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Win Bigly - persuasion in a world where facts don't matter

16 mins
book summary persuasion
Shawn L
Builds stuff minimally
Table of Contents

31 persuasion tips and study on Trump’s choice of word, actions and persuasion that led him to be elected.

31 Persuasion Tips:

  1. When you identify as part of a group, your opinion tend to be biased toward the group consensus.
  2. Human are hardwired to reciprocate favors. If you want someone’s cooperation in the future, do something for that person today.
  3. Persuasion works even if the person knows the technique (e.g $9.99)
  4. The thing you think about the most will irrationally rise in important to your mind.
  5. An intentional error in your message will attract criticism, making your message seem more important.
  6. Find the sweet spot between apologizing too much, which signals a lack of confidence, and never apologizing for anything, which makes you a sociopath.
  7. It is easy to fit completely different explanations to the observed facts. Don’t trust any interpretation of reality that isn’t able to predict.
  8. People are more influenced by the direction of things than the current state.
  9. Display confidence (either real or faked) to improve your persuasiveness. You have to believe yourself, or at least appear as if you do, in order to get anyone else to believe.
  10. Persuasion is strongest when the messenger is credible.
  11. Guess what people are thinking—at the very moment they think it—and call it out. If you are right, the subject bonds to you for being like-minded.
  12. If you want the audience to embrace your content, leave out any detail that is both unimportant and would give people a reason to think “That’s not me”. Design into your content enough blank spaces so people can fill them in with whatever makes them happiest.
  13. Use the High-Ground Maneuver to frame yourself as the wise adult in the room. Notice I started by fully embracing the criticism from the other side. If you debate the criticism, you stay in a child frame.
  14. Do not attack personal beliefs. When you attack a person’s belief, the person under attack is more likely to harden his belief than to abandon it, even if your argument is airtight.
  15. Humans more easily get addicted to unpredictable rewards than they do predictable rewards.
  16. It’s easier to persuade people when they expect to be persuaded.
  17. People prefer certainty over uncertainty, even when the certainty is wrong.
  18. Visual persuasion is more effective.
  19. In the context of persuasion, you don’t need a physical picture if you can make someone imagine the scene.
  20. People are more persuaded by contrast than by facts or reason.
  21. When you associate 2 ideas or images, people’s emotional reaction will merge over time.
  22. People automatically get used to minor annoyances over time.
  23. What you say is important, but it is never as important as what people think you are thinking.
  24. If you can provide a win-win solution, no one will disagree with you.
  25. If you are selling, ask your potential customer to buy. Direct requests are persuasive. Trump likes to punctuate the ends of his statements with “believe me.”
  26. Repetition is persuasion.
  27. Match your speaking style to your audience.
  28. Simple explanations looks more credible.
  29. Simplicity makes your ideas easy to remember, thus more memorable.
  30. Tell them what they want to hear. “Strategic ambiguity” refers to a deliberate choice of words that allows people to read into your message whatever they want to hear. Or to put it another way, the message intentionally leaves out any part that would be objectionable to anyone.
  31. If you are trying to get a decision from someone who is on the fence but leaning in your direction, try a “fake because” to give them “permission” to agree with you.

Cognitive dissonance

The discomfort of a person holding more than one contradictory beliefs or values.

Example, when you believe you’re smart but you did something really stupid. Your brain will generate an illusion to explain it all away.

This is the most common trigger for cognitive dissonance - when a person’s self-image doesn’t fit their observations.

How to spot cognitive dissonance

  1. The absurdity of the rationalization.

E.g. a cigarette smoker who claims smoking won’t hurt him because he knows someone who smoked a pack a day and lived to be a hundred years old.

  1. Number of explanations

Having multiple explanations, no matter how reasonable, means people are trying to make sense of their observations, and they are generating different illusions to do it.

Spotting tells for cognitive dissonance

Response patterns of someone with cognitive dissonance:

  • [A mocking word or acronym] + [an absurd absolute]
  • [A mocking word or acronym] + [a personal insult that is more aggressive than the situation seems to warrant]

Example, “LOL. I guess you want to give guns to toddlers.”

