Methods of Persuasion by Nick Kolenda Part 2 of 2

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A good way to build rapport with a potential customer is to point out similarities. We all have an inherent bias in favor of people who remind us of ourselves, even in trivial ways such as liking the same TV show. We even prefer products that have the same letters in their name as we do. Similarities that are less common, such as having the same birthday as someone else, enhances this effect. Also, using pronouns such as “we” and “us” can make someone feel more connected to you. We also tend to mimic people we like and like people who mirror our nonverbal behavior.

We generally like something (a song, a beer, a person) the more often we encounter it, so exposing your target to something repeatedly will make them like it more.

Humans often experience change blindness, the inability to detect unexpected changes. When a negative change occurs, it’s best to hide it as much as possible. For example, instead of raising the price for a bag of potato chips, it’s better to shrink the size of the bag, since people are more likely to notice a price increase but less likely to notice a smaller bag. If you know someone won’t like a change, change things gradually so they’ll be less likely to notice the change is happening.

If you’ve got a good argument, you’ll want the person you’re trying to persuade to pay close attention. However, if you have a bad argument, you’ll want them to not pay so much attention. One study found students paid more attention after consuming a caffeinated drink, so if you’ve got an argument you want someone to pay attention to, it’s a good idea to get them a coffee first. You can also get someone to pay more attention by saying something usual. In one study, people dressed as beggars asked for 37 cents rather than just asking for some change. This unusual request made more people pay attention to them.

People are also more likely to pay attention to something if they think it effects them personally. More vivid descriptions work as well. Driver safety commercials are more effective when they show bloody victims rather than crash test dummies. 2nd person pronouns get people to pay more attention as well. Also, commercials that tell a story are more effective than commercials that simply tell you about a product. Using rhetorical questions also helps.

People will doubt a message that’s 100% positive, so it’s a good idea to add a small amount of negative information to make what you’re saying seem more realistic. You want to start and end with your strongest arguments and put your weakest arguments in the middle so people will be less likely to remember them.

Looks matter. Attractive criminals receive more lenient sentences than unattractive ones. Attractive infants receive more attention. Attractive men and women both receive higher salaries than their less attractive counterparts. This reminded me of an episode of Freakonomics which pointed out that attractive NFL quarterbacks (as determined by software that measures the symmetry of someone’s face) get paid more than the less attractive quarterbacks. One way to apply this in your every day life is to make sure your website is aesthetically pleasing in order to get people to pay more attention to it.

Another interesting study found that when you make a request, the person is more likely to comply if you give them a reason for your request, even if it’s a nonsensical reason.

It’s also important to provide the proper incentives. Cash incentives, such as paying someone to help move furniture, carries a negative connotation with it. In one study, when researchers charged parents a fine when they were late to pick their kids up from daycare, tardiness actually increased. When they removed the fine, tardiness ceased. This is because monetizing something removes the social stigma. Paying a fine removes the guilt associated with being late. When there isn’t an easy way to remove guilt, it forces parents to make an effort to be on time.

Hence, it’s better provide social incentives (gifts, praise, positive feedback) rather than cash incentives. Even something as small as saying thank you can work wonders. Paying your partner $20 for sex is a bad idea. It’s a much better idea to give them $20 worth of flowers or chocolate.

It’s better to reward someone based on performance (getting a high score on a test) rather than engagement (studying for the test). Research shows rewarding engagement actually results in worse performance.

Setting limitations is another way to motivate people. For one thing, we don’t like to feel that our freedom is being restricted. When we’re told not to do something, that makes us want to do it. For example, when a television program warns that material may be too violent for some viewers, it actually increases the amount of people who watch it.

People are more concerned about avoiding a loss than achieving a gain. People are less likely to bring a reusable bag to the grocery store if it gives them a discount and more likely to bring one if they’re charged a fee for not having one, even if the amount of the discount and the fee are the same.

We also place a higher value on something that’s considered limited. When picking between two bottles of wine, we tend to pick the one that’s almost out since that indicates it’s more popular.

Giving too much choices can be a bad thing. Participation in 401(k) plans decreases the more different options there are. People are overwhelmed by having too many choices and instead don’t pick anything.

In order to avoid information overload when there are a wide variety of options, group the options into categories to make the decision less overwhelming. So if there are 10 different options, grouping them into 3 categories will keep people from feeling overwhelmed.

It’s also a good idea to make favorable associations. Stocks with easy to pronounce ticker symbols outperform stocks that don’t. Humorous commercials are more effective than boring ones. People tend to have positive gut reactions to things that they’re already familiar with, so comparing things to something they already like will make them trust you more.

Interestingly, someone will rate you as more attractive when they’re in a high state of arousal, such as when watching a scary movie or riding a roller coaster, which makes these good locations for going on a date.

Overall, this is a good, easy-to-read book with a pleasant conversational tone. My brief summary here didn’t really do it justice. Even if you’re not interested in trying to persuade other people, it’s good to know the techniques salespeople and marketing companies are using on you so you can resist them better.

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