“When a magician lets you notice something on your own, his lie becomes impenetrable.” – Raymond Teller, Born Feb, 14, 1948.
A lot of people think persuasive writing is about what you say to people. Your words push their buttons and they act.
But a lot of times, it's what you DON'T come right out and say that is much more likely to lead to action.
For example, think of the last time you saw a magician perform a magic trick. It can be in person or on TV. Were you delighted to be fooled, or annoyed to be deceived? Were you impressed by the skill, or bored by the juvenile stunt?
You know what I like is when the magician appears to make a mistake, but then it turns out the mistake is just part of the trick. A distraction…
See, like I just did above, you want to draw the broad shapes and let them color in their own details when you can. I asked a question that required you to access your memories.
Chances are, a lot of the people reading have a specific magical performance in mind – they might even have remembered several.
That's how this trick works.
You want to coax your audience into participating beyond just passively reading or listening to your message.
By leaving specific holes in your stories, you can FORCE the audience to insert parts of themselves into it – they NEED to in order to make sense of it and give it context.
They insert their memories.
They insert their experiences.
They insert their emotions.
They insert their fantasies.
They insert their values.
They insert their baggage.
And because heave been tricked into integrating themselves into your narrative, the inverse happens also – your narrative becomes part of them. They internalize it. They take ownership of it.
So the conclusions that the story leads them to feel personal. They feel weighed and measured. They feel reasoned and thought out.
They feel like they made up their own mind.
But they didn't. They merely filled in the colors of their own, inside a shape you dictated. They maybe even feel like they chose the colors, but they picked from the ones you chose to hand them.
They feel like they have spotted the pattern on their own. They feel like they are completing the script because they chose to. They feel like they are arriving at their own ending, rather than the one you wrote for them before they even met you.
And this is literally the best and simplest way to convince people to do whatever you want them to. Let them believe they CHOSE to.
And they are happy you presented them the option to do what they really wanted to all along. So convenient and helpful you are.
<!—- lagniappe Let’s take our little example list from above, and look at ways we can actually entice our readers to insert themselves into the content we are sharing with them. Make them take ownership and incorporate our tales into their own internal narrative. So that we may make out services and products part of THEIR story - how they solved their own problems and moved from failure to success... 1. They insert their memories. Ask the reader to recollect the last time they were in a specific situation. Ask about details. Offer options as prompts. Once they open their memory drawer in the brain, you can begin painting very realistic and personal pictures. 2. They insert their experiences. Beyond just recollections, you can get people to access experiences they encounter again and again. Describe your own example and ask them if theirs is similar. In their mind, they will adapt it, and once you’re getting them into their own hands-on, first person day-to-day environment, you’ve got a position you can work from. 3. They insert their emotions. When you’re evoking memories and recurring experiences, don’t just talk about images and pictures and movies in their minds. Talk about the emotional responses. Talk about bad feelings and good feelings and show them that you know which feelings were felt at which moments. Maybe even help them put descriptive words to feelings they had not fully parsed and understood yet. 4. They insert their fantasies. Ask people about their dreams. Don’t let them be vague. Give them guided imaginative exercises to make their wishes and desires have tangible, detailed form. Once you get them to do that - possibly for the first time - it FEELS like your assistance is more valuable. Your advice is more directly connected to getting them what they REALLY want, if only because you helped them define what that even means. 5. They insert their values. Prompt people to consider the things they REALLY care about - give possible examples of common values. Family, career, wealth, principles, religion, whatever. Then when you connect your desired course of action, and harness it to their true values - they directly connect it to their ACTUAL value system and decision-making process. They choose to behave as you ask because it’s aligned, not just because you told them to (lol). 6. They insert their baggage. Entice them to consider their own enemies. Their opposition. Their rivals. Their fears about failure and inadequacy too, to the extent that all of these are obstacles to the progress they feel they deserve. Then, once they have, you can cite their “haters” and they will take that vague suggestion and substitute their own villains, real or imagined. You can capitalize on their own internal ideological struggle with their past, their present, or whatever else is thwarting. 7. BONUS: You can get people to remember their negative past mistakes - wrong choices, opportunities ignored, advantages squandered - get them to fill in their own details internally... And imagine their best possible futures, fulfilled in their present, vindicated before their doubters, redeemed before those they’ve let down, and dominant over their competitors. That’s how you bring it all together. Your proposals are generic and universal, but by asking them to insert themselves, they provide the important details that do the actual convincing. —->
4 thoughts on “Lie Like a Magician, and Make the Audience Work the Magic For You”
This is super helpful, thanks!
Thanks. I appreciate it!
I read a couple of your posts. I can't say I really liked your advice; to advertisers, I would presume. I'm sure it does work. The media is inundated with, I guess you would identify it as "copy."
My advice is for anyone who uses persuasion deliberately. Mostly my audience are other people who work in advertising, like myself. But really, anyone is welcome to get whatever value they want from my work here, even if the conclusion is simply to disagree with what I've said. At least it gets people thinking about communication in a way they weren't before.