The Art of Persuasion
Last revised/verified: 2007-06-07
The art of persuasion can be used to get humans into bed or to get them to buy material goods. What I am interested
in is using the art of persuasion to sell ideas. You might use it to sell an idea like a new computer architecture,
the end of hunger, a sustainable ecology or that gay and straight humans should have strict equality. You might use
it to persuade humans to give up some bad habit like smoking tobacco, abusing alcohol, an obsolete violent religion
or cruelty to animals and children.
These hints may be useful to altruistic humans or future artificial intelligences. Knowledge of these techniques
may also be useful in defending yourself from persuasion by people who are considering only their personal benefit.
Here are the techniques I have learned. I have not yet thought out which ones are ethical.
- Teach by example. If you want to stop a mob from panicking in a theatre during a fire, walk calmly. If you want
humans to adopt some ethical moral code, or philosophical system, live it rigorously. They will pick it up from you
unconsciously by modelling you.
- Lead with non-controversial statements.
- Humans reason mostly by analogy. The key is finding the right analogy and letting them reason it through for
themselves. You don’t even need to assert the two models are related, just put them in the same
- Praise the desired behaviour in anyone who exhibits it. The others will mindlessly model the behaviour
to get praise.
- Don’t bother with the reasons why you want humans to do something. Get into their heads. Why would
they want to do it? People are much more likely to trust you if you obviously like them and have their
desires and well being in consideration.
- Reward humans with attention when they seem to be moving in the right direction.
- In debate, concede as many points as you possibly can. Your opponents will then perceive you as emminently
reasonable and stop fighting you so hard.
- If you want to get humans angry at some injustice, don’t model anger. They will think you already have it
covered and do nothing. Just calmly tell them the facts and let them create their own anger.
- Look on every response to what you say, no matter how vitriolic, as a gift from the universe to continue the
debate. The worst thing that can happen is humans will ignore you totally. Treat every attack as a cry for more
- Express your own doubts about anything you say. The more middle-of-the-road you are in any controversy the more
weight you have as a wise unbiased judge.
- There is no end to what can be accomplished if you don’t care who gets the credit.
A thing hasn’t been said until its been said a thousand times.
~ Ring Lardner (born:1885-03-06 died:1933-09-25 at age:48)
And, you had better find a different way to say it every time.
- Keep your sense of humour at all times. It is the best weapon for disarming a harsh critic.
- Smoke ’em out. Get them to tell you what sort of argument would be convincing.
- Play Matlock. Play it a little
dumber than you really are. It is useful if your opponents underestimate you. You are not as intimidating that way.
The ethics of doing this are grey.
- Use colourful language. Play on all the senses.
- Using ad hominems or other logical
fallacies is not logical.
If I say it, they can doubt me.
If they say it, it is true.
~ Tom Hopkins
Book referral for How to Master the Art of Selling
||recommend book⇒How to Master the Art of Selling|
|This is a book about selling products, somewhat more ethical than most. However, Hopkins in big on the art of dissembling. If you are aware of the various techniques the pros are taught to persuade you and lie to you, you can defend yourself against them better. Many of its dirty tricks can be adapted for a greater purpose|
|Greyed out stores probably do not have the item in stock. Try looking for it with a bookfinder.|
- If an argument is not working, no matter how logical it is, try something else. Humans are rarely persuaded by
- Never underestimate the rôle of the seconder. No idea succeeds without one.
- Be as ruthlessly honest as you can. Be willing to share any intimate detail about yourself. That way humans can
get a sense of who you really are. They need that before they can trust you.
For, if you would inform, a positive and dogmatical manner in advancing your sentiments may provoke
contradiction and prevent a candid attention.
Franklin (born:1706-01-17 died:1790-04-17 at age:84)
On the other paw, it can be a way to stimulate discussion.
- Use Pavlovian conditioning. Get them to associate what they like (e.g. sex) with what you want them to do. Get
them to associate what they don’t like (e.g. pig vomit) with what you don’t want them to do. Iconic
symbols are even better.
- Don’t rub it in when you score a debating point. The goal is to seek truth then persuade the humans of
that truth, not to humiliate your opponents.
- Help your opponent save face when he agrees with you. Humans consider changing one’s mind dishonourable.
Avoid shaming them by noticing publicly.
- A pause or complete silence is often more eloquent than any words. It also gives a chance for others to take up
- Counter contrarians by deprecating yourself or your ideas.
- Smoothly shift gears from third to second person.
- Use quantum salesmanship.
- The game isn’t over until everybody wins.