The Realistic Key to Your Persuasive Power (And Fighting Over Popcorn)

There is so much talk about the newest and slickest techniques in persuasion that some of the most basic, time-tested and powerful rules are often forgotten (or never even learned). I’m not talking about the kind of stuff you learn in a course on secret language patterns. I’m talking about the core principles that fathers tell their sons, the stuff an old Chinese man probably wrote down a few thousand years ago.

Recently I was reminded of the most crucial key to winning at persuasion.

Despite repeated attempts, I’ve yet to make it into a cinema without buying popcorn. Going to see the film Inception a few weeks ago was no exception.

One small please?” I requested.

We only have medium and large containers left,” replied the twenty-something guy behind the counter.

That’s OK…” I say glancing up at the menu displaying “Small £3.75” and “Medium £4.25” “…I’ll have a small popcorn inside of a medium container.”

He stood there dazed for a few seconds.

In the persuasion context, we would call this an incongruence or pattern interrupt. By saying something unexpected while he was in his routine, I had knocked his cognition slightly off-line and opened a window of opportunity to give him further suggestions. But I missed it and the window shut again.

He started shaking his head.

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