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How nudging & light persuasion won me an entry visa: an example

Today I arrived at Camiguin, a beautiful island in the Phillipines.

Turns out, the local governor got really strict on Coronavirus.
As soon as you disembark, there are people with alcohol soap asking you to wash your hands, plus fever detectors, plus a desk to register and check people's background.

When I write that my last location outside the Philippines was Thailand a flurry of questions start coming in.
A lady asks me if they can hold me there, while another one asks me to sit.

I tell them I'm cool standing, and I stand by the desk as a few more people write their details.
Albeit this would qualify as "super high alert", in truth the people at the desk seem very unprofessional. They talk about Thailand, and ask themselves which were the countries at high risk.
Since it looks like a bunch of random people assembled at the last minute, I think it's possible to influence and take a more active role to influence my destiny as well.

I chime in:

Yeah, it's China, Macau, Hong Kong, Taiwan.
Not Thailand, Thailand is safe. Especially when I was there.

After all, it's true. Thailand was safe when I was there.
There wasn't a single infection which was not directly linked to people who had traveled straight from China, and not a single case of person-to-person infection.
But you don't wanna sound too technical here, or it would them feel like you're trying to overpower them and do their job.

Influence, nudge... But delicately.

Asked where I was in Thailand last, which I had already written on the paper, I reply:

Yeah, it's almost a month now I have been here. I put 15th of January there just to be sure.
All this time I have been here.
I traved to.. (mention a few places in the Philippines)

Again, also true.

My answer shifts the focus from "me in Thailand" to "me in the Philippines for all this time". I am positioning myself as safer, more like them and less of a "foreigner at risk".
I want to make them understand that it's been far long than 14 days that I am here, which is the normal quarantine period. But I don't wanna say it straight: I want them to reach that conclusion.

Still, not enough.
I'm wondering why they're being so hard.

I am invited to sit again.
I refuse, but without making it sound like a confrontational refusal. I say "oh thank you, it's OK, I can stand here, it's all good".

This is an important decision.
If I sit, I become a "passenger on hold", someone to check more deeply.
By standing, I'm still a guy who's being asked a few more questions. I also look healthier standing, and I can take part in the dialogue more as an equal. Plus, I put more pressure on them to let me go, since the path of least resistance, I am supposing, is to just to say "OK, go".

A few more questions again.
Finally, I am asked about my country of origin.
I realize this might be them looking for a reason to let me go. So I talk about where I am from. Europe sounds much safer to them than Thailand, even though all my stats point to me being no higher risk than any other Philippino around.
Again, impressions trump reality.

Finally, I am handed the paper to allow me to stay here for the duration of my trip.

To sum it up, these were my moves:

  1. Refuse to sit to frame the situation favorably
  2. Chime in to influence their dialogue
  3. Refuse to sit again, maintaining the frame of "just here for a little while" without being confrontational
  4. Answer in a way that stresses the positive, instead of the negatives
  5. Answer the final question in a way that confirms their almost-reached positive decision

How Persuasion Saved my Trip

My biggest surprise though came later.

When I reach the destination the Canadian guy who built this beautiful resort is incredulous.

He asks me:

How did you get here?

I'm wondering what does he mean.
He is shirtless and on shorts, and I'm thinking that my white shirt and long pants are making me look like an alien for the location.

Instead, he was referring to how I got through the controls.
He wasn't expecting me to get here. He says most people had to cancel and were sent back.
There was one couple here, but they were only allowed one night before having to leave the island.

Wow, looks like I dodged a bullet.

You can never be sure of course.
Maybe if I had shut up, if I had sat down, if I didn't draw attention to my long stay in the Philippines.. I would have still been allowed to go through.
But after I spoke to the guy here, I think chances are higher that I would have not been allowed in the island. And that would have been a huge bummer.

It goes to show how helpful it is in life to understand some basic principles of persuasion and power dynamics.
Add years and years of small daily behavior that nudge the situations in your favor, and you will see a tectonic shift in the direction of your life.

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Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on February 10, 2020, 2:33 pm

I chime in:

Yeah, it's China, Macau, Hong Kong, Taiwan.
Not Thailand, Thailand is safe. Especially when I was there.

Hey Lucio,

Congrats on your victory in influencing those authorities!

On the topic of why they may have been so difficult, do you think that it's because of your use of the word "not"?

In a course I took in persuasion, I was taught that the human brain can't process the word "don't".

Ex: If I said, "Do NOT think about Donald Trump," chances are you just thought about him. This idea was first introduced to me in the form an example from Tony Robbins, who purposely named his Netflix documentary: I Am Not Your Guru.

While persuading, you said "Not Thailand". In your personal opinion, do you think that your persuasion would have been more effective if you had just said:

"Yeah, it's China, Macau, Hong Kong, Taiwan.

Thailand is safe. Especially when I was there."


To your continued success,


Yes, that's true, you generally want to avoid the keywords that you don't want to put into their minds.

Since the topic of safe/not safe list was already in the air -and relevant in their minds-, it didn't do as much damage.

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