The Persuasion Deadly Sin

Imagine visiting New York City for the first time and you’re aimlessly searching for some destination. Google provides zero clues. So, you’re forced to go old-school. You ask for directions. In a city famous for its rudeness, what happens?

Not only do you find someone willing to give you directions, you find people jockeying to give you their directions. Of course, everyone thinks their directions are superior to everyone else’s.

What’s going on here? Some say people in NYC are nicer than we think. I agree with that. I lived there for fourteen years. The “niceness” argument, however, loses steam in the many examples of rude, abrasive behavior.

The answer lies in one of the seven deadly sins. How’s that for a twist?

The Deadly Sin We All Love

When people talk about the deadly sin of pride, vanity often serves as an example. Vanity explains why normally distrusting people make an effort to push their directions on lost travelers. It appeals to our feeling of self-importance.

Decades ago the legendary copywriter Robert Collier mailed a sales letter with this opening:

“I wonder if you would be good enough to give me the benefit of your experience”

The verbiage shows its age, but wouldn’t that tickle your curiosity a little to see what he’s looking for? The campaign was a smashing success back in its day. Smart writers today still appeal to their audiences pride and vanity. Of course, you must show some subtlety. Done right, however, it still draws in the crowds.

Three Ways To Tap Into Vanity

  1. Give your reader the feeling that he or she has been specially targeted due to their unique qualities
  2. Target a specific experience or knowledge the reader has that plays to their desire for self-importance
  3. Only people with a specific knowledge, experience or values could understand, appreciate and benefit from the value you offer

Playing the pride card also feels good to your readers. Everyone likes to feel like they’re important. We all want to feel like we matter. Don’t be shy, show them just how much they do matter. It goes without saying, your appeal to their vanity must be of a genuine nature. Write something fake, and your reader thinks you’re full of shit. Best case scenario, they’ll think their the wrong audience. Either way, you lose. So keep it real.

The next time you find yourself in a strange place and in need of directions you can relax. Even in a city famous for rudeness, our primitive need to feel important ensures you a healthy choice of directions.


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