Some common Twitter mocking words:

  • Wow
  • OMG
  • So…
  • In other words…
  • HAHAHAHA! (the exaggerated laugh)
  • Dude

How to Know You Won a Political Debate on the Internet

  1. Analogy

Analogies are good for explaining concepts for the first time. But they have no value in debate. Analogies are not logic and not relevant facts.

When your debate opponents retreat to analogies, it is because they have no rational arguments. You won.

No one needs an analogy when facts and reason can do the job.

  1. Personal attacks

When people realize their arguments are not rational, they attack other person.

  1. Psychic illusion

If your opponents retreat to magical thinking about their abilities to detect secret motives and mental problems in strangers from a distance, you won.

Tulip mania

The perfect setup for a mass delusion:

  1. Complicated prediction models with lots of assumptions
  2. Financial and psychological pressure to agree with the consensus

When reality bifurcated

Trump created the replacement movie (in part) by using a common business persuasion strategy that I call the new-CEO move. Smart CEOS try to create visible victories within days of taking the job.

Facts don’t matter. What matters is how you feel.

The making of a hypnotist

The reality one learns while practicing hypnosis is that we make our decisions first - for irrational reasons - and we rationalize them later as having something to do with facts and reason.

Hypnotizing friends and family doesn’t work well because you have too much history and baggage to overcome. People close to you will have trouble getting into the mind-set.

The reason hypnosis is not a powerful tool for losing weight or quitting smoking is almost humorously simple: You don’t want to eat less and you don’t want to stop smoking.

And hypnosis is only good for getting you what you do want. If any part of your mind doesn’t fully embrace the change you want, hypnosis might be the wrong tool. But hypnosis can work well in situations where the subject has no objection to modifying an old behavior.

The best situation for hypnosis is when there is no precondition to overcome.

The secret to the illusion is that the only people who will go on stage in that situation are the ones who know they won’t be bothered by the experience.

I used a hypnosis technique in the paragraph before last that starts with “By now you are wondering . . .” The hypnosis technique involves demonstrating that I know what you are thinking at the moment you are thinking it. If I guess right, this creates a little bond between the author and the reader because it feels like I know you as well as I might know a friend.

Hypnosis superpowers

Dilbert has no last name to not cause readers to feel they are different from the characters in the comic.

By intentionally omitting details in the design of the Dilbert comic, Scott made it easier for people to think, Dilbert’s job is just like mine.

Lie detection

When you accuse an innocent person, the accused will deny.

If the accused is guilty, he or she will usually ask what evidence you have.


Seduction-wise, niceness is boring, and nice people are a dime a dozen.

Niceness can get you only so far. A far better seduction strategy would involve participating in any kind of coed group activities at which you happen to excel

When you display any kind of talent, it triggers other humans to want to mate with you.


Say something subversively negative to a woman to make her less confident.

“Did you just get your hair done?”

Compliment won’t get you far.

Negging suggests that you are not crazy about it. This subtle put-down makes you appear as a confident male.

Trump’s Rosie O’Donnell moment

“You’ve called women you don’t like ‘fat pigs,’ ‘dogs,’ ‘slobs,’ and ‘disgusting animals…’” Trump interrupted her by saying, “Only Rosie O’Donnell.”

The Rosie O’Donnell reference sucked all the energy out of the room.

How a master persuader moves energy and focus

He created an emotion-triggering visual image (Rosie O’Donnell) that sucked all the attention from the question to the answer, and it wasn’t even a real answer.

Our visual sense is the most persuasive of our five senses, so using a real person whom we recognize, and can imagine, is a great technique.

This is the persuasion method known as pacing and leading.

First you match your audience’s emotional condition to gain trust, and later you are in a position to lead them.

Trump also used the High-Ground Maneuver by taking the question out of the weeds of what he said in the past and up to the concept of how much it hurts the world to be bound by such silly political correctness.

