What does that mean?
It means they don’t feel right in at least one way.They can’t quantify it
because it is a feeling (or feelings), so you’d better be prepared!
Let’s look at feelings and what they mean in the persuasion process.
The pendulum swings back and forth (oscillation).At each moment in
time it’s in a slightly different place than it was just a fraction of a second
before.And so it goes until it stops . . .where? Right back in the middle:“I
The unconscious mind runs off survival instincts,sometimes with suc-
cess, sometimes not.The unconscious mind is very different from the con-
scious mind. It runs on autopilot. It is basically a stimulus/response
mechanism that adapts along the way, but slowly.The conscious mind is
that computer, if you will, that thinks, calculates, and can make a decision.
But those decisions come at a cost. The unconscious is often drawn in
many different directions, not just one or two, and to cut off any option is
a threat to the freedom of the being. (Write that down.This will be re-
ferred to by people as,“I have a bad feeling,”“I’m not sure,”“I don’t feel
comfortable,” and so on.)
Eliminating choices to a human (and many other animals) can be
quite an experience.You and I hate to see that freedom say goodbye.And
for good reason.While there are options (escape routes) there is comfort in
the status quo.When there is comfort in the status quo (what’s going on
today) there is seemingly little reason to change. Many animals hunt other
animals with this fundamental principle as their guiding principle: “Let
them feel secure, safe, then kill.” Sun-tzu may have even written about it.
People want to feel good, and feel comfortable so they can live in the illu-
sion that they are happy, when of course the delusion will be shattered in
due course. There is no relationship between feeling comfortable today
and long-term happiness. I would suggest the opposite.
But is going for the “yes” response like going for the kill? That
seems . . . so wrong!
And it would be if you were going to kill someone.
Unfortunately, at the unconscious level most people perceive every
change from the status quo as a threat to their very survival.
Someone wants to quit smoking cigarettes, for example. At the con-
scious level that is a no-brainer: Lung cancer will chew you up and spit
you out. But at the unconscious level the smoking is behaviorally wired
into the brain as an adaptation. Just like overeating.You wonder why so
many people who live in poverty are grossly obese? They want to feel
good and they want the most important choice they have to not be taken
away.Think you can change that using convention thinking? Not likely. It
has nothing to do with sense or logic.Someone’s feelings will challenge all
of your persuasive communication (i.e., just about all communication).
Take away the option of smoking and the being goes nuts inside.Anx-
iety hits stellar levels.Take away the option of choosing more food and the
being once again goes nuts inside.They know they shouldn’t feel this way
but they do. In Hale Dwoskin’s book, The Sedona Method, he shares Lester
Levenson’s tools for letting go of feelings of fear, anger, shame, resentment,
and grief.Why? Because feelings are the muck of life.They kill the being.
They are the unreliable indicators that destroy lives. And when you feel
bad and your life is going to heck,you have a double dose of disaster.Most
people really believe they should trust their feelings.If you do,you are des-
tined for more than failure in all aspects of your life.
You will never persuade or be persuaded of something you currently
don’t experience. In other words, you will remain status quo for the rest
of your life. Feelings aren’t a barometer of the quality of life.They aren’t
a barometer of good and bad, (long-term) happiness, or sadness even.
They are a barometer of the unconscious mind’s past experiences and
And when you are attempting to persuade someone, you can bet that
the person’s conscious mind will analyze your offer and come up with a
fairly quick rational decision to do what you ask followed immediately by
a flood of anticipated regret. So they say “yes,” then they feel “no.”
Now the person doesn’t trust you.And they think it’s you! You’re ma-
nipulating them. Really?
Ever see someone buy a $25,000 automobile right after they quit their
job? They needed to fill the option void that would likely exist upon fur-
ther review. Everyone in the car biz knows that once you buy it, it’s yours.
So the people buy today because they won’t have the money tomorrow.
This makes no sense because sense doesn’t come into play. It’s all instinct
and behavioral shaping of the unconscious mind that cause people to feel.
As soon as they feel strongly,then everything can quickly go to heck unless
something is done and fast.
People’s gut instincts took the Twin Towers down. People’s feelings
caused the trains to be blown up in Madrid.The terrorists were sure their
feelings were right.They trusted their gut, and “knew” they were doing
the right thing. History repeats itself every few days or years. In 1999
people were saying “this time it’s different” because they felt the greed
and euphoria of getting rich fast in the stock market. Um, it’s not differ-
ent. Do not trust those feelings ever. When Saddam gives you the big
smile saying you can trust him, just let the mustache remind you of Adolf.
Remember the guy who kills his own people for sport? Feelings.They
felt totally in the right.
Remember that the next time someone tells you they “don’t feel
right” or “have a bad feeling.”
Here’s the reality principle:
Life really is all about persuasion.
People must go up one level from feelings to thought and take control
of their lives. Part of that is all about being persuaded (changing) and per-
suading (causing change).
Almost every time you open your mouth you want someone to do
something for you.
You want them to say “yes” to you and “no” to the competitor, and to
do business just with you.
You want the girl to go out with you, dump her boyfriend, and be
eternally devoted to you.
You want the guy to marry you, massage your feet, and bring home
You want them to hold the mayo, bring you a fork, and change your
You want them to pick up their clothes, turn the music down, and
It’s all about persuasion.
I could show you many books that have some pretty funny ideas about
what gets people to do things. Sometimes they work, sometimes they
rarely work, sometimes they just end up making you look, well, dumb.
My outcome for you is to be able to persuade almost anyone to do al-
most anything in less than eight minutes.
Now, here’s the rub.
I can show you how to get that sale, almost any sale. Once.
I can show you how to get that girl, almost any girl. Once.
I can show you how to get the kids to listen. Once.
I can show you how to get great service. Once.
But after you have that first “yes” your personality and who you are
become crucial. Getting the first “yes” can be the toughest. Getting the
second is either easier or more difficult, but it’s a different ball game com-
pletely. Once someone has knowledge about you in a certain area or a
certain way, you have to utilize a number of new strategies to get to “yes”
again.And,of course,I’ll give you tips along the way about how to do just
that. Nevertheless, this book is about getting the tough first “yes.” It’s all
about converting her from him to you.About getting someone to switch
from them to you.About getting compliance now.And you will be able
to do it.
I was, too.
You have to deal with the feelings.
You have to get people’s feelings positively linked to you.
Real or illusion, if you have the answer to their problem, the solution
to their challenge, you must create positive feelings in that person or you
will end up with wider swings of oscillation.
You have to assume that people will feel regret or anticipate the feel-
ing of regret, and you need to prepare them for that outcome.
You absolutely must realize that at any moment people are on the
pendulum between the conscious mind response, which is probably cor-
rect,and their feelings,which are probably all over the map trying to make
sense of your proposal or offer.
