Many learning programs provide tools for Influencers – coaches, sellers, negotiators, leaders, healthcare providers, managers, and consultants – to help clients make the changes they seek. Coaching programs teach how to recognize what the client is ‘really’ saying and offer the best techniques to help. Doctors offer reasons and rationale as to why patients need to change daily regimens. Negotiators seek the BATNA. But all tools have one thing in common: they assume that the Influencer controls the change.
I believe something different: I believe that because of everyone’s unconscious, subjective, historic, normalized biases and identity-based beliefs, there is no way to know what’s going on in Another’s unconscious. In other words, it’s a risk for Influencers to be the arbiters of congruent change in Another.
I believe all elements of change must be discovered and maintained by our clients themselves. I believe we must take on a wholly different job: instead of influencing change, I suggest we lead others through to their own route to change via their relevant brain circuitry, time frames, beliefs, criteria, and unconscious drivers and develop new neural circuitry for new, permanent behaviors.
Instead of Influencers, let’s be Facilitators – neutral navigators who enable Others to discover, and design, their own answers, their own unique brand of excellence. But we need an additional skill set and focus. Let me explain.OUR SUBJECTIVITY IMPEDES SUCCESS

The problem with outside Influencers is twofold: our subjectivity causes potentially erroneous outcomes (1-4 below); the outside-in approach runs the risk of stripping our clients of their own capability and self-leadership (5).

1. Both client and influencer listen through unconscious, subjective biases and mis-hear, mis-interpret, mis-represent, misunderstand, confuse, resist, and sabotage accordingly. That’s just a fact: our communication partners rarely fully or accurately understand what’s been said, regardless of the importance of the message or our intent at clarity.

When researching my book on this subject (see What? did you really say what I think I heard?)   I was quite shocked (and annoyed) to learn how little we correctly understand of what our communication partners mean to tell us, regardless of our training, knowledge, intuition, attention, or intent.

Inadvertently, each end of a communication is mired in subjective listening biases and cannot – cannot- hear the Other without some element of partiality because our thoughts and ideas come from, and are restricted by, our historic brain synapses and pathways. And because of the speed and unconscious nature of how words are interpreted in our neural circuitry, our brains don’t even tell us how, exactly, they’ve altered what we think we hear. Net, net we end up with no way of knowing just what we’re missing.

I must admit I was quite annoyed to learn this, believing passionately in my ability to ‘really listen.’ Unfortunately, our brains don’t allow it. In his new book, The Undoing Project Michael Lewis says: “…the mind’s best trick…was to lead its owner to a feeling of certainty about inherently uncertain things.” (pg 42) “Confirmation bias is…insidious because you don’t even realize it’s happening” (pg 40). We actually, unwittingly, hear what we want to hear. And this, says Lewis, is especially true of Experts.

2. Because Influencers pose questions according to their subjective biases of what they think should be achieved, they potentially miss huge swaths of necessary information embedded in a client’s brain and not necessarily retrievable with a standard question. Unfortunately, discovery is then restricted and biased according to the chosen words and filters of the Influencer who’s biased judgment (‘intuition’ and ‘gut reaction’) may overlook clients with a different set of beliefs and biases.

3. Our status quo – the internal, unconscious, subjective rules, identity, beliefs, and experience – is systemic and will resist change unless beliefs and long-held unconscious rules shift to incorporate and accept anything new.

Regardless of its efficacy, any change – new ideas, advice, behaviors – needs buy-in from the areas within the (brain) system that created and maintain the problem we seek to fix (status quo) and will be affected by the change.

When systems are asked to change without marshaling belief-based buy-in, they will resist or sabotage (regardless of the efficacy of the change) rather than be disrupted. And don’t be fooled: any change demands a reconfiguration of any number of seemingly unrelated internal issues.

4. Information, requests, facts, don’t teach a system how to change and potentially reroute our client toward our biased goals, potentially missing their own. Our advice, ideas, new activities, etc. become little more than a push against a system designed to maintain itself. And of course, it’s resisted.

5. We all recognize that only people can change themselves. And yet tools Influencers use to ‘understand’ or ‘manage change’ (i.e. conventional questions) are often based on the Influencer’s ‘intuition’, ‘gut’ feel, historic experiences, and behavioral approaches to address change.

But this outside-in approach is successful only when the Other’s system shows up ready, willing, and able to shift – usually not something folks can do when we meet them.

By being responsible instead for guiding them through their own systemic change, lead them consciously through the neural circuitry that causes their choices and behaviors, everyone can discover their own workable answers and congruently shift the structure of their own internal change.

I know I’m stepping on toes here, and many of you are thinking ‘I understand how to help my clients! I’ve been doing this for years!’ I can’t tell you how many hundreds of conversations I’ve had with leaders and coaches and managers who believe everything I’m saying – for another person.

But no Outsider, no coach or doctor or influencer, can know what clients mean when the Influencer can’t be aware of the role of the client’s unconscious drivers that passionately fight to maintain the very actions they caused. Sure our clients will try valiantly to ‘do’ (behave) in ways we suggest, only to fall back on old patterns after we’re gone.


Behaviors are the action, and formal representation of, our Beliefs – our Beliefs in action, as it were: without accounting for and reorganizing the intricate system of beliefs, criteria, history, and rules that have created the problem, any requested behavioral change that isn’t a direct output from the brain runs the risk of being temporary or resisted. Having a dialogue or session based on content or need or problem-solving – all behavioral – cannot effect change without causing resistance.

But Behaviors will automatically change once the Beliefs change. As a very simplistic example, I reorganized my input messaging and changed my resistance to going to the gym. When I shifted my Identity to become a Healthy Person, going to the gym (I hate it) became the Behavior that was one of the outputs, the actions, of my Belief; when I want to sleep-in I ask myself, ‘Are you a Healthy Person today?’ and if the answer is ‘No’ I happily sleep in. Thankfully, it’s almost always ‘Yes’. If I had started out thinking I needed to go to the gym because my coach and I agreed it was healthy, I certainly would have stopped going after a while because there was no systemic buy-in or unconscious driver. I’ve actually developed a How of Change™ model that teaches how to reorient our brains for new outcomes.

Change comes from the unconscious, from neural circuits and 86 billion neurons that have stored our history, our ideas, our behaviors, since birth and have ready circuits they prefer. Behaviors are merely the manifestation of the change, the output, not the focus. And you can’t permanently change behaviors by changing behaviors.

I suggest Influencers instead become Facilitators, Facilitators who trust that Others have their own answers.


Facilitators can help Others make their own unconscious changes that are permanent, congruent and happily accepted. Let me respond to the original list above:

  1. Let’s become Neutral Navigators and help Others get to their own unconscious system to find a route to congruent change that’s acceptable and avoids inadvertent, biased, subjective blocks.
  2. Instead of posing biased questions or gathering data based on our own assumptions – both of which run the risk of restricting possibility – let’s help Others ask themselves their own most appropriate questions and lead their brains to where their answers are stored. I’ve developed a new form of question I call Facilitative Questions that are systemic and formulated to traverse the route of the brain to engage the unconscious in the exact right places.
  3. Since everyone’s status quo is systemic, self-perpetuating and self-maintaining, let’s enable the Other to discover why, how, and when to adopt their own type of change. That way we avoid overlaying our subjective biases that might cause them to miss their real inflection point.
  4. By eschewing ideas, suggestions, recommendations, and advice until the Other’s system is ready, we can enable Others to traverse the route to change through her own unconscious system and we can truly serve as healers and Facilitators – without bias. It might not end up looking like we imagined, but change will happen idiosyncratically, permanently, and congruently.
  5. As Facilitators and Servant Leaders, we can enable congruent, permanent, effortless change, and people can be the designers of their own transformation.

I know that Influencers take pride in understanding another’s needs. But let me suggest that no matter how good you are, you’re not good enough for every situation: your current skill sets only work on those who show up with beliefs, values, ideas, and change-capability similar to yours, and whose unconscious is readily accessible; those whose beliefs differ or cannot get to their unconscious drivers won’t achieve long-term success. This is where/how you lose clients, or your implementations fail.

People can’t accept information that doesn’t match the way their unconscious system functions. Let’s teach them how to recognize and recalibrate their own system so it can be congruent, adaptive, and seek excellence.


Facilitators hold different beliefs than Influencers:

  • People can only change themselves. A Facilitator’s job is not to understand or fix, but to enable Others to make their own unconscious, systemic, appropriate change. Nothing is broken: clients only need to find the route to their own best answers and then, only when the system agrees it needs change – and that, my friends, demands a complicated internal unraveling. Otherwise, we take away their power.
  • It’s necessary to listen for systems – for the underlying metamessages – rather than for content which is subjective, incomplete and murky. So ixnay your curiosity-based, biased questions. Remember: conventional listening is wholly subjective. The more you listen for what’s said, the less you’ll hear of what’s meant.
  • It’s important to enable Others to go down their own route to change – not yours. They might be slower, or incomplete, or go in a different direction than you’d recommend. But it’s not your call. You’re just there to facilitate their excellence along the route of their own change process.
  • You’ll need a new toolkit. If you aspire to facilitating real change, you’ve got to save your information gathering, or timelines, or any of the tools you’ve been using until toward the end of the exchange once your client has discovered their belief-based, unconscious, drivers.

I’ve invented a new form of question (Facilitative Questions) that leads people through their brain circuitry to find their unconscious answers. These, along with listening for systems and assuming Others have their own answers, will go a long way to truly serving.

  • I’ve developed a generic model that does this (Buying Facilitation®) that I’ve been teaching in the sales and coaching fields for 35 years. Read some of the articles up on my blog

Here’s a simple case study. I recently got a call from a coach friend Joe who works with companies to help their staff be ‘better’. Joe’s client Susan retained him to help Louis who, with a long history as a terrific employee, couldn’t seem to do his newly assigned job although he knew he’d be fired if he didn’t comply. She wanted Joe to coach Louis in an attempt to save his job.

After 3 months of working together, Joe had the same non-compliance problems with Louis – he’d promise to do something and then not do it – and before getting him fired he figured we’d talk to see if there was anything he missed. We agreed to do a role play, with him playing Louis. I asked that he take on Louis’s personality using the data he’d gleaned from their coaching, and use his best guesses as to how Louis would respond if I posed different questions than his. Here was our role play.

SDM – Hey Louis. Before we begin, I’d love to know how you feel about Susan assigning me to coach you without your consent. [Note to Influencers: having clients who are prisoners, who have not agreed to the process, sets up automatic resistance.]

JOE/LOUIS – Well, I would have loved to have chosen my own coach, but I’m aware Susan is unhappy with me, and I’d like to keep my job, so I’m happy to comply. I realize everyone wants to help me.

SDM – If you find you don’t like working with me let me know and we’ll find you someone you’re more comfortable with.

JOE/LOUIS – Thank you. I appreciate it.

SDM – So I hear that Susan asked you to take on some new tasks that you’ve agreed to but so far haven’t yet achieved successfully. [Presumptive Summary] And given your history of being an excellent employee, I’m sort of surprised. What would you need to know or believe differently to find it easier to do this new job or discovery clarity where you find yourself resistant? [Facilitative Question that avoids blame, confines the two ends of the possibility spectrum, points him specifically to where to seek the corresponding beliefs and unconscious drivers in his brain, begins to get him into his Witness place to see the situation from above without bias, and avoids judgment.]

