When I work with students in the Principles of Persuasion workshop we talk about three kinds of persuasion practitioners: bunglers, smugglers and detectives. Here’s a quick synopsis of each:
Detectives are folks who understand the principles of influence and look for genuine opportunities to use them in order to create a win for themselves as well as the person or people they seek to influence.
Smugglers are individuals who also have some understanding but they look for shortcuts through manipulation. They find it easier to distort the truth or lie outright in their use of the principles of influence so they can get what they want no matter the cost to others.
Bunglers are people who don’t understand the persuasion process or principles and therefore miss opportunities to be more effective when it come to persuasion. Or, they might intuitively know a few things about the principles but don’t understand how to effectively use them. Unfortunately the vast majority of people fall into this category and they make predictable mistakes.
In this post we’ll look at some of the most common mistakes people make when trying to persuade others. No offense, but if you find yourself doing these things, you’re bungling away persuasion opportunities.
- Validating undesirable behavior. There’s a lot of bad stuff that happens in society. For example; too many kids try cigarettes and cheat in school; far too many people don’t vote; violent behavior seems to be on the rise, etc. When you talk about what many people are doing – consensus – you tend to validate the bad behavior. This can cause more people to do the very thing you’re preaching against! Instead, you want to point out good behavior you want people to emulate. This approach was validated in the last two presidential elections where people were told to get to the polls early because record turnouts were expected. Those turnouts materialized.
- Highlighting gain instead of loss. I’ve shared in recent posts about homeowners who, when told about energy saving recommendations, were informed they would either save $180 by implementing the energy saving ideas or that they would lose $180 if they failed to implement the ideas, the latter of which is an application of the principle of scarcity. Everyone I share that study with correctly guesses more people in the “lose” group made the necessary changes. And they’re correct -- 150% more people in the lose group chose to incorporate the energy saving ideas. Despite intuitively knowing this, most people still go out and talk about all the things someone will gain, or save, by going with their idea. Perhaps they fear coming across as negative but they’re failing to apply the most persuasive approach and they won’t hear yes as often.
- Confusing contracts with reciprocity. Reciprocity explains the reality that people feel obligated to return a favor. In other words, if I do something for you you’ll feel some obligation to want to do something for me in return. An example would be; I’ll do A and I hope you’ll do B in return. This is very different than entering into a contract – I’ll do A IF you’ll do B. Quite often you can engage reciprocity by doing or offering far less and still get the same behavior in return.
- Mixing up positional authority with perceived authority. Believing you’re an authority is far different than other people perceiving you to be an authority. Sometimes others need to know your credentials. When people rely solely on their position to gain compliance it will never be as effective as it could be if they engaged people in the persuasion process by highlighting their credentials. It’s one thing for me to do something because the boss says so versus doing the very same thing because I see the value in doing so because an expert convinced me.
- Failing to connect on liking. Effective persuasion has a lot to do with relationships built on the principle of liking. It’s not always enough that someone likes your product or service. Quite often the difference maker is whether or not they like you. It doesn't matter if you’re a salesperson, manager or someone else, spending too much time describing ideas, products, services, etc., without getting the other person to like you is going to make persuasion harder. And here's the gem - make sure you create time to learn a bit about the other person so you come to like them and you'll be amazed at the difference it can make!
- Telling instead of asking. Telling someone what to do isn’t nearly as effective as asking because asking engages consistency. This principle tells us people feel internal psychological pressure as well as external social pressure to be consistent in what they say and do. By asking and getting a “Yes” the odds that someone will do what you want increase significantly. In the POP workshop we talk about a restaurant owner who saw no shows fall from 30% to just 10% by having the hostess go from saying, “Please call of you cannot make your reservation” to asking, “Will you please call if you cannot keep your reservation?” The first sentence is a statement but the second is a question that engages consistency.
- Failure to give a reason. When you want someone to do something, giving a reason tagged with “because” can make all the difference. As I’ve share with State Auto claim reps, “Can you get me your medical records?” will not be as effective as “Can you get me your medical records because without them I cannot process your claim and pay you?” This approach was validated in a copier study where 50% more people (93% up from 60%) were willing to let someone go ahead of them in line when the person asking gave them a reason using the word “because.”
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.