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.