You must get commitment and reinforce the person’s decision as a
When you have commitment in most cultures you have psychological
pressures from the inside that almost obligate the person to move forward
with what they have agreed to. Hopefully, you represent the best product,
service, idea, and person in the area you excel in.As you become a master
of influence you truly gain a valuable power that can bring on compliance
rapidly in almost all situations.
“No.” It’s the only thing that is more annoying to hear than “I’ll think
about it.”In both cases there is no intention for further decision making or
even thought on the subject at hand.Therefore the time to act on your
part is probably now. Or maybe it was time to act five minutes earlier by
precluding “no” in the first place.
Most of the time they (your client, customer, the girl) simply say “no.”
They don’t mean anything by “no.”It isn’t even typically an answer that re-
ally means “no” or even “probably not.”“No” simply means,“My uncon-
scious mind doesn’t think it responds,and the response that keeps me in the
status quo,which is what I am familiar with,says ‘no.’”
It is a reaction.
When the doctor tests your knee reflexes, you do not think, “Okay,
now, logically I can be reflexive and will swing my knee forward three
inches in a third of a second after it is gently struck.”Your knee simply
moves. It reacts. It says . . . “no.”
Now, this doesn’t mean that all “no” responses are up for grabs.That
simply isn’t the case. Many times your clients have thoughtfully deter-
mined that your service isn’t right for them. In these cases “no” means
“no,” but the person could be either right or wrong.You retain the option
of turning “no” into “yes.” (They might be wrong in this case and we can
present information again in such a way that “yes” might indeed be the
Finally, there are instances when “no” is simply the well-thought-out
and correct decision,although it’s not common that it’s this cut-and-dried.
It never makes sense to ask someone to do what isn’t in their best interests,
so in these cases you don’t.
The unconscious mind doesn’t think or make decisions.By definition it
can’t and it never will.It has no capacity to come up with alternatives.It re-
acts in the way it immediately sees the environment and avoids the greatest
fear and pain.The unconscious mind is the dominant force in almost every
human being’s life—and remember, the unconscious mind doesn’t even
think! It’s been programmed through genes and through the environment.
In situations where you have made hundreds of decisions (driving a
car) the unconscious mind almost always makes good movements and re-
acts well to keep you and everyone around you safe. In these cases, a per-
son’s intuition tends to be good. (Intuition simply means your immediate
reactions and how you feel about them—not what you think about them.)
In situations where you have much less experience making essentially all
correct decisions, like driving a car, your reactions and feelings about your
reactions are completely suspect and so are theirs.
Think of this:
If every time someone got up in front of a group they were ap-
plauded, they would feel comfortable in that situation and in all likelihood
seek it out in the future.
Or, if every time they were alone they felt devastated, they would
likely seek out the company of others at all costs.The (unconscious) mind
simply adapts to whatever it is given and attempts to avoid fear and pain
of things that it has been conditioned to avoid. As for the unknown, it’s
rarely a better option than the status quo, unless that status quo is enor-
And the status quo is painful at the conscious level. Look in the
mirror. If you see that extra layer of fat, the conscious mind is very
much in pain. But the unconscious is not. The act of eating feeds the
being and until it experiences pain and fear because of the eating there
is no need for the unconscious to adjust to anything.The unconscious
mind doesn’t see the fat as painful or something to fear.There is no ex-
perience in that regard.Therefore the mind is set on “status quo” in this
situation.To overcome the unconscious in the status quo takes an enor-
mous amount of conscious determination and internal pressure from
commitments to others.
There are also times when “no” is a conscious decision that overrides
the unconscious desire of “yes.”
Everyone has experienced wanting to have just one more piece of pie
but saying “no” because you know you are going to be bloated and un-
comfortable later. Here the conscious mind takes over the autopilot.
You’ve had the situation where someone wanted to have sex with you
and although the body was willing, the conscious mind said “no.” You
knew it was too risky or perhaps against your values.
The conscious mind can say “no”based on rational thought in spite of
the unconscious drives and desires to opt for “yes.” In these cases there is
also a time and a place to turn the “no” into “yes,” and there are times
when it is best to leave “no” at “no.”
The best way to get past “no” is to not hear it in the first place.You’ll
use attractiveness-raising and resistance-reduction techniques, alpha and
omega strategies, but even more fundamental is remembering your first
objective.In order to accomplish this you must win over the conscious and
unconscious minds in a fairly quick fashion (usually not as easy as you
would like to believe).That means that your proposal must make sense,and
it must be in line with one of the fundamental desires or drivers of their
behavior.This is not the same as emotions, but emotional content is obvi-
ously going to accelerate a “yes” response once the proposal is tracked into
a fundamental driver. (Reminder:There are 16 core drivers that you can
read about in my book Covert Hypnosis:An Advanced Course in Unconscious
Influence. They include the drives and desires of sex, food, connection, ac-
quisition, learning, competition, altruism, and others.)
If your proposal isn’t tracked in one of the 16 drivers that is driving
their lives (for example, the desires to eat and to bond could be driving
forces in one life while the desires to have sex and to acquire could be
drivers in another person) you’re simply going to hear “I’ll think about
it” or “no.”
Obviously this doesn’t mean,“Okay, if you go out with me, I’ll give
you lots of food and be a great person to bond with” or “Now, if you buy
a house from me you’ll get lots of sex and acquire lots of money.” In fact,
people are often embarrassed by their core drivers.You don’t see people
walking around saying,“And I’m proud that altruism and connection drive
Those desires that drive our behavior are pretty obvious to ourselves.
(For example, I have thousands of books in my library, so do you think
that the desires to learn and to acquire might be among my top four or
As is detailed in Covert Hypnosis: An Advanced Course in Unconscious
Influence, there is an elegance to tracking your proposal into their core
Key: You lay down a logical proposal that wires right into a key driver
and you get “yes.”You don’t have to hear “no” or “I’ll think about it”
because you are triggering the deep drive to move in the direction of
You don’t even always have to ask someone to do something in these
cases; you simply tell them! I have a good friend who simply says,“This
book is going to give you proven insights into human behavior that you’ve
never pondered. Get it now, Kevin.” And I do. I trust the source (crucial
piece) and it feeds into a driving force in my life that is rarely overridden
by anything else.
If tranquillity were one of my core drivers then the same person
would say,“This book is going to save you so much research time and re-
duce your stress levels like you wouldn’t believe. Get it.”
Granted, it takes a while to be able to identify a person’s driving de-
sires. And it takes practice and feedback on your efforts of weaving mes-
sages into drivers to begin to understand just how powerful this is. Once
you are able to do this, you have the world at your fingertips.You can have
as much or as little success as possible. Indeed, this is what power and em-
powerment are all about.
Think about it.
If you just knew what your most powerful core drivers are and you
knew how to weave messages to yourself, what would that mean? Then,
consider just what happens when you can do the same with others.Then
think how big your world gets and just how wide the sphere of your influ-
Influence: It’s Not How You Ask, But When!
