How you structure your words and sentences can have a profound impact on the level of motivation a listener experiences. Without careful thought, the impact can often work against you. Here’s a short extract from George’s Global Influence Skills program.
The Blind Boy
A blind boy sat on the steps of a building with a hat by his feet. He held up a sign which said: “I am blind, please help.”
There were only a few coins in the hat.
A man walking by took a few coins from his pocket and dropped them into the hat. He then took the sign, turned it around, and wrote some words. He put the sign back so that everyone who walked by would see the new words. Soon the hat began to fill up. A lot more people were giving money to the blind boy. That afternoon the man who had changed the sign came to see how things were. The boy recognized his footsteps and asked, “Were you the one who changed my sign this morning? What did you write?”
The man said, “I only wrote the truth. I said what you said but in a different way.” I wrote: “Today is a beautiful day but I cannot see it.” Both signs told people that the boy was blind. But the first sign simply said the boy was blind. The second sign told people that they were so lucky that they were not blind.
The structure of the language you use can have a profound effect on the meaning people give to a situation. It’s this knowledge that underpins the way the most persuasive people on the planet communicate to others.
Frames of Persuasion
#1 The Reciprocation Frame
THE RULE – We feel OBLIGED to REPAY IN KIND that which another person has GIVEN to us.
Not a single society today that does not condition its members to RECIPROCATE.
- If you do someone a favour, they now owe you a favour.
- You give me something, I give you something
People say YES to those they owe.
The laws of reciprocal exchange provides a society a competitive advantage. Society thrives when we don’t GIVE AWAY, but we GET CREDIT. The system works better when you get in return for what you give. The key is to recognise our drive to reciprocate WEIGHS HEAVY on our conscience.
Does timing have an impact on the success of a pitch? If timing does matter, when is the best time to pitch?
Yes, timing matters – wait until moment of persuasive opportunity, or set up a situation where those moments exist.
Practical Use of Reciprocation
- Identify Key Influencers – Give them value – Position it as a loan
- When a senior person says thank you, utilise it
- If you need something done, wait till the right moment appears and then influence in that moment
#2 The Contrast Frame
THE RULE – When two things are observed or experienced one after the other, DIFFERENCE between the two is greatly EXAGGERATED.
Lift a light weight, the heavy weight seems even heavier. See a beautiful woman, a second woman not quite as attractive seems less attractive than she actually is.
You’ll see the sales person seeking to get the highest $ from customer. So they sell the most costly item first. For example they sell the customer the $495 suit then they onsell accessories for the suit, i.e. the $95 tie seems okay to buy now as it is not that expensive.
In reverse it works against them, i.e. selling the tie first and then attempting to sell the suit.
Some unethical sales people have been known to show the prospect a ‘set up’ property which is overpriced. They then offload the cheaper, older house at an inflated price because it seems lower cost by contrast. Unethical for sure, but done sometimes nonetheless.
The best process is to sell the customer the car first. Once that is set in place, they will then sell the buyer options after car sale, things like accessories and insurance. These seem so little to add on by contrast that a few dollars more is fine.
Does it matter which option you present first when multiple options are available?
Yes it matters.
Using the Contrast Frame
If you have one option only, always contrast your option to a worse situation and present any options after the main proposal.
- This is where are now (without the solution), if we do this, this the new (and better) situation
- Implementation of this initiative at [another company] cost them $4Million, the way we propose to do this here requires an outlay of only $2Million
- We also have the option of following up with a quick review in 6 months time, the fee for that is $20k
If you have two options available, always present your ultimate solution/idea first – then you can fall back to the one you can live with. Both concession and contrast frames are in play here.
- If you won’t buy the $25 Calendar, then would you be prepared to buy the $3 pen
#3 The Congruence (Consistency)Frame
THE RULE – We will do whatever we can to be seen to be CONSISTENT with our own BEHAVIOUR
We have an almost obsessive desire to be congruent with ourselves. If we take a public stand on some issue then we tend to behave consistently with that stand, even if its wrong.
In a controlled experiment, a woman placed a beach towel on the sand at a public beach with her handbag on it. When she walked away and nothing was said, 4 in 20 people took action to stop a passerby from stealing the handbag when they made the attempt.
When people were asked to watch the handbag while she went for a swim, 19 in 20 people responded to stop the thief from taking the bag.
Inconsistency is undesirable in our society and the deeply embedded desired to be congruent causes us to take action [in most cases] to be consistent with a statement we’ve made or previous action we’ve taken.
Practical Use Of The Congruence Frame
- Obtain written testimonials or get presentations from business leaders on the value of an initiative and what people need to do – this influences the writers of those testimonials.
- Show photographs of key influencers using or engaging in activities related to some initiative.
#4 The Social Proof Frame
THE RULE – When UNCERTAINTY creeps into a situation, we obtain EVIDENCE of what to do by OBSERVING what people like us are DOING.
In a staged epileptic fit situation on a public street with varying numbers of bystanders doing nothing, researchers looked at how people passing by would respond.
When there was 1 bystander watching and doing nothing, 87 percent of passers by responded to help the victim.
When there were 5 bystanders watching and doing nothing, only 17 percent of passers by responded to help. In the last situation, so many people doing nothing had a strong influence on the decisions made by those passing by.
The Effects of Social Proof in Action
- When someone is unemployed for a long time, prospective employers assume other employers won’t employ them and this impacts their decision to hire or not hire.
- If a man is standing with a group of women, it is implied that something must be good about this guy.
- Night clubs create long lines or queues outside their door to give the impression that this is the place to go as everyone else is going there.
One of the most obvious is people crossing an intersection against a Don’t Walk Light. One starts the process and suddenly others follow. If the person is wearing a suit then the effect is even stronger as the person ‘appears’ to have more authority.
Practical Use Of Social Proof
- Get users to deliver a presentation by (e.g. GE Example with Six Sigma – Larry Bossidy of Allied Signal made the original GE presentation to executives)
- Video showing peers (e.g. In developing video SOPs for business we record staff in film, not trainers)
- Star Ratings (e.g. eBay sellers, Amazon, iBookstore etc)