I’m reading a great book called “Influence: Science and Practice” by Robert B. Cialdini. It’s full of research and anecdotes about how to influence people. It’s a real eye-opener.
One of the most potent forms of persuasion has to do with people’s innate need to be consistent. Studies show that people will ignore logic and information to be consistent. (In other words, we are moist robots.) According to the research, humans are hardwired for consistency over reason. You already knew that: People don’t switch political parties or religions easily. What you didn’t know is how quickly and easily a manipulator can lock someone into a position.
For example, researchers asked people to write essays in support of a random point of view they did not hold. Months later, when surveyed, the majority held the opinion they wrote about, regardless of the topic. Once a person commits an opinion to writing – even an opinion he does not hold – it soon becomes his actual opinion. Not every time, but MOST of the time. The people in these experiments weren’t exposed to new information before writing their contrived opinions. All they did was sit down and write an opinion they didn’t actually have, and months later it became their actual opinion. The experiment worked whether the volunteers were writing the pro or the con position on the random topic.
Most of the truly stupid things done in this world have to do with this consistency principle. For example, once you define yourself as a loyal citizen of Elbonia, you do whatever the King of Elbonia tells you to do, no matter how stupid that is. And your mind invents reasons as to why dying is a perfectly good life strategy.
This research provides a surefire method for readers of the Dilbert Blog to improve their sex lives. Go down to the local mall with a clipboard and pretend to be doing a research experiment. Offer $1 to attractive people who will write a paragraph describing how incredibly sexy you are. (Based on the research, you should offer a low dollar amount so people don’t think they did it entirely for the money.) Tell participants that the research has to do with handwriting analysis of people who are writing opinions they do not believe. Stop after you get 100 people to do it. That’s less than the cost of one meal at an upscale restaurant.
Give the participants your e-mail address and tell them they can get the results of the research study in a month if they contact you. According to the science, about two-thirds of the people who wrote a paragraph on your sex appeal will strongly believe it a month later, no matter how hideous you are. And a few of those people will remember to e-mail you for the results. You’ll still have to close the deal, but I think we can agree that I just did the hard work for you.
[Note: Comcast still hasn't fixed my Internet connection. And TypePad isn't working either, so this might post twice. Or never.]