A host tried to label Trump a “whiner.” But instead of denying the label, Trump embraced it and said he was the best whiner of all time, and the country needs just that. That’s a psychological trick I call “taking the high ground.” The low ground in this case is the unimportant question of whether “whiner” is a fair label for Trump. But Trump cleverly took the high ground, embraced the label, and used it to set an anchor in your mind that he is the loudest voice for change. That’s some clown genius for you.

The persuasion stack

Forms of persuasion ranked by power:

  • big fear
  • identity
  • smaller fear
  • aspirations
  • habit
  • analogies
  • reason
  • hypocrisy
  • word-thinking.

Emotional topics near the top are stronger than the more “rational” ones at the bottom.

Visual presentation of a weaker form of persuasion could be stronger than a written or oral presentation.


Definition: A situation in which people are trying to win an argument by adjusting the definition of words.

Example: In a debate on abortion, both sides try to win the debate by declaring their definition of “life” to be the accurate one. But this won’t change opinions. Word-thinking isn’t persuasive.


Pointing out faults frames both parties as naughty children. There are no winners in that framing.

“Your side did it too” response is weak mud. The stronger mud is what I call the High-Ground Maneuver.


We make our decisions first and rationalize them later.


While analogies are useful and important for explaining new concepts, here’s the important point for our purposes: Analogies are terrible for persuasion.

Analogies are not logic. They are just a quick way to explain a new concept. The second reason analogies fail is because they are imprecise by definition. That gives people on the other side of a debate all kinds of ammunition.

The details of the analogy were unimportant. All that mattered was the association. And this leads me to my next point: Associations matter more than reason.

The illusion created by analogies is that if two situations have anything in common, perhaps they have lots in common.

How to create mental anchors

Going first makes a big difference. Always be the first to offer numbers, even if you’re talking about an entirely different situation.


If you want to influence someone to try a new product, it helps to associate it with some part of an existing habit.


It isn’t easy to change people’s aspirations, and you would have no reason to try unless the aspirations were somehow harmful or dangerous.

You can improve the power of your persuasion by grafting your story onto people’s existing aspirations. You see this a lot in product marketing.

Apple tells you that its products will help you be creative.

Fear (big and small)

To maximize your fear persuasion:

  • A big fear is more persuasive than a small one.
  • A personal fear is more persuasive than a generic national problem.
  • A fear that you think about most often is stronger than one you rarely think about.
  • A fear with a visual component is scarier than one without.
  • A fear you have experienced firsthand (such as a crime) is scarier than a statistic.


The next time someone is doing something you find objectionable, don’t attack that person’s actions. Instead, ask if this is who the person wants to be.

Obviously this method won’t work with kids, or with adults who have cultivated a brand around doing all the wrong things.

Setting the table

The more the client pays, the easier it is for the hypnotist, because charging a higher price assigns a higher perceived value to your skills.

  • Dress for the part.
  • Brand yourself as a winner.
  • Meet in the most impressive space you can control.
  • Set expectations ahead of time.
  • Pre-suade with thoughts and images that will bias people toward a frame of mind that is compatible with your upcoming persuasion.
  • Bring high energy.

Go bigly or go home

Whenever there is mass confusion and complexity, people automatically gravitate to the strongest, most confident voice.

How to design a linguistic kill shot

Trump used words that were uncommon in political campaigns, to violate our expectations and make his branding memorable.

Examples: “low-energy,” “crooked,” and “lyin’.”

Lyin’ Ted

Trump nicknamed an opponent Lyin’ Ted - and it was a good branding. This is an engineered mental pause for persuasion.

Trump engineers his nicknames for future confirmation bias. By that I mean he primed our brains to see the future through his filter.

Clinton’s nickname failures

Clinton tried to nicknamed Trump as ‘Donald Duck.’ The problem here is that Donald Duck is a cute and beloved character associated with a respected brand.

How to use visual persuasion

The wall

Trump sold us a mental image of a “big, beautiful wall.”

The wall imagery was more memorable than “border control.”

People automatically gravitate toward the future they are imagining most vividly, even if they don’t want the future they are seeing.

ISIS in the Vatican

When CNN anchor Chris Cuomo asked Trump to react to the Pope’s criticism of capitalism, Trump correctly saw it as a trap.