Imagine: July meeting for 2004 benefits plan. . . .
“Okay, everyone, a show of hands. How many of you are going to
want to be part of our new benefits program? Corporate is matching up to
50 percent of your contributions to your 401(k).That means if you put
$15,000 in your 401(k), the company will put in $7,500.”
“Sure thing—I’ll make a contribution to my 401(k) plan.”
From a simply rational perspective, this is a no-brainer. Every person
should say “yes,” contribute the maximum that the company allows, and
chalk up a tidy 50 percent return on investment. (Read that as “I’m smart
enough to take all the free money I can get.”)
Of course they will!
Now imagine it’s six months in the future. In fact, research shows that
when you ask people if they intend to do just about anything “in a few
months” or “next year,” they will affirm that they are going to participate;
and then . . . they don’t.
They get to December when it’s time to fill out the paperwork,which
amounts to a signature that affirms that the employee wants free money,
and they just can’t pull the trigger and watch all that money “taken” from
their paycheck. They opt out—or ask for only a little free money from
But remember, people don’t think rationally.They will refuse to take
free money, which is why they are working in the first place! Or worse,
they realize the value of getting free money and refuse to take all of it!
Why? What is wrong with this picture?
Let’s look at another example, this one of how the mind works as far
as time is concerned.
A friend asks you to do something next week that you only margin-
ally want to do. It would be okay, but it would be just as okay not to do it.
You say “yes.”
As the time approaches you feel more and more like you would rather
get something done around the house or go shopping. It now seems like
work to do what you previously said “yes” to.
“My kids are sick and I’ve got to stay home and take care of them.”
And you stay home or go shopping.
Or you have this experience:
You’re at a Tupperware party and you know the moment is
coming. . . .
“Now, if you want to receive a bunch of free gifts like this container
that you can stand on and still not break (she demonstrates) you can host a
party at your house. But I’m really booked for the next couple of months,
so it would have to be in March. Jane, do you want to do one?”
“Sure, that’s fine.”
“Great, honey. How about you Jessica? I can do one on the 4th of
“Sure, I’ll do that.”
And so on and so forth.
Now, having a Tupperware party isn’t a bad thing. It’s probably a very
good thing. With a good hostess, the guests will probably have fun and
everyone will spend just a little money. But you do have to obligate your
friends and family to come, which is a bit uncomfortable for just about
anyone. But hey, it’s three months out.
As the party approaches you feel torn as you prepare to send out the
invitations. You wonder why you said “yes” in the first place. You still
haven’t sent the invitations. It’s probably going to be fine but part of you
doesn’t want to do the party. Life is busy and this really wasn’t necessary.
But you said you’d do it—in front of a lot of your friends—and you’re go-
ing to have a Tupperware party.
When you were asked it didn’t seem like that big of a deal, certainly
not an obligation that entails a bit of work.As the date approaches,though,
it does seem as though this is an all-day project.
I was watching TV the other night and an annoying commercial came
on for Wickes Furniture.
“Two thousand and five,” the young suburban housewife says as she
sits on her new couch.
“This week only you have no payments till 2005,” the young hus-
“Wickes has no payments and no interest till 2005!”
“Wow, no interest?!” the husband feeds the line back, and so the com-
Is the commercial effective?
The furniture store isn’t selling a recliner or sofa;it is selling free furni-
ture . . .for 2004 at least.The year 2005 is 13 months away,and that means
that you can have new furniture for free! You look around your house and
you think,“You know, we do need new furniture.”
And you probably do. This is not only an effective promotion, it’s
When an event is a long way off it’s easy to say “yes.”
In fact, the further an event is in the future, the easier it is to say “yes.”
In each of the preceding examples you discover how easy it is to say
In the case of the retirement account the funny thing is that people
consistently have regret as they approach the new year that they have
agreed to participate in something that is completely in their best interest
without exception. Unfortunately, people perceive the 401(k) as an ex-
pense when of course it is a crucial asset. But it does represent money that
the person doesn’t get to use today. And that feeling of loss of freedom
plays a role in the person’s feeling that they now are not as certain about
the program. (Remember that when feelings come into play, rational
thinking often departs.)
In the case of the Tupperware party, you say “yes” today partially be-
cause you feel obligated to do so because you are asked in front of a group.
It’s not unethical, but there is a feeling of pressure involved.Who wants to
look bad in front of the group? In this real-life scenario a person’s future
isn’t on the line. It’s a Tupperware party and it is helping someone you
know earn a living. It’s a good thing to do. Nevertheless, as the day ap-
proaches, the desire to participate dramatically declines because it takes
away your freedom of choice for the party day, in part because you are
obligating your friends and family to do something that will be fun but
uncomfortable for some.
The furniture store, of course, is the easiest to say “yes” to today be-
cause getting new furniture and spending no money (for at least one year)
is more than tempting;it’s downright delicious.You must do this.The com-
pany puts off the payment so far into the future that most people can’t
even get there in their minds.
Now, you think this is pretty amazing stuff? Obviously it’s easy to get
people to say “yes” to something that is going to happen far in the future.
Just wait until you learn how to utilize this powerful information in your
business and your practice and your life.
And speaking of time, what happens when you ask for an answer at
different points in a conversation (early on, in the middle, at the end)?
Does it matter when you ask for agreement? Does it matter when you ask
for the date?
And when you do ask for something, should the event happen quickly
(do you take her out tomorrow night or in two weeks?) or do you put it off?
The Most Common Reason They Say “No,” and
How to Overcome It
The reason that word “no” comes out of their mouths is because it is an
instant reaction. They did this or something like this before, and they
determined quickly it was a bad decision.About 90 percent of all “no’s”
come from this background. Pay close attention. . . .
All of a sudden the water turns cold.You turn around in the shower
and quickly turn the temp up up up. But it doesn’t go up. Someone else is
using the hot water in the house! You turn it off instantly.That relaxing 20-
minute shower has been destroyed. Six months later you still remember it
as someone being incredibly rude and that it was a bad shower.You ab-
solutely don’t remember the 20 minutes of relaxation.
The next day you take a five-minute shower. It feels good—warm, re-
laxing. But you remember that someone will probably start using the hot
water so you get out fairly quickly.It was a nice shower—relaxing,if short.
And later that week, you remember that it was a good shower.
All relationships have ups and downs. Most of the time they are in the
middle and you really aren’t in a relationship but working at work, clean-
ing the house, whatever.Then you go through a period where you argue,
fight, bicker. Ugh. It’s horrible! Time for a new relationship.You break the
news.Arguments elevate.You knew it! And for the rest of your life you tell
people that you can’t believe you stuck with it for 25 years. A waste of
In order to understand how to influence,you need to understand how
people make decisions,how they remember the past,and how they see the
future.This is what has been missing for hundreds of salespeople and mak-
ing persuasion a numbers game instead of essentially selling everyone.
