10 Oct Persuasion on the Streets
OKAY, you got me!
For the better part of a decade, I taught an executive development course in Persuasion, with the inimitable David McPhillips. We searched the world for the latest research into the art and science that makes up the body of knowledge of how people make decisions, and what triggers us to say yes.
And yet knowing how it works doesn’t always prevent us from being worked! To wit a recent encounter outside the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts on Front Street in the heart of COTU, Toronto.
A reasonably presentable, albeit casually dressed for downtown Toronto, fellow approached me, holding a piece of paper, the contents of which seemed to confuse him. The first thing he asks me is, “do you speak English?” Naturally, I say yes. At that moment he pretty much had me. Research tells us that saying yes to something puts you in a frame of wanting to be consistent, even if the first question is unrelated to what comes after.
In this case, what comes after is a bit of a muddled account. Waving the paper about I thought he needed help finding an address but, on closer inspection and with his explanation, the paper was a list of half-way houses and other locations for the newly un-incarcerated. As he told me, he had just been released from prison that morning and was looking for money to get home. He showed off his T-shirt and pony tail and informed me he was Chippewa and wanted to head back to the reserve. Not only did he tell me he needed $12.90 to make up the amount of the fare for the train, but he insisted that he didn’t smoke or drink and, indeed, he didn’t smell like he did either – not a whiff. He invited me to join him at Union Station and witness him buying the ticket but, naturally, waiting for a ride in the loading zone he knew I wouldn’t take him up on that offer.
To top it all off he told me he had been approaching many people and most of them ran away from him, or appeared to be afraid of him so, naturally, I felt proud to be such a compassionate Canadian, on the side of the angels….so really, in the final analysis, I had no choice but to give him money. I tried to get away with a toonie but he looked crestfallen that this angel was so cheap…so I gave him a five instead.
I know, I know….. but I got my money’s worth in terms of a teachable moment which I can now share with all of you.