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How to Get People to Convince Themselves to Do the Right Thing

Recent Reading: Instant Influence: How to Get Anyone to Do Anything – Fast by Michael Pantalon.

I’ve already used Pantalon’s technique in my counseling ministry. And everyone I’ve shared it with has found it helpful. On top of that, it’s really simple.

You use, “on a scale of 1 to 10, how badly/much..?” Then you follow up by asking the person why they chose that number instead of a lower one. 

Here are a few examples.

1) Let’s say I’m counseling a husband who is neglecting his wife and ruining his marriage. I want to counsel this man to become a better husband. As a pastor, I would give biblical imperatives and pray for this man, of course. But then comes Pantalon’s instant influence technique. I would ask the man, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how badly do you want your marriage to continue and thrive?”

If the man answers something like “7.” I would then ask, “Why did you pick such a high number? Why didn’t you say ‘3’ or ‘4?'” This would set a context in which the man I’m counseling would then begin to reason with himself (out loud) about why he wants his marriage to work. You’re setting up a scenario where he can convince himself to make the right decision. He may begin telling you how much he loves his wife. And how he can’t imagine himself living without her. And how he realizes he’s been messing up and knows that he needs to do better. And by the time he leaves the office, he’s already preached a sermon to himself. You just played the role of instigator.

I recently heard someone say, “No one will ever reject their own conclusion.” If you let a person argue himself into making a choice, he is not going to reject the conclusion he comes to in his own mind. So that’s the goal. You’re pushing the person toward a desired outcome.

2) Another example. Let’s say your daughter doesn’t want to do her homework. You ask her, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how badly do you want to do your homework?” Let’s say she answers with “3.” Then you would say something like, “So you picked a 3. That’s actually higher than I expected. Why didn’t you pick 2 or 1?” Her answer then may be something like, “Well, if I don’t do it, I know I’m going to get a bad grade, and I don’t need a bad grade right now. And, I guess I sort of do need to do it…” And before you know it, she’s working on her homework. Because she’s convinced herself (with your help) to do it.

As a pastor, I would obviously begin any scenario with counsel from the Bible. But I’ve found it rather easy to tie this process into biblical counseling situations. It’s especially helpful because you can use it in virtually any scenario. From counseling a husband who isn’t fulfilling his duties, to trying to get your child to do her homework, to trying to convince a committee to follow a plan you think is best, the instant influence process is helpful.

3) Another example. Let’s say you’re talking to someone who’s very discontent with their job and you want to nudge them toward contentment. You could ask them, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how much to you like your job?” If they say “2,” then ask them why they didn’t say “1.” This will at least provoke them to start saying a few things they actually do like about their job. Ideally, this would lead to the person convincing himself that his job isn’t really as bad as he thinks when he takes a step back and looks at the big picture. He may be so busy focusing on the negatives that he’s never taken the time to do this before.

If you give this a try, regardless of the scenario, give me a comment to let me know how this worked for you.