As you’ve seen from the examples, people:
1. Remember peak experiences (especially the really bad experiences).
2. Remember how things end.
3. Do not see the future clearly.They do not know how they will feel
when certain events transpire, even if they want them to
All of this is crucial in communication, persuasion, and obviously your
business and relationships.
In fact, this might be some of the most important information you
have ever learned. Read on. Have you ever been in a conversation with
someone and then that person says,“Why did you say ____?”
“I didn’t say that!”
“Yes, you did. I heard you!”
“I did not!”
That night in separate conversations (or journal entries) both of you
make the other person out to be an idiot or thoughtless or something else
that isn’t positive!
Clearly one of you is incorrect, but both of you are equally certain
that your memory is correct.The fact is that trying to resolve this is impos-
sible.This is the problem of memory.The brain makes stuff up out of thin
air to fill in blank spots. Everyone experiences these moments when they
said or heard (or saw!) something that actually wasn’t articulated or heard
(or seen).You can’t convince a brain otherwise, because it was there!
Now,if you can’t rely on your memory to know what really happened
30 seconds ago, how can you rely on it for accurately representing what
happened in the past? Answer:You can’t . . . but only you know this.The
other person doesn’t.Therefore you have to either move past this point or
give them a short course in neuroscience. If you choose the latter, you can
start with this:
In one recent research study people were having a necessary
colonoscopy.At regular intervals during the process they were asked to share
their level of discomfort.At the end of the process for one group the scope
was allowed to simply not move for a minute right before it was removed.
The other group had the scopes removed a minute earlier (when the
colonoscopy was actually finished) and with no additional minute of rest.
Results:The group who had the scope in longer but finished “easier”
remembered the colonoscopy very differently from those who had the
shorter-time colonoscopy.The patients who had the extra minute of no
scope movement while still inserted, remembered the colonoscopy as “not
that bad.”The group who had no extra moment of rest remembered it as
Key Point:When matched with how people actually reported they felt at
each interval in the process (not later that night in a journal entry), their
later recollections reflected the end of the process and not the entire expe-
rience.People remember how an experience ends and generalize the ending back to
the rest of the experience.
Strategy: At each step, know that the people you are talking with do
not operate with video cameras in their mind. They operate on their
memories, regardless of whether the memories are accurate.Therefore you
need to clearly show how not acting (even though they recall the action as
being painful in the past) will have dire consequences.
Then you must show how both decisions could play out, along with
the probabilities of both.
For people who lost money in the stock market, you can understand
their interest in staying in safe money market securities! Unfortunately,
the reality is that they are probably not going to make much money if
they do that.
You simply can’t tell them to ignore the past.
You must point out that it could happen again, though it’s more likely
that more typical returns and results are in the offing.
The research in persuasion is clear. You must point out both possible fu-
tures for you to be successful. Otherwise, the person will be destined to go
with what they feel, instead of what makes sense.The phobia of losing is
tough to get past without at least acknowledging and examining those
Then finish with a very clear picture of a very likely future. If you
paint a too-rosy future, you will both lose.They will feel manipulated. If
you paint a likely future realistically, there is an excellent chance that peo-
ple will respond appropriately.
Ultimately the stock market crashed, the Titanic sank, and the Twin
Towers went down. But those are not reasons to avoid the stock market,
boating, or tall buildings. In fact, having failed in the first two quarters of
the game is all the more reason to try harder in the second half.
That is the message that needs to be made clear to your client, and
they will get it if you use that metaphor. Never let a bad result in the past
phobically turn your client into a nonclient!
Influential Power of Choice Reduction
It would seem to be such a good thing. Lots of candidates. Maybe you re-
member the 2004 Democratic presidential primary season:The outspoken
wild man Howard Dean,the superliberal Al Sharpton,the ex-general and TV
analyst for war movements in the recent Gulf War Wesley Clark,Senator John
Edwards, and Vietnam vet and now Senator John Kerry. Lots of choices.
Surely one should emerge by the end of the primaries and make an obvious
alternative to the conservative incumbent,President George W.Bush.
But influence doesn’t work the way most people think,and choice is a
counterintuitive problem from the get-go.
The more choices you have, the less appealing each of the choices ap-
pears.In fact,it is hard to find any exceptions to this in sales literature,aca-
demic research, and even politics.
If you were a presidential reelection big shot, you might be thinking,
“Man, they are all slamming us this week.This is terrible.We are going to
suffer in the polls.We have to fight back.”
That would be an error.
The correct response is to say and do absolutely nothing.
Now, that sure seems counterintuitive. But here is the situation at the
The more choices with which you are presented, the less you like all
In fact,when someone is presented with one choice,she is more likely
to accept that one choice as opposed to declining.When someone is pre-
sented with two choices the likelihood of the person simply not choosing
either of them dramatically increases.When presented with three or more
choices, the likelihood of selecting any choice is very small indeed.
When medical doctors were presented with a new drug to treat os-
teoarthritis, 75 percent of them were likely to prescribe the new medica-
tion versus 25 percent referring patients to a specialist. When a second
medication was placed among the options, 50 percent of the doctors re-
ferred patients to a specialist.They simply chose to not choose. Choices
cause anxiety, uncertainty, and, believe it or not, depression.And that really
seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it?
In Barry Schwartz’s Paradox of Choice, he points out the very interest-
ing research done combining choice and framing. Observe:
Parents divorce. Custody of the child will be awarded to one parent.
You are the judge.Would you choose parent A or parent B?
Parent A Parent B
Average income. Above-average income.
Average health. Minor health problems.
Average working hours. Lots of work-related travel.
Reasonable rapport with child. Very close relationship with child.
Relatively stable social life. Extremely active social life.
Which parent did you choose?
Interesting, huh? Not easy, but two-thirds of those surveyed chose to
award custody to parent B.
But when a new group of people were surveyed and the question was
asked like this: “Which parent would you deny custody to?” 55 percent
chose to deny custody to parent B.Why? Because there are reasons to deny
a parent based on the negative aspects of parent B.
Choices plus framing can change the world.
Key: Each additional choice or option takes away from the positive light
of all other options.
I just bought a new camcorder. I was pondering between getting a
professional camera or a small digital one that would do an excellent job
like my old Sony.What to do . . .
Canon’s Super Sony PC 330 Handheld
Professional Camera Compact Unit
Impossible to pack in Easy to pack in carry-on
carry-on luggage luggage
$3,000 with accessories. $2000 with accessories.
3 CCD. 1 CCD.
1.5 megapixels for still photos. 3 megapixels for still photos.
Easy to use with tripod. Difficult to use with tripod.
Perfect video quality. Excellent video quality.
Best low light. Mediocre low light.
