Risky Business: How to Raise the Stakes in Persuasion Situations

When in the process of persuading somebody, it can sometimes help to heighten the sense of risk for that person and then leverage something known as anticipated regret to give your recommendation about how to proceed.

My favorite way of raising risk is with a “chiasmus” [kahy-az-muhs] —  a verbal pattern in which the second half of a phrase is balanced against the first, with key elements being reversed. For example: “I am stuck on Band Aid® brand ’cause Band Aid’s stuck on me!” and “Live to ride / Ride to live.”

Here’s another: “It’s one thing to have the insurance and not need it. It’s a completely different situation to need it and not have it.”

Now, that particular one is quite interesting. Now, your target should be a bit more concerned.

Next, attach something called “anticipated regret” and you’re really getting somewhere. This is when you ask your target to consider the angst he or she would feel if they didn’t follow your advice and made a bad decision as a result.

Researchers have proven that people are much more inclined to take your advice if they first considered what might happen if they didn’t: “How badly would you feel, if after we had this conversation, you found yourself in a situation where you were exposed.”

Finally, you need to make an expert recommendation: “So here’s what I’m going to recommend. Get the insurance. Then, if you need it, you’re covered.”

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