Do You Know the ‘Principle of Nudge’?

Persuasion is built on a series of small agreements, rather than one colossal, ear-shattering, cosmic “YES!!”

People often can be most effectively persuaded when shepherded along gently, not yanked through the streets. A great example comes not from a shepherd, but from my sister-in-law’s Goldendoodle, Lucky.

During one family gathering at my sister-in-law’s home, Lucky was particularly affectionate. He kept rubbing against me, looking for attention, which I happily gave him. After a few minutes, I realized I was no longer in the living room, but in the kitchen. When I mentioned my surprise at the change of venue, my sister-in-law, replied matter-of-factly, “He does that all the time. He brought you out here; this is where we keep his treats.”

Ah, the Principle of Nudge.

How might nudge work for you? Let’s say your persuasion priority is to convince your VP of marketing to allocate dollars and responsibility to you for a new product training initiative. Here’s an example of the series of small agreements you can elicit from your target:

  • “Yes, we can meet to talk about your idea.”
  • “Yes, I can provide information.”
  • “Yes, I can help brainstorm options.”
  • “Yes, I can talk to others in my circle to test the idea.”
  • “Yes, we can run some numbers.”
  • “Yes, we can pitch the board.”

Each yes slowly nudges your target toward the big one: “Yes, I’ll green-light the project.”

In most cases, you wouldn’t walk into your VP’s office and demand money and power (unless you have an absolutely monster credibility and track record, and even then I wouldn’t recommend it).

That’s like asking a person to marry you on the first date. You can, but it doesn’t make for good policy.

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