Why the Principle of Contrast is Critical to Persuasion Success

Have you ever done that old high school science experiment where you put one hand in a bucket of cold water and one hand in a bucket of hot water, and then immediately dip both hands simultaneously into a bucket of room-temperature water? Well, the cold hand feels warm, and the hot hand feels cool. This is the principle of contrast.

When it comes to persuasion, the principle of contrast is very important. People often think what happens in the moment of the ask is the most crucial component of persuasion success. But — on the contrary (see what I did there?) — most critical to your persuasion success is what happens prior to your ask. Why?

The principle of contrast.

Let me me explain. The last time you bought a car, the salesperson might have steered you toward the $40,000 SUV before he or she started singing the praises of the $2,000 optional sat nav system. Am I right? If so, that salesperson was invoking the principle of contrast.

When you’re talking about a $40,000 purchase, your psychological perspective is such that an additional $2,000 for an add-on seems absolutely reasonable.

The same principle is at play with less-expensive purchases, too. Perhaps you’ve been at a men’s clothing store, where the salesperson will speak with you about the suit before bringing up the tie. Why? Well, because spending $150 for a tie would seem ridiculous — unless it’s paired with a $2,000 knock-’em-dead suit. Then, again, it seems absolutely reasonable.

The principle of contrast is an important one. If you want to dramatically improve the amount of times that you hear “yes,” then think about what your target is exposed to prior to your ask.

Photo by davisco on Unsplash.

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