Can we really predict the future? Maybe humans are so predictable it leads us to believe in our supernatural abilities?
Anyone who’s ever sold or marketed something will identify with this experience.
You’re in the middle of a sale. Your prospect promises you an answer by the end of the day Friday.
Friday morning rolls around. You think to yourself:
“No big deal. He’s got the rest of the day to respond.”
You avoid nagging your contact. You don’t want to appear needy.
Now, it’s mid-afternoon on Friday. There’s no communication. You sense it. The deal is off. You don’t know it for sure but your soul feels it.
Most people hate delivering bad news. It’s uncomfortable. Instead of delivering bad news, we shy away from it.
The end of the business day closes in. Still nothing. I send an email.
“Hey Tim – Let me know if you want to move forward. I have someone else asking about your timeslot. What should I tell her?”
With that email, I accomplished two things. I made it easy for him to say “No.” By mentioning someone else was interested in hiring me, it takes the pressure off. Second, it let me push him for an update without sounding needy.
I heard nothing the rest of the day.
The next morning, I received a terse email sent from his mobile phone.
“Go ahead and take the spot. Going through some internal re-alignment. The project is on hold.”
At least I had an answer.
That’s one way of dealing with predictable behavior. A mentor of mine long ago taught me a more valuable lesson.
The Art Of Unpredictability
This mentor made his living off unpredictability.
When you act, write or talk like others expect, they dismiss you with little effort. They do it on autopilot because they’re so experienced at it.
When you act, write or talk in a way incongruent with your counterparts expectation, they lack the experience to deal with it. There’s no autopilot response. They need to think about it first.
Incongruity Holds Interest
When we write incongruent things it holds the attention of our readers. They need to stick around and see how it all plays out.
A story about a Wall Street Trading Wiz who graduated from Harvard is predictable. Nobody cares. They’ve heard it before.
A story about a Wall Street Trading Wiz who immigrated here from Africa and never went to high school is unpredictable. There’s an incongruity with becoming a trading wiz, never going to high school and immigrating from a poor country.
How did he do it?
What’s his secret?
If someone like him could do it, so can I.
We feel an urge to find the answers to those questions.
Create Your Own Unpredictable Stories
Here are two strategies add unpredictability.
It requires just a small amount of creativity and thinking.
In regular business or personal communication, ask yourself these questions.
How will my [prospect, peer, clinet] expect me to react?
How can I react counter to their expectations and make it easy for them to respond in a favorable manner?
In a sales and marketing situation, you want to use incongruity to create unpredictable stories that hold interest.
What is unusual or out of place or out of the ordinary?
What will make my reader think: “Wow. I gotta know how this happened?”