say, “I’m just terrible. Customers only care about low prices.”

But that’s not really true. We don’t always choose the cheapest. This is a big illusion. It’s just a deception that we think it’s all about the price. Why do we think that? Because when we negotiate people say, “Well, you’ve got to lower your price.” And we think, “Ah, we have to lower our price because they said it.” And that’s not true.

And one of the things that’s definitely more important is the sense of security and confidence you give other people in your skills. So, if they perceive you as being great, they are willing to pay so much more for you because they have the sense of security, they have the sense of confidence in you. So, you know, people, of course, will pay much more for that and you don’t even have to negotiate about price.


So, in that sense, it’s a book on negotiations for the lazy so that you don’t even have to negotiate.

Right. I love it. it’s interesting I think because people maybe even hear you say, “Okay. Now, I need to show that I’m competent. I need to show that I’m confident.” But I can think back to early times of my business where that “Fake ‘til you make it” phrase definitely came into mind.

Let me just add something to that because that’s a very good point you just brought up. It’s only the beginner who thinks he knows it all. You know?

I mean, I remember when I got out of university I thought I knew it all. And that was not true, and it’s wisdom to know that we know nothing, as Socrates said.

So, when you’re really good at what you do you have doubts. I mean, that’s why academics who know most about their field they’re always kind of doubt, and pondering, and not so clear, because they know so much. So, it’s actually a sign of wisdom if you know how much you don’t know.

So, how can you project this confidence? And that is one of the biggest issues of the book. How do you do that?

Yeah. Well, let’s talk about that because I do think that that is a big deal because I love that revelation. I mean, that is wisdom to be able to say, “Okay, the more I learn about a subject the more I realize the boundaries of the universe and what I know and what I don’t know just got broader.”

So, what are some of those things of showing our competence even when maybe we’ve got a little wisdom enough to know that we’ve still got some doubts?

One of the things you have to know, and that’s one of the keys of effective leaders, effective entrepreneurs, is that they know their limits. They know that they can’t know it all and you only work within a certain system. We can only have an overview of a certain system. Nobody can see it all. No CEO has an overview of everything, which is why they always hire McKinsey to actually tell them what’s going on in their company.

Right. Yes. Exactly. Yeah.

But, the thing is, good leaders show certainty in an ocean of uncertainty. A political leader once told me, “You know, my job is to show certainty in an ocean of uncertainty because I am a leader, I am somebody people follow, and so I know very little about a lot of things as opposed to an expert.” He told me. “An expert is somebody like a scientist who is working on one topic is somebody who knows a lot about one very, very small topic and a leader is the opposite.” This was when I worked at the UN, and I briefed the politicians, and I thought they were frauds, but actually, they’re not because that’s their job to show certainty in the midst of uncertainty, and that’s one of the things that you have to do.

So, if you’re aware of the fact that you cannot know it all. And yet, you have to take your client by the hand and say, “Hey, don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of it because I’m good at what I do.”


And you are good at what you do. I mean, if you listen to such a podcast if you’re an entrepreneur I’m sure you put a lot of effort in it and you’re pretty good at what you do, and pretty good is good enough in order to do that because there is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Where if people treat you like you are good you will become better because you have a friendly environment. It’s the same if you have a very hostile environment, people just waiting for you to make a mistake, you will make mistakes.

Very true. I heard someone recently say, “We tend to become what we think other people think we are.”

If I think you think I’m an idiot probably I will become an idiot.

Yeah. And I think that goes to something you talk about in the book about setting high expectations, and I thought that was really interesting. Talk with us about the importance of setting high expectations and fulfilling them, but what do you mean when you say that?

Well, I mean, we just know if somebody comes to you and asks you, “Mitch, please do X, Y for me.” And you have to tell him or her how you’re going to perform. You can say, “Well, it’s going to be great. Don’t worry about it.” Or you can say, “Eh, it will be okay.” Or you could say, “Eh, no.”

Sometimes it works out sometimes it doesn’t.

Yeah. “I hope we’re lucky here.” You know? And the Brits love to do that. Under promise, over deliver. You lower the expectation so they’re surprised when it turns out okay, and the question is what’s best for your perceived competence? And there was a great study conducted by two American psychologists, Mark Leary and Barry Schlenker some years ago and they found very clearly that if you evoke high expectations from the start. “It’s going to be great.”

You’re always perceived as more competent even if you fail miserably.


Yeah. I mean, of course, it’s best if it all works out, but even if you predict a terrible result accurately you’re perceived as being less competent than if you had said: “I’m going to be great.” And then the result is terrible. That I found highly interesting.

That really is, and that does go against that idea of setting low expectations and then blowing people out of the water. I think that especially when it comes to the area of establishing competence and showing competence. So, I think that’s awesome.

I mean, think about going to a doctor because you broke your leg skiing and the doctor tells you, “I’m not really good as a doctor. We’ll see how it goes.”

Exactly. “Hope it works out.”

But seriously Mitch, this is what happens in business. People are lowering expectations because they think, “Oh, I’m likable because I’m so humble.” Would you like that doctor? No. You would think, “Why the heck does he have that job? He should do something else.” Right?

So, it doesn’t make you likable. Another psychologist, E.E. Jones from Princeton found that being humble, being modest in the professional context when it’s about your core competence actually makes you less likable because people think, “Why the heck does he do it then?”

Right. So, I’m sure some DREAM THINK DO-ers are like “Yeah, but I don’t want to seem braggadocios.” But you do talk about the difference between modesty and bragging. So, talk us through some guidelines there to help us stay in that area, in the lane where we’re competent and not a jerk.

