Category Archives: Rules

wisdom that guides practical persuasion

All Persuasion Is Local for J & J . . . but National for the FDA

In 1982, Johnson & Johnson experienced a terrible strike at the safety of its products and the credibility of its corporation when a crazed killer, still unknown today, tampered with bottles of Tylenol.  The killer opened bottles on the shelves of stores, inserted poison into the contents, and re-sealed the bottles for the unsuspecting consumer.  J & J responded with alacrity in what has become a model of corporate communication following a deadly problem.

Flash forward 28 years with J & J experiencing another threat to product safety and corporate responsibility.  Several product lines including Benadryl, Motrin, Rolaids, Simply Sleep, St. Joseph Aspirin and Tylenol were recalled after J & J received consumer complaints that these products had a moldy smell to them.

The FDA isn’t happy and has publicly criticized J & J for its bad corporate behavior today.

Deborah M. Autor, the director of the Office of Compliance at the F.D.A.’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said on a conference call with journalists on Friday that the company should have acted faster.

“When something smells bad literally or figuratively,” Ms. Autor said, “companies must aggressively investigate and take all necessary actions to solve the problem.”

In understanding this piece of practical persuasion, please recall the Rule:

All Persuasion Is Local.

You need to understand all the major elements at play in each particular persuasion context.  Consider the differences between the same corporation, the same Federal agency, but across two different time periods and two different threats.

In 1982 a Republican administration and Congress were aggressively rolling back the welfare state and pursuing actions consistent with the belief that “government isn’t the solution; government is the problem.”  Further, recall that in 1982 an unknown killer (or killers) were deliberately putting poison into containers on local store shelves and that several people had died mysteriously.

In 2010 a Democratic administration and Congress are trying to make government a more active player against corporate behavior, particularly with health and safety.  The FDA is much more aggressive in its oversight, criticism, and regulation of industry.  Here we have products that smell bad, have to date (nearly 20 months after the first complaint) not killed anyone, and have produced “temporary digestive problems” in a handful of consumers.

I do not think that J & J behaved badly on this.  I think the FDA is considerably more active with this administration and will continue to do so in the future on the most silly infraction, violation, or misstatement from anyone in the FDA crosshairs.  The agency has provided a significant public rebuke to a company that began a voluntary recall of products that simply smelled bad, but had no evidence that anyone was killed or hospitalized from them.

I see several persuasion implications from this particular FDA action.

School Marms

1.  The FDA is a foolish school marm who is overpolicing with its huge rulebook, smacking inattentive pupils with a pencil across the knuckles.  Everyone of us knows that teachers with many rules spend more time as the monitor and less time as the teacher.  More rules do not make you a better enforcer, they make you a busier enforcer.  Also, students don’t learn any better.  And, they learn to pull the teacher’s chain.  The FDA may think that they’re the New Sheriff in town, but they are going to become the Village Fool someday soon.

2.  If the FDA patrols my beat, I would actively break as many of their “little” rules as possible.  They clearly like to go public with their spankings, so make them overpunish piddling infractions.  This will reduce their capacity and effectiveness with the added attraction of spotlighting their Sadistic Marm behavior.

3.  A larger issue looms.  Sure, this is just the FDA with one group of zealot administrators taking names and kicking ass with the corporate and Pharma jerks, but it is one of the less attractive faces of an activist government making the world a better place.  Yeah.  We changed cereal labeling!  We spanked those J & J frauds for smelly bottles!  Tomorrow we’re erasing the Food Pyramid and replacing it with the Healthy Heptagon!  This is bad medicine for Obama.  Worse still, this does not polarize people into Republicans versus Democrats, but citizens versus government.  In a democracy, you never want to be on the wrong side of that controversy.  George W. Bush antagonized Code Pink and the Huffington Post.  Barack Obama antagonizes corporations and citizens.