JOE/LOUIS – I’d need to know what success would look like. I don’t feel any resistance – I’m happy to do it, but no one has shown me what it would look like if I was achieving success as well as I do in my current job. I was hired originally to do X because I do it well. Now they’re asking me to do stuff I can’t do as well. What if I fail? I’m not competent in this new job. They say it doesn’t matter for a while, but what does that mean? What if I take too long? Plus will the person taking over my current job do it as well as I do it?

SDM – It sounds like you’ve made promises to do the new job without understanding what doing them at your preferred level of excellence would look like, or what failure looks like. And I hear how important an excellent job performance is to you – especially your discomfort at leaving your current job to someone who might not do it well. And you certainly don’t know the expected timeline for you to be excellent. [Presumptive Summary.]

JOE/LOUIS – Right. I guess when I promised to do the new job I meant it. But I just realized I have no picture of what ‘good job’ looks like, or the time frame I’ve got to get good. [The problem is his lack of vision of excellence and fear of failure, not willingness.]

SDM – And it sounds to me like this is not a conversation you’ve had with Susan or I’m sure she would have happily complied. [Presumptive Summary] What has stopped you from telling Susan you’d need to better understand what ‘excellence’ looks like, her expectations for your learning curve, and how to leave your current job in good hands? Or even to ask for someone who now does the new job excellently to coach you through your daily activities? [Facilitative Questions mixed with summary statement and information he needs.]

JOE/LOUIS – If I ask her what a good job looks like and her expectations of my learning curve, tell her I’m afraid I won’t initially be as good at the new job as I am with my current job, and my need to have my current job handled well, we could set up stages of learning and timelines for me and I’d be comfortable moving forward and possibly failing.

This dialogue would have occurred as our first coaching session and might have only needed a quick follow up. Joe was surprised at the outcome, and the differences between our outside-in/inside-out approaches. He certainly was surprised at how much data he had unconsciously gleaned from Louis during his conversations but hadn’t known to use.

“I concentrated on helping him ‘do’ what Susan wanted him to do, and never considered helping him figure out how to manage the problem his own way. The answers I found myself giving you were a surprise to me, even though I suspect they were pretty accurate.”

In his session, Joe had concentrated on finding out why Louis wasn’t compliant and creating timelines of activity – the doing – without helping Louis recognize and manage his own unconscious beliefs and drivers which biased his behaviors. But I didn’t need to know why or why not he didn’t do what he promised – it’s all subjective, and ultimately a guess. I enabled him to find the place where he made decisions to act/not act – the real problem – and then lead him through to his own action plan that he would obviously be congruent with.

Here’s the question: do you want to lead the change? Or enable the change to happen congruently? You’d need to trust that the best outcome would be achieved – most likely different from the one you envisage – and put aside your ego, your need to be The Problem Solver and professional tools for a bit. If you want to truly serve, help Others discover their own path.

Serving Others is an honor. Let’s use our position to enable Others to change in their own ways and be their own Teachers. They do indeed have their own answers if we can help them find where they are stored. We might think we have an answer for them, and sometimes we do. But that’s not the point. Let’s become Servant Leaders.


Sharon-Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). Sharon-Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. She can be reached at

May 23rd, 2022

Posted In: Communication


I’ve read that some leaders and project managers prefer not to collaborate when engaging in a new initiative because they fear losing control. I even know decision makers who start their information gathering before involving the full complement of those who will implement.

What sort of success is possible when one source is driving change without the express buy-in from the group? Without the full group providing vital input? I believe that until there is true collaboration and buy-in, and everyone understands the implications of any change, the group

  • may potentially sabotage a project because of their own biases, causing
  • outcomes and creativity restricted to a specific set of possibilities that may not meet the full group’s criteria,
  • work from biased or insufficient data from a restricted set of sources, and
  • risks alienating those involved.


To ensure the best data is available to make decisions with, to ensure all risk issues get managed, to ensure consensus throughout the process, we must have these questions in mind:

  • How will we share, collect, and decide on the most appropriate ideas, choices, and alternatives? How will we know we are working with the most relevant data set?
  • How can a leader avoid prejudicing the process with her own biases?
  • How are collaborators chosen to ensure maximum representation? Are some stakeholders either absent or silent? How can we increase participation?
  • How can we recognize if we’re on the path to either a successful outcome, or the route that sabotages excellence? What markers should we be looking for along the way?

Let me define a few terms (albeit with my own bias):

  1. Collaboration: when all parties who will be involved in a final solution have a say in an outcome:
    a. to offer and share ideas and concerns to discover creative solutions agreeable to all;
    b. to identify and discern the most appropriate data to enable the best outcome.
  2. Decision making:
    a. weighting, choosing, and choosing from, the most appropriate range of possibilities whose parameters are agreed to by those involved;
    b. understanding and agreeing to a set of variables or decision values and knowing how these will effect the ongoing functioning of the system.

I’ve read that distinctions exist between ‘high collaboration’ (a focus on facilitating an agreeable route to the most congruent solution) and ‘low collaboration’ (leading from the top with rules and plans that match the needs of some).

Since I don’t believe in any sort of top-down initiative (i.e. ‘low collaboration’) except when keeping a child safe, and believe there are systems issues that must be taken into consideration, here’s my rule of thumb: Collaboration is necessary among all involved in order to identify accurate data gathering and consensus for any sort of implementation, decision, project, purchase, or plan that requests people to take actions not currently employed.


Here are the steps to excellence in collaborative decision making as I see them:

  1. Assemble all representative stakeholders to begin discussions. Invite all folks who will be affected by the proposed change, not just those you see as obvious. To avoid resistance, have the largest canvas from which to gather data and inform thinking, and enhance the probability of a successful implementation, the right people must be part of the project from the beginning. An international team of Decision Scientists at a global oil company recently told me that while their weighted decisions are ‘accurate,’ the Implementation Team has a success rate of 3%. “It’s not our job. We hand them over good data. But we’re not part of the implementation team. We hear about their failures later.”
  2. Get buy-in for the goal. Without buy-in we lose possibility, creativity, time, and ideas that only those on the ground would understand. Consensus is vital for all who will touch the solution (even if a representative of a larger group lends their voice) or some who seem on board may end up disaffected and unconsciously sabotage the process later.
  3. Establish all system specifics: What will change? Who will manage it? What levels of participation, disruption, job alterations, etc. will occur and how it be handled? What are the risks? And how will you know the best decision factors to manage all this? It’s vital to meld this knowledge into the decision making process right up front.
  4. Specify stages to monitor process and problems. By now you’ll have a good idea of the pluses and minuses. Make a plan that specifies the outcomes and probable fallout from each stage and publish it for feedback. Otherwise, you won’t know if or where you’ve gone wrong until too late.
  5. Announce the issues publicly. Publish the high-level goal, the possible change issues and what would be effected, and the potential outcomes/fallout. Make sure it’s transparent, and you’re managing expectations well in advance. This will uncover folks you might have missed (for information gathering and buy-in), new ideas you hadn’t considered, and resisters.
  6. Time: Give everyone time to discuss, think, consider personal options, and speak with colleagues and bosses. Create an idea collection process – maybe an online community board where voices are expressed – that gets reports back to the stakeholder team.
  7. Stakeholder’s planning meeting. By now you’ll know who and what must be included. Make sure to include resisters – they bring interesting ideas and thinking that others haven’t considered. It’s been proven that even resisters are more compliant when they feel heard.
  8. Meet to vote on final plans. Include steps for each stage of change, and agree on handling opposition and disruption.
  9. Decision team to begin gathering data. Now that the full set of decision issues and people/ideas/outcomes are recognized and agreed to, the Decision Making team is good to go. They’ll end up with a solid data set that will address the optimal solution that will be implemented without resistance.
  10. Have meetings at each specified stage during implementations. Include folks on the ground to weigh in.

These suggestions may take more time upfront. But what good is a ‘good decision’ if it can’t be implemented? And what is the cost of a failed implementation? I recently heard of a hospital that researched ‘the best’ 3D printer but omitted the implementation steps above. For two years it sat like a piece of art without any consensus in place as to who would use it or how/when, etc. By the time they created rules and procedures the printer was obsolete. I bet they would have preferred to spend more time following the steps above.

Here’s the question: What would stop you from following an inclusive collaboration process to get the best decisions made and the consensus necessary for any major change? As part of your answer, take into account the costs of not collaborating. And then do the math.


Sharon-Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). Sharon-Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. She can be reached at

May 16th, 2022

Posted In: Communication


If you are a therapist or coach, manager or consultant, you’ve been schooled to be a guide, a mentor, and accept the conventional one-up/one-down, inferior/superior power juxtaposition. People come to you for answers and give you the authority and trust to help them find solutions they couldn’t find on their own.

During a recent conversation with a coach who prides himself on Always Being Right! (Clients who don’t heed him are told to go elsewhere.) and wondering who would choose him as their coach, I began thinking about how Helpers go about helping, and why clients often ignore their suggestions.

I believe there’s an ‘accepted practice’ problem here: Helping professionals use questions to obtain information from clients to ‘understand’ the identified problem so they can then ‘help’ them find solutions.

But – and I know this is an unusual thing to say – conventional questions are so biased that they don’t necessarily help Helpers uncover accurate data, causing Helpers to sometimes unearth inaccurate or unhelpful answers. To make matters worse, even the way our questions are interpreted is suspect. Let me explain.


So many of us – healthcare providers, sellers, coaches, leaders – truly want to help Others find their best outcomes. In this article, I’ll provide a much-simplified explanation of how brains cause behavior change, explain where much-appreciated skills fall short, and introduce you to new skills that can facilitate permanent change without resistance. And I’m aware that discussions about brain chemistry aren’t always on the top of everyone’s reading list, so I’ll try to make this painless to provide a few take-aways.

I’ll begin with the ‘big picture’ and explain how our brains cause us to do what we do, based on my decades developing systemic brain change models.

Simply, our brain is an enormous database that captures and organizes the data from our lives, stores it in circuits, and uses it as the foundation from which to make decisions.

Each of us operates from historic, unconscious, and unique neural configurations, stored as memory in 86 billion brain neurons that hold our history, our ideas, our values and from which our decisions and behaviors arise. Obviously, we each think and act uniquely. Obviously, no one else has access to our brain circuitry; no one else has our life story or history; no one else can ‘get in there’.

Technically change occurs when the unconscious brain components that cause and maintain the problem at hand get reconfigured. Behavior change is a brain problem.


I’ve spent decades unpacking how brains are organized to develop facilitation models that enable real choice. I’ve discovered that to achieve permanent change, Helpers must enable clients to locate the underlying components that caused the identified problem and reconfigure them in a new way that resolves the problem AND conforms with the unique norms of the individual.

And herein lie the problem: standard questions and usual listening practices steer the Other to where the Helper, using their own unconscious assumptions and curiosity (even though they’re sometimes accurate), thinks the answers are stored and possibly miss where actual answers reside.

Once I realized this, given I see myself as a professional coach, trainer, consultant, I began developing questioning and listening models that use brain change as their foundation.

I also discarded my role as a Helper in the normal sense of the word and become a Decision Facilitator, to facilitate Others through their brain maze to find the precise, unconscious, memory storage circuits where their own answers may be hidden. This not only truly serves but enables people to find the full complement of elements that must be reconsidered to easily develop new behaviors with no resistance. And it avoids the power imbalance problem.


Change is systemic, not as simple as merely doing something different. Indeed, new behaviors are OUTPUTS that result from new neural reconfigurations that must not only be created but must integrate with what’s already there – the existing core values, mental models and Beliefs – or the new will be resisted. Too often, Helpers omit the entire systems element and merely try to change behaviors.