Trump responds that he would tell the Pope that ISIS is coming to get him, and that they have plans to take over the Vatican, which I assume is true, or true enough.

How to make people imagine you as president

25 outrages out of 25 headlines in a week is excellent persuasion.

When you encounter a situation that is working great except for one identifiable problem, you can focus on the problem and try to fix it. But if you have a dozen complaints at the same time, none of them looks special.

Humans need contrast in order to make solid decisions that turn into action. Trump removed all of your contrast by providing multiple outrages of similar energy.

Every decision is a comparison of alternatives. If you control how people see the alternatives, you can sell anything.

Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Participate in activities at which you excel compared with others.
  • In business, always present your ideas in the context of alternatives that are clearly worse. Don’t just sell your proposed solution; slime all the other options with badness.
  • If someone you know is treating a small issue as a big one, remind them what a big problem looks like.

How to persuade by association

One of the easiest forms of persuasion involves associating one image or idea with another in a way that makes some of the goodness (or badness) of one rub off on the other.

Example: celebrity endorsements, labeling political opponents Nazis, and marketing in general.

If you want to be liked and respected, you have to watch your accidental associations.

If you are trying to get past a negative thought or memory, try distracting yourself with positive images and ideas.

If you want to make a good first impression, don’t jokingly complain about the traffic on the way over.

If your positivity has some visual imagery, that is even better.

How to create effective campaign slogans and logos

Make America Great Again.

Make: A power word that show creation. America: Identity Great: Power and success Again: This word caused critics to debate whether America was already great or not. That’s a nonsense debate because there is no agreed standard by which national greatness can be measured. But that doesn’t matter for persuasion. What mattered is that the country was talking about Trump’s slogan: supporters.

The letters M, K, G, and T are powerful, like a drumbeat.


Persuaders know that humans put more importance on the first part of a sentence than the second part.

People don’t always click links, especially if they think they know what the link will say.

Godzilla gets in the game (or does he?)

“Dark” is a linguistic kill shot from the Left.

Let me tell you why “dark” is so good. It’s unique. That’s a Trump trick. You haven’t heard “dark” used before in a political context. That makes it memorable and sticky.

“Dark” makes you think of black, and black makes you think of racism (in the political season, anyway), and that makes you reflexively pair Trump with racism even though it makes no sense. “Dark” can describe anything scary. It invites the listener to fill in the nightmare with whatever scares them the most about Trump. That’s a hypnosis trick. Leave out the details and let people fill in

Repetition. “Dark” is the kind of word that pundits can work into almost any answer when talking

How to get away with bad behavior

People automatically get used to minor annoyances over time.

Humans quickly adapt to just about anything that doesn’t kill them.

If you can’t change your habits, acknowledge them with humor and wait for people to get used to you. If

How a trained persuader evaluates scandals

Trump’s taxes

The unknowns about Trump’s taxes were worrisome. But that persuasion had no visual power and did not evoke any concrete fears, ones that went beyond the conceptual.

KKK slow denial

Trump was being consistent with his practice of never giving away anything until he can trade it for value.

Judge Curiel

Lawyers routinely look for bias by association and try to limit it to achieve a fair trial.

Trump’s outrageous claim that Judge Curiel might be biased because of his Mexican heritage was good legal strategy,

Khan controversy

Trump sometimes makes an unforced error that has the effect of making voters focus where he wants them to focus.

Basket of deplorables

Marriage experts will tell you that the best indicator of a future divorce is when the couple displays contempt for each other.

How to create two ways to win, no way to lose

Have a system instead of a goal. A goal is, by definition, one way to win and infinite ways to lose. A good system gives you lots of ways to win and far fewer ways to fail.

How to use the high-ground maneuver

“Life isn’t fair”

“We’re not perfect. Phones are not perfect. We all know that. But we want to make our users happy.”

The move involves taking an argument up to a level where you can say something that is absolutely true while changing the context at the same time.

Trump’s quickest and easiest persuasion tools

  1. Social proof (“many people are saying . . .”)
  2. Ask directly for what you want (“believe me . . .”)
  3. Repetition (“it’s true. it’s true.”)