One of the golden rules of persuasion states: Never tell anyone they’re wrong for what they think, believe, value or how they act.
An episode at the coffee shop gives us a great opportunity to see this in action.
A guy waits on line to order a coffee. There’s spacing between him and the person in front of him. It seems a bit unusual. Either he’s daydreaming or daring someone to cut in front of him.
herAnother woman gets in line. She has no idea she cut in front of this guy.
“Excuse me. Sorry. The line is back here,” the man says with a coy smile.
She looks puzzled as she replies.
“What? I just got behind this woman in front of me,”
“I know. I was here. I just wanted to give her some space.”
She replies with a forceful “okay.”
After switching places, the woman flashes a look of disgust and shakes her head. She feels she’s been wronged. You can see it. She looks flustered. She takes out her cell phone. I have no idea what she wrote but I assume it was some rant on social media.
The guy steps up to the counter and reveals a new persona. He greets the people behind the counter with an abundance of charm and politeness. The woman behind him sees this. She starts typing away on her phone again.
Breaking Down The Action
This guy felt he was wronged when the woman cut in front of him. The woman felt she was wronged too. I see her perspective. Since when do we give people extra spacing waiting in line? To the contrary, we limit spacing as a signal to others:
“I’m in line. Get behind me.”
Humans have a burning desire to be right. Even when we’re wrong we don’t like hearing about it. In this encounter, the guy got his emotional victory by calling out this woman. I’m guessing this woman got her victory too. I assume her feverish typing was all about the jerk who accused her of cutting.
Being Right Makes Persuasion Impossible
There’s a trap we fall into in any persuasion attempt. We feel the need to prove we’re right. By proving we’re right we’re telling them they’re wrong. Nobody likes being told they’re wrong. Even if you know this rule, it’s hard to remember it when you’re emotional. There’s an urge to prove you’re right at the expense of any other goal.
Even if you win, you lose. Just like the woman got her revenge by letting loose on social media, your prospect or opponent does the same in his own way. Maybe he refuses to buy or he cancels his order. Maybe he lets you win the battle but comes back twice as hard with his own “proof” to show you you’re wrong.
Fight the natural urge to prove you’re right. Instead, be curious. Be the seeker of truth. Use questioning to lead your prospect or foe to a decision you desire. Let him decide for himself that doing business with your or accepting your idea is the right move.
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