You see, because brains are set up as systems, and all systems conform to an agreed-upon set of norms, any change request represents a difference, a threat. This is the problem with noted change management models – they forget to align and get buy-in from the person’s core systems and merely attempt behavior change. It’s like trying to get a backward moving robot to move forward by explaining, questioning, and showing videos; the robot must be reprogrammed.

Without taking this into account, by trying to change a behavior by trying to change a behavior without getting buy-in from the system, people will resist, or not maintain, the change. Knowing a ‘good’ solution doesn’t mean it’s possible to implement it congruently or over time.


To truly help, Helpers must facilitate Others through their brains to congruent, systemic change. Here are the reasons people have difficulty finding internal answers and making decisions.

Brains: The time it takes to figure out, to unearth and gather, all the criteria needed to make a decision that leaves the system congruent is the time it takes to act on it. No, they’re not dragging their feet; they’re trying to change congruently.

See, the brain’s 86 billion neurons are stored and labelled in ways that may be difficult to consciously access. In fact, words or ideas don’t even enter brains with intended meanings attached but as meaningless sound vibrations (Neuroscience actually calls words ‘puffs of air.’) which ultimately get turned into the signals that then get dispatched to circuits that will translate them into meaning.

The problem arises in the translation process. The neural dispatch unit (the Central Executive Network, or CEN) dispatches these incoming signals to a ‘similar enough’ set of brain circuits for interpretation. To make the process fast (It takes five one hundredths of a second for the entire process.) the CEN chooses the quickest route to translation circuits, almost always a frequently used superhighway that may only have a tangential connection to the original signals and intent.

Let me say this again in a different way: all incoming words get translated by whatever circuits the CEN chooses to send them to without our agreement or knowledge! And these circuits don’t always represent the best translation.

Most of us aren’t aware that our thoughts, realizations, understandings, are merely versions of what our brains have already translated for us. That means whatever ‘new’ enters is biased by our history, translated according to what’s already there, and has a hard time being accurately understood.

Unfortunately, curiosity-based questions meant to ‘gather data’, are restricted by the Helper’s assumptions. Sometimes Others uncover the exact data we need in order to help them. But sometimes our questions direct the client’s brain to an unhelpful answer, and something more valuable remains unretrieved.

To help Others find precisely where the necessary data is stored, Helpers must have NO assumptions, NO biases, and NO belief that we have anyone’s answers. All we need is to send Others to the right circuits where their answers are stored. And for this, conventional skills don’t work.

Listening: Given that listening is hampered by the ‘brain circuit translation’ problem it’s near impossible for anyone to listen without bias regardless of how well they ‘listen’. And it gets worse: The circuits that receive the signals from the CEN for translation mechanically discard the ones that aren’t an exact match….and they never tell us!

Net net, people only hear some fraction of what a speaker means and assume they’ve ‘heard’ accurately! Obviously, this problem applies to both Helper and client!

To avoid biases and misinterpretations, to help Others discover where their answers are stored, Helpers must listen differently and don’t assume they ‘understand’ what’s been said. I actually developed a process called Listening for Systems, which bypasses our assumptions and hears what’s intended.

If you’d like to learn more I wrote a book on the subject: What? Did you really say what I think I heard?.

Questions: This one is the most uncomfortable for Helpers. Conventional questions are formulated to elicit data as per the needs, intent, languaging, curiosity of the Asker. Given our clients listen unconsciously with subjective ears that may not match the Helper’s intent, or know where the unconscious answer is stored, it’s quite difficult to elicit accurate data.

To this end, I spent 10 years inventing a new form of question (Facilitative Question) that foregoes data gathering per se and instead leads Others to the brain circuits and memory channels to precisely where the appropriate data is stored. If you go to my site I explain how I invented them and provide descriptions and articles.

By posing unbiased, systemic questions that lead brains to appropriate circuits, by listening without assumptions, by trusting everyone has their own answers, we can truly serve Others beyond any natural biases we might have.


The new job of Helpers is to begin with the assumption that clients may actually have perfectly good answers stored in some place where their brain isn’t looking.

Here’s a simple example of a recent coaching interaction. [For an in depth discussion of how, please contact me. Happy to discuss.]

A coaching client complained she was unable to get into her Witness, or Observer (Observer offers choice: a meta experience with a broad view and unbiased options), and too often responded inappropriately from her ‘Self’ place (No choice: an automatic response from a biased superhighway).

I began by suggesting she notice if she had any history of going into Choice/Observer. Turns out, she frequently went into Observer when her kids were little (A skill all of us have as parents, I might add, or our kids would rarely make it to adulthood!).

I then helped her recognize the unconscious triggers that brought her into Observer with her kids, how to feel/see the triggers in her body, notice how to make them conscious at the moment they went off, then we created a mind/body trigger to alert her to the need to redirect the automatic response and go into Observer. And from then on, she had a permanent ability to access Observer on demand.


Unfortunately, this skill is not taught in coaching schools or MBA programs which continue to teach to ‘be aware’, be ‘open minded’, take a ‘different perspective’, ask ‘probing’ questions to ‘give the Helper the information’ they need to ‘help’. But as you now know, neither standard questions or conventional listening will always collect accurate information.

When Helpers try to have answers for Others, our track record is spotty: clients use some of our suggestions and ignore others because they may not have gotten to the core (and unconscious) factors that caused the problem to begin with.

And because our advice ultimately brings Others up against their own shadow, their own inabilities, their need to go beyond their own capability for help, they push the Helper away regardless of the length or success of the relationship. Inadvertently, because no other way has been developed to professionally help Others, we infantilize our clients.

I know that most coaches, leaders, managers, and Helpers truly want to serve Others. Please consider shifting your goal and learn new tools. I’m happy to help. I’ve developed new skills for Helpers (coaches, sellers, managers, healthcare providers, therapists) to enable folks to discover and create their own answers while reducing the power imbalance and bias, as well as learning tools to teach you how to listen without bias and pose Facilitative Questions. Please contact me in case you’re interested in learning how to do this, and we can all Help as true Servant Leaders.


Sharon-Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). Sharon-Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. She can be reached at

May 9th, 2022

Posted In: News

Listening skillsThere’s been an age-old argument in the communication field: who’s at fault if a misunderstanding occurs – the Speaker communicating badly, or the Listener misunderstanding? Let’s look at some facts:

1. Speaking is an act of translation: putting into words what’s going on internally (the unspoken feelings, needs, thoughts) to enable others to understand what we wish to share. But the act of choosing the words is largely unconscious and may not render an accurate representation to our Listener.

2. Listeners translate what they hear through a series of unconscious filters (biases, assumptions, triggers, habits, imperfect memory) formed over their lives by their:

  • world view
  • beliefs
  • similar situations
  • historic exchanges with the same speaker
  • biases on entering the conversation (like sellers listening exclusively for need).

To make things worse, sound enters our ears as electrical and chemical vibrations (Neuroscience calls words ‘puffs of air’) that are turned into signals in our brains and then get matched for commonality with existing circuits that carry ‘similar-enough’ signals. Then our brains translate what’s been said according to our history, leaving us ‘hearing’ some fraction of what was intended.

Not only are we inadvertently listening subjectively (the only way we have of interpreting meaning is via our existing circuits), but because the brain discards unmatching signals without telling us, there’s no way of knowing what parts of what’s been said have been omitted or misconstrued.

So we might hear ABL when our communication partner said ABC! And because our brain only conveys ABL, we have no way of knowing it has discarded D, E, F, etc. and have no option but to believe what we thought we heard is accurate! No wonder we think others aren’t hearing us, or are misunderstanding us purposefully!

3. According to David Bellos in his excellent book Is That a Fish In Your Ear?, no sentence contains all of the information we need to translate it. And this, too, obviously provides a great opportunity for our brains to make stuff up…without telling us.

Obviously this results in impediments to hearing others accurately: even when we want to, even when we’re employing Active Listening, or taking notes, the odds are bad that we will accurately understand what our communication partner intends to tell us and instead hear a message we’ve unintentionally misinterpreted.

From the Speaker’s standpoint, Speakers may not be using the best languaging patterns for our communication partner, and wrongly assume we will be understood.


Since communication involves a bewildering set of conscious and unconscious choices, and so much activity is going on automatically in our brains, sharing mutually understood messages becomes dependent upon each communication partner mitigating bias and disengaging from assumptions. Each communication partner, it seems, can take responsibility, albeit in different ways.

While researching my book What? Did you really say what I think I heard?  I realized that the responsibility for effective communication seems to be weighted in the court of the Speaker. But given that Listeners are at the effect of their unconscious brains regardless of how carefully a Speaker chooses their words, what must Speakers do to be understood accurately?

It’s an interesting problem: since Listeners believe what they think they hear is accurate, they have no idea what the Speaker intends to convey and there’s no way they can know if what they’ve heard (through the fog of circuits, neural pathways, misunderstandings and misinterpretations) is accurate.

So, to answer my original question, because the Listener has no way of knowing what’s been mistranslated, the Speaker is the one who must notice through the words and verbalization of the Listener’s response, as well as body language where possible, that the Listener has misunderstood, and choose a different way to convey their intent.

If it seems the Listener might not have understood fully, the Speaker can then just say,

“Can you please tell me what you heard so I can say it better in case there’s a misinterpretation? It seems to me you might have misunderstood and I want our communication to be accurate.”

That way you can keep a conversation on track and not assume the person just isn’t listening.

And, if as a Listener you want to make sure you heard and responded accurately, ask:

“I’d like to make sure I heard you accurately. Do you mind telling me exactly what you just heard me say so I can make sure we’re on the same page going forward?”

Using these tactics, there’s a good chance all communication partners will go forward from the same understanding.

Here are the questions we must answer for ourselves in any communication: As Listeners, how can we know if we’re translating accurately? Is it possible to avoid bias? As Speakers, are we using our best language choices?

As you can see above, the odds of communication partners accurately understanding the full extent of intended meaning in conversation is unlikely. The best we can do is figure out together how to manage the communication.


Sharon-Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). Sharon-Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. She can be reached at

May 2nd, 2022

Posted In: Listening, News

In 1996 my sister called to say she’d made an online purchase. I was surprised: in those early days it was not only difficult to search for anything on the new internet, there wasn’t much to search for. Certainly, purchasing anything seemed illogical – we had no way of knowing if ‘secure lines’ were, well, secure. Curious, I asked my sister to explain her decision process.

J: I needed a simple Y connector, and decided to see what online purchasing was all about. This was my test case. I found three companies with the exact same product at the same price.

SD: How did you choose which company to buy from?

J: Since the price and products were identical, I decided I’d trust the company with the best customer service so I’d be cared for if I had a problem. Because none of the websites mentioned customer service, I decided to call them and ask. The first company kept me on hold for 23 minutes before I hung up. The second call put me straight through to a voice message. A sales rep answered my call in the third company, asking me if I had questions. So it was an obvious choice. There was only one company that took care of me.

I then realized there were three problems with the current (1996) search capability:

  1. Site visitors had only a haphazard method of finding what they wanted;
  2. People occasionally didn’t recognize their unconscious criteria for resolving their query, even if they could find what they initially thought they wanted;
  3. Sites could only meet the search criteria imagined by the site designers, sometimes overlooking criteria sought by visitors.

