The Hidden Power Of “Almost” Persuasion

It was my normal Thursday night routine. One that I hate. Only this time I applied one of my persuasive writing tools to my everyday life. Sometimes I just need to persuade myself. It works well on others too even when they’re just as aware of what you’re doing.

On Thursday night I typically prepare our recycling for pickup. We get a lot of boxes. Regular Amazon deliveries plus deliveries for my wife’s business pile up in the garage. The rules demand we break down all the boxes and stack them neatly on the curb.

I do my best to comply. Breaking down the boxes is a pain the ass. Looking at a pile of boxes and knowing I have all that work to do. Plus, it’s now the dead of winter. It’s like kicking a man when he’s down.

The Power Of Almost

I exploited a persuasive writing principle to reframe my hatred of this routine activity. I call it the Near Completion Bias. Is it a real official bias recognized by PHD’s? Doubt it, but I need to give it a label. It states:

Never frame a goal or end result as something where your prospect starts from zero. Frame it as if they’re already halfway there (or some reasonable percentage).

We’re more likely to complete something if we feel we’re closer to completion.

I applied the same thing to my recycling routine. Instead of breaking down the boxes and bringing out everything to the curb I do something different. Now, I take out all the easy stuff to the curb first. That includes the bottles, cans, paper bags and empty cat litter boxes. Getting that out of the way makes me feel like I’m 40% of the way there.

With my old routine I broke down all the boxes first and then took stuff out to the curb. That process failed to give me a sense of progress. All that work breaking down boxes and I still had nothing to show for it. Here’s a contrived example that demonstrates it a bit clearer:

Who is more likely to run 5 miles?

  1. The runner who hasn’t yet started her run
  2. The runner who’s on mile 5 of her planned 10 mile run

I would put my money on number two since she’s already halfway to her goal.

Reframing The Goal

Unfinished goals loom over us begging for completion. A goal yet to start holds no such power over us. The possibilities to exploit this quirk of human behavior extend not just to persuading others. We can even persuade ourselves just like I did with my recycling routine.

Since we’re 80% of the way there, let’s wrap this up with a simple and actionable plan. First, identify the action you want your prospect, audience or self to take. Second, think of ways to frame the action as being almost there. Finally, put your plan into words

An Example You Can Model

This simple example breaks down the process. Just plug in your own details.

  1. Goal — I want my customers to write me a business plan.
  2. My customers already operate a business and have an operating guide. That meets 80% of what they need to finish the plan.
  3. Dear Jane — To finish your application I would like to see your finished business plan. Don’t have one? Don’t worry. Eighty percent of the work is already done. Copy and paste the business summary you wrote last week. Then, copy in your operating guide. That should include all the information you need. Edit out the excess or repetitive pieces. Send me the results.

The truth is, we’re never starting from zero. You can leverage almost any prior experience to complete something new.

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