Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Power Of The Extreme Example


One of the entrepreneurs I've advised called me Yoda, because he said I was always using Jedi mind tricks to persuade him. He must not have minded, since he presented me with a Yoda bobblehead, which I keep on my mantel.

One of my favorite tricks is to combine the power of the extreme example with the power of reversal. I start by deliberately using an extreme example that my conversation has to agree with.

For example, if I needed to persuade someone of the importance of changing one's dietary habits, I might say, "What if I told you that you would die tomorrow without a special medicine only I possessed? How much would you pay for that?" Presumably the answer is, "a lot."

Then I would slowly walk my way back from the extreme example, coaxing the person along each step. "Okay, what if you weren't going to die tomorrow, but in 20 years? Now how much would you pay?"

After that, "How much would you pay to halve your chance of death in the next 20 years?" Let's say my hypothetical conversation partner says $100,000.

Now here's the real trick--reverse the question. By coming at the same issue from the opposite angle, you can induce insight. "How much money would I need to pay you to get you to eat right and exercise?" He'll probably answer something like $10,000.

"So let me get this straight," I say, "You'd pay $100,000 to halve your risk of death, but it would only take $10,000 to get you to eat right and exercise--which would cut your risk of death by over 70%. How about if you give me $100,000, and I'll pay you $10,000 to eat right and exercise?"

They usually don't take me up on my generous offer.

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