In other words, if people were happy with the information they were able to find on a site, they were satisfied. For those folks not entirely clear what they needed, couldn’t find the page matching their search criteria, or had needs outside the obvious, there was a probability they couldn’t find what they really needed and would leave the site.


I decided to create a tool to help site visitors become aware of the unconscious criteria (i.e. not just the information, but the subconscious, essential criteria they needed met) they needed and be led directly to the page(s) that offered the exact answers they sought. And in 1996, no one else was thinking this way.

Enter Hobbes. With a few sequenced Facilitated Questions (a new form of question I invented that directs brains to specific circuits that hold their unconscious criteria), a simple backend tree, and carefully culled choices of criteria-based options, my search tool Hobbes helped site visitors discover their real criteria and led them to the one or two site pages that met their needs.

For those who chose to use Hobbes, this would keep them on the site and help them become buyers or satisfied visitors. It would also cause companies to do their homework to learn what visitors truly needed and add those responses to their sites.

Of course, this was way outside of normal, especially for 24 years ago – 3 years before Google search came out. Yet 54% of site visitors on my site used it.

I tried to get funding for it and was offered $15,000,000 by the only woman VC in Silicon Valley IF I could find $1,000,000 from someone else (a man). Nope. Only 1% of women were receiving funding in those days.

Not to mention I kept hearing that no one needed a search tool for ‘criteria’. Silly idea, I was told countless times. No one makes decisions from criteria.

And the concept died.


You all know what happened next. Google search entered and the rest is history. But about 15 years later, the folks at Bing called, saying they’d heard about Hobbes and could they buy it. I shared the original site design. Yay! Loved it. ‘We could start using this immediately! What a great idea to help people uncover their unconscious criteria and help them make decisions quicker.’

But then I got a call back the next day: the team hated the concept. ‘Why would anyone want to use a search tool that didn’t seek out information the way Google did?’ It was the accepted norm and ‘no one would want to do anything different’.

And so the perceived wisdom has prevailed, and now the whole world accepts the one way we’ve been offered to search the net. Imagine if we had choices.


Before I continue my story, let me stop for just a moment to give you a thumbnail sketch of who I am.

When I was age 11 I recognized that I think differently than others (I was diagnosed with Asperger’s when I was 61, explaining why my way of making sense of the world – in systems – provided me a more holistic understanding than folks with standard brains who think sequentially.). By experiencing several ‘strands’ of awareness simultaneously, it was obvious that to make a decision on anything required a prioritization of my brain’s hierarchy of values, my criteria.

Wanting to show up as normal, I began what would become my life’s work: coding the systems involved with how brains cause us to make choices; I figured out how to sequence the sequence steps of decision making that match our unconscious belief-based criteria, and cause us to do what we do and think what we think.

Since then, I’ve used my understanding of brains, systems, and decision making to develop several original models that fac ilitate systemic brain change:

  • I invented (and wrote the NYTimes Bestseller Selling with Integrity on) a wholly new model Buying Facilitation® for sellers to use to facilitate the Pre-Sales, change management end of buying decisions that closes 8x more than using sales alone;
  • a new way to listen that avoids bias;
  • a new form of question that leads brains to unconscious criteria for efficient decision making;
  • a model for coaches and leaders that leads people through the steps their sequenced steps of decision making to make change efficient;
  • a way for folks seeking permanent behavior change to change their brain circuits.

All of my models are outside the box, outside of mainstream, and provide innovations in several fields. And as with Hobbes, because they go against perceived wisdom, I’ve often struggled to find folks willing to adopt them even when they prove, in controlled studies with major corporations, to be more successful than the standard models.

Success, it seems, is not the criteria. Innovations – as wonderful as they’re made out to be – are not accepted readily: they buck the system, go against the norm.


My Hobbes story provides a background for my newest grumble about innovation and how normalized thinking limits our worlds, rules our assumptions and restricts creativity.

I’ll begin with my definition of perceived wisdom. PW is another way of saying ‘the norm’, the accepted myths, practices, ideas that constitute the immediate assumptions we make without questioning them. It’s the accepted convention, the ideas we’ve used to set up our lives, our thinking, our work environment – our internal, idiosyncratic systems or rules and history and expected behaviors.

PW is perpetuated in every sphere of our lives. We learn it as infants and it permeates our education, cultures, religions, what we buy and wear, who we marry and where we live.

Our thinking, our behaviors are often based on accepted norms that have become ubiquitous: * Do you avoid white after Labor Day? (Silly) * Do you feed a cold and starve a fever? (Wrong) * Calories-in determines weight (proven false). * Behavior Modification works to help you lose weight, exercise, change habits, yadayada. (There’s no scientific evidence anywhere that it does, plus you can’t change a behavior by trying to change a behavior) * Do you fail to display a contact number on your site to collect names for marketing outreach – assuming people will fill out your form and accept your spam? (Thereby turning away folks with real interest who refuse to fill out those things.) Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. I once asked my mother if she nursed me. ‘I would have, but everyone said it would harm you. And now I’m sad about it.’

PW meets our foundational criteria of belonging: it offers comfort, safety, absence of uncertainty, and no risk of encountering scorn or derision. And because PW is aimed toward the middle of the road (where, according to the late, great, Molly Ivins, only yellow stripes and dead armadillos exist), we spend our lives unwittingly maintaining and recreating a specious status quo that causes us to lose our uniqueness.

PW keeps us locked in. Our language, our conventional assumptions, keep us like gerbils, going round and round the same ideas and conventions regardless of their success or failure. So

  • in sales, a 5% success rate is acceptable, and the matching 95% failure rate is not even mentioned – folded in to the costs as a ‘given’ because the model itself is flawed and hasn’t been reconceived in a century;
  • in leadership and coaching, the assumption that the person ‘in charge’ has the knowledge that Others must conform to, and their resistance is something to be managed, resulting in a 97% failure rate;
  • in training, that continues to use information-in – a model that doesn’t integrate with brains and causes an 80% failure rate.

Even great Harvard thinkers like Chris Argyris and Howard Gardner have written books on managing resistance, using the baseline assumption that all change involves resistance. Nonsense. Another faulty fact we’ve normalized and have cost us dearly.

While we think our personal beliefs are specific to us, they are invaded by the PW in the customs we live in. It’s where we get our racial biases, our assumptions about education, class, age, history. We’re so hamstrung by PW we’ve become tribes, where our politics and beliefs keep our ‘team’ on the good side and we hate everyone else, like sports fans.

And since it’s endemic we find no reason to reject it, even going so far as passing down these baseless concepts through generations and unquestioningly resisting anything that’s different. But worst of all, it restricts our creativity. Indeed, from health, to sex, to climate change and politics and relationships, almost every area of life is circumscribed by PW. It’s pernicious.


How PW restricts our worlds is a huge topic, involving our health and healthcare system, our financial system, the environment, education, privacy – the list goes on. But because the topic is so important, I’m going to show you how limited we are in one sector – internet search – and how our worlds get shoved into tiny vessels as a result.

To begin, PW has kept our search use hamstrung, a vehicle to monetize our use and restrict data. PW assumes, even expects, our personal data will be extracted to send spam.

It didn’t start out that way, but as monetization and demographic compartments became ubiquitous, we don’t even notice. Most of our online interactions are now suspect: even simple searches lead us to knowledge selected by algorithms that contain us to the demographic we’ve been thrust into, causing facts to seem like fake news.

Our use of Google as a search engine is ubiquitous. This company, more than any, determines what we read, the information we have access to (the full range of data available only after dedicated search and rescue), the news in other countries. Even scientific facts are fed to us according to where we live, who we vote for, what we read.

And here’s the worst part. Google’s standard monetizing procedures tag us into a demographic and sells our personal data to thousands of advertisers who spam us. Rarely do we find the full range of possible solutions, answers, or ideas. I recently was led to a site that seemingly had the data I needed only to receive a phone call WHILE I WAS STILL LOOKING AT THE SITE from a sales person FROM THAT SITE who wanted to sell me something!

Surely we should care about accurately nourishing our curiosity without fear of spam and Robo calls.


One other aspect of PW bugs the hell out of me, and that might supply answers to my ‘whys’: Have you realized that men – the male human of our species – designed, developed, and generated the internet and social media – and continue to do so? The PW is the male view of the internet; we use it (and it abuses us) by the requirements, the criteria, of men. And we all buy into it.

How different would it be if women’s voices and ideas – currently a tiny fraction of the design of the internet – had been involved in the creation of our technology? Has the male viewpoint become so much a part of our culture that we all just assume that’s the way it is and should be (PW), and never stop to consider the results if women played their representative percentage in designing it?

Seriously: how would the internet or social media be different if it had been designed by women? Or designed by 50% women? Or designed in equal measure by people of color, people from different cultures, people of different levels of education. We’ll never know. What we do know is that the internet is the Perceived Wisdom of White Men in Silicon Valley. And we’ve normalized it as being The Way It Is.


We’d like to believe that the internet and social media are the glue that stimulates the flow of information around the world. Yet we don’t have full access to it and it’s vulnerable to manipulation. Why have we come to accept this? Why is it ok to have our curiosity monetized? Why is PW so deep-seated that we sit back and allow it? Where are the voices that scream in the empty space where new ideas and creativity and innovation once lived? Are we all that lazy? Or don’t we care?

I can’t believe that people with terrific ideas – innovators! –  aren’t grousing as I am. Yet none of us are doing anything about it. Why do we put up with this? Is our criteria for belonging so fierce that we’re willing to give up our personal criteria to be all we can be?

I wonder how search would have been different if Hobbes (or something like it) were one of the search tools we all had at our disposal – the ability to freely search for what we wanted to know, plus the ability to make sure our criteria were being met on each site we visited.

And I wonder why companies aren’t putting service, putting people, before data extraction. Site designers are now inundated with requests to add ‘questions’ to their sites that allow them to grab data to send out god-knows-what. Always trying to push, to sell, to influence; always outside-in, using the criteria of the sites about pushing data enough times to instigate a buy.

The internet and search are now normalized, locked in place by our groupthink, maintained by the needs of Silicon Valley. But there must be a way we can find solutions that are both ethical AND make money. The internet, search, can be used for problem solving, not divisive rhetoric or monetization, for collaboration instead of discord. And yet we shame people who tell the truth because they don’t follow PW.

What if our companies shifted their criteria toward excellence, and sought to make money the old way, by offering great solutions and service. Why wouldn’t sites want to spend their time/energy proving to site visitors they’re trustworthy, creating companies people want to engage with – facilitating user service instead of data extraction? What if the company criteria were integrity: to help visitors be served. I, for one, immediately disengage from sites trying to pull data from me.

Our perceived wisdom is faulty. And until we begin thinking differently and stop acting as if PW is true, it cannot change and we will not readily accept innovation.


Of course, going outside the box is hazardous. After recognizing the craziness of PW in several industries, I find myself writing articles yelling “But seriously! You have no clothes on!” and getting beat-up on, ridiculed, ignored and made stupid. But disputing PW is vital:

  1. Obviously, there’s nothing in the middle of the road except yellow lines and dead armadillos. Who would want to be there anyway?
  2. New ideas can’t come from the middle. New ideas always come from the ends.
  3. There’s no debate, curiosity, creativity, free expression in Perceived Wisdom.
  4. Things change. Time, ideas, technology culture. Wisdom must change too or we stagnate.
  5. Perceived wisdom is linear. Real life occurs in systems.
  6. Perceived wisdom is what u get when everything is thrown into the middle and becomes moderate enough to please most. Vanilla.

