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How to use the METHODS persuasion framework to gain compliance

The example I'll be drawing from is specific to dating, but this overarching concept and approach applies to all social interactions.


Him: "Well you still texted's obvious that you like me (frame: "you like me, if you didn't you wouldn't text back"). So, got any hobbies?

This persuasion approach leverages the "E" in the METHODS framework: "Elicit Congruent Attitudes".

The way this approach works is that we have our attitudes (our beliefs) and our actions. And, naturally, we want our attitudes to be congruent with our actions.

If our actions are out of line with the attitudes/beliefs that we hold, we'll experience a mental discomfort called "cognitive dissonance". So, naturally, we do our best to avoid that discomfort by remaining congruent.

The thing is, we don't always know all of the attitudes that we hold. So, as Kolenda puts it, “We usually infer our attitudes from our behavior.”

Therefore, by reminding your target of their behaviors—in the example above, reminding them of how they're continuing to invest in the interaction—you can reinforce the attitude of how important continuing this conversation is to them. And, as a result, they’ll be more likely to act congruently with that attitude by taking the action that aligns most with that attitude—in this case, by continuing to invest in the conversation (see "agitate the problem" in the DARRP framework).

Yet, there are a few problems that caused the approach in the example to fall a part:

#1. Forgets the power-protecting rule

In the example above, the frame is: "you like me, if you didn't you wouldn't text back".

The problem with that approach is that it doesn't give the target (the girl being texted) an "out".

By saying this, she now only has two options to choose from:

  • Continue to text this guy and give up her power to "play the (dating) game" (e.g. by doing this she confirms that she "likes him", so it's harder for her to play the game and remain somewhat detached/disinvested to make him chase, etc.).
  • Stop texting this guy and keep her dating power.

And, so early in the dating stages, she's most likely to choose the option that allows her to keep her best cards.

#2. Looks to current behavior instead of past behavior

Another tweak to look at is the phrasing. It looks at current behavior:

  • If you didn't like XYZ you wouldn't be doing XYZ

With that phrasing, the target has the power to stop doing XYZ, even if only to prove their point that "they're right and you're wrong" out of ego (another reason to power-protect your target).

Better phrasing involves making it about behavior they can't change:

  • You already XYZ so it seems like you care about XYZ

And, that behavior they already did is in the past, so it's unchangeable (making it a bit harder for the target to slam the door in your face over it).

*Note: Keep in mind, in the bullet points above, the phrasing is more about the approach and NOT the exact wording used here.

#3. Must have "risk-mitigation" involved

By risk mitigation, I mean it's a poor strategy to use an approach like this—a power-taking approach based on current behavior—if there's no rapport, social capital, buy-in, or addressing of their WIIFM yet.

And, in the example, this approach was used without any of those elements.

Feel free to share your thoughts on this below.

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Another quick example, this time based on something a little different:

Governor: "Time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks [for the rising cases of Covid-19]."

Keep in mind, these are only my thoughts from a psychology and persuasion POV: the governor's statement could have been phrased a little better.

#1. Leans toward guilt-tripping manipulation

That message leans toward seeking to make the unvaccinated feel guilty for the rise in COVID cases—in order to get them to comply with the actions she wants them to take.

#2. Uses low self-esteem manipulation

One of the tools for inducing low self-esteem is blaming.

And, once one has low-self esteem, a myriad of psychological effects take place that make them more susceptible to following the demands of the manipulating party.

#3. Elicits incongruent attitudes

As Kolenda says, "We usually infer our attitudes from our behavior."

So, if someone has gone months without having gotten the vaccine yet, they can back-rationalize to themself that if they haven't gotten it yet, it's because it must not be that important to them right now. Or, that they didn't really want it in the first place. That back-rationalization would be one attitude.

Another attitude (that not many people hold) is the attitude of wanting to hurt people. So, saying, "[It's] time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks [for the rising cases of Covid-19]," can push those people to lean further toward NOT getting the vaccine because now they have two reasons not to get it:

  • They back-rationalized it wasn't a priority for them.
  • If they get the vaccine now, it will be similar to "taking the blame" for all of the rising cases and any deaths that result from those cases.

That's why, naturally, they'll lean toward taking the action that allows them to avoid the negative attitudes (that cause mental discomfort) and will instead be congruent with a different one they prefer.

#4. Gets trapped by the "persuasion knowledge model"

This is what the persuasion knowledge model is:

Kolenda: “Whenever you’re trying to persuade someone, it’s very important that you try to remove the perception that you’re trying to persuade need to give the impression that they’re in control of the decision and that you’re not trying to guide or change their behavior in any way. That approach is important because of a concept known as the ‘persuasion knowledge model’.”

Research/Study: “When people perceive that someone is trying to change their behavior, they become defensive. They resist that persuasion attempt.” (Friestad and Wright, 1994)

And, the governor's approach doesn't exactly make the receiver feel like it's (entirely) their decision to get the vaccine or not.

In my opinion, the governor makes it somewhat obvious—especially with such a direct accusation alongside the "what's in it for her's"—that she's looking to persuade the unvaccinated.

Again, feel free to share any thoughts you might have on this.

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Lucio Buffalmano
Quote from Ali Scarlett on July 28, 2021, 1:56 am

Governor: "Time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks [for the rising cases of Covid-19]."

I'm on the same page as you.
I think he could have phrased it positively.

Making some numbers up:

Governor: We are currently at 20% vaccination. (social proof)
If we can reach 30% vaccination (gives people a realistic number to hit), we anticipate cases to go down, and you can start going out to grab your favourite burger. (WIIFT through visual imagery)

Vaccination is free, takes 30 minutes at the nearest clinic with side effects lasting only a day. (minimise concerns)

There has been 15,694 people vaccinated in the past month. (more social proof)
We have seen a 70% decrease in cases from them and their families compared to the unvaccinated. (benefits of getting vaccinated through statistics)


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Lucio Buffalmano

Very good analyses, Ali.

The gambit of the first dating example almost never works.

It's smug, one-upping, and it tries to impose a frame of "you do like me" right when she's giving you the sign that she doesn't.
99.x% of the time she only gets annoyed and slams the door in your face -and righteously so-.

And in the governor's sentence, this was the longer quote:

“Folks are supposed to have common sense (...) But it’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the vaccinated folks. It’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down.”

If her goal was persuasion, that was indeed one of the worst angles she could have taken.

Obama did a similar mistake when he went to the UK  to persuade against Brexit. He lectured from a high ground, and said that the US would put Britain "at the back of the queue".
And that had the opposite effect.

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Matthew Whitewood
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