My wife dashed out of the house for a social event. I needed to find something to do with my two boys. I knew they would pin me down to just one option.
My six year old son dreamt up an imaginary town the other day. He’s been obsessing about. He’s been bugging me to take a drive to find it. How do I tell him no? Should I tell him no?
He put me in a bind. I don’t want to tell him it doesn’t exist. He has a creative mind (like his daddy). I don’t want to get in the way of that. That doesn’t mean I’m willing to drive for hours around New Jersey searching for an imaginary place. I needed to dip into my persuasion tool bag to get out of the jam.
The Three Vital Principles
First, I followed my number one rule:
Never tell anyone they are wrong for what they believe, think or feel
So, when he pushed me about finding his imaginary town I played along. I got excited about the prospect of finding it.
Then, I followed a second rule of persuasion:
Stoke their fantasies
I told my kids to get their shoes, socks and coats on. We’re going for a drive. We’re going to find this magical town.
Finally, I followed a third rule of persuasion:
Plant seeds of doubt about their current belief, view or opinion
I needed my son to conclude on his own that his pretend town may not exist. I also wanted him to understand that when we go for a drive we may not find it. Because of rule number one, I couldn’t say that. Instead, I had to plant seeds of doubt.
We pulled up Google maps and searched for it. Of course, we couldn’t find it. Then I told him not to worry. We’ll try the GPS when we get in the car. When it failed to show up on the GPS I made a few comments.
“Maybe the town is too new and it’s not on GPS yet. If so, we may not be able to find it.”
“Or, it could be that the town wants to remain a secret.”
I refrained from telling him the town does not exist. I never said we’ll never find it. Instead, I planted seeds of doubt. Because of that, there now exists a plausible reason why we can’t find it.
We drove around for about forty-five minutes. I followed his directions. Once we strayed too far away from home I put an end to the search. He resisted. He demanded we keep going.
I kept an ace in my back pocket. I shouted out a promise of stopping at Starbucks for cake pops if we headed back home. That shifted the attention. Maybe that was his plan all along? Make unreasonable requests so that I would take them out for a treat. I doubt it, but maybe I should keep a watch on that.
Persuasion Can Make Us All Happier
By following these principles of we experienced a closer bond with less strife. More importantly, it shows that persuasion is a two-way street. It’s not a zero sum game. Using these principles gives you the ability to craft win-win scenarios that otherwise might not be so evident. My example shows how this works in an interactive setting, but you could easily adapt this to the written word too.