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How to persuade your husband to do what you want

Pulling from Nick Kolenda's Methods of Persuasion, Kolenda shares a curiosity-inspiring application of a few of his persuasion techniques. I've decided to share my analysis of one of his "real-world applications" in this new thread.

Real-World Applications: The Family Vacation (Part 1)

Kolenda: "In this first application, you want your family to take a vacation in a few months, but you expect to encounter some resistance from your budget concerned husband. You know that your family has enough money saved, so you decide to implement a few tactics to make him more open-minded. Considering your seven-year-old daughter Mackenzie, you decide that a small trip to Disney Land would not only give her a great memory, but it would also be an affordable vacation compared to a world-wide alternative."

Here's how the scenario plays out alongside Kolenda's techniques:

Her: (gathers travel information for two potential vacations, one being a very expensive vacation around the world and the second being the trip to Disney Land)

Her: (mentions that Mackenzie has been starting to eat vegetables—a food that she's always disliked.)

Her: Speaking of Mackenzie... (presents the very expensive vacation option)

Him: (immediately rejects that vacation idea)

Her: (presents second option—the trip to Disney Land)

Him: (begins contemplating the idea intensely) "I'm on the fence, I'll need time to think about it."

My Analysis of The Persuasion Principles At Play

#1. She Primes Her Husband's Mindset

Lucio: "You can make people think about a certain topic by simply mentioning topics that remind them of a certain subject...If you want your target to be more open-minded then a much better way than telling them to be open-minded -albeit that might work too if you know how to do it-, you might talk about something which related to open-mindedness."

  • "Mentions that Mackenzie has been starting to eat vegetables—a food that she's always disliked." (= mentions Mackenzie's open-mindedness to vegetables, which primes her husband to be temporarily more open-minded)

#2. She Uses The Anchoring Frame (The “Anchoring” Cognitive Bias)

Frame control techniques are great for controlling and negotiating frames. But, what about when you need to set the frame? What do you do when there's no frame to control or negotiate yet because you're the first one starting the negotiation?

In my Masterclass review, Daniel Pink shares some frames you can use to initiate the negotiation on a persuasive start by setting a persuasive frame. And, to do this, Pink leverages cognitive biases:

Pink: "A cognitive bias is a way that our thinking doesn’t go straight. Our thinking goes sideways. It’s a glitch in the human mind. We all are subject to it. We have to watch for it because, in 99 times out of 100, it’s going to lead us astray."

In this case, she uses the "anchoring" cognitive bias to lead her husband toward the outcome she wants—a nice trip for the family.

What is anchoring?

Nalebuff: "A psychological principle stating that the first number we hear tends to anchor our perceptions [of the value on the table] close to that value."

So, for example, let's say that the around-the-world trip she suggested costs $10,000. That trip is the value on the table and $10,000 becomes the anchor.

She effectively anchored her husband's perceptions to believe that the vacation is worth either a little more or a little less than $10,000. So, that's now the terms of the negotiation as well as the negotiation's starting point.

#3. She Uses The Contrast Frame (The “Contrast – Misreaction Tendency” Cognitive Bias)

When her husband rejected that initial expensive offer, as expected, she introduced a far less expensive trip to Disney Land right after.

And, the expensive offer being contrasted to the less expensive one makes the less expensive option look like a far better deal. Why?

Pink: "…we understand things in relative terms, not in absolute terms. What does that mean? All right. Is this expensive? Compared to what? Am I tall? Compared to who? IS this a good place to visit? Compared to what [where]? The single most important question in sales and persuasion is not ‘what’s in it for me’? That’s what we’re taught in sales training classes. ‘What’s in it for me?’ That’s an important question. It’s the second most important question. The most important question in sales and persuasion is, ‘Compared to what’? The way you make something clear is by contrasting it with something else, not letting it sit on its own."

Basically, the high anchor—the first and expensive vacation option—was a decoy. So, when that high anchor was contrasted with this low offer, that made the low offer (the Disney trip) look like a much sweeter deal.


