Reading time: 4 minutes Mar 25th 2010

One of the coolest things I have learned in my studies on the field of persuasion and influence is that you can convince anyone of anything if you work hard enough at learning the skills. As a demonstration of this let’s take an concept that is obviously wrong… that black is white and examine how you might convince someone of this.

Firstly, you could start by pacing their reality.

“It’s a ridiculous idea to propose that black is actually white. It is seemingly not true and yet I want you to think about the concept a little more deeply because you are going to be shocked to discover the truth. I know I was.”

By stating what you know they are thinking, you are pacing their credibility. You are showing them that you know what they are thinking and that you did agree. The word seemingly carefully positions doubt in the concept. The word shocked matches what kind of effect will need to happen for their belief to change and the presupposition ‘discover’ works quite well presupposing the truth is different. Finally, by saying that you were shocked yourself, you are leading by your example.

Next you could quote experiments which throw doubt on their theories.

“Of course, you may be aware of the Quantum Physics Experiments that regularly show that what you perceive to be true isn’t and what you thought wasn’t true is… when you understand hard core science. For example, in school we learned about the Proton, Neutron and Electrons. It turns out there is no Neutron. And how could this be? We are constantly being shocked by realizing that was is certain is not so.”

Here you are using advanced science which holds plenty of credibility as evidence that we often get things wrong. You are giving an example of how what we think is true isn’t and showing how we are in fact wrong often. Again the word shocked seems to connect the previous example with this example and it almost feels as if science is arguing with their belief already.

You could follow this by using an example closer to the topic.

“What is really interesting is that actually what happens when you look at an object is that light reflects off the object and every colour is absorbed by it except for the colour you think you see it as which in this case would be black. So you think you are seeing black because your brain tricks you into perceiving this. Really you are seeing everything but black.”

This is simply taking some scientific fact and using it in a confusing way to make it seem like they are completely wrong with their perception. By finding a small hole in the idea that you are seeing black from a physics perspective, your mind is more open to being influenced on the subject matter.

Then you could start bridging the gaps and stacking your points.

“The truth is that although we think black is black, we have really no idea what it is as our brain doesn’t actually see black. In fact our brain takes in light from the outside world. That’s all. In order for something to appear black it has to be held in contrast to something else, for example, white. So, when you think you see black, you only see what your brain tries and convince you is black in contrast to what is white. Also, you only see it through the white light that allows you to see. So actually what you are really seeing is white and therefore even though it seems ridiculous, black is actually white.”

Using the word ‘think’ again presupposes doubt in our concept. Using our ‘brain’, we distance the person from their brain and make it plausible that what seems true for them isn’t for their brain. Then we add in the ideas of light allowing us to see and contrast enabling us to notice a colour and mix all these up while making a apparent conclusion. Finally the conclusion stated is held in place with use of the presupposition ‘actually’.

Okay, here’s where I accept that I was really clutching at straws and this example doesn’t really work at all however, this was a good opportunity to point out some persuasive patterns that people use when they try and convince others of their point of view.


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