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The simplest form of influence is emotional blackmail.

Tomasz Piotr Sidewicz

Funny money? No, thank you!

One of the most important characteristics of an effective persuader is the ability to use language properly. Relying on the obsolete theory of Howard Gardner on multiple intelligences (neuroscience rejects multiple intelligences as separate entities – more on this can be found in the book of Daniel Coyle “Talent Code”), verbal intelligence corresponds with an ability to use language effectively. Understanding written and oral communication, formulating complex expressions and adequate choice of words, all these define Howard Gardner’s verbal intelligence. A person with high verbal intelligence communicates with other people effectively, articulates his or her thoughts clearly, aptly chooses arguments justifying his or her position. One of the easiest exercises to develop alleged verbal intelligence is reading books, which is a disappearing activity in these times of tablets, smartphones and simplification of language usage.

A very interesting example of influencing language, changing the reference point is the statement of Maciej Strączyński, the president of Association of Polish Judges “Iustitia”, who addressed the 613 cases of speeding by judges, who due to their public functions enjoy immunity – Dziennik Gazeta Prawna (nr 232 3873 z 2014-12-01). Quote from Dziennik Gazeta Prawna:

Małgorzata Kryszkiewicz (DGP) – In 997 cases of exceeding the speed limit by public officers with immunity, 613 concerned judges. Are you ashamed of these statistics?

Maciej Strączyński – On the contrary – I’m proud of it.

Małgorzata Kryszkiewicz (DGP) – How come?

Maciej Strączyński – These 613 reported cases of speed limit exceedances apply supposedly to a period of three years. This means that every year we have to deal with more or less 200 cases in the whole country. There are 11.200 judges in Poland, much more than parliamentarians or diplomats. It is easy to calculate that a statistical judge is caught committing this type of traffic offense every 56 years. A judge usually serves for about thirty years. Statistically this means that one judge throughout his or her period of public service commits a half of traffic offense.

Half of an offense per a single judge sounds much better than 613 offenses. A similar tactic comes from the world of negotiations, where changing a point of reference by conversion of a dispute makes the argument futile. Since the world of negotiations is the world of business and sales, this tactic is called “funny money”. An example of such a tactic – Price of 3.000 USD for a cleaning robot can be deterrent to a customer. However if we indicate that in a specific lifetime the cost goes down to around 3 USD a day, it automatically reduces the significance of the excessive price, provided the client uses the robot for 1,000 days, which in Polish standards equals a two-year warranty and only 270 days after its expiry. Who would accept such a job for 3 USD a day?

When reading this you could be coming to a conclusion that such a conversion is primitive, and being thoughtful is enough to recognize and defend against it. Now, if it was that easy to be thoughtful, actually no one would ever fall prey to influence. The point is that every of us have an innate aversion to process too much information, resulting in self-manipulation. Self-manipulation comes up when the area of a brain responsible for emotion analysis says ENOUGH! – I do not want to analyze any variables any further. Let heaven ‘s will be done!

In my next post I will explain what is needed to influence others and why it is becoming easier to manipulate others.

Tomasz Piotr Sidewicz