New ideas come from the ends – ends that are loud enough, insistent enough, and interesting enough to push into the middle, eventually change, and become part of, the PW. But getting there – the journey – is the creative part. And those of us willing to take on the job must have very tough skins. Instead of our criteria being comfort, we must shift our criteria to truth and integrity, collaboration and serving.

What, exactly, is so powerful about perceived wisdom whole industries (healthcare, sales, coaching, leadership) prefer to suffer failed strategies rather than add anything new to ensure success? What would we need to believe differently to be willing to question our long held assumptions? How can we tell if a long held assumption is wrong, or incomplete, or could be expanded, or worth thinking of something different? And how would each of us need to be different to be willing to hear fresh ideas and new voices that seemingly conflict with all we think we hold dear?

The good bit is that going against the norm is fabulous. I’ve been doing it for many decades, and the rewards make up for the pitfalls. I urge anyone with original ideas, passion for truth, and a hunger for diversity, creativity, and integrity, to shout that the perceived wisdom is wrong, and put forth

  • Diversity of ideas,
  • Fresh ideas from different cultures, ethnicity, countries, educational backgrounds,
  • True creative thinking that pushes industries (sales, coaching, leadership, listening, change) to new vocabulary and (slowly slowly) new thinking,
  • Expanded possibilities for innovation,
  • Ideas that inspire other ideas that wouldn’t have otherwise been stimulated.

If our criteria is for better, more authentic ideas, for equality and integrity, we must go outside PW where innovation comes from. PW is merely the group/tribe acceptance of the status quo that has been standardized by the masses. Let’s all be innovators; let’s all shout out new truths and challenge the norm. And let’s all listen to the dissenters because they may be shedding light on new truths.

Let’s discuss this. I’m happy to discuss should anyone want to contact me. or 512 771 1117.


Sharon-Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). Sharon-Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. She can be reached at

April 25th, 2022

Posted In: Communication, News

I live on a floating home on the Columbia River, north Portland, OR, with an intimate connection to the river: I have two decks – on the river side and on the ‘lagoon’ side – from which I launch my kayak, welcome friends with boats, share a beer or two with visitors, sit and meditate in the early morning, swim.

My house has dozens of 5’ tall windows that admit the light reflecting off the water year-round, so regardless of the season (the weather being unpredictable here in the Pacific Northwest), I have light all around me.

The weather is certainly a factor in our daily lives. Temperatures generally range from 40-80, with drizzle and rain much of December through March and occasional explosions of sunny days so we remember. Spring is variable, and mythically glorious in summer and fall.

It’s mid-April now. Three days ago it was 75. I sat with a book on the sparkly river as an occasional duck or goose swam by, some looking up to see if I had food (Feeding them means they’ll not only return for years but tell their kids and grandkids that I’m a mark. My neighbor Bob used to feed them daily. The day he missed, one spoiled goose went right up to his door, honking, honking, steadily honking, honking for an hour. I had to call Bob to come home and feed him to keep me from going crazy.). Yesterday a sea lion swam by. Huge.

I assume the sun is considering returning full time. But not today; it’s snowing. And if I don’t look outside to see the white fluff now on the decks, I can remind myself that yes, really, it’s becoming spring.


If past years are prologue, my duck friend should be by soon to lay her eggs in one of my tall river-side planters. She’s comfortable with me by now. When I come out her little head rises up, one eye checking that it’s me, then descending back into her job. But when I have guests she’s unfamiliar with her head stays up, alert, watching, aggressively observing, protecting.

Every night I check on the eggs around 8:00 pm when she goes out for food. Two summers ago a raccoon ate the 10 eggs about a week before they were ready to hatch. I found my agitated friend swimming back and forth, back and forth for days looking for her ducklings. I felt helpless. Like I was a bad grandmom.

But last year she had nine ducklings. Nine! It’s always sweet hearing them chirp when they hatch. I watch as she gentles them into the water, guiding them first in more shallow water, then after 3 weeks onto the river itself, always keeping them safe. It fascinates me how she knows what’s going on behind her; there’s always one who wants to do its own thing, but Mom is quite strict. Nope. In the line with your sibs!

Watching them grow – those that don’t get eaten by other river creatures – is fun. Last year 7 of them survived. They all came ‘round to see me when they were grown, all the same size as mom, all ready to start their own families. I felt proud.


On my daily walks these days I see new flowers appearing. The floating homes have garden pots now budding with tulips and daffodils. The town houses across the street have carefully tended, creative, colorful, postage-size gardens: some wild, some manicured, some small Zen-scapes with stones and water features. Pretty.

Daphne scents the air. The pink and magenta magnolia petals open wider daily to show off their different hues. And that purple ground cover – no idea what it is – is all over. Rose buds. Hyacinths. Pinks, purples, yellows, lavenders. Sweet explosions of color and smell. Spring is emerging.

People outside walking, leading leashed dogs that would much prefer to run free. Everyone smiling. Boats returning. Small boats, some with couples, families, dogs; party boats with music blaring, sometimes the bebop of Ella or Billie, sometimes (unfortunately for my ears) the thump of techno.

Paddle boards with young folks, small dogs on the front; kayakers floating in pods of friends. I do an early morning paddle before the river gets busy and let the downstream current carry me along as I listen to the birds and the silence. Feels like I’m in the arms of something Bigger. A moment out of life. A joy.

Yes, we’re on route to being sunny and warm and sparkly and vibrant for the next 6 months, emerging from our wet hibernation. And I’m delighted.


Sharon-Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). Sharon-Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. She can be reached at    

April 18th, 2022

Posted In: News

I’ve been reading articles claiming a major impediment to closing sales is buyer’s ‘indecision’. But is non-buying called ‘indecision’ because people aren’t responding according to a seller’s expectations? Why is an entire field built upon persuading Others to act as per the needs of a stranger who has no understanding of the Other’s internal (and highly idiosyncratic) benchmarks?

Why do sellers think by ‘painting a compelling reason’ for prospects who have ‘cold feet’, or by providing a ‘burning platform’ to entice buying, they must get people to um, understand that ‘the pain of same is worse than the pain of change’? Why are the assumptions, the exhortations, based on what the seller wants? And, comically, on folks that aren’t self-identified buyers yet?

Why have sellers spent decades blaming people for not buying when they’ve ignored the processes that folks go through to bring in a new solution (so no cold feet, no laziness, no change avoidance)? After all, until they’re buyers the sales model is irrelevant for them – which explains (seller’s blame aside) the non-buying! They are not buyers yet!


I have more questions: Why is a non-purchase something to be managed by giving prospects jolts to take them beyond their alleged ‘laziness’ or ‘decision avoidance?’ What if people aren’t ‘lazy’ or ‘avoiding decisions’ but merely in a change/decision process the seller isn’t privy to?

What if the alleged ‘signs of indecision’ are a biased misreading of normal buy-in and change management practices that are not purchase-centered? What if people are NOT ‘avoiding change’ and don’t ‘prefer complacency’ or settle for ‘good enough?’

Why do sellers believe their jobs are to ‘break the gravitational pull’ and ‘beat the status quo’ rather than do something different to help them traverse their own unique decision process so they become buyers, so they understand the ‘cost’ involved with change, so everyone has bought in? Don’t sellers realize no one starts off wanting to buy anything, merely resolve a problem at the least ‘cost/risk’ to their system?

Do sellers even know what the status quo is – a unique mix of the unique people, policies, history, relationships, goals, job descriptions, etc. that make a culture operate successfully? And how, may I ask, with only ‘sales’ as their tool, would a seller know the risks to people and policies that must be managed for congruent change to happen within any unique status quo?

Why do sellers believe that prospects ‘wobble’, or ‘waiver’, or ‘back peddle’ when pushed for a close, when people (not even buyers yet!) are merely not finished getting buy-in, managing internal risks, trialing workarounds – or merely trying to get away from a pushy seller?

The term ‘decision avoidance’ has been around for decades. Sellers are warned they must ‘break the gravitational pull’ and ‘beat the status quo’. The ‘price’ issue has been an ongoing excuse. I even read this in an article recently (The Indecisive Buyer) on

“Why should anyone make a decision quickly if they don’t have to? More often than not, the buyers believe that by waiting, they will get a better deal. The salesperson will get scared and will think the only way to secure the sale is to offer a discount.”

Wait, what?

I think we should define sales as ‘A two-staged process involving facilitating the buying decision/change path, then placing solutions to those who become buyers’.


There is profound disrespect inherent in all the above assumptions: Why is an entire industry so disrespectful, so eager to blame when the stubborn insistence on ONLY trying to sell (with no real knowledge as to what’s going on in the Other’s process) closes 5%, instead of recognizing that maybe something is wrong with the seller’s ‘need-focused’ assumption that there’s a ‘buyer’?

Indeed, decisions involving purchasing a solution only account for one third – the last third – of a buying decision. My clients, connecting first with Buying Facilitation® and a change facilitation focus that addresses the first two thirds of the change process, consistently close 40% against a sales-based control group that closes 5% with a ‘needs’ focus.

The very act of seeking those who seem (using biased thinking) to have a ‘need’ ignores 40% of those in process, and who will become buyers once they’re done. And as you’ll learn, it’s much, much more efficient to find prospects in the process of change than wrongly presume someone has a need and try try try to close.

And while I’m at it, why is it ok that the sales model carries an in-built, accepted, 95% failure rate? You wouldn’t even go to a hairdresser with a 95% failure rate! And an entire industry never considers that the outsized failure rate is a sign that just maybe the sales process is missing a few bits? Bits that could be discovered if they’d stop blaming people for not buying and instead look inward to recognize how they could be helping in a truly relevant way?

When I was a seller in corporate sales we said buyers were stupid. A favorite expression in the 80s and 90s was ‘buyers are liars’ (In 1992 David Sandler told me he was sorry he’d ever said that.). Sellers were told to be kind and charming, to make a personal connection, send out mass emails and play the percentages, get ‘through’ the gatekeeper. Anything to ‘get in front’ of that prospect! Anything! Assuming, of course, that once the prospect met the seller! Or heard about the product! they’d buy! Nope.

None, none of these silly excuses address what’s going on in the Buy Side!


Have you ever considered that people aren’t buyers until certain benchmarks in their environment have been addressed? Sales professionals and marketers can facilitate these benchmarks. Just not with sales thinking.

The time it takes to figure out how to fix a problem in a way that causes the least risk to the system (AND there is buy-in, AND the ‘cost’ of a solution is lower than the ‘cost’ of maintaining the problem) is the length of the sales cycle. This is not indecision, a term used when

  • the seller has determined a ‘need’,
  • the seller believes a sale is imminent and has put the ‘prospect’ in their pipeline,
  • seller isn’t getting what s/he expects to occur,
  • there’s no response to a pitch or marketing campaign,
  • it’s taking ‘too long’ to close,
  • the process involved in the prospect’s decision making is ignored.

Silence doesn’t mean back peddling, or complacency, or that a decision isn’t in progress. Someone recently asked me what to call people who haven’t yet become buyers. “People.” And People are who you’re blaming for not being buyers, people just trying to find excellence without disruption, without throwing the baby out with the bathwater. People who haven’t considered the option of buying anything. Yet.

People aren’t indecisive: they are going through a necessary, systemic process. It just doesn’t follow or heed the sales model. And until this change management process is complete, people will ignore sales outreach.

And yes, I recognize that the industry has used my concepts I developed 40 years ago of workarounds, buy-in, stakeholders, etc., and added them into the Sell Side, mentioning these points to would-be prospects and offering research on what Others have done to ‘beat the status quo.’

