My mother surprised me today with some high caliber presuasion. She has definitely read Dr Robert Cialdini’s “Presuasion,” but I still didn’t expect it. Here’s what she did.
In Presuasion, Cialdini quantifies an enormous lesson in human behavior: The moment before influences the moment after greatly, greatly.
It is the kind of knowledge many of us recognize at one point or another. If you have someone laughing, that is a much better time to make a request than if they are angry at you. But that’s just an extremely obvious example. Cialdini goes much further down the rabbit hole.
As I got home from work, charged up but hungry from a long day of sales, my mother asked me:
“Do you want to eat a mexican casserole tonight?”
While she often makes dinner, she rarely makes that dish. And it’s an awesome recipe. “Mexican casserole,” which is ground beef, beans and cheese baked in the oven. It’s everything I want. I gave an enthusiastic yes. And then she surprised me.
“Do you want to make it yourself?”
I didn’t even hesitate. I went in on it. Yes, even though I have to be asleep in two hours, and learning new recipes is hard, I do want to make that dish. Thankfully, it’s an easy dish. I knew that at the time. This will be important later.
Now only fellow readers of Adams can fully appreciate this. But I’ll do my best to explain.
Past attempts to learn a new recipe are typically nonstarters. I buy the ingredients and it sits there in the fridge until the greens start to wilt. It’s hard to get the motivation to make good food when you have bad but accessible alternatives. But this casserole recipe has a huge payoff, and I might have even commented aloud how simple the recipe is. On top of the spoken comment, my mother also bookmarked the recipe for me with a big orange marker.
The consistency principle states that someone who takes a small step towards a larger action will be less resistant to the idea in the future. So I was already committed towards this idea weeks ago. (If you ask me, the commitment principle qualifies as presuasion, even though it’s from the previous book.)
My mother’s real genius is the timing of it. She might be unaware of this, but many salesmen experience a thing called a “sales high”. You get charged up with energy from having enough people say yes, earning you a commission. It’s a flood of reward in your brain, which charges you up.
In my experience, the charge lasts for an hour or two afterwards. Just enough time for me to get in the door hungry and motivated to say yes to a request that requires a lot of energy. Presuasion gold.
As an extra shoutout, she also took the time to “Grease the path” as @jhreha would say. When you want someone to pick up a new habit, you “grease the path” for them by removing obstacles to their initial success. My mom did this for me by choosing an easy recipe (it’s four ingredients) and placing them together on the countertop. I couldn’t refuse.
I still can’t tell if she did it on purpose.