Power of Persuasion: Honey vs. Vinegar

January 21st, 2009 by Frank Damelio

honeyWhen it comes to the power of persuasion the question may be honey vs. vinegar, but the answer may be honey THEN vinegar.

Win/win is always the goal, but what to do when soft technique and win/win strategies don’t work? Sometimes simply walking away is the best option, and other times you may wish to pursue more aggressive measures.  In the end, much of persuasion is based on the fact that people respond to incentives.  Most people happily respond to positive incentives, but there is a “darker” side to persuasion that may be the final option for certain people:  negative consequences that impact them directly.

Here is an example:  My wife and I enjoyed a weekend in Boston.  Before we left, I called the hotel and asked for information regarding parking.  I spoke to Josh, who said parking was an extra $30.  I asked, when I could arrive and whether I could leave my car there after check out.  He replied “arrive anytime in the morning and after checkout you can leave your car there into the evening at at no extra charge”.  

I always take notes when getting information over the phone; so I recorded the time, date, name and number.

Upon checkout, the parking fee was $45, plus I had to leave the garage within an hour or I would be charged and additional $15.  I explained the details of my call to the manager.  She said Josh was mistaken, and she apologized.  They outsource that service and she would check into it.  But she still wanted to charge me the the extra $30 because those fees were associated with a different company that handles their parking.

After the softer and gentler persuasion techniques failed to get the desired results, I simply acknowledged that her hands were tied in this situation and that I would pay the difference, but I wanted the name and STREET mailing address of the Director of Customer Relations, the CEO, and the Chairman of the Board.  I explained that I needed the street address so I could mail my correspondence certified return receipt.  I also asked for her card.

I was very NICE to her, agreeing that she was bound by the policy; which could only be addressed by the hotel’s executives.  She said that she would get the names, but returned with a full refund and parking voucher.

What happened?  From her perspective, the work associated with making me happy was not worth it. But then, the hassle of dealing with three letters to her executives became larger than the effort to make me happy.  She responded to incentive.  

The key here, was that I never backed her into a corner.  I never made it a competition or yelling match. I simply provided and incentive and I focused on the policy as the issue.  It was never personal.

Most situations are easily solved with positive incentives, but on occasion it becomes necessary to use negative ones.  Just remember, avoid arguing or blaming the individual, even if it is his/her fault. Instead focus on the issue.  This way, when they see the negative consequences of their actions, they don’t feel embarrassed to back out.

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One Response to “Power of Persuasion: Honey vs. Vinegar”

  1. Target Intellect Blog » Power of Persuasion: Aura of Authority Says:

    [...] honey vs. vinegar debate is eternal because in reality they both work. Consider these contradicting bits of wisdom: [...]

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