But as long as sellers continue to work in service of closing a sale instead of using a different thought process (and new skills, such as Facilitative Questions, listening for systems, etc.), with a goal to first facilitate systemic change, you’re still manipulating to get your own needs met. And people will resist you.


The sales model has no capability of understanding the idiosyncratic and complex issues people deal with to resolve a problem.

Potential buyers themselves have a confusing time trying to understand their full problem, something they cannot do until all the stakeholders have weighed in and the ‘cost’ of the risk involved is known. And sales folks NEVER speak with the entire set of stakeholders! (BTW using Buying Facilitation® you would!)

The truth is, using the just sales model, there is no way a seller can understand any of the challenges to change that prospective buyers face. It certainly does NOT help people assess the real risk to their system, even as they ‘paint a compelling picture of the pain of same’ with very very little real data. Not to mention actually believe they’re ‘smarter and more savvy than customers.’ (I actually heard a noted sales guru say this  recently.)

Obviously, telling prospects what other companies have done to manage risk, is just silly, and another form of push sales. With no knowledge of the intricacies of a specific culture, or how the identified problem got created or maintained, there is no credible data from others that will be applicable.

And people are NOT in pain! That’s a sales word to mitigate assumptions.


People don’t want to buy anything, merely resolve a problem at the least ‘cost’ (risk) to their system: the ‘cost’ of a possible solution must be equal to or less than the ‘cost’ of the problem.

The status quo is maintained ONLY when the ‘cost’ of change is recognized as being higher than the ‘cost’ of the problem. If you need to fire 8 people to buy a new piece of software, which carries the most risk?

I did a pilot Buying Facilitation® (a change facilitation model I invented when I realized, as a seller-turned-entrepreneur, that the problem was in the buying process) training for Proctor and Gamble years ago. It was highly, highly successful – a massive increase over the control group. But they couldn’t train the entire sales force because it would cost $3,000,000,000 to change (new trucks and faster robots to handle the higher volume of sales, global rollouts etc.) and take two years to recoup the cost.

I did a BF pilot for Boston Scientific. Again, the pilot was massively more successful than the control group, but they thought the model was too controversial and disruptive: they’d need to change their marketing, follow-up, and customer service practices to employ it.

The pilot at Safelight Auto Glass was also highly successful. The reps made more money, closed more sales, faster. But the reps – hired to go out daily and deliver donuts (True story) as part of their ‘relationship management’ – all submitted their resignations en mass, a month after the course because they WANTED to be out in the field delivering donuts!

From the sales side, none of those stories make sense. But from the Buy Side, the cost of change was too high. They ‘needed’ my solution; they loved me and Buying Facilitation®; the companies understood that with Buying Facilitation® they made more money – a lot more money. The risk, the cost, the disruption, was too high. Nothing to do with need.


During the 43 years I’ve been teaching my Buying Facilitation® model I’ve heard bazillions of excuses that blame buyers, all from the Sell Side. But it doesn’t need to be this way.

See, buyers must do this anyway, with you or without you. By using only the sales model, you can only sell to those who show up as buyers. By adding change facilitation, you can enter at the beginning, facilitate them (with a change/leadership lens NOT a solution-placement lens) through to being ready to buy, THEN sell to people who are real buyers.

And with a change facilitator’s hat on, you can easily discover would-be buyers ON THE FIRST CALL that you can’t do with a sales hat on.

With my 7 books and hundreds of articles on facilitating buying, I’ve been describing how buyers buy, including recent articles on the Buy Side vs the Sell Side, and buyING vs BuyERS.


There are two elements to the buying process:

  1. The change management end – where potential buyers reside and standard sales outreach doesn’t reach (they’re not self-identified as buyers yet);
  2. The purchasing end.

Sales does a great job with #2. By ignoring #1, you’re left pushing to ‘overcome indecision.’ But there’s no indecision: they’re just not ready yet.

Let me explain what’s going on. Decisions, including a buying decision, are just not so simple as weighting options. It’s about risk to the culture, the environment, the people, the norms, the jobs – the status quo. Risk avoidance (or maintaining Systems Congruence as systems thinkers call it) is a vital component of all decision making.

For our purposes, let’s call this change management process a buyING process. It includes 13 stages (written about extensively in my book Dirty Little Secrets):

  1. Idea stage: Is there a problem? Who needs to be involved to gather the full fact pattern?
  2. Brainstorming stage: Idea discussed broadly with colleagues.
  3. Initial discussion stage: Initial group of chosen colleagues discuss the problem to gather full fact pattern: how it got created/maintained; posit who to include on Buying Decision Team; consider possible fixes and fallout. Action groups formed to bring ideas for possible workarounds to next meeting. Invites for new, overlooked stakeholders to join.
  4. Contemplation stage: Workarounds (previous vendors, inhouse solutions) discussed for efficacy. People who will touch a solution to discuss their concerns to engage before they resist. More research necessary on possible solutions, ways to determine viable workarounds.
  5. Organization stage: Group gathers research to discuss upsides and downsides of workarounds. Viability of workarounds determined.
  6. Change management stage: If workarounds acceptable, group goes forward to plan to implement. If workarounds deemed unacceptable, group begins to consider downsides of external solutions: the ‘cost’(risk) of change, the ‘cost’ of a fix, the ‘cost’ of staying the same, and how much disruption is acceptable. Broad research for next meeting on solutions that might meet the criteria and ‘cost’ minimal disruption.
  7. Coordination stage: Dedicated discussions on research in re risk factors, buy-in issues, resistance. Delineate everyone’s thoughts re goals, acceptable risks, job changes, and change capacity. Must consider: workaround vs purchase vs status quo; decide on partial fix vs complete fix; decide on time criteria. Folks with resistance must be heard and group to decide how to include and dismantle resistance. Specific research to be assigned based on decisions reached. Discussions on next steps.
  8. Research stage: Discussion on research that’s brought in for each possible solution. Who is onboard with risk? How will change be managed with each possible solution? To include: downsides per type of solution, possibilities, outcomes, problems, management considerations, changes in policy, job description changes, HR issues, etc. and how these will be mitigated if purchase to be made – or discussion around maintaining the status quo instead of resolving the problem at all (i.e. cost too high). If a purchase is preferred option, list of possible types of solutions to purchase now defined; research for each to be ready for next meeting.
  9. Consensus stage: Known risks, change management procedures, buy-in and consensus necessary for each possibility. Buying Decision Team makes final choices: specific products and possible vendors are named. Criteria set for solution choice.
  10. Action stage: Responsibilities apportioned to manage the specifics of Step 9. Calls made to several vendors for interviews, presentations, and data gathering. Agreed-upon criteria applied with each vendor.
  11. Second brainstorming stage: Buying Decision Team discusses results of calls and interviews with vendors and partners, and fallout/benefits of each. Favored vendors pitched by team members among themselves, and then called for follow on meetings.
  12. Choice stage: New solution/vendor agreed on. Change management issues that need to be managed are delineated and put in place. Leadership initiatives prepared to avoid disruption.
  13. Implementation stage: Vendor contacted. Purchase made. Implement and follow on.

These comprise the complete decision path that everyone goes through before self-identifying as buyers. Notice they don’t begin considering buying until Stage 9 when they have their ducks in a row! Until then they’re only people trying to fix a problem at the least risk to the system. 40% of these people will be buyers once they complete their process.

Until then they’re merely People trying to solve a problem! The sales model is useless here! And there is no indecision.


Sales don’t close because of sales process only attracts the low hanging fruit who have completed their stages and show up as self-identified buyers. A buying decision starts of as systemic:

  • Until everyone (all stakeholders who touch the current problem that needs resolving) adds their thoughts into the mix there is no way to fully understand the problem (and it follows, no way to consider a possible resolution). Sometimes it takes a period of time to recognize the full set of stakeholders. It’s certainly not as simple as it seems. Must they include ‘Joe in Accounting’? HR? Often stakeholders show up late in the decision process and the entire process must start from the beginning or face irreparable disruption.
  • Until all workarounds are tried, until old vendors, other departments, friends and referrals are found and studied, outside solutions (i.e. purchases) will not be considered regardless of need or the efficacy of a specific solution. Any marketing materials or sales discussions will be ignored until internal fixes are found to not be viable.
  • Until the full ‘cost’ (risk) of a proposed fix is understood and found to be less than the ‘cost’ of maintaining the status quo (i.e. cheaper than dealing with the originating problem), no action will be taken; the risk of disrupting the system is too great.
  • Until the ‘cost’ is deemed manageable, AND the full set of stakeholders who will touch the final solution is on board, AND the team buys-in to any change involved, there will be no purchase and the status quo will be maintained.

And there can be no decision to purchase anything until completed.


I’ve taught 100,000 clients Buying Facilitation® to use as a front end to sales. With specific questions (I invented a new form of question for this) we seek folks going through change in the area my solution supports – those who WILL become buyers instead of seeking those who have already self-identified and can use your website to get what they need.

No, you can’t use the sales model for this. Yes, you’ll need an additional tool kit; Buying Facilitation® uses Facilitative Questions, systems listening, the steps of change, and a commitment to facilitating systemic change before trying to sell anything. Read dozens of articles I’ve written on the subject.

Maybe it’s time to make Buying Facilitation® your new new thing, put the onus of blame on the restrictive sales model, and go beyond merely placing solutions – and actually sell more. This is what people REALLY need help with! They know how to find you, and how to buy once they get there. Help them get there.

Remember: you have nothing to sell if there is no one to buy.


Sharon-Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). Sharon-Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. She can be reached at

April 11th, 2022

Posted In: News

When I begin an on-site training program I start by saying:

“Hi everyone. I’ll begin with a warning: I use confusion as a teaching tool. Confusion is merely your brain attempting to input new information and not finding circuits to translate it. Stuff you already know goes down familiar circuits and it’s comfortable. Your confusion is merely your brain telling you it has no circuits to translate the new data – and you’re learning! And it makes me SO happy!”

The participants laugh uncomfortably. But then it becomes a sort of gentle contest – who can be the MOST confused. Invariably someone says

“Sharon-Drew, you’ll be SO proud of me! I’m SOOOO confused!”

And everyone laughs together and claps in knowing agreement.


I wonder why confusion is something to be avoided. Why do we all have to ‘know’ everything? Why can’t we delight in the mystery, the jumble, the dark moving spaces that bring that slight bit of discomfort, a touch of fear and dollop of curiosity?

When we think we ‘know’ something, it’s because we’re using circuits that already exist in our brains. Sadly, we assume what we ‘know’ is accurate, even if it ends up being inaccurate or biased, even if it means we end up dismissing new content that might be more accurate, even if it means we restrict learning anything new.

Old beliefs, previous knowledge, habits and assumptions become concretized over time, and new ideas become suspect because there’s no precedent for them even if the new ideas are more cogent. Our brains just love our status quo. Simple. Stable. Quick. Reality? No such thing.

How do new ideas get into the world when they’re contrary to existing myths and norms? Why isn’t ok to be confused and then curious to research, think, debate new ideas?

Entire fields remain committed to researching within the confines of perceived wisdom, even when they suspect, or know, it’s not working. How does something new enter if confusion, or the ‘unknown’, isn’t considered?

Remember flat earthers? What about radio waves? Did you know only one painting of Cezanne’s was purchased during his life? Or that it took 40 years after the invention of the telephone to begin broad use – using Morse Code instead? Are you aware that initially Bill Gates told his team that he wasn’t convinced the internet had value? Seriously.


