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Incremental Persuasion


Techniques General persuasion > More methods > Incremental Persuasion

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



When persuading, do so one small step at a time.

Get them to agree to a small point. Then get agreement on a further smaller point. Then another and another until you have got them to your final destination.

Make each small point very easy to accept and as logical as possible so they cannot really object to it.


Could you hold this? How does it feel? Comfortable? Can you imagine using it at home? Would it feel good? Would it feel better than what you have already? Would you like to replace your old one with this? How would it feel taking this home and knowing you could use it every day? ...

Do you like having fun? Would you like to have fun today? Have you ever had fun when you did something new? There's a new playfield in town. I've seen others there having fun. Would you like to have a go some time? How about this afternoon?


Incremental persuasion works because perception is based on contrast, which in this method is between small increments. We largely judge the impact of something on us in this relative way rather than against an absolute standard, making incremental approaches less easy to notice.

There is a classic story of boiling a frog in a saucepan. As the water warms up, the frog does not notice the incremental change in temperature and does not jump out, and so quietly boils. The same is true of many changes in life, where we accept many small differences, not taking action until it is too late.

Incrementalism works in many different places. For example if you're seeking information, ask for a little at a time. It can be effective if you ask different people, as this allows you to gather a lot of knowledge without appearing to be particularly acquisitive. You can also get a lot done by asking for small favors. Paradoxically, this can lead people to feel they should do more for you, as in the Ben Franklin Effect.

See also

Incremental conversion, Nibbling, Contrast principle, Ben Franklin Effect, Social Engineering, Sequential Requests, Progressive Demands


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