4.  If I’m that slave riding in the chariot next to the conquering FDA administrator, I’m not whispering, “All glory is fleeting,” but I’m waiting silently for a new driver.  The FDA leadership apparently falls into the ancient narrative of the Greek family drama.  You are going to kill what you love or what you love is going to kill you.

This would be funny if it was a Seinfeld plot, but this is government in action.

Finally, All Bad Persuasion Is Sincere.

Whistling a New Tune Past the Graveyard

Snail and Email

Snail Mail versus Email Marketing

The Wall Street Journal offers a story extolling the virtues of snail mail marketing compared to the new fangled hipster email.  The story focuses on one small company that dropped its regular mailings to customers in favor of an email campaign and got a 25% drop in sales.  They immediately recovered with a post card mailing and vowed to never repeat that error.  The article continues with expert quotations about the unique power, attractiveness, and quality of snail mail.  And then, if you look at reader comments to the article, you will find that queue brimming with bright and confident observations laden with mathematical analysis to reinforce the main message of the article.

While this case proves a point, it is a much smaller point today than it was just five years ago and that point will probably be even smaller five years from now.  Print mailing used to be a huge marketing industry and it is markedly diminished today for the obvious reasons.

That said, print mailing now has persuasion and Cascade qualities its former prominence once obscured.  Most of us are old enough to recall mailboxes stuffed with fliers, envelopes, and cards that we angrily tossed aside (in much the same way we now delete spam and other unwelcome email come-ons).  In our collective minds we clumped all these different formats into one hated category of junk mail, regardless of the true merits of any one mailing.

Since print mail fell off the cliff, our perception and evaluation of the category is changing.  Now, a well done message can provide a compelling advantage in the first stage of the Cascade:  It sticks out in the environment and gains Reception.  A classy mailing leaps out of the smaller collection of items in our mailbox as something worthy of our attention and effort.

Too, a well done print mailing offers a reliable credibility and security, especially compared to the invisible, but lurking menace of email scams and computer attacks.  On those rare times when I get an unfamiliar email, I am reluctant to open it even if the offer seems legitimate and interesting because of Internet security concerns.  A letter on good paper cannot plant a virus, steal my identity, or access my financial accounts.  It’s easier to trust a letter than an email.  That’s a nice kind of credibility today.

So, while the heyday of mass market print mailings is long gone, print mailing now stands as persuasion tool with particular values – precise targeting, positive contrast qualities, good credibility and trust evaluations – that recommends itself in particular cases (remember that All Persuasion Is Local).

Fixing Intel . . . with Persuasion

As always with this topic, let me preface my remarks with the cogent observation that I have no military experience or training beyond talking with guys who do, reading some books, and playing computer games.  My content ignorance is huge.  I am a dilettante or a fool and maybe both.  Please bear this in mind.

Having just read “Fixing Intel: A Blueprint for Making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan” as authored by Major General Michael T. Flynn, Captain Matt Pottinger, and Paul D. Batchelor, I have one large reaction.  I read this as a rationale for an applied persuasion approach.  This is what people do when running an election campaign for political office or starting up a new product line at Coke or diffusing an innovation through an industry or getting community wide behavior change on health or safety.  The report is also entirely consistent with everything I read that declaims on COIN which essentially devolves to my Rule:

It’s about the Other Guy, Stupid.

I suspect that readers with a background in communication campaigns and interventions whether in politics, government, business, unions, whatever, react in a similar fashion as I.  We all have a different lingo, but everything revolves around watching the Other Guys and doing something other than Kinetics to change Them.

The good news in this observation (assuming it has any validity – recall my confession at the top of this post) is that this activity is well understood, principled, doable, provable, testable, countable, actionable, shootfire, just plain able.  The bad news is that most of the guys who know this are like me – untrained and inexperienced in the military arts and sciences.

Somebody in the Pentagon needs to go headhunting to find these guys instead of waiting for them to show up at the nearest Recruiting Station.  This is just the newest version of the game, Star Search, except you’re not looking for people who look good in bathing suits with marginal talent in baton twirling or ventriloquism.  Your guys are Out There and know how to Hit The Ground Running.  You can find them.