One of the initiators of our confusion is the way words enter our brains and get translated. You see, when we hear someone speak, our brains don’t accurately translate what the speaker intends to communicate!

Sound – in this case, words – enter as vibrations, get turned into signals after being filtered by our beliefs, then get dispatched to ‘similar-enough’ existing circuits that were formed from similar – but not the same – words. And any meaning, any vibrations, that don’t match our existing (and comfortable, accepted) circuits, get discarded or resisted.

When I learned this (see my book on the subject – What?), I created a ‘curiosity’ trigger as an override in my brain when I experience resistance or disbelief, and now go straight to confusion instead so I can potentially learn something new.

I adore confusion. It means I’m creating new circuits. It means I’m learning!


Our brains are the problem. Indeed, because of the way we subjectively interpret new ideas we end up restricting our lives. The thing is, everything, regardless of what science thinks, or what our spouses or bosses want us to believe is true, is a subjective interpretation that we live our lives committed to!

What we read or enjoy; the colors we see and the words we hear; the friends and jobs and neighborhoods we choose; are restricted to the circuits that already exist in our brains – what we agree with and the worlds our brain circuits have created for us – obviously a carefully calibrated world view; obviously restricting a whole lotta world out there we don’t recognize or enjoy or share. We could all use a little confusion now and again.

To allow ourselves to be confused, we’d have to ignore, override or at least hide from view, some of our biases. So rather than guess what your biases are, I’ll pose some questions of you, because I’m sure confused why you’d rather keep doing what you’re doing rather than face confusion and learn, change, and be enriched:

  • What would you need to believe differently to be willing to rid yourself from some of your biases? Do you know which ones you’d be willing to part with? How do you know your answer isn’t biased?
  • How would you know that any confusion is worth the cost of ‘not knowing’ and being uncomfortable?
  • What issues come up for you when you face the prospect of being confused in an area you’re expert in?
  • Are there any areas of your life or work knowledge that you protect, that you prefer not to feel confusion around because you believe you have all the knowledge you need – and it’s accurate? Would you be willing to examine these to see if there is anything new to learn? Any areas for you to rethink?
  • Think of a topic, an idea that runs counter to your beliefs and spend time with it. No, really. Spend enough time to understand it, and know precisely how it differs from your beliefs. See if you can find any fragment in there that confuses you that you’d be willing to think about for a day or two.

We live our lives, work our jobs, vote and go to neighborhood meetings, accustomed to having an automatic answer, knowledge at the ready that has been vetted by our brains, accepted and comfortable. But to gain new knowledge, reconsider old opinions, mature your beliefs and self-asessments, you can create new circuits, and then have a whole new knowledge set.

All you need is some curiosity and the willingness to be confused for a bit of time. You’re worth it, no?


Sharon-Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). Sharon-Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. She can be reached at

April 4th, 2022

Posted In: News

The terms ‘buying’ and ‘buyer’ seem to be defined by sales and marketing to denote purchase-related activities. After almost 40 years of thinking, training, and writing several books on issues related to the Buy Side, I’d like to offer a clarification: buyING is

a process; a set of systemic, procedural, decision making tasks; a possible result following essential change management practices that may lead to fixing a problem with external solutions.

In this article I’ll explain the buyING process and when, why, and how it sometimes leads to folks becoming buyERS – and when it doesn’t I’ll explain why. I’ll also define each step so sellers and marketers can use them to facilitate their route through to becoming buyERS.

As of now, neither sales nor marketing facilitate the systemic progression of change management steps to buyING decisions, instead use solution-placement, and needs-based content that merely engage the low hanging fruit (currently less than 5%) – those who have already self-identified as buyERS and will probably discover your site anyway.

But the buyING decision sequence is very specific and, with different goals, could easily be added to the front end of sales and marketing to reduce and make efficient the decision time needed to accomplish off-line tasks. Obviously this would produce more sales.


To explain the buying decision process, I’ll begin with an explanation of systems. You see, buyING is systemic, not needs-based. Hence what I believe to be the main reason it’s been overlooked by sales and marketing.

I define systems as any group of components that agree to the same rules. Systems are necessary for survival: You’re a system. Your group, your company, your family, are systems.

All systems are based on unique norms, identities and beliefs that designate their individuality and maintain the integrity of their relationships and purpose. Google is obviously a different system than IBM: different management styles, different people hired, different marketing and sales processes.

A unique standard of all systems is that they don’t judge themselves even when they appear inappropriate to others. Systems aren’t logical; their identities and beliefs just represent the unique norms that caused their formation. Have you ever noticed friends in a bad marriage and couldn’t understand why they stay together? Their system was configured that way from the start and maintains its normalized trajectory.

It’s only when a system begins to malfunction that a warning is sounded. And because it has operated in a ‘good enough’ way until then, doing anything different is not a foregone conclusion. The status quo is good-enough.

And here’s a trap we all fall into when we think someone’s system must change: one of the goals of systems is to maintain balance (Systems Congruence), maintain the same configuration of rules and norms through time. Any change, any additions or subtractions, risk disruption.


Here is where buyING comes in. When a system (in this case a possible prospect and the alleged problem that needs fixing) exhibits a problem, it will always use the rules of Systems Congruence to resolve it:

  • Everyone involved with the problematic component must help scope out the full fact pattern of the problem and be involved with the solution or there will be imbalance;
  • Every effort is made to resolve the problem from inside (i.e. workarounds) because anything new may not carry the same rules and norms;
  • Before any change can be made, the ‘cost’ of the change – the risk to the system – must be known and addressed by the full set of stakeholders;
  • Before any change can be made, the ‘risks’ of the new solution cannot be greater than the risk carried by the known problem/the status quo or the status quo will prevail.

It’s only when all of these issues are handled is the system willing to change. This is what sales and marketing overlook. BuyING is a systemic process, certainly not so simple as having a need or making a purchase. Once the problem is fully defined, AND workarounds are tried, AND there is buy-in, AND the risk is fully understood and managed, THEN they become buyERS.

Sellers and marketers start off assuming their solutions can resolve a problem after posing some very biased questions and without full knowledge of the system of hidden politics, relationships, history, or goals that caused and maintain the problem.

But until the group/person has gone through their unique and systemic change trajectory (I call this change management) to figure out if they can withstand change and still function to meet their goals, they’re not seeking an external solution, don’t consider themselves buyERs and ignore your outreach. They’re not even prospects, need aside.

Indeed, your targeted outreach seeks and uncovers only those who have already become buyERS, thereby limiting your success to those already seeking your solution. Unfortunately, this overlooks those who WILL become buyers once they’ve completed their systemic change work.


Change management is an obligatory part of a buyING decision – the systemic decision making process that results in a congruent resolution and may or may not include making a purchase. Here’s what happens.

When a problem presents itself, people start off trying to resolve it themselves (not as buyERS); they take specific steps (see below) on route to a solution to make sure that the system ends up in balance. This route, these systemic laws, determine the buyING process and outcome – whether or not someone becomes a buyER. It’s only after they’ve gone through this and determined

  • that the ONLY way to resolve the problem is with an external solution,
  • that they cannot resolve it with a known workaround,
  • that the risks are all known and don’t ‘cost’ more than the status quo,
  • there is buy-in from ALL stakeholders who will touch the solution,

that they are buyERS. Until then, they don’t even self-identify as buyERS or notice your marketing or sales outreach. People really don’t want to buy anything, merely resolve a problem at the least ‘cost’ to the system. Again, buyING is systemic.

Viewing the sales and marketing in this light, it becomes obvious how you restrict your audience: when you offer content directed toward a product or solution, only people who have completed their change process and have deemed the ‘cost’ of a purchase manageable will be interested.

But there are about 80% more potential buyERS who are still in the buyING decision process, haven’t yet gotten their ducks in a row, and can’t buy until they do. You overlook them, mistakenly assuming you can engage them with clever outreach/content or data capture.

But you’re failing, and your closing numbers are diminishing. You call this ‘no decision’, and yet they are making decisions without you, without reading or heading your outreach. And the sales process itself is going the way of the landline.

Why not add a decision facilitation process to serve people where they really need your help?


In 1983 I founded a tech start-up in London. Because I had previously been a very successful sales professional dedicated to discovering ‘need’ and placing solutions, I was surprised at the complexity of making a decision to buy anything. I had to:

  • recognize which stakeholders to include (more than I had assumed!) to even understand the full fact pattern of the problem;
  • garner agreement that something needed to be different (or there was nothing to fix);
  • try workarounds and do all we could to fix the problem ourselves before even considering anything external;
  • fully understand the risk (the ‘cost’) to our status quo before considering buyING/bringing in an external fix.

To my surprise I discovered that my buyING decision had little to do with making a purchase but was a complex set of collaboration processes to facilitate group buy-in and understand the downside of making any changes. Ultimately, all problems had to be resolved with minimal disruption.

As a seller I had been indoctrinated in the normalized thinking of ‘needs-based’ outreach: ‘get in’ to the ‘right’ people with a ‘need’ that matched my solution; write ‘good’ content to engage; make my site compelling to differentiate from the competition, always assuming I could make a compelling case that my solution was the answer.

But as an entrepreneur I discovered that until people were near the end of their decision path they didn’t even seek out or notice content; they might have been in the buyING process, but weren’t yet buyERS. And reading content on a solution I might not need, or my group hadn’t approved of, possibly having only partial facts on how our problem originated or was maintained, or until workarounds were tried, was a waste of time.

Eventually, in 1986, I developed Buying Facilitation® to facilitate the buyING process in my company. I then used the process to double our own sales and have since trained it to over 100,000 people in global corporations such as IBM, Kaiser, Bose, KPMG, Wachovia, Morgan Stanley, DuPont, etc.

Buying Facilitation® is

a generic change management process (used for coaching and leadership also) that makes it possible to execute the decision making steps in a way that leads to a congruent solution and quickly leads those involved in the buyING process to become buyERS where relevant.

In control group studies, used as a front end to sales, it has an 800% increase over using sales on its own. Buying Facilitation® to lead folks through their buyING decisions; sales to help buyERS decide on the purchase. And marketing throughout, although initially focusing on leading each stage until they become buyERS when content-specific data is employed.

To help you understand what goes on in the buyING process, here are the 13 steps in a systemic Buying Decision Path between problem recognition and a resolution (or purchase) that all people must go through as they work at resolving a problem.

It’s quite possible for sales and marketing to enter during these steps, recognize who will be a buyer on the first call (Remember: you’d be wearing a change facilitation hat first, not a sales hat.), and lead them through their buyING steps to become buyERS. Note: these are relevant for any decision making process.

1. Idea stage: Is there a problem? Who needs to be involved to gather the full fact pattern?

2. Brainstorming stage: Idea discussed broadly with colleagues. Begin discerning who to include in ongoing discussions. Begin gathering full fact pattern of problem.

3. Initial discussion stage: Initial group of chosen colleagues begin discussing the problem in earnest to gather full fact pattern: how it got created and maintained; posit who to include on Buying Decision Team; consider possible fixes and fallout. Action groups formed to bring ideas for possible workarounds to next meeting. Invites for new, overlooked stakeholders to join.

4. Contemplation stage: Workarounds (previous vendors, inhouse solutions) discussed for efficacy. People who will touch the solution to discuss their concerns to engage before they resist. More research necessary on possible solutions, ways to determine if workarounds are viable.