Now, there is no right choice for me or you. There are simply
choices—and, frankly, a lot of them. I travel a lot—too much.That’s why I
prefer a camera I can carry on. I hate checking luggage.
I also want a great picture.This camera will film programs that will
eventually be up for sale at kevinhogan.com. In addition, we use a lot of
photographs, and I have a 4 megapixel camera that is amazing, so I don’t
have to have this feature if I choose not to.
I pondered and pondered. It took almost five hours just to narrow the
field to these two camcorders.
What did I finally choose?
I chose the camera I could carry for a couple of reasons. First, I don’t
have to bring my other digital for still photography. Portability is very im-
portant to me. In fact, with all things being close to equal it turned out to
be the single most important variable. Had camera video qualities been
medium or just good, I would have chosen the Canon. Instead, with ex-
cellent video (not perfect!) I opted for the smaller unit. Never will this
new camera be in Malaysia when I am in Australia.
Had someone simply shown me one or the other and I had not done
an exhaustive Web search and comparison project,I likely would have pur-
chased either of these or anything similar in quality in less than five min-
utes. Need a camera. Need it now. Let’s go.
Choices, while theoretically good to have, leave you wishing you had
another option (great low light) and constantly wondering,“Would it have
made a difference to have the other camera?”
One aspect of influence we’ve visited several times in the book
is the impact of emotions on the results of persuasive communication
Going back to your medical doctor: If your doctor is in a good mood
and feeling positive (gifted with a box of candy in the research project) he
makes diagnoses faster and more accurately!
Positive emotions cause us to feel more comfortable in evaluating op-
tions and coming up with a correct decision!
Schwartz reports that when students are offered six essay topics versus
30 essay topics those students presented with only six topics actually write
better essays than those who had a much broader choice. Reduced choice
not only makes it easier to choose; it also makes our choices better and
Problems of Choices
What do Miss Hawaiian Tropic, keeping a diary or journal, and Average Joe
teach us about instantly becoming more influential, earning far more
money, and having better relationships? Be prepared to be stunned—and
During the past two years I have been reevaluating my once firmly
held belief that people should journal their lives and their thoughts, espe-
cially in terms of their relationships.Why? In recent research studies it has
been revealed that people who write down their feelings and thoughts
about their partners are much more likely to fail at predicting the success
of the relationship. It turns out that what is easy to put into words is not
what helps people predict the success of the relationship.In fact,the oppo-
site is true.
So what? It turns out that people who do not (or are asked not to in
research studies) analyze their relationships in writing tend to remain in
those relationships and the tendency of those who do analyze their rela-
tionships in writing tend to not stay in relationships.
Worse? Upon follow-up, those who wrote about their relationships
later regretted leaving their relationships.As you’re probably already start-
ing to think how this applies in your life and business (especially when
tracking employee information!) the ramifications are enormous.
Key Application Concept: If you are going to have your client or cus-
tomer evaluate you, your product, or your service, have them do so based
on specific preset criteria.
Keep this in mind. I’m coming back to this crucial discovery and its
further applications later. . . . Have you seen or heard of this goofy TV
show called Average Joe or Average Joe: Hawaii? I watched a few of the
shows in the first installment. Concept: Reality TV show in which a
good-looking girl will get to whittle down 16 average joes (men who
are average guys) to one guy. (I don’t have any idea what the ultimate
At first this girl is appalled.These guys are not what she signed up for.
After the initial shock, she gets familiar with the guys to the point where
they are very acceptable to her. More: She actually starts to like some of
them and enjoy their company quite a bit. Just as you think there is justice
in the world, the former cheerleader is brought a half dozen sleek-bodied
guys to compete with the average-joe guys for her attention.
The comparison effect is now recalibrated, and ultimately there is no
contest.Sleek-bodied guy easily beats out average joe (sorry,guys).The av-
erage-joe guys simply can’t visually compete with the sleek-bodied guys.
Three key points:
1. When the setting was all average joes the girl was very much inter-
ested in a number of them.There was no frame of reference out-
side of the average guys for comparison.
2. When the sleek-bodied guys arrived, all the average guys were
sharply contrasted and all suffered by the new comparison.
3. Even among the sleek-bodied guys, many of them suffered by
comparison with each other.
Have you ever watched a beauty pageant (Miss Universe, Miss Amer-
ica, Miss Hawaiian Tropic)? Up to 100 absolutely stunning women take
the same stage.Then under careful scrutiny, as the women stand side by
side, then come into view by themselves, you and I begin to see flaws in
each of these women! Enough that viewers will say,“She isn’t that good
looking” or some similar remark.These are not your average-jane women.
These are women who come in at 9.8 on the Richter scale that is hard-
wired into all men from birth. But side by side you become fooled into
thinking that Miss 9.8 is really closer to a 7.0 and barely worthy of being
on your TV screen. (This reaction is true of both men and women, and by
the way women are the primary audience for these shows.)
We all suffer from comparison when we are stacked up next to many
other choices.A few? You can maintain your projection and perception of
status, prestige, beauty. Against the backdrop of many applicants, available
future partners, and so forth? You sink fast, and so do all the others!
Imagine you sell a product. Imagine it has tons of competitors. Imag-
ine you have two sheets of papers.All the competitors’ products should be
compared to each other on the first page.Your product should be the only
product on the second page.
Key Application Concept: If you place your idea/product/service in
with 20 others it becomes just another piece of the stew.If you set it off by
itself it shines.
Key Application Concept:You work in a cubicle with 20 other people
in the same room/office.You are part of a sea of faces. All begin to look
alike after a while. If you are going to differentiate yourself you literally
need to find ways to separate yourself from the crowd if you are going to
advance, become valued, and gain importance.
Let’s go back to our Miss Hawaiian Tropic pageant for a moment.
(Don’t I ask a lot?) Miss California steps out and introduces herself.You are
a judge.You must start to evaluate her and tell her whether in your mind
she should make the final eight.You must justify your reasons. Ready for
this? Those who must articulate or write down their reasons most regret
their choices later.
The way the human brain is wired,you instantly come up with a deci-
sion, then begin to come up (or make up) reasons to justify your decision.
Here is an interesting fact:The more people have to create reasons for their
decisions the more they become disappointed in their choice later! This is
true of all decisions.
Key: When you make a decision you will regret it more later as you dis-
cuss the reasons for making the decision.
Key Application Concept: When you get the decision you want from
the other person,it is time to shut up and move along.If you ask for all the
reasons why they decided the way they did you might just get a reversal in
a few days.
Key Application Concept: Once you have a decision,do not encourage
people to think about how good their decision was or even set guideposts
in the future for them to evaluate it. Be happy they decided in your favor
and gave you their business or trust.