Look, if you’ve been doing this since 2002 and MGs are writing reports like this, you might want a bigger tent.

Just a thought . . . from a confessed dilettante, fool, or both.

Name Calling on the Census

NPR alerts us to the danger:  The government is calling some folks, “Negro!”  Officially.  On official forms.  Negro!  Here’s a shot from the actual, official form.

Census Race


The Census guys try to justify this stick in the NPR eye with a lame excuse:  Some older American citizens prefer to identify themselves with that descriptor rather than more contemporary terms like “African-American” or even “black.”

As if in a democracy a government has to be responsive to the desires and preferences of all citizens.  The nerve.  Just because a small group of old fuddy-duddies (is that term NPR-speak?) prefers an old label, the government should use it?  How uncool.  How unNPR.  NPR would never let people think like this, much less talk like this.

And, to prove it, NPR solicits the expert evaluation from several non-Negro people who call themselves – correctly – a contemporary approved term and who find the Census form outrageous, bodacious, a source of bad vibrations.

Please, think about this everyone.  The Census used this language on the 2000 Census form.  Congress did not riot.  People did not take to the streets.  In preparing for the 2010 census, the Census department has conducted numerous public hearings on its forms so that all Americans could comment, complain, and carp.  Congress has seen all the forms and had Congress disapproved of a comma, colon, or color term, would have cut the Census budget to zero.

The NPR response is a biased, self-serving perspective that fundamentally misunderstands the democratic process and clearly has little respect for it.  The American fabric is the quilt of many colors, unique in its range, size, and depth in human history.  Our way of government is to have a seat at the table for all citizens and their factions and have them work it out under rules.  That’s how the Census arrived at this form.  We want all citizens to respond to the Census form because those counts are a fundamental method for our democracy.

Apparently NPR, like other advocacy groups, wants to play by a different set of rules.  Smarter rules.  Wiser rules.  Rules that attract a bigger audience, perhaps.  But, certainly not the rules of our democracy.

All Bad Persuasion Is Sincere.

It’s about (All) the Other Guys, Stupid (In A Democracy).

Skateboards, Hot Chicks, and Performance

Skateboard Guy GirlIt’s not easy being a guy especially when attractive women are on the scene.  Sure, laugh about it.  But, guys can’t help it.

Ronay and von Hippel recruited skateboarding males (average age 21 with a range of 18 to 35) who were paid about $15 to attempt easy and difficult tricks.  The men were randomly assigned to either Control or Treatment.  In the Control condition each guy tried an easy trick 10 times and a difficult trick 10 times.  They then took a scheduled break and repeated the process of 10 each at easy and difficult tricks while a male experimenter observed them.

In the Treatment condition, the men did the same activity, but after the scheduled break, an attractive female experimenter joined the scene and observed the men as they attempted the second series of 10 easy and difficult tricks.  That’s it.  That’s the Special Sauce, the New New Thing, an attractive female experimenter observing the scene.  (How attractive was she?  Before this experiment 20 different males of the same age ranged rated a photo of the female experimenter and scored her as a 6 on a 7 point scale.  The experimenters also noted that the woman received many positive comments from the skateboarders and many requests for her phone number.  In other words, she was pretty hot.)

After the experiment, regardless of Control or Treatment, all the skateboarders gave a saliva sample so that the experimenters could determine their testosterone levels.  Guys in the Control condition (who never saw the attractive female experimenter) had a mean testosterone level of 212.88 pmol/L while guys in the Treatment condition had a mean score of 295.95.  This is a moderate Windowpane effect of 35/65.  Stated another way, you’d have no trouble identifying the guys who’d been around the attractive female.

The experimenters also recorded the skateboarding tricks and coded each attempt as Successful, Aborted, or Failed.  Compared to the Control men, Treatment guys doing tricks in front of the attractive female, had more Successes (very large Windowpane 15/85 effect), more Failures (large Windowpane effect of 25/75), and fewer Aborts (very large Windowpane effect of 15/85).

