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Remember to scratch the hogs

In the classic “My Voice Will Go with You” by Sydney Rosen, there is a story in the foreword by Dr. Lynn Hoffman that reaches the very essence of persuasion.

[There was a time] when Erickson, who as a young man sold books to pay his way through college, was trying to sell some to a crusty old farmer. The man isn’t having any of it and tells Erickson to go about his business. Erickson, without thinking, picks up some shingles from the ground and starts scratching the backs of the hogs the farmer is feeding. The farmer changes his mind and agrees to buy Erickson’s books because, as he says, “You know how to scratch hogs.”

I see two valuable lessons in this. The first is that, sometimes, the best way to persuade, once a person says no, is by not trying to persuade. Just be nice. Be a “person.”

This builds up feelings of like and trust. Instead of feeling pressured, they feel relaxed. They like you. And they now begin to trust you.

The second lesson also has to do with building trust. It is the principle of Similarity. Simply put: People tend to intuitively trust those who are like them.

Relate-ability is accomplished most easily by finding similarities. Yes, opposites might, on some level, attract because differences can be interesting. But to inspire like and, perhaps more important, trust, highlight your similarities with the other person.

So when someone says no to you, don’t fight with them. Instead, pick up a shingle and “scratch some hogs.”  

Excerpted from “Adversaries Into Allies: Win People Over Without Manipulation or Coercion” by Bob Burg (2013, Portfolio/Penguin).