Supersuasion: The Curry and Thyme of Persuasion Techniques

Posted by on Apr 9, 2015 in Change, Presentations, Sales | 0 comments

Persuasion is a topic that most of my clients are interested in.  “How can I get my people to just get on board?” I get asked a lot.  They would love if I could teach them something called “supersuasion” and today I found a way to do just that in an article I read by Kevin Dutton in the Scientific American Mind March/April 2010, The Power to Persuade.

He simplified it with an acronym “SPICE”:  Simplicity, Perceived self-interest, Incongruity, Confidence and Empathy.  So clearly he used the SPICE acronym to make it simple for us – helping us to buy in.  I’m just surprised he didn’t use a three letter acronym because he emphasized the tricolon – the magic of three, a well known speakers device:  think “I came, I saw, I conquered”.    What was fascinating was his reference to the research on predicting the complexity of a recipe and willingness to cook it by just the typeface it was printed in – easier to read signaled the minds of readers that the recipe was easier to cook, and therefore increased their likelihood of trying it, even when it had the exact same ingredients and directions as one is a fancier typeface!

Self interest helps persuade us, not surprisingly.  I like things that benefit me.  But his reference to a marketing technique of an illusion of you helping me out was fascinating.  If I had a coffee shop, I’d start giving out loyalty coupons for a free cup of coffee after 6 cups with the first one already filled in before you even buy one.  You think I did something for you.  Then after your first purchase you are already one-third of the way, needing 4 more cups to get your free cup.  But if I give you a loyalty coupon where you need just 5 cups to get a free one but I don’t give you that first one until after you buy, you are only one-fifth of the way there, even though you still need 4 cups to get your free cup, and you didn’t get anything upfront except a lousy cup of coffee (well, hopefully it was good coffee).  You perceive that the first deal is more in your self-interest to follow up on!

Incongruity is mostly about humor  – and the unexpected, since humor is best when you don’t see the punch line coming.  This actually fits also with the Heath brothers surprise element of making a sticky message – one people will remember – that they wrote about in their first book Made to Stick.  I loved the gimmick of making the cover look as if a piece of duck tape was across it.  It seemed incongruous on a shiny new book, and encouraged me to buy it at the bookstore!

The unexpected isn’t just about humor, though.  It’s also about getting a nice surprise.  People tipped more to waiters who gave them one piece of candy with their bill, walked away, then turned back to give them another than they did to waiters who gave the two pieces the first time.  It was the waiter’s unexpected change of heart that changed their view of it.

Confidence tends to be contagious.  If I think you really believe something, I am more tempted to believe in it too.  Your confidence can be conveyed just by your presence.  I know clients find that when they pitch their boss with confidence, they are far more likely to have their projects approved.  Confidence can also come from credibility, or even branding, like the wine we’re told costs more tastes better to us and even makes the reward centers of our brain light up more when we drink it.  How fickle are our taste buds!

Empathy persuades us too.  Course it goes back to perceived self-interest – your interest in me!  Doctors who show more empathy are less likely to get sued – as patients believe they did their best.

So when you want to persuade someone, keep Kevin Dutton’s SPICE model in mind!  Or just believe in yourself and your idea, tell me what you want in simple terms, show some interest in me and make me feel you care about me and how it will impact me,  and find a way to make me laugh!

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