Let’s take a deep breath and think for a second. Middle-class Amer-
ica has never been as wealthy or lived a better, healthier, safer lifestyle
than in 2004. (It has nothing to with Bush or Clinton—or any politi-
cian, for that matter!) But 10 times as many people are suffering from
depression in middle-class America than in 1904! They are getting mar-
ried five years later than just a few years ago, and they are staying at
their present employer a small fraction of the time their parents did 30
What is going on?
TMC.Too many choices! People are becoming responsible for their
choices and it is causing an enormous amount of distress, anguish, regret,
anxiety, and depression!
Key Application Point: Take the choices others have to make when
working with you. If you want your client/customer to be happy with
you, and you want to make the sale and then get repeat business, begin to
limit options quickly. Do not sell 100 different colored cards. Sell five. Do
not sell 100 different customized computers made to suit their needs (un-
less you are telling them what they need).
Key Application Point: Find the key one, two, or three values or
needs a person has as they relate to you and give them those things!
Everything else is noise that will cause the person to be less happy with
I hear someone say,“Well, then give them a money-back guarantee,”
“They can always exchange it,” “Let them swap it for something else if
they aren’t happy.”
This will strike terror in the hearts of just about everyone,but here is a
fact based on recent research.
Scary fact:When people have the opportunity to reverse their deci-
sion, return a product, or get a refund on a purchase, they tend to be less
satisfied with their decision later!
Now, that runs contrary to everything I was ever taught 100 years ago
in Selling 101!
The odd fact is that when people are buying something or even get-
ting into an arranged marriage (as happens in other countries and was the
norm a few centuries ago in most cultures) the people are happier and the
relationships last much longer.
Am I suggesting you take back your money-back guarantee and make
it more difficult to return products at Wal-Mart? No. It is time to evaluate
how you present this information to your customers.
If your client has made a decision to buy a competitor in the past six
months and that experience failed,he probably regrets it.However,the ex-
periences that happened years ago that cause the most regret are those
things that weren’t done.
This is important:You are attempting to influence someone and they
made a mistake recently and they are still smarting from it.And they regret
it. If what you are proposing is similar to what they regret doing, you need
to be prepared for a “no”:“I did this with them and I really regret it. Been
there, done it, not going to do that again.”You will need to prepare to
frame your proposition differently.
However, if your client has not done something in the more distant
past that they wish they had done, this is powerful leverage for them to
take action now.
Key Point: The problem is that if people pass up one opportunity
in the past they tend to pass up similar opportunities for the rest of their
But there is more about regret that you have to consider.
When an Olympian gets a silver medal, the athlete is happy on the
stand and probably excited.But,as time marches on,silver medalists realize
they were just ticks away from the gold.This is something that breeds de-
pression, disappointment, and frustration forever. If you try to console the
person by saying,“My, you were second, good going!” you will not build
rapport. These emotional hot buttons are something you will need to
On the other hand, the same Olympian winning the bronze medal is
happy. Bronze medalists have done well. They didn’t just miss the big
medal—there was yet another person between them and the gold.They
may have been close.They may have been ticks away, but these athletes are
happy with their result as time goes by.They are proud and it sticks.There
is no significant regret.
Therefore, when you are communicating with someone about their
accomplishments in rapport-building communication be certain that you
know whether they are likely to be feeling positive or negative about the
subjects of conversation!
What’s the right thing to do when you discover regrets?
Here’s a quick peek at how to handle this kind of regret so you can get
beyond the regret and bring the client into more receptive feelings where
they will be more likely to comply with your request. Let’s imagine a new
auto sales decision.
“The last new car I bought turned out to be okay but it really wasn’t
my idea but my wife’s to buy it.”
“You know,at least it was new.It didn’t cost you anything to maintain,
and it didn’t break down. Shoot, she could have made a better choice, but
you didn’t lose anything.Today we’ll get you exactly what you need.”
I play blackjack when I visit Las Vegas. I fancy myself a pretty good
player. I play quickly and make decisions based on statistical models.There
isn’t much left to intuition or hunches.
If there are others at the table and someone makes a decision that
turns out to be a mistake (at a blackjack table people think that anything
that didn’t make them money was a mistake—not true) they typically
want to see what the next card left concealed is so they could know if
making a different decision would have been the right thing to do.
When they see that having made a different decision would have re-
sulted in the same outcome (losing their money) they accept their fate and
are annoyed.When they see the concealed card and realize that had they
made a different decision they would have won money, they feel not only
annoyed but disgusted and frankly show symptoms of depression!
In either case the outcome is the same but the degree of regret is dra-
I constantly remind my seat partners (if they made the right decision)
that they did indeed make the right decision and that shows they know
what they are doing.This helps build rapport and keeps things calm, be-
cause no one wants to look stupid or feel humiliated when it comes to
putting money at risk and losing.
Do the same thing when dealing with your clients! Never let someone
feel stupid about past mistakes. Make sure they know that any intelligent
person would have done the same thing if they were presented with a sim-
ilar situation. If you show even an unconscious body language cue that the
person did make a foolish mistake or was humiliated in any way,the answer
to your request will be “no.”
Imagine that your neighbor buys a new lawn mower. He had his old
one for a decade! Yours is a junker and you should have known better than
to buy it, but what do you know about lawn mowers? Nothing. Zip.You
can’t even spell the words.
“Hey, Mark, what kind of mower did you buy when you tossed yours
the other day?”
You know what you are going to buy?
A Toro XR57Q.
If you do not buy a Toro XR57Q and your new lawn mower breaks
down,needs repairs,or even conks out after one summer,you are going to
look like an idiot! You will massively regret it and that is precisely where
your mind goes.Therefore, this is easy.Toro XR57Q.
There can be no regrets if you buy the XR57Q. Sold.
Persuading the Represented Mind:
Representation and Exaggeration?
Like everyone else on the planet,you represent the real world in a way that
really is a mental interpretation or representation of reality.
Have you ever had this conversation:
“I can’t believe you just said that!”
“I didn’t say that. I said __________.”
“No, you didn’t. I heard you say _________”
“I did no such thing.You are dreaming. I clearly said ____________.”
And the reality-checking pair will never find the answer—because
there really is no answer and the two people will permanently represent
the event differently.This causes each person to paint a picture of the other
person and who they are instead of taking a videotape and storing it in
What our senses pick up vary from person to person. Other people
see slightly different colors than you do.They hear different sounds than
you do.They smell different smells than you do . . . or not at all. If you go
to a foreign country people say words that you cannot say because you
cannot hear all the sounds in the word.You literally have to be trained to
All of this is just the tip of the “representation” iceberg. It does go
much further.The implications for influence? Dramatic.
For example, seeing a child starve is a powerful image. Seeing 500
starve logically should give you a much more powerful image—but it
doesn’t.The difference in empathy or grief is marginal.
Not only do you literally see, hear, feel, taste, and smell a different
world than the person next to you, you also literally misrepresent the im-
portance of almost everything in the world. (And so do I!)
