Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Pot of Curry, the Phlegm Down the Basin Logic and the 3 Decorums of the Art of Persuasion

Every Chinese New Year when my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins come over to my house, my mom would cook a particular dish; well, no prizes for guessing, curry chicken.  This may seem like a simple dish...bazinga, it is.  A simple dish indeed, but things aren't that simple. 

Since young, I have never been one to eat spicy food.  However, I do not exactly shun them.  My tolerance for spicy food...well, not that good, but I guess I can hold my ground as well.  The problem is, my mom's curry chicken is really really very spicy.  I swear to God, just one small portion of potato from that curry pot would make me wonder why I picked up that piece of food.  And there isn't even much sauce. 

Yet, I continue to pick up chicken wings after chicken wings from that pot.  Why?

This simple little dining "adventure" would benefit me greatly.  From it, I have realized the Art of Persuasion.  But before I delve into the Art of Persuasion, I must first explain the Phlegm Down the Basin Logic. 

Just a few weeks ago, I was having a flu.  Not a major one to knock me down, but still, I had plenty of phlegm for the basin.  Those vile viscous green slime required a certain volume of tap water (although more of water pressure) to be flushed down.  At that moment, something just went off in my brain.

In 1889, Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius introduced the term "activation energy" as the energy that must be overcome in order for a chemical reaction to happen.  To get the phlegm down the basin, we need a certain level of water pressure-the "activation energy".  As disgusting as it may sound, humans behave in the same manner. To get people to do things, we need a certain level of motivation.  There are two forms of motivation-internal and external.  I would refer to internal motivation as desire from within and external motivation as pressure; the latter being similar to the "water pressure" exerted by us onto the phlegm.

To successfully persuade people to do something, we must exert that "pressure" to help them overcome the "activation energy".  What the Art of Persuasion seeks to achieve, is to help provide this activation energy.

As I am learned in a previous lecture, Frederick Herzberg (1923-2000, American psychologist, best known for his hygiene and motivation theory), stated in a conference that "the more a person can do something, the more you can motivate him to do that something".  Drawing parallels from Herzberg, we can only persuade someone to do something if we show him that he can actually do that something.  This lies the first commandment of the Art of Persuasion.

Secondly, we must give a reason to do it.  No one does anything for free; hell would boil over.  Voluntary work?  Stop kidding.  They do it to fill up their self-esteem, to bolster their "character" and be a "good person".  If you want to persuade someone to help you with your cause, you need to let them know what is in for them, what benefits they will derive.  Quite apparently, the more rewards they can attain, the more likely they could be persuaded.
The final point to consider, is the amount of risk the person would have to expose himself to.  As mentioned in a previous article here, when we make choices, the very minimal we should be looking to accept, would be a decision that doesn't leave us in a worse-off condition.  This not only means you should try to provide insurance for the person you're trying to persuade, but also to allow him to understand what are the liabilities at stake.  The perils of any ventures should be spelled out explicitly for two core reasons: to build trust and to prevent misinformed reasoning of the safety of the endeavor-this is just responsible.  This is not detrimental to the second point we are trying to establish.  It is simply reasonable that in any ventures to gain, a certain amount of price/risk lies therein.

And so to sum up, the three Decorums of the Art of Persuasion:
1.  We can only persuade someone to do something if we show him that he can actually do that something.
2.  To persuade someone, you must offer him benefits.
3.  You must provide Risk-Security insurance to the one you're trying to persuade.  What does he have to lose by participating, and his back-up plans, if any?

Shoot, score, smile.

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