Now, you don’t have to be a Persuasion Wizard to know that physically attractive people, female or male, are compelling in our society.  This study demonstrates that for men, the presence of an attractive woman has a strong biological effect and that change can motivate a behavior like increased risk taking.  Is it any wonder then that attractive people are also useful for persuasion?  And, it is a surprise that attractiveness most often functions as a persuasion Cue rather than an Argument?  When your body is talking to you, you don’t need any other messages.

P.S. This study is published in the first issue of a new social psychology journal, Social Psychological Personality Science.  I’ve not been able to locate an online abstract for the paper and only have my print issue.  It does exist and I’m not making this up.  Here’s the citation if you want to pursue it further.

Ronay, R. & von Hippel, W. (2010). The presence of an attractive woman elevates testosterone and physical risk-taking in young men. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 1, 57-64.

You Say Placebo, I Say Persuasion

Placebo Persuasion PillA meta analysis from the Journal of the American Medical Association on the effectiveness of antidepressants is making the news.  This research indicates that these drugs are helpful in people with major illnesses, but in less severe instances, the effect is not different from a placebo.  The interesting persuasion angle here is what physicians should be doing with those less severe cases.

A lot of research indicates that a placebo, commonly understood as a “sugar” pill with no proven pharmacological efficacy, can nonetheless cause significant, practical improvements in peoples lives.  Of course, the trick here is that the receiver cannot know this is a placebo.  It’s up to the physician to enact a performance of diagnosis and prescription that looks to the receiver like the real deal while in reality, it is not.

Technically, physicians would call this a professional activity of prescribing a course of treatment that will truly help the receiver, but not in the way the receiver expects it.  I’d call that persuasion.  To produce a change in you I present you with communication that changes your beliefs, expectations, and behavior, but not with a pill’s effect, but with my persuasion.  I just use the pill along with my white lab coat, sterile office, and diplomas on the wall to establish credibility.

While I understand the effect of a placebo and see its value, I’m also trying to point to an interesting dynamic tension here.  Should physicians use persuasion placebos?  Sure, it works, but what happens when patients discover the trick?  Will it undermine future recommendations?  Will patients feel less trust?

It’s a horny dilemma, isn’t it?  The placebo works as a persuasion play, but physicians have to trade on their credibility to mislead people with the sugar pill.

COIN is the Second Rule of Persuasion

CSM Michael HallIt’s About the Other Guy, Stupid is the second Rule of Persuasion.  And it is apparently another way of saying COIN, at least according to Command Sergeant Major Michael Hall.  His video is only 1:33 and while he uses different words, it all comes to the same end.

Hall provides another, bad, illustration of the Second Rule (and the Third:  All Bad Persuasion Is Sincere) with a blog entry on his experience in Afghanistan.  Let me quote:

Before the success in Eastern Afghanistan, we had such a failure in another Afghan province.

I won’t mention where it happened; I will say that things had been going relatively well.

But our troops were having a hard time maneuvering their large vehicles down one tree-lined road. To improve their mobility, and ostensibly to make themselves a bit safer, they cut the trees down.

What the troops didn’t know – they hadn’t bothered to ask – is that they’d cut down fruit trees. Many of the locals saw their livelihoods destroyed when the trees fell. Rather than gain their support, our troops alienated a village. It wasn’t long before the trees were replaced by roadside bombs.

Persuasion and COIN may be the two sides of a coin.  Think about it.

Persuasion and the CIA Interrogation Manual

Let’s begin with a disarming disquisition on persuasion and ethics, shall we?

Persuasion uses communication to change how freely choosing people think, feel, or act.  Please note the term, Free, in the definition.  Receivers are Big Kids and can do what They please including spit in your eye because They are Free.  Please note, too, that persuasion is an activity (function, skill, action, behavior, and on and on) that humans produce.  If there were no humans, there would be no persuasion; if there is persuasion, there must be humans, too.  Whether chicken or egg, people always come first, then persuasion.

