Guilty Persuasion

Guilty Persuasion

I trekked into the 7-Eleven store by my office and made eye contact with the owner. He’s a friendly guy and likes to talk with his customers. He looked at me with a small grin.

“Hello, haven’t seen you in a while” he said

I froze. He noticed that I had gone missing. I did what anyone else in my situation would have done. I lied.

“Yeah, I was on vacation for two weeks and then I worked from home for a few days”

The next day I went back to buy my midday snack…. And… I made sure he saw me when I was there.

Here’s the backstory:

For a few years I had gone to this store almost daily to get my midday snack. Usually a Kind bar or some nuts. For the past month, however, I realized that I could buy these things in bulk at my local supermarket and cut my cost in half. When I started doing that, I had no reason to go back to the 7-Eleven.

The owner noticed I’d gone missing and made the innocent comment that he hadn’t seen me in a while. I don’t think he had any intention of “guilting” me to start frequenting his store again but that is exactly what he did. Even though it would cost me twice as much as going to the local supermarket.

The lesson here is not how the owner “guilted” me to come back to his store. The lesson is how I figured out how he did it. Besides any technique or strategy, it’s the most powerful lesson in persuasion you can acquire.

I’ll reveal this power at the end, but first I’ll tell you how he persuaded me to come back as a customer.

First, the owner was super friendly. It was impossible not to like him. As you probably already know, if we like someone, we tend to care how they think of us. If I had always thought of this guy as a jerk, I would not have cared how he thought about me. That was one motivation for me to return as a regular customer but I easily could have pushed that aside by never returning to his store again. There was something else at play.

I have a certain image of myself. I like to think of myself as supporting the small business owner, supporting friends. And since this guy was always friendly to me, I thought of him as a friend and I didn’t want to violate that self-image I had of myself.

Finally, he was helpful to me. He would often ask if there was anything I was looking for that he didn’t carry. Once upon a time I was really into coconut water. He didn’t carry it. A few weeks later I noticed one of the refrigerators stocked with coconut water. I doubt I was the only customer who asked this but I felt like he did it for me and it spurred the desire to reciprocate.

These are all powerful lessons in persuasion but the real lesson here is something a bit deeper. Perhaps you noticed it already?

How did I figure out these lessons from this simple interaction with the owner of a 7-Eleven? It’s from a power I’ve been honing for a few years. If you practice it enough, it will become the most powerful bullet in your persuasion arsenal.

It’s the power of observation.

Sounds lame right?

Let me explain how it works and why it’s so powerful. We’ll use the same example from above:

For most people, if they went through the same experience they wouldn’t give it another thought. For me, when I walked out of that store I asked myself:
What just happened there? What transpired?
How was I feeling when it began?
How did my emotions and desires change as a result of what transpired?
What was the end result?

By asking myself those questions after the interaction with the owner, I was able to uncover how he persuaded me to come back to his store as a regular customer, despite the higher cost and without any “sales” tactics.

I go through this exercise at least three times a day. It has been the single biggest driver in my persuasion skills.

You can read all the books, take all the courses and become pretty good at persuasion… but build your powers of observation everyday and you’ll become a master.

Start practicing with even the most insignificant social exchanges.

You probably won’t find the answers immediately. Over time, your brain will make the connections.

Combine this practice with your study of the strategies you read here and you’ll piece together the answers even faster.


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