Foundational Principles of Persuasion

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Central to understanding persuasion is the concept of neutrality. The laws of persuasion are neither good nor evil. They simply exist. Just as nuclear power can be used to create electricity or an atomic bomb, persuasion can be used to create unity or to force compliance. Whether the outcome is good or bad depends on the person using the laws and how that person applies the techniques of persuasion.

Some people desire to win at any cost, using any available tactics including misusing the laws of persuasion. These individuals are willing to use guilt, violence, intimidation, temptation, bribery, and blackmail to get the desired result.

However, when used properly, persuasion is our best friend. Through persuasion we create peace agreements, promote fund-raising efforts, and convince motorists to buckle up. Persuasion is the means by which the coach of an underdog team inspires players to win. It is also the method employed by the Surgeon General to convince people to have regular mammograms and prostate examinations, by managers to increase employee performance and morale, and by hostage negotiators to convince criminals to free their captives.

Misuse of the laws will only come back to haunt you in the long run. You might get short-term instant results, but your long-term future will be bleak. The tools outlined in this book are powerful and are not to be used selfishly. They should not be considered a means of gaining a desired result at any cost. Rather, you should use these tools to get your desired outcome only when it is a win-win situation for all involved.

The fable of the sun and the wind provides an excellent example of properly implemented persuasion. The sun and the wind were always arguing about which of them was the strongest. The wind believed he was stronger because of his destructive power in tornados and hurricanes. He wanted the sun to admit he was stronger, but the sun held fast to his own opinion and could not be convinced.

One day the sun decided he wanted the matter settled once and for all, so he invited the wind to compete with him in a contest. The sun chose the contest carefully. He pointed out an old man taking a walk, and challenged the wind to use his power to blow the man’s jacket off. The wind felt this would be an easy contest to win and began to blow. To his surprise, each gust of wind only made the man cling more tightly to his jacket.

The wind blew harder, and the man held on tighter. The harder the wind blew, the more the man resisted. The powerful blows of wind even knocked the man down, but he would not let go of his jacket. Finally, the wind gave up and challenged the sun to succeed in getting the man to take off his jacket. The sun smiled and shone radiantly upon the man. The man felt the warmth of the sun, and sweat began to appear on his forehead. The sun continued pouring out warmth and sunshine upon the man and, at last, the man took off his jacket. The sun had won the contest. If your attempt to persuade is a win-win, others will be eager to do what you want them to do.

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