Any ethical considerations should focus on the human and not the activity.  Thus, people’s use of persuasion may or may not be ethical, but the activity itself has no ethical properties in much the same way that a hammer, a needle and thread, a cookbook, or a chemistry kit have no ethical properties in themselves.  Ethics is in the person doing the activity.

If you disagree with the proposition that persuasion as an activity has no ethical properties and the related proposition that ethical considerations reside in, on, and from the human doing persuasion, then we shall cheerfully disagree and you will move on to another website, leaving me in the digital dust as I wave a fond farewell at your traceless IP address in my webstats log.  Adieu, cheerful antagonist.  Adieu.

CIA Training Manual

To you who remain . . . read these PDFs from the CIA on interrogation techniques.  Yes, interrogation techniques and yes, CIA.

CIA Human Resource Exploitation A1-G11

CIA Human Resource Exploitation H0-L17

What can that and them have to do with persuasion?

First, the training manual is built around almost all of the Rules, but most particularly with a relentless focus upon one:

It’s About the Other Guy, Stupid

The first PDF provides a great description of an effective Questioner, which from our perspective means, Persuader.  Consider these qualities the CIA thinks makes a good Questioner.

1.  Motivated to succeed at task.
2.  Alertness to receiver behavior.
3.  Patience and tact.
4.  Credible, sincere, and direct in appearance.
5.  Able to monitor performance while communicating.
6.  Self controlled.
7.  Adaptable.
8.  Perseverant.
9.  Professional appearance and action.

If you do face-to-face persuasion, you need these traits in Aces and Spades.

The second PDF outlines strategy, planning, and tactics for interrogation that apply directly and without translation to persuasion.  I recommend in particular sections H, I, and K, which continually develop the Rule about the Other Guy.

Warnings, caveats, and yeah, that’s trues . . .

. . . the second PDF closes with Coercive Techniques.  They scared the hell out of me because they are based on a great reading of the psychology literature and since the CIA used them in the training manual, one would assume they must have practical evidence of effectiveness.  They exactly cleave the difference between persuasion and interrogation of intelligence assets.  Many people scoff at psychology as a science with any proven principles.  Read the section on coercive techniques and then tell me if you still believe there’s no science there.

. . . even with noncoercive techniques you must continually remind yourself of the context differences between persuasion and interrogation.  Much of the manual is useful as a metaphor, an analogy, a stimulus to thinking for persuasion rather than as a blueprint, template, or set of instructions.  You do not persuade a prisoner or any enemy by my definition of persuasion.  The Other Guy is not free to choose except in the most extreme metaphysical meaning of the word, Free.

. . . finally, you may find yourself disquieted about ethics throughout reading the manual.  I would only remind you of the context of application here.  We’re talking about life and death situations with people sworn and dedicated to killing you or someone like you.  This is communication and psychology in war.

College Football Coaches Read This Blog! Maybe

Mike Leach CoachMike Leach deserves a Peithos award for practical persuasion for his interview with ESPN on the story behind his firing as the head football coach at Texas Tech.  His statements create a powerful position that justifies his actions and cast deadly doubt upon his accusers and the Texas Tech administrators who fired him.  It’s an outstanding example of persuasion.  And you don’t have to have a Red Raider in the fight to see his skill.  (And if you can’t see his skill, I’d offer a friendly warning for you to stay away from Mr. Leach.)

Consider the Rules.

It’s About the Other Guy, Stupid

Listen to Leach’s argument not for yourself, but as someone who will have to rule on his contract with the University . . . like a judge.  The more experience you have with contracts, the more impressed you’ll be.  This interview was not just about public opinion.

Persuasion Is Strategic or It Is Not

Leach positioned himself as the innocent victim of conspiring administrators and “beauty pageant” parents protecting an untalented offspring.  He made constant references to contracts and laws.  He stressed his clean program, high graduation rates, and fan support along with the obvious on the field success.