Yeah. I mean, it’s funny I was just giving an interview for the Wall Street Journal that was about the swagger of CO’s and how important that actually is for a company’s success, and how companies are very shy right now to do that. The thing is this, I’m not talking about bragging, even though even bragging would work.

I remember in Trump’s presidential campaign, there’s no interview without mentioning Trump these days.

No matter if you like him or not, and I don’t want to go into that, but what really surprised me was he did this in an extreme way. Like, you know, in his campaign he said, “I’m the greatest. I’m the best.” And I said, “Come on, come out with some track record or something. This can’t work.” He just said, “I’m the best. I’m the greatest. I’m fantastic.” And wow, it worked. And I would have never believed that it would work that well.

But here we have an extreme example of that, and so you saw if you even get about 50% of the people to like you. I was totally flabbergasted, but you can use it. It’s not about saying “I’m great. I’m fantastic.” It’s about giving the other a good feeling.

Huh. Tell me more about that.

Yeah. You know, people like others who take away their fears because fear is the biggest motivation when people make a choice. Avoiding fear, avoiding loss.


People are scared, and that’s why people don’t choose what they like best, they choose what they fear least. And you don’t have to brag in order to achieve that. You just have to think, “Well, what speaks against me and how can I raise the expectation not by saying I’m fantastic?” Even though you can do that. I mean, confidence, that is good, but you don’t have to. It’s enough if you only target their fears in your communication.

That’s interesting.

But I’ll give you an example. I can give you another example.

When I applied to Oxford University I was already there, but I studied philosophy. So, I wanted to go to the business school for a Master’s degree and I had nothing to do with business, I knew nothing, but I don’t know, I just liked business.

And then I just applied and I thought, “Well, I’m a philosopher/psychologist and they will think I don’t fit into a business program.”


So, I went to London, I bought pinstripe pants. I didn’t have the money for the suit, it was just the pants, and I had a blue shirt, and that’s how I went to the interview, and the first thing my future professor said was, “Oh wow. I thought you would be just a philosopher but I see you fit right in.”

So, basically, it’s just targeting what speaks against you and finding a way to counter that.

Well I love that, and I know, and I’m blanking on who said it, I’ve heard different renditions of it, but it’s that if you know your clients, your customer’s problems better than they do they automatically assume you’re part of the solution.

You were speaking to, I’m guessing, people who are deciding whether you’re getting into the business school or not.


And you show up already looking the part. You’re starting to eliminate those things that they’re worried about without even having to speak to them.

Yeah. Exactly.

Interesting stuff. I love it. We’re going to have to have you come back. So, what’s one last thing if somebody should do – whether it’s a negotiation or just getting up to do a presentation – what’s something that they can do to look confident, look competent? What’s a tool, a strategy, something to keep in mind that’s going to help them, maybe even today?

Right. So, the very first thing is before you go to that important meeting you think about eliminating their fears okay? So, are you prepared to say, “What makes me the choice with the least problems?” Okay, so that’s the very first thing. Once you’re there please show confidence. Show it in your posture as well.

You know, there’s a lot of very interesting studies from Amy Cuddy to Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life where he sites that too, that your whole physique. You should stand up straight with your shoulders back. Really show confidence in every pore. How you speak. Use something known as power language so you make statements that sound like statements


We’ve heard when people speak like that, and this is so bad for your perceived competence, and that was also found by years of research that power talking is the language you use that sounds like you are making points, like you are saying this, A, B, C, and not using unnecessary question tags, not being overly polite. This is very important.

So, in other words, prior to the meeting, you think about what speaks against you, but once you’re there you don’t. You prepare yourself and in your mind, you are the best choice. You are great, you have to prime yourself. Think about your past successes. Prime yourself with the idea. Priming means put in your mind, these thoughts into your mind. Think about the things you did really well. Answer yourself the questions before you go to an interview, whether it’s a job interview or it’s a pitch they’re going to ask you the same questions. So, why do you want to work here? What have you ever done for your last company? What are you good at? What are you bad at? Answer these questions before, and look at the positive answer all of the time. What am I good at? What are my biggest achievements?

So, you think, you are very positive about yourself, you are very confident in yourself, and that’s how you walk in.

I love it. Alright. The name of the book is Convinced: How to Prove Your Competence and Win People Over, author Jack Nasher. Thanks so much for being on DREAM THINK DO!

Thank you.

It’s a fascinating conversation and I love what you’re doing.

Well, thank you very much. Thank you very much for this great interview.

Alright, DREAM THINK DO-ers, what did you think? Fascinating stuff. I hope you enjoyed the conversation. I know that I did. I would say one of the things that Jack talked about I can totally see the reason behind it, and it sounds like the science behind it as well, is speaking to your abilities and being very confident.

And I think we all know there’s a line right? There’s always a line between being confident and showing that confidence, showing your prowess, showing your abilities, and then on the other side of that line is being a jackweed right? Being stuck on yourself, being overconfident, being that person nobody wants to hang out with.

I wanted to have Jack on especially at this time of year because as we’re wrapping up 2018, as we’re getting ready for 2019 I’m guessing there’s going to be some opportunities for you to push yourself right?

To sell yourself.

To show somebody that you’re competent, that you’re ready for that next thing, whether it’s going after a new position, a new dream, a new relationship, whatever that might be you.

So, I’m hoping that Jack’s insights will help push you, and maybe even in some ways push you outside of a comfort zone a little bit. Maybe you don’t feel 100% ready, but you feel 90% ready, or 80% ready, and that’s enough to take that step forward, and that’s what I hope you do.

So what’s something you’re going to apply from Jack’s strategies?  Leave a comment and let me know. I can’t wait to hear from YOU!


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