The [Almost] Gym Disaster… and Influence

communication exercise humor influence leadership leadership development marketing storytelling May 30, 2024

I’m not proud to say it, but I once made an old person fall at the gym.

Before you think I’m the worst person ever, let me explain.

Late one evening after I finished a challenging workout, I returned to the locker room to grab my clothes and head home. Except for one problem: somebody was already changing in the stall where my locker was.

That meant I was stuck until they were finished.

“No worries, I’ll wait.” I thought to myself as I sat patiently on a bench. But after several minutes, I wondered, “What is taking so long?”

People were coming and going in the locker room, heading home for the night, but I was being held hostage (with increasing impatience) by some person who was taking their sweet, sweet time. “Why don’t they get a move on?” I wondered with frustration.

After some time, I heard the latch turn, and the stall door began to open. FINALLY! I let my angst get the better of me and impatiently hovered by the swinging door like a person trying to get on a subway before everyone has gotten off.

What I saw took the steam right out of me.

First, I noticed the cane. Next, the stooped and careful shuffle of feet. And finally, the thickly rimmed glasses framing a kind face. This old gentleman had been getting dressed as fast as his aged body would let him.

I felt like an idiot. All that impatience sure seemed pretty stupid.

That’s when things turned for the worse.

Surprised by my sudden (and agitated) appearance, the old man lost his balance and began to fall backwards into the stall. With images of ambulances and angry paramedics flashing in my head, I quickly reached out, grasped his arm, and leveraged my body weight to steady him.

Crisis averted.

However, something more important happened on a much deeper level. In that INSTANT, ALL of my feelings of frustration evaporated. All of my feelings of self-pity and anxiety over being “stuck” were gone. Instead, intense compassion and understanding flooded my senses.

Realizing he hadn’t fallen, the man thanked me, regained his composure, and carefully made his way to the exit with the audible tap tap of his cane. As I stood there watching him leave, I realized something in me had changed in a profound way.

What does this have to do with influence?

Often, when we are trying to influence someone, its ultimately to get something that WE want. WE want to make the sale. WE want to get hired. WE want them to choose us.

We need their compliance to meet our goals.

Ahem…would you like a mint for that “commission breath?”

But when people DON’T act how we want, when they DON’T hire us, or buy the thing, we may get impatient, and think, “Why don’t they get a move on?” And like a person hovering by a Subway door, we may make a wrong step, look like a complete idiot, and lose a critical opportunity.

But what if we asked ourselves, “How is this person ‘falling’ in their life?”

How is this company trying to keep itself stable by posting this job? What feeling of desperation is driving this person to make this purchase? Where are they afraid of falling over, and looking for a steadying hand?

I believe changing our focus from COMPLIANCE to CONNECTION changes everything.

I heard it once said that the GREAT SECRET to selling yourself and your services, is to first have a profound sense of empathy for the person you are trying to influence. Then, and only then, can you speak to them in a way that they will trust, believe… and ultimately… choose you.

We’ve all felt when someone is “just trying to make a sale”. Personally, it makes me want to take a shower afterwards because it feels so icky and gross. But we’ve also felt when someone is sincerely wanting to help you get to where you want to go. And afterwards? You want to sing their praises from the roof tops.

“When you resolve a service need, all you’ve created is a transaction. When you resolve an emotional need, you’ve created an advocate.”- Brian Buffini

So next time you are trying to stand out and influence someone to choose you, consider, “How is this person ‘falling’ in their life?” And as you reach out to offer value and connection (instead of compliance) you’ll find they will support you far more than you support them.

How do you build connection and rapport with new people? Respond and let me know!


CHRISTIAN HANSEN has gone behind the scenes in some of the biggest organizations in the world to find out the reasons why some people get chosen and why others don’t. As the #1 bestselling and LinkedIn Top Ten ranked author of “The Influence Mindset: The Art & Science of Getting People to Choose You” Christian helps teams and organizations who want increase their earning potential by standing out from the crowd and influencing people to choose them. With degrees from Brigham Young University and The London School of Economics, he’s helped thousands of individuals position and sell themselves. A fan of international communication, history, and choral music, he currently lives in Utah with his wife. Reach him at:

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