Persuaders Can Either Be Famous or Effective, But Not Both

Who’d suspect a college football coach of being a persuasion wizard?  Sure, a master motivator, and X’s and O’s inventor, but persuasion?  Mr. Leach capitalizes upon people’s expectations and stereotypes.  Leach is famous as a coach, but not as a student of this blog and all things persuasion.  This guy is dangerous.

You Can Get Farther With A Kind Word And A Big Stick Than With Either Alone

Leach suggests that he just wants to sit at the table of brotherhood and work this out with the good folks at Texas Tech and not turn it into a circus with courts and judges, media and journalists.  “Can’t we all just get along with each other?”  If anything he says can be proven in a court of law, Texas Tech will be writing a large check.  Given that Mr. Leach wants to break bread at the table of brotherhood, Tech might want to take its chances with a judge.


I have no idea how this will all turn out.  We’re now getting regular updates from the various involved parties and certainly more information will come out.  Knowing what I do about big time college sports, universities, and coaches (Let’s Go-oooo, Mountaineers . . . with Rich Rodriguez), this is going to cost someone a lot of money and reputation or both.  If Mr. Leach can prove even some of what he says in this interview, I’d say Texas Tech might end up with more hat and less cattle.

Tiger’s Tale: A Persuasion Analysis

Politeness lets me pause at the beginning.  I would like to consider Tiger Woods as a persuasion case study, but must proceed with what many people, including myself, would consider unproven evidence.  We have only one public statement from Mr. Woods and many public assertions and attributed assertions from others claiming knowledge.  The truth may be different than what we understand from town crier declarations available through January 1, 2010.  Against these polite concerns, let us tentatively consider the persuasion implications for Tiger’s success and failure.

Tiger Woods achieved unique status in popular mass culture.  His golf play compares with the legends of the game and he may yet write new marks in a venerable record book.  He broke racial barriers in a sport noted for its old unjust ways.  He demonstrated staggering physical talents – just remember that commercial with him bouncing a golf ball off a club face like it was a tennis racquet – yet demolished dumb jock stereotypes with his poise, humor, and grace.  He earned a billion dollars and mass market iconography as the most popular and respected person on the planet.

And we now know that Tiger’s public persona was at calculated and careful deviance from his private person.  He did not share his personal preferences and hid them under a shield of marital privacy, in yet another manifestation of his normalcy, dignity, and pride.  And the revelation of his private choices has destroyed that blessed public persona of a good man who also played great.

It is from the study of great failure that we can understand how great success arose.  How did he rise so far?  To answer that question, we will approach this as a persuasion problem.  How did Tiger use communication to change how freely choosing people think, feel, and act about Tiger Woods?

Oz Behind Front Curtain

Consider, the Rules of Persuasion.

It’s About the Other Guy, Stupid

Tiger Woods is the first Billion Dollar Athlete.  While he earned a significant sum through his golfing skills, the lion’s share of Tiger’s take came from his sponsorships.  Other athletes parlay their achievements into endorsements, but usually with products and services that intersect strongly with the sport.  To earn a billion dollars, you must sponsor for mass market products and services from companies like Gillette, Buick, and AT&T along with the more expected companies like Nike or Electronic Arts games.  To appeal to that mass audience, you must have a relentless focus on the Other Guy.  Tiger achieved more wealth and fame than his athletic accomplishment could garner through giving the Other Guy what the Other Guy wanted to see and believe.

Looking back now, it appears that the Other Guy Image required success in two areas:  Work and Family.  Mere success on the greens would not earn an AT&T sponsorship.  That required the beautiful, happy family, proof of Tiger’s skill off the course.

Sure, there were chinks in the character armor.  Tiger cursed and threw clubs sometimes when his golf play went bad.  (Imagine cussing on a golf course!  Who’d suspect?)  But public intoxication?  Bullying, aggressive behavior?  Arrogant, obnoxious pride?  Gambling?  Shady business deals?  Nope, just an amazing golfer who cussed with a gorgeous wife and happy family.

