One of the legends of political warfare agrees with me…

One of the legends of political warfare agrees with me...

Not too long ago I discovered a fascinating political strategy book.

It’s kind of like Sun Tzu’s “Art of War”, but for those fighting with words and media instead of fists.

The name?

Rules for Radicals, by Saul Alinsky.

As a behavioral scientist, I like to study what works. This means that I don’t just study the academic literature. I also look out for interesting tactics that non-scientists have discovered.

There are millions of people out there in the real world trying stuff out every day. Through sheer ingenuity and trial-and-error they’re going to come up with effective tactics every once in awhile.

That’s why “Rules for Radicals” caught my eye.

According to the Wikipedia page, the strategies in the book have catalyzed the success of dozens of unions, political movements, you name it…

Obviously, there’s something there.

Today I want to call out one of Alinsky’s tactics, and show you a passage from the book:

Tactic 2. “Never go outside the expertise of your people.“ It results in confusion, fear and retreat. Feeling secure adds to the backbone of anyone.

In layman’s terms: Speak with people about things they know & care about, and in terms that they understand.

This is actually quite similar to the behavior-design principle that I wrote about yesterday: To bring people somewhere new, you have to first meet them where they are.

I realize that some of you might be a little annoyed right now: “This simple idea again?!”

But this is one of *the* core ideas of behavior-design. If you take this idea to heart, and practice it diligently, you’ll be better than 80% of the people out there.

As Alinsky writes in the book:

“A classic example of the failure to communicate because the organizer has gone completely outside the experience of the people, is the attempt by campus activists to indicate to the poor the bankruptcy of their prevailing values. “Take my word for it—if you get a good job and a split-level ranch house out in the suburbs, a color TV, two cars, and money in the bank, that just won’t bring you happiness.” The response without exception is always, “Yeah. Let me be the judge of that one—I’ll let you know after I get it.”

This is why you need to banish the word *should* from your vocabulary. Nothing will destroy a human-human connection than a “should statement”.

“Should” implies that the person you’re talking to is in the wrong place. But, as you know by now, persuasion is the game of meeting people *where they are*, and then bringing them where you want them to be.

So the next time you’re about to tell someone that they “should…”, remember that you’re actually the one that should be somewhere else. Where? 

Wherever your target audience is.

It’s only then that the two of you can go on a journey together. A journey to a new attitude. A journey to a new belief. A journey of persuasion.

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