Why I see Citroen Xsara Picassos everywhere and why you should care

When I worked for Logica, I drove a Renault Espace. Every morning, I would drive down the E411 between 6.45am and 7.30am. My eyes would pass by  thousands of cars during this time, either overtaking or just seeing them around me, or coming in the other direction. How many did I actually “see”? Not many.

When I decided to leave Logica, I had to buy a car. I spent some time looking around for the perfect answer to my needs: Not too small, 3 real kiddy-seat spaces, more-or-less economic (not the Espace again!). I decided on a Citroen Xsara Picasso. I hadn’t bought it yet, just decided…

The morning after making that decision, I jumped back in my Renault Espace on the E411 to drive to Logica (during my notice period). Same time of the day, same route, I suppose same number of cars (more-or-less). And what happened? Citroen Xsara Picassos everywhere!!


I told this story the other day to training participants and they all smiled knowingly – many people can relate to this story. The funny thing is that even that night, driving home (in my Citroen Xsara Picasso 🙂 )  I could again see them everywhere. And I bet my training participants did too!

Why is this interesting? Because my Citroen Xsara Picasso story holds one of the keys to effective communication, effective presentation skills, influencing, leadership, motivation,  sales…. Read on!


Humans cannot pay attention to everything. There is simply too much going on. At the moment, if I really pay attention, I can hear the sound of the door banging downstairs, I can feel the tips of my fingers on the keyboard, I feel hunger and my cold in my nose, I can hear a tractor in the distance, there is light on my screen and of course, my screen is filled with information.

These are the things that “pass before my senses” that I am aware of, but there are many more things going on that. Although my eyes and ears and other bits receive the sound or light waves, I don’t really seem to register them or notice. Despite being an excellent multi-tasker, I simply cannot pay attention to everything.


I have to “choose” what to pay attention to. If you and I were standing in Brussels Midi station right now and someone said the name “DAN” at a normal speaking voice, chances are you wouldn’t hear it. But I might! This is because it means something to me. And my brain pays attention to the things that mean something to me. I filter out everything else and let (filter) in what I care about, what I am interested in, what means something to me. In NLP, we would talk about physical, cultural and personal filters. My mother would call it “selective hearing” ….and she regularly accused me of this when I was younger!

This is the key to the Citroen Xsara Picasso story: The car means something to me. And until it did, I never noticed it!

So: How is this relevant to effective communication, effective presentation skills, influencing, leadership, motivation,  sales…?


If you want people to listen to you, you have to say things that mean something to them. And if you want to get along with people, you have to be familiar. You have to be “on their wavelength“. If you want to “sell” something to someone, motivate them, get buy-in… you have to offer them something that is beneficial, that is: An advantage to them. If you want to get and keep my attention, you have to mean something to me.


So: What do I need to do to get people’s attention, to influence, to create rapport?

  • Find out what makes the other person tick, what turns them on, what they are interested in, their situation, values and needs
  • Find out how they process information, their VAK representation system, the words, phrases and example they use to explain themselves
  • Define what you have in your offer/product/message/request that might mean something to them: What elements will they recognise? What are the benefits for them? What might help them in their situation, with their values and needs?
  • Tune into and draw-on the way the other person thinks, acts and talks. If they say “BU” instead of “business-unit”, so should you. If they like golf, use a golfing analogy when you talk about your need for a pay-rise! If they talk fast, talk fast. This is known as “synchronising”.


If you do this, you’ll get reactions like “Oh, that sounds nice” and “Tell me more”. If you don’t, you’ll just pass by unnoticed like all the other cars on the E411…



Hope this help!

Find other learning + development resources on www.infinitelearning.be or mail me: mail@dansteer.com

About Dan Steer

Wandering corporate trainer, learning and development consultant, conference speaker and professional El-Magico. I help people get better at stuff by creating and facilitating Infinite Learning © opportunities. The world would be a better place if everyone was doing what he loved and doing it well. I am working to bring out the "El Magico" in everybody. Training in presentation and communication skills, leadership, social media for learning and marketing, learning and development management + personal effectiveness.

Posted on March 20, 2011, in Communication, Leadership, Resources. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Filip Goyvaerts

    Hi Dan,

    A story which really relates to one of the basic rules in life: being interested in what it means to the other person.
    I am glad that even “young” guys like you reveal this kind of wisdom … 🙂

    Hope to see you soon.

  2. Pier-Luigi Carollo

    I had the chance to follow one of Dan’s training and all I can say is that it went far beyond my expectations!!
    Not only Dan is an excellent trainer, he also manages to make people feel confortable and adapts his agenda to audience’s needs.
    Good psychologist, he knows how to pass on a key message making sure that people will remember it for ages.
    The Picasso story is a typical example of how new topics are covered all along the training.

    People having attended the same training than I might remember another story about Ipod, sun glasses… 🙂

  3. Thought this was a relevant add-on:

    Scottish mountaineer W.H. Murray, after Goethe quote:

    “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back.

    Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.

    All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.

    A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.

    Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”

  4. Good web site you have got here.. It’s difficult to find good quality writing like yours these days. I seriously appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!

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