Tiger created the Image the Other Guy would pay to see.

All Bad Persuasion Is Sincere

Assuming much less than the worst, Tiger Woods’ private life and public life were severely out of joint.  He gave the Other Guys the image of what they wanted to see in someone larger than themselves in both competition and in life.  But, he wanted for himself a private life that contravened that Other Guys Image.  It is also likely that Tiger pursued this double play from early in his professional career and certainly before he married.  Tiger could in no way be sincere, that is authentic, transparent, disclosive, revealing, and honest about himself and deliver the desired Other Guys Image.  Such sincerity would indeed have been bad persuasion and we see it now with the decline in his public reputation and loss of sponsorships.  Tiger knew that he could not have his private life and present the desired Other Guys Image.

It is cliché for bad-boy athletes to play bad-boy in their sponsorships, but that sincere presentation limits the range and reach of success.  You don’t cross the Billion Barrier as the bad-boy, no matter how sincere.

Thus, Tiger actively suppressed his authentic self, not simply for privacy concerns, but because it wouldn’t persuade.  And, consider, too, that shield of privacy Tiger constructed . . . to protect his family.  That shield protected Tiger’s sincere self from our view.

Persuaders Can Be Famous or Effective, but Not Both

Tiger was famous as a fabulous golfer and mass market icon while running under the persuasion radar. Tiger is now famous as a formerly effective persuader who is still a fabulous golfer, but no longer a mass market icon.  Stated another way, Tiger’s fame appeared to have nothing to do with persuasion.  Now we know.  Because Tiger was effective as a persuader, he became famous as not just a golfer, but as the mass market icon worth a billion dollars.

To the extent that you are famous for your persuasion skills, you will be less effective as a persuader.  When people know you know how to sell, they tend to tighten up and rightfully so.  Persuasion is best served with camouflage.

Persuasion Is Strategic or It Is Not

To reach the rare air of a Billion Dollar Athlete, Tiger had to create a plan, construct an image, and portray a performance to convince the Other Guys.  I can confess complete surprise at Tiger’s acting ability.  While I do not believe he is a Jekyll and Hyde, he clearly can play his public performance like a guitar and provide the key to fit the moment.  Athletes can use the dumb jock stereotype to both surprise and hide.  When one demonstrates any kind of social skill with humor, grace, or empathy, we tend to fall into surprise and over-rate them.  Further, Tiger was able to leverage his multiracial background, especially in his sport.  He correctly calculated how to package all his attributes, but as importantly, had the communication and social skill to keep our eyes on his hands, never seeing what was up his sleeve.

There’s a Difference Between Persuasion, and Smoke and Mirrors; with Persuasion the Illusion Persists

Smoke and mirrors are tricks that deceive us, usually to our delight unless we feel disadvantaged from the deception.  Persuasion, by contrast, changes us.  We continue to think, feel, and act different after the persuasion and often even if we know we were the target of persuasion.  We believed in Tiger, not in Tiger’s Image.  Now we realize the extent of the smoke and mirrors that Tiger employed to hide his private preference from public inspection.


What do we know?  Persuasion Rules reveal both the rise and current fall of Tiger.  He was not simply an outstanding athlete who managed his business well.  He carefully constructed and executed a persuasion plan with all the hallmarks of skill, forethought, and control.

A relentless focus on what the Other Guy wanted to believe.

A strong distinction between the Image and the Wizard Behind the Curtain, never letting people see the natural from the artificial.

A clever use of one talent, athleticism, to hide the use of another, persuasion.

A carefully developed strategy of Image construction and maintenance.

A dangerous combination of genuine persuasion (family pictures) with smoke and mirrors (the wall of privacy).

Tiger’s Tale teaches us about the Rules of Persuasion and how they reveal success and failure.

Oz Seeing It