As you probably noticed, the husband still didn't give a clear "yes". So, if you guys found this valuable at all, let me know and I'll drop a "part two" on how Kolenda recommends proceeding from here.

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OK, we're back.

The wife got rejected, so she continues down Kolenda's persuasion strategy after that "no".

Real-World Applications: The Family Vacation (Part 2)

In this case, she continues to prime her husband's mind for the when she decides to field her request again:

#4. She Uses The Mere Exposure Effect (The "Conceptual Fluency" Tactic)

Kolenda: "You leverage repeated exposures [the mere exposure effect] by "forgetting" to leave travel brochures, postcards, and other travel-related advertisements throughout the house. These advertisements will repeatedly expose your husband to the idea of taking a vacation which will make him find the idea of travel more appealing. These tactics will be even more effective because, as you learned, non-conscious are more powerful than conscious exposures. If your husband doesn't consciously pay attention to these subtle advertisements, his attitude toward the vacation will be further enhanced through the mere exposure effect. Those repeated exposures will also enhance your husband's conceptual fluency for travel. When you bring up the idea again, he will be able to picture himself on vacation more easily because of those exposures. And, he will misattribute that ease to a genuine desire to go on vacation."

For background on some of these terms:

Conceptual Fluency (Definition): states that the faster a concept enters our mind, the more we tend to like it.

So, for example, if you're deciding between buying from one of two brands, when your opinion of both brands is the same, you're likely to base your decision on the brand that most easily comes to mind.

That's because that heightened conceptual fluency—the ease of which that brand comes to mind—feels pleasant. And, we (non-consciously) attribute that pleasant feeling not to the psychological effect of that heightened conceptual fluency, but to the brand that we're thinking of.

So, when the wife is leaving the travel ads around the house, she's priming her husband's mind so that the idea of travel will easily come to mind when she asks him about it again. And, when he easily thinks of travel—when that high conceptual fluency takes place—he'll attribute the good feelings of that high conceptual fluency to the idea of travelling instead.

*Note: The same effect applies to processing fluency.

Kolenda: "After a week or two of letting these travel ads lie around the house, you finally ask him about his stance on the vacation. This time, your husband is somewhat more open to the idea. But, he says that he still needs time to think about it."

Another "no" :).

I'll likely be back with more content to finish the strategy, so if you want to see the rest of Kolenda's approach to getting to "yes", stay tuned.

This is the final stage / phase of this persuasion strategy.

Real-World Applications: The Family Vacation (Part 3)

Kolenda: "You've somewhat cracked your husband's closed-mindedness. And, he's now on the fence about taking a trip to Disneyland. You give him that extra boost of persuasion."

#5. She Leverages Good / Positive Associations (The "Classical Conditioning" Tactic)

Kolenda: "You decide to classically condition him to find the vacation even more appealing. Each time that your husband is in a good mood, you bring up the idea of travel in general. You don't bring up the idea about the family vacation because that might spark psychological reactance if he notices your devious motive. Instead, you mention unrelated aspects of travel such as your co-worker's recent trip to France or your family's trip to Italy a few years ago."

"Not only does that tactic further reinforce your repeated exposures [the mere exposure effect], but it also classically conditions your husband to find the idea of travelling more appealing. By consistently presenting the idea of traveling to your husband when he's in a pleasant mood, you can cause his positive emotions to transfer to the family vacation idea. Your husband will unknowingly develop a more positive attitude toward the vacation because of those continuous exposures."

"After you condition him for a week or two, you once again mention the possible family trip to Disneyland. And, his response is a breath of fresh air. He's finally on board."

*Note: Perhaps her husband could have been more easily persuaded sooner (without the roundabout "mind games") if she would've known and leveraged some frame control. Personally, I wouldn't have appreciated this persuasion approach if I would've found out later that this is what my wife was doing since we're a team and I expect open, honest communication from her.


That's all for this persuasion strategy.

I might be referencing this thread / approach in an upcoming review, so it was worth the effort it took to write—and double worth it if you got some value from it :).

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