We all have trouble persuading people to do things, including to read this article. But I got you this far!
This is everything I learned from the book “One-Sentence Persuasion” by Blair Warren.
Like many modern self-help / business / lifestyle books, it can be very effectively summarised briefly. I’m doing this for my own notes.
This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase through the links, I get a small commission, which otherwise goes to Amazon. I’d appreciate it in recognition of the work I put into these posts.
Overview of “One-Sentence Persuasion”
A “One-Sentence Guide to Persuasion” is a concept put forth by Blair Warren in the confusingly titled book, The One-Sentence Persuasion Course. (It’s much more than one sentence!)
Firstly, you don’t convince people in one sentence. The concept of one-sentence persuasion is really a one-sentence persuasion course: I.e., it’s one sentence that encapsulates all the elements of persuasion.
Before going over the concepts in the book, there are two foundational concepts.
So, no, one-sentence persuasion is not a “trick”. It’s just a collection of ideas summarised into a sentence. Even if it were a trick, it still works, even if you know how and why it works.
The one-sentence persuasion course concept is simply that people will do anything for those who
- Encourage their dreams
- Justify their failures
- Allay their fears
- Confirm their suspicions, and
- Help them throw rocks at their enemies.
That’s it. In one 27-word sentence:
People will do anything for those who encourage their dreams, justify their failures, allay their fears, confirm their suspicions and help them throw rocks at their enemies.
What does this mean? I’ll paraphrase the book’s contents and how to use the one sentence persuasion concept.
Encourage their Dreams
Start with the positive. Encourage people to believe that their dreams can be realised.
Would you rather do something for someone who tells you to take the safe and sure path, or for someone who encourages you to follow your dreams?
For example, if selling an audio course on learning French, you can encourage people’s dreams by telling them they can learn French, despite past failures, and do so with less effort than they thought possible.
If someone tells you to do what you dream of, and gives you advice on how to do it, it’s a very effective method of persuasion.
Justify their Failures
“Justifying their failures” means is saying “It’s OK that you haven’t managed it until this point.”
Perhaps they weren’t given the right tools or guidelines. Perhaps they were lied to about techniques or difficulty. Whatever the reason — it’s OK.
For example, say you’re promoting a new way to lose weight. In many cases, people will have tried things in the past. Obviously, the past ways your potential customers did things didn’t work, and it’s not their fault; that’s all that was available.
This is one tactic used heavily in one book “You Can’t Screw This Up”, which says all diets were fundamentally flawed, and proposes a new relationship with food.
Hearing that it’s OK that past methods didn’t work encourages people to be receptive to hearing more.
Allay their Fears
Doing something new is always frightening. A poor coach will simply tell people not to be frightened.
But someone who can encourage you to overcome your fears will work with you until your fear subsides, giving you reasons to not be afraid and support in case you still are.
For example, if selling a new motorcycle, you not only have to convince a buyer that it’s high performance and high spec, but also that it’s very easy to adapt to.
Confirm their Suspicions
We all have our suspicions about people or things. Often, they’re negative. But in persuasion, you can use those negative suspicions to your advantage.
Confirming suspicions is a tactic long used by marketers and politicians to bring customers into their fray. For example, the very name of the Mediterranean Diet confirm people’s suspicions that people in the Mediterranean region have some secret that gives them health, happiness, and longevity.
When our suspicions are confirmed, we say “I knew it!”
The impact of having our suspicions confirmed is that we not only feel a sense of superiority, but also attracted to anyone who helped us feel that way.
Help Them Throw Rocks at their Enemies
Nothing bonds people together like having a common enemy. We all have enemies, from the benign to the malignant.
Everyone is involved in a struggle.
- Apple rose to prominence originally by throwing rocks at then-dominant IBM.
- Tesla has been throwing rocks at utility cars, sports cars, and trucks.
- SpaceX throws rocks at other rockets for being wasteful and not re-using rockets; waste was previously never considered a major issue in space flight.
- Creators of new apps for language learning throw shade at all the other stale and old-fashioned techniques of language learning.
People who join each other in struggles become more than friends. They become partners.
Proof that the One-Sentence Persuasion Concepts Work
It’s interesting to look at modern advertising campaigns and assess what elements of the one-sentence persuasion concept they use.
In fact, try to find an effective ad that doesn’t comprise just one of the five elements of one-sentence persuasion. I won’t include any here, as we all see different ads, and advertisement changes over time.
But after you’ve gone through dozens of ads, you’ll have found plenty of evidence that the elements of one-sentence persuasion have merit.
So there you have it. By using those five elements of persuasion, you can build a really effective advertising or persuasion campaign.
One thing worth considering is how the elements of persuasion can be abused. It seems too easy — almost deceitful.
Yes, the elements of “one-sentence persuasion” can be abused. Politicians, including ones most people would agree are overtly bad people, use the above techniques to create loyalty as well as divisiveness.
As an extreme example, Hitler used the above techniques, particularly confirming their suspicions, to push forward the agenda of the Third Reich.
But there’s nothing immoral specifically about convincing people about anything. Just be careful with your newfound powers.