As the species whose thinking ability supposedly separates us from the animals, we really don’t spend much of our life reasoning. Most of the time our minds get stuck on cruise control. Thinking takes up too much time and requires too much energy. Imagine having to think about every decision we make. It wouldn’t leave us much time to accomplish anything else, would it? Most of us have a systematic way of looking at the world. When this mode is operating, our minds are perfectly primed to automatically respond to persuasion triggers. I call these triggers the Laws of Persuasion.
The Laws of Persuasion operate below our conscious thoughts. When employed properly, your prospects don’t even realize you’re using them. On the other hand, if you blunder your way through a persuasion situation, your audience will be totally aware of what you’re doing. It’s like seeing a police car on the side of the road–it jars us back to reality. If the persuader is skilled, he or she will use the Laws of Persuasion so the message is delivered below the radar.
Understanding the Laws of Persuasion involves understanding the human psyche. Such knowledge empowers you to improve your persuasive abilities. It magnifies your effectiveness in relationships, improves your parenting skills, enhances your leadership ability, and helps you sell yourself and your ideas. In short, it maximizes your influence.
In his book Triggers, Joseph Sugarman estimates that 95 percent of the reasoning behind a consumer’s purchase is associated with a subconscious decision. In other words, most buying is done for reasons a person hasn’t even fully formulated. Dr. Gregory Neidert estimates that our brains actually run on idle 90 to 95 percent of the time. Let’s face it, thinking is hard work. It is human nature to conserve cognitive energy. Thinking burns three times as many calories as watching TV. Those who use their brains for a living have traditionally been among the highest paid professionals. Consider the incomes for doctors, lawyers, and engineers, just to name a few. Most of us feel we don’t have the time or even the desire to think on the level that these professionals do each day.
What are the main reasons we choose not to think? First, sometimes the amount of information available is so overwhelming we don’t even attempt to digest any of it. Sometimes our decisions simply aren’t weighty enough to warrant the effort of researching all the available information. Consciously and subconsciously, from the bombardment of information we receive, we selectively choose what we will acknowledge and what we will ignore.
Whether we realize it or not, we love shortcuts to thinking. When we buy an item, we don’t always take the time to research the product or read the latest consumer guide’s ratings on the product. Instead, we often rely on the salesperson’s advice. We might just buy the most popular brand, or we might bring a friend along for his opinion. Although we would never admit it, we sometimes even buy an item just because of its color or packaging. Certainly we know this is not the best way to make decisions, but we all do it anyway, even when we know we might make a mistake or feel regretful afterwards. If we thoroughly considered every single decision, we would constantly be overwhelmed and we’d never get anything done.
Recall a situation where you where persuaded or acted without thinking?
The Laws of Persuasion are so powerful because they capitalize on two very predictable things: one, what we expect from human nature, and two, how people will respond in certain situations. People react predictably under a given set of circumstances. If we learn to recognize how the Laws of Persuasion work, we will know how to use them in our interactions with others. We will also become more aware of how others will attempt to use them on us.
There are two paths to persuasion: the conscious and the subconscious. Both paths can persuade others to your way of thinking, but each path uses a very different means of processing information.
In the conscious path, both you and your audience make an active or conscious attempt to understand, define, and process an argument. A person who is interested in your persuasive attempts will be highly motivated to listen. As such, she will also be able to consciously evaluate your message by carefully weighing the pros and cons of the evidence you present.
On the subconscious path, the listener spends little or no time processing the information. This approach results in those automatic triggers we previously talked about. These knee-jerk reactions happen when you follow your intuition or use a mental shortcut. Your mind reaches a decision without doing any logical processing. These subconscious decisions are largely driven by instinct and emotion. Individuals who spend lots of time on the subconscious path do so because they lack the time, motivation, desire, or ability to really listen to your message. They’re not really involved in the subject. They use their instinct or emotions instead of their intellect. Passive processing and automatic decision triggers rule their decision making.
Our minds are programmed with automatic persuasion triggers. Most of us experience persuasive situations without realizing or thinking about it. Master Persuaders know what these triggers are and how to utilize them to their advantage. Understanding the Laws of Persuasion helps us become aware of how we are influenced without having conscious knowledge of it.
Learning to influence and persuade takes time, skill, and experience. What most people don’t realize is that we already instinctively use many of these laws in our daily communications. The same Laws of Persuasion that we unknowingly use every day are the very same ones Master Persuaders use deliberately, consciously, and consistently. Master Persuaders make persuasion a habit. Think about how conscientious you were when you first started driving. Now, after years of practice, driving a car doesn’t require as much thought or focus. Master Persuaders understand the rules of persuasion and practice them constantly. They can apply the techniques subconsciously, without even thinking about them. For them, the application of persuasion has become second nature.
1. Why do you think most decisions are made on a subconscious level?
2. Can you think of a time when you bought something and rationalized it later with conscious thought?
3. How can you use this information to benefit you in your ability to persuade?