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Using The Forbidden To Persuade

Jan 17, 2008
'Forbid us something, and that thing we desire.' - Geoffrey Chaucer

When I think of forbidden, I think of forbidden fruit. . . that apple in the Garden of Eden. There really was only one rule in paradise. . . don't eat the apples from the apple tree. And what happened? Well, that fruit looked way too good.

Fast forward to today--taxicab confessions, the circus atmosphere of talk show, Scull and Bones and other secret societies, websites with hidden cameras, underage drinking-it's all about exclusivity and secrets.

To see just how powerful the forbidden is, just look at the TV show that catches online predators. This show wasn't a one-time special; there are nearly a dozen episodes. The show is a hidden camera type situation where an online sexual predator looking for under-aged victims is set up (some would say 'entrapped'). The craziest part: nearly each and every one of the men caught in the later episodes, says, 'I knew it. I thought, I'll bet this is a trap. I'll bet this is that show.'

They go through with it even having had that 'intuition'. They go through with it despite the national public humiliation, potential prison time and possible devastation it could wreak on their lives. They STILL go through with it. How is that possible?

(Clearly, this example is not just about the forbidden or the unknown, but about baser human instincts which we'll explore in a later article.)

The forbidden speaks of a desire to know more, to know way beyond what humans are supposed to know. There was a story in the Bible of the tower of Babel where man tried to build a tower so high as to reach God and know what God knows. The tower of Babel was destroyed and all of their tongues were mixed up so that they couldn't understand each other and work in concert to build up because only God knows what God knows.

So what is it about the forbidden that intrigues us? And more importantly for our purposes of persuasion, how can we use this innate instinct of wanting to know the unknowable and be in on the secret, to sell more effectively?

We may not always be able to get to the full blown forbidden, but we can sure get to the hidden and we can sure get there through secrets.

Telling your prospects and clients "secrets" gives you the chance to learn theirs. Simply say, 'Hey, let me share this with you. I don't tell this to everybody, but here's a secret'. Or say, 'I have something personal to share. . . I feel like I can trust you enough to tell you this. .. '

Telling our prospects secrets, even secrets that aren't super profound, it tends to show that we trust them and the 'law of reciprocity' says that they will respond in kind by trusting us.

In his book, "The Psychology of Persuasion", Robert Cialdini, explains, "One of the most potent of the weapons of influence around us is the rule for reciprocation. The rule says that we should try to repay, in kind, what another person has provided us."

In other words, secrets will get someone to hear you and accept you and then share back with you. And what does that mean? Well, there's rapport. There's trust. There's belief.
About the Author
Kenrick Cleveland teaches strategies to earn the business of affluent prospects using persuasion. He runs public and private seminars and offers home study courses and coaching programs in persuasion strategies.
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