Risk and Persuasion: What You Need to Know

While you may not be familiar with the term “chiasmus” [kahy-az-muhs], chances are you’ve encountered it. One of the most famous came from John F. Kennedy: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

Chiasmus is a verbal pattern in which the second half of a phrase is balanced against the first, with key elements being reversed. Other renowned chiasmi? “I am stuck on Band Aid® brand ’cause Band Aid’s stuck on me!” and “Live to ride / Ride to live.”

Think about these types of reversals to make your points:

  • Do you want your money in the bank or the bank in your money?
  • It’s one thing to have the insurance and not need it, but quite another to need insurance and not have it.
  • Do we want to face the competition now or have the competition in our face later?

Even “The Golden Rule” is based on a chiasmus: Treat others as you would like them to treat you.

One powerful persuasion tool is to heighten the sense of risk with your target, then leverage something known as anticipated regret and provide your recommendation about how to proceed.

My favorite way of raising risk is with a chiasmus: “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.” That’s an interesting notion.

Attach that with something called “anticipated regret,” and now you’re getting somewhere. This is when you ask your target to consider the angst he would feel if he 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.”

Then take your flashlight and lead that person through the darkness by offering an expert recommendation: “So here’s what I’m going to suggest: Get the insurance. Then if you need it, you’re covered.”

This week, try using a chaismus to get your way. Share your experience in the comments section below.

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