5. Organization stage: Group gathers research to determine if a workaround is possible. Discussions of downsides of each. Viability of workarounds determined.

6. Change management stage: If workarounds acceptable, group goes forward to plan to implement. If workarounds deemed unacceptable, group begins broad discussion to consider downsides of external solutions: the ‘cost’ (risk)of change, the ‘cost’ of a fix, the ‘cost’ of staying the same, and how much disruption is acceptable. Broad research to be done for next meeting on solutions that might meet the criteria and ‘cost’ minimal disruption.

7. Coordination stage: Dedicated discussions on research in re risk factors, buy-in issues, resistance. Delineate everyone’s thoughts re goals, acceptable risks, job changes, and change capacity. Once agreement is reached, folks resisting must be heard; group must decide how to include and dismantle resistance. Specific research now needed. Discussions on next steps.

8. Research stage: Discussion on research that’s been brought in for each possible solution. Who is onboard with risk? How will change be managed with each solution? To include: downsides per type of solution, possibilities, outcomes, problems, management considerations, changes in policy, job description changes, HR issues, etc. and how these will be mitigated if purchase to be made – or discussion around maintaining the status quo instead of resolving the problem at all (i.e. cost too high). List of possible solutions now defined; research for each to be ready for next meeting.

9. Consensus stage: Known risks, change management procedures, buy-in and consensus discussed for each possibility. Buying Decision Team makes final choices: specific products and possible vendors are named. Criteria set for solution choice.

10. Action stage: Responsibilities apportioned to manage the specifics of Step 9. Calls made to several vendors for interviews, presentations, and data gathering. Agreed-upon criteria applied with each vendor.

11. Second brainstorming stage: Buying Decision Team discusses results of calls and interviews with vendors and partners, and fallout/benefits of each. Favored vendors pitched by team members among themselves, and then called for follow on meetings.

12. Choice stage: New solution/vendor agreed on. Change management issues that need to be managed are delineated and put in place. Leadership initiatives prepared to avoid disruption.

13. Implementation stage: Vendor contacted. Purchase made. Implement and follow on.

Given these steps, you can see that people aren’t buyERs until Step 9. Before then, they are people trying to fix a problem internally, and aren’t seeking out products or solutions to purchase so there’s no way ‘in’ with traditional sales and marketing. But if you lead folks through their Steps of change, both sales and marketing can influence the buyING so folks become buyERS.


To help those in the buyING process become buyERS, marketers can write change management-based content with different focus: help them determine the full set of stakeholders; teach them how to engage buy-in etc. Sales can begin each contact by helping them notice where they are in their change process (i.e. instead of need). And once they get to the end of their buyING process, they would be buyERS and ready to purchase and receive relevant content.

I have actually created a Buying Enablement process to help marketers achieve this, complete with titles for content outreach. Note: it’s vital that content do NOT include any product pitches as folks truly are not considering this until the later stages. Of course a great footer and linked articles will lead to solution content.

Folks must go through their decision making/change management process anyway, with you or without you. So it might as well be with you, especially since you’ll know the specific components of each step better than they do.

It’s obvious that with websites and search being what they are, people no longer need sellers or marketers to provide content. But because the buyING process is so much more complex these days, this is where they need the most help. HELP THEM BECOME BUYERS by facilitating them through their buyING process. It’s a win/win folks.


Sharon-Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). Sharon-Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. She can be reached at

March 21st, 2022

Posted In: Change Management

Have you ever tried to change one of your behaviors and failed? Well, not failed, exactly. Maybe you were successful for a week or three, but then reverted back to the old behavior. Do you know why you reverted back? It’s your brain’s fault: behaviors don’t happen merely because you desire them.

There’s a universal myth that behaviors are… well, they just are, somehow removed from any source or trigger that would instigate them. We assume because we ‘want to do’ something, it will happen. But behaviors don’t just ‘show up’; they are a response to an electro-chemical process in our brains. Certainly out of our direct control.

In this article I’ll attempt to instigate your curiosity and offer my theory. I understand I’m going against mainstream thinking, that the perceived wisdom says behaviors stand alone and can be changed through determination and discipline (i.e. Behavior Modification). But read what I have to say. I might just provide some new thinking.


Behaviors are part of a neurological process, the outputs of a series of brain connections that get triggered to act, brain connections formed through time from what we learn, how we live, what our parents and neighbors and jobs taught us. I call these our Mental Models.

In other words, behaviors are the visible display of who we are – so as a pacifist, you would expect me to not buy a gun. As a vegetarian, you would be surprised if I ate a steak. My behaviors express who I am at that moment in time (even when seemingly incongruent).

I believe, therefore I behave.

Take a look at the scientific graphic for how brains end up triggering specific behaviors, a simple equation that takes an incoming thought (an instruction, an input), through to action, a behavior (an output).


Inputs trigger outputs. See what it looks like once I add in where Beliefs and Mental Models sit so you can see how they instigate the behaviors:

INPUT (words/internal request=vibrations) –> filters (Beliefs, Mental models etc.) –> CUE (vibrations –> signals) –> CEN (dispatches signals automatically to ‘similar enough’ circuits for translation) –> OUTPUT (behaviors)

As you see from this equation (There are also electro-chemical processes involved, including dopamine.), once a message enters as an input, it gets filtered by specific Beliefs that then select signals that ‘match’ the input signals and go through brain sequences that end up as an output/action. There is no way for a behavior to occur without the signals that instigate them and without circuits that translate the incoming vibrations into meaning.

And yet when people attempt to make a change they address only the outputs and fail to start from the source – the stimuli, the initiators, the triggers – that triggered them. It should be obvious that with a different input, a different output will result. So

        “I need to go on a diet.”

will conclude with someone’s brain seeking out the historic superhighway for ‘diet’ and produce the same results as previously. But if the input instructions are changed to

“I am a healthy person who will research best nutritional choices for my body and eat what will produce my best weight that I can maintain over time.”

The results will be different, a new ‘superhighway’ will be created, and it will be far simpler to reach, and maintain, optimal weight.

I contend a behavior is a Belief in action, the output that results from the brain processing an input. I believe that who we are and what Beliefs, values norms, and history define us, determines our behaviors.

Everything we do, everything we say, is a visible sign, an indication, of who we are. And I strongly believe that without new input, it’s not possible to change the output/behaviors.

If you wish more in-depth knowledge, watch my video explaining the elements of brain change:


Think of something you did recently, something simple, like go grocery shopping. The driver is your belief that it’s necessary to buy food to stay alive, that you’re running out of bananas. Simple.

But what about the type of words you use in conversation? Or who you vote for? Everything we do and say is a result of a Belief in action.

Recently a student of mine from Pakistan had a problem with her boss. She wanted to tell him that he was rude and disrespectful and he was trying to demoralize her. What’s your underlying Belief, I asked. “He’s a mean person who hates women and it’s time someone told him he’d better clean up his act.”

I asked her what she would say if her Belief was “No one willfully harms another and he may not realize I feel disrespected from his interactions, that because he’s from Pakistan his verbal habits might be cultural.” Oh! With that Belief change, she eventually called him and said:

“I’d like you to know how disrespected I feel during some of our conversations and it cuts off my creativity. I know you don’t speak to me this way intentionally, but I want us to work together in a constructive way so that together we can make a difference in the world. Is there a way we can communicate in a way that makes me feel more respected?”

He instantly became apologetic, said he hadn’t realized he was speaking disrespectfully, and he hoped she could forgive him, that he valued her, that he would work at speaking with more respect. From then on, their relationship and her creativity flourished. He even made her a close colleague, asking her opinion on several things he was working on and brought her in to meetings as a ‘leader’.

If she had acted on her originating Belief, she would have ended up being fired for being disrespectful. Instead he now sees her as management material. Change the Belief, change the behavior.


I have a story of a Belief change of mine and how it helped a neighbor.

My neighbor Maria came over one day crying. Seems she had been diagnosed with Pre-Diabetes and given a standard diet to lose 30 pounds. She was frightened that she’d end up dying from diabetes like her Mom did. I took her to Whole Foods and we purchased healthy versions of what she ate at home. She ended up losing 10 pounds by the time I left to train clients in India. When I returned 3 weeks later, she came over crying again. She had put the weight back on and remained scared that she’d never lose it and end up dying.

That’s when I realized that I had chosen to ‘do’ something (behavior) to help her, wrongly believing (Beliefs) that I could get her on the right path; that eating the ‘right’ foods (i.e. a behavior change) was the answer. But I hadn’t helped her create new circuitry so she could figure out her own change. I shifted my Belief to: Maria must be responsible for her own choices (behaviors) and I can help her create new Belief-based inputs.

I used my Buying Facilitation® process (a generic belief -> behavior decision facilitation model I’ve trained in sales for decades) on her:

SD: What has stopped you from being comfortable following your doctor’s diet?

M: If I did, I wouldn’t have the love I get from my family.

Wait, what? How did her family get included in this? I thought it was about food! [Note: Beliefs are often unconscious and outsiders rarely know what instigates them.]

SD: So I hear you saying that food, family, and love are tied together for you.

M: Right. Every morning I make 150 tortillas and put them in bags for my kids and grandchildren. Every morning they all come by, and I stand out on the curb handing out bags for each of them. Then Joe and I eat the rest. Tortillas are not on my diet.

SD: And you’d miss seeing your family every day if you didn’t hand out the tortillas!

So her Beliefs were based on something entirely different from anything food-related, and these are what prompted her behaviors. Unconscious. Automatic.

Maria and I put together a plan of action that would incorporate her Beliefs with her doctor’s orders. She had a large dinner party during which she handed her daughter Sonia her beloved tortilla pan wrapped up in a big red bow.

M: I am having health issues and can’t eat or make tortillas anymore. From now on Sonia will be the new Tortilla Tia (auntie) and will make them and hand them out every morning. On Fridays, I’ll make you enchiladas and you can come by here!

By discovering her unconscious Beliefs Maria was able to change her behaviors to lose her 30 pounds – and keep it off because she changed her eating habits permanently.


Obviously, outsiders cannot know someone’s unconscious Beliefs – even they don’t always know them! Yet in order to make congruent changes they must. As coaches, parents, managers, and for yourself, it’s necessary to get to the Beliefs to add or change a behavior. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What would I need to know or believe differently to be willing to shift my own belief about behaviors and consider they are instigated by my Beliefs?
  • What would I need to do or know differently to enter influencing relationships with a desire to help them discover their own underlying Beliefs without trying to influence them toward my own biases?
  • What skills would I need to learn in order to enter all influencing relationships with Beginner’s Mind and be as devoid of my own biases as possible?
  • How will I know, what will I notice, to recognize if/when my own biases got in the way of Another finding their own unconscious beliefs?

I’ve been developing belief-based behavior change models for decades, starting with my Buying Facilitation® model that leads Others through their unconscious Beliefs and systems so they can quickly make good decisions (used in sales, leadership, coaching), through to my How of Change model that actually teaches how to create new neural circuitry.

With so much of neuroscience focusing on ‘behavior change’ and omitting the need to begin with Belief change, we are withholding real support. Doctors could be facilitating ill people through to real behavior change and health; coaches could be helping people quickly discover their own answers with no bias from the coach; managers and parents and influencers could truly serve Others to find their own solutions.

I’m happy to share my knowledge with you. Or go to my site and read about some of my inventions. I look forward to us all learning exactly HOW to make a difference.


Sharon-Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). Sharon-Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. She can be reached at

March 14th, 2022

Posted In: News

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