People misrepresent the scope, the importance, and the significance of
almost every experience in life. All of this causes persuasion to be much
more than a game of logic that has an obvious solution. Listen carefully:
There can be no obvious solution because the other person literally sees a
different world than you do.
What happens when these differences come up in everyday conver-
sation is one person will attempt to represent the picture or problem to
someone using a technique called exaggeration. Sometimes exaggera-
tion helps someone get the leverage needed to create change. Usually it
People often believe that if you exaggerate your case you can dramati-
cally improve your sales presentation or your proposal. It often seems that
exaggeration in written copy (“251 seats have already been sold”) will re-
ally make a big difference in your success.
But is this the case? And how do we know?
There is an interesting phenomenon in human behavior that you can
call “scope neglect.”
In a nutshell, scope neglect could be described like this: I’m a million-
aire.You tell me that if I give you $100 I will really be helping you out. I
decide whether to give you the $100. However much value I feel you will
get in your $100 is just about the same as how I will feel about giving you
$1,000. Neither amount causes any money pain, but they are seen as very
A fund-raiser is taking place in an actual research study. Some people
are told that their donation will immediately help save the lives of 2,000
birds.Another group is told their donation will help save 20,000 birds.A
final group is told their donation will save 200,000 birds.
It would seem that the last group should give far more money to the
charity than the first group.
But what happened? Group one averaged giving $80 per person.
Group two averaged $78 per person. Group three averaged $88 per person.
I was surprised.
I really was! I thought that there would at least be a significant differ-
ence between saving 200,000 birds’ lives versus 2,000. But there was no
significant difference. Increasing the numbers just didn’t matter.
What about something other than birds.
Residents in four western states were asked to make donations to
save either a single wilderness area or 57 wilderness areas.Theoretically
the group asked to donate to save 57 areas should give a lot more money
(57 times as much?) than those asked to save one area. This wasn’t the
case. In fact, the group asked to donate to save a total of 57 wilderness
areas gave only 28 percent more money than those asked to help save
one wilderness area.
Lesson:People neglect the scope of a problem because they develop a representa-
tion of it.They don’t take the time to put every piece of information up on
the board and analyze them all detail by detail.They get a picture or repre-
sentation in their mind, then believe that that is the representation that is
reality.Of course it isn’t.The scope of the situation is neglected and usually
Because of this thinking process there are many ramifications for those
who influence others. Exaggerating benefits or possible results from your
program is unnecessary and an enormous risk when contrasted with relat-
ing facts. It doesn’t pay off, and if someone were to find out you were ex-
aggerating it could destroy your business. Never exaggerate.
And there is more.
In an experiment related to scope neglect (this example is called “ex-
tension”) people were asked to estimate how many murders took place in
Detroit the previous year. Another group was asked how many murders
took place in Michigan that year. The first group offered a median re-
sponse of 200 people murdered in Detroit. The second group offered a
median response of 100 people murdered in Michigan.
I don’t have to tell you that Detroit is just one city in Michigan. One
city.But Detroit has a reputation of being dangerous and violent.Michigan
has a reputation of being a cold state in the Midwest.
People thought there were twice as many murders in Detroit as in
Michigan—and Detroit is only a part of Michigan!
But think about how people think. People don’t think in any logical
fashion.They think in terms of biases.
What this means is that the painted picture is far more important than
any logic when it comes to whether the person will decide on one thing
when compared to another. People base their decisions on the pictures in
their minds and not on the real-life experiences in the real world.There-
fore you need to be able to find out what those pictures are so you can
communicate clearly with your counterpart.
Talking about what “is”or “is not”will not make you more persuasive.
Finding out what representations your client has will, and this is where
you can make dramatic steps forward in the process of persuasion.
Flagging in the Persuasion Process
Flagging is one of the most powerful cutting-edge techniques of persua-
sion. I’ve saved it for last in order to leave you on a “wow!” note. Combin-
ing the latest in memory research, neuroscience, and real-life selling and
therapeutic skills, you begin to discover some fascinating phenomena.
Flagging is one specific technique that you can use to dramatically increase
compliance in almost all aspects of influence.
Up until now, you have learned that people remember their (good or
bad) peak experiences and how experiences ended, then generalize those
two things to an entire lifetime of experience.This is important when at-
tempting to influence people to repurchase your service or product when
they might have had a bad experience.Another useful way to prepare for
people who have possibly misremembered past experiences with you or a
competitor is to prepare your presentation to integrate with that new be-
lief as it is their new reality, if you will.
You learned that people make current decisions (usually in the form
of instant reactions) based on past experiences.
You know that if someone has said “no” to a profitable opportunity in
the past,it is very unlikely they will say “yes”when asked again.This seems
counterintuitive;it should be that people will always accept a proposal that
obviously benefits them. But this is not how the brain functions. If the
brain came to a “no” conclusion last time, then that will be the instant re-
action to a similar proposal this time.
Much like driving to your office, the brain doesn’t like to make deci-
sions more than once. Once it has decided, it will typically stick with that.
This is not rational per se; it is simply the way you and I were wired to
make life easier in the decision-making process!
You know that how people remember their past is crucial in how you
must communicate with them today for optimum influence potential.
Here is the latest in persuasion research about how people remember
the past and its impact on whether they will say “yes” to you—and then
what specifically to do about it.
If you were to ask people what their opinion was last year (or even last
week or yesterday) about a political issue, a personal issue, or pretty much
anything, there is a surprisingly good chance they will have remembered
Studies have been done that show that people remember a movie as
being particularly good when leaving the theater, only to change their
mind the next day after reading a review in the newspaper that had a con-
trary point of view.
What past research hasn’t shown was specifically who was remember-
ing more correctly and who was remembering more incorrectly.And this
is a crucial piece of the persuasion puzzle that has been missing—until the
twenty-first century. Now it is yours.
Think back to the year 2000.
Al Gore and George Bush were in a tight election race. In one exper-
iment participants were asked to predict the percentage of the popular
vote each candidate would have.You probably remember that Gore was
about 5 percentage points ahead going into the final days of the campaign.
The polls were roughly matched by the participants of this experiment
who said (on average) that Gore would win by 4.7 percent over Bush.
After the election,we knew only one fact,and that was that Gore won
the popular vote by about 0.3 percent. (We didn’t know who would actu-
ally be the president, because of chads in Florida!)
When the participants were asked after the election but before the
winner was determined in Florida, they remembered saying that Gore
would win by (on average) 0.6 percent! What happened to those 4.1 per-
What happened was that people watched the news and discovered that
Gore won by 0.3 percent and the actual fact superseded what prediction
they made the prior month—and by a great deal.
