How To Convince Someone To Break A Bad Commitment… Without Shattering Their Confidence

It seemed like a good idea at the time. It was a beautiful summer evening. We readied ourselves for a night out for dinner by ourselves.

“Why don’t we go to a restaurant with outdoor seating?” I asked when we got in the car.

“Yeah, great idea.” she responded

We went to a local restaurant with a nice outdoor patio. We sat down at a great table. I ordered a glass of wine. That was the peak of the experience.

My wife put on jeans. She thought she’d be cold in air conditioning. We decided on the outdoor place after we left the house. The heat and humidity made her uncomfortable.

The server brought out our appetizers. In an instant flies swarmed around us. Every few seconds one of us was swatting away flies.

The decision to eat outside turned into one of regret. We both admitted it was a bad decision.

It’s easy to admit you made a mistake in these kinds of situations.  There’s little at stake.

In other situations, it’s not so easy to admit you made the wrong choice.

The Bad Commitment Cycle

In sales and marketing, we often come across prospects trapped in the bad commitment cycle. 

A prospect or customer trapped in the bad commitment cycle.  Avoid framing his previous commitment as a mistake. Instead, frame it as the right decision at the time based on available information. This frees them from their current commitment and opens them up to new ideas.

Here’s what’s odd about this tool. It works just as well when I use it on myself as when I use it in copywriting or marketing.

You see, awareness of making a bad commitment is never the problem. We know when we make bad commitments. The problem is admitting it to ourselves and others. We fear looking stupid in front of others. We fear shattering our own image of ourselves.

What we need is a cover story. A plausible reason why we made the bad commitment frees us of negative self-talk and protects our image.

Framing it as the best decision given the information available provides that necessary cover story.

I see other writers fall back on the “it’s not your fault” reasoning. I tend to avoid this. It comes across as condescending. Plus, most people think they’re intelligent. They feel they’re  not the sort who falls for deception.

Creating The Cover Story

Creating the cover story is simple.  Follow these steps

  1. Identify the bad commitment they need to break.
  2. What information was available at the time?
  3. What new information became available later?
  4. How did the lack of new information make the earlier decision the best available?
  5. Write out your argument

This technique works just as well on ourselves as it does on others. We know when we’re stuck in a bad commitment. We just need an excuse to break it without admitting fault.


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