Let’s pause here and quickly analyze this first step: People look in ret-
rospect at what actually did happen and not at what they though would
happen when evaluating how they thought at the time.That’s mighty im-
portant in persuasion all by itself, but there is more that is going to blow
Key Point: When influencing others remember that if you ask them
how or what they decided in the past you will not likely receive accu-
Does anyone remember the past correctly? The first answer is of
course “no.”Memory changes with every view of that memory.Experts or
people who are directly involved in a situation remember their predictions
of outcomes very differently from those who have little investment or in-
terest in the outcomes.
In the Gore/Bush election those people who admitted to not having
political expertise remembered their predictions of the popular vote in a
very interesting way (remembering after the fact that Gore would win by
7.5 percent of the vote versus the 4.7 percent they predicted prior to the
election, which runs completely counter to the information they had after
the election was over).Yes,they remembered that their original predictions
were much less accurate than they actually were!
However, those people who felt they had expertise predicted Gore
would win by 5 percent but remembered predicting a real horse race with
only a projected 0.7 percent difference. Experts or people who have in-
volvement remember things in a different way. In this study experts
thought they were almost perfectly accurate in their predictions. They
were far from it!
I think one way to utilize the fact that we all have such dismal
memories is help someone feel comfortable with their expertise.A cou-
ple of examples:
“You probably figured the Gore/Bush election would be incredibly
close, but who would have ever thought it would have been a decision
made in court by one vote!”
This kind of approach reduces the insult factor that can happen when
you have the kind of knowledge you do about influence,memory,and de-
Another way to utilize people’s lack of accurate recall is to place a flag
in their memory to begin communication with.
“Remember when Gore and Bush debated and Al Gore seemed so ar-
rogant to the public that his numbers started dropping at the very end?
Well, that was one of the reasons I thought Bush had a chance.”
The flag is Gore’s arrogance.The point of placing a flag in someone’s
memory is that once it is there it becomes part of their permanent mem-
ory and gives you a point from which to establish a key piece of the per-
suasion process.A real-life example:
“Remember when you bought this house? Did you want something
that would be big enough for your family to comfortably live in?”
Now, the agent has no clue if this is true but by flagging the memory
of the decision to buy the house you add this specific “recollection” into
their memory as if it had always been there.
If you were to ask,“What caused you to buy this house?” people will
generate numerous possibilities internally before giving you a reason.That
reason could be helpful in the persuasion process, but one thing is certain:
The reason that they state probably had little to do with their decision in
the first place!
Therefore they will be more likely to doubt the generation of their
own recollection, and even though you now have a piece of information
that is useful, it also has drawbacks.
What,for example? Specifically that the person generated a number of
internal responses of their reason before saying what it was. This causes
question marks to pop up in the mind and makes a further conversation
more interesting but less likely to persuade.
If you flag a memory you will get one of two responses. Either the
people will accept the flag (most typical) and think in terms of “com-
fortable” in this case or they will rapidly tell you just why they did buy
“No, it wasn’t space or comfort at all. I needed a home that was near
At this point you have a client with dramatic recall (still as unlikely to
be accurate).This allows you to utilize their flag in the persuasion process
that has begun.
Once people have a flag anchored in place it primes mental processes
to think in terms of the flag.Yes, you can bet that the nearness to school
factor will be a determining factor at this point.
Key Point: You can flag another person’s memory through their own
generation of the flag or by planting the flag yourself.The flag should
always be something that was considered by the other person at some
time. If the flag is self-generated by the other person they are more
likely to internally argue or struggle with the flag because while they
originally came up with the flag they generated other options that they
considered and therefore they might recall these other points and begin
to oscillate internally.
Imagine I were to say,“Pick a number. I’m thinking of 61,000.”
What is your number?
Now,imagine that I say to someone else,“Pick a number.I’m thinking
The responses from the two individuals are going to be dramatically
different.Very few people will pick a number higher than 100 in the latter
case. In the former case where I said I was thinking of 61,000, people will
pick numbers in the thousands, tens of thousands, and even hundreds of
In both cases I primed the response by stating an anchor or flag—in
the first case a big number and in the second a small number.
The faster I ask for a response the closer to the anchor the response
These numbers mean nothing but have direct impact on suggestions
given to the person.
Let’s move this interesting phenomenon into the persuasion and mar-
Research participants were shown apartments to rent. They were
given rental fees for the apartments that varied from very high to very
low. When the individuals were given high numbers the individuals
focused on the positive aspects of the apartment. When they were
given low numbers they were much more likely to focus on the nega-
In further research, participants who are asked to accept one proposal
or another are more likely to focus on the positive aspects of the proposal.
Participants asked to reject one of two options are likely to focus on nega-
tive aspects of the two.
And there is more,but it all comes down to one key concept:Anchor-
ing is priming and it is an associative error. Whatever you mention to
prime their thinking is going to cause error in the thinking toward the an-
chor—even when you tell someone that this is what you are doing! What
does this mean in the real world?
Real estate agents are supposed to be experts in pricing real estate.But
take the same property and put a different list price on it by the owner and
you get valuations that are biased toward the valuation the owner put on
In courtrooms, judges who are asked for extremely long sentences
tend to have their thinking biased toward the long sentence.The same is
true for requests for short sentences.
Judges are also biased by anchors in compensation cases. Whether
$100 or large sums, judges are more likely to be biased by the number
that is requested.
Even more interesting, older adults who should know what percent-
age of their money is being saved and spent will be biased toward anchors
and not what they know to be correct.
“People estimate that Gandhi lived to be roughly 67 years old if they
first decided whether he died before the age of 140, but only 50 years old
if they first decided whether he died before or after the age of 9.” (Strack
and Mussweiler 1997)
Why? Because people evaluate hypotheses by trying to confirm them
and not intentionally looking for ways to refute them.The mind pointed
in a direction is unlikely to go back the other way without much further
thought and consideration.
Here is what is even more interesting. When people come up with
their own anchors, they are still biased toward their anchor instead of logi-
cally answering the question!
Clearly if you are selling a service for $1,000 and want to sell the most of
them possible then you probably should set a high anchor. “What you
will gain from this experience is easily worth $9,000. I could ask for half
of that fee but I’m not going to. Instead I’m going to ask only $1,000 for
At first glance you might think that the anchor is set too high.As indi-
cated earlier, though, people will set their acceptable price much higher
when there is a high anchor.This is true even when the anchor is absurdly
high. (Remember the Gandhi at 140 example?) You know that the anchor
is set high yet it influences you anyway.This is the power of the anchor or
flagging. It’s all about how the brain processes information, and that is one
of the key pieces we have been missing.
Does this mean that you should flag a high anchor for every promo-
tion you do?
Setting high anchors will get you sales, but don’t be surprised if you
lose a disproportionately high percentage of these clients because many
will buy and then be offered the service later at a lower price by some-
If your service is a one-time-only type of service, you might want to
try setting a high anchor,then contrast that price with a significantly lower price, compelling the person to buy.