I’m not on the market looking for dates right now, but if I was standing next to a cute girl on the evening train and wanted to talk to her, I would start by saying, “Hey, I know it’s sort of unusual to talk to strangers on the train, but I really like your dress. You going out tonight?”
If I just said, “I really like your dress. You going out tonight?” it’s a little bit… well, creepy. But she might be thinking something along the lines of “Why is this random person talking to me?”
Because you are breaking a social norm.
Acknowledging that the situation is itself strange demonstrates that you understand that social norm. It’s perfectly okay and great to break social norms. I base my entire life, work, romantic charm, decisions, and general behavior around breaking every social norm I can get away with.
As long as you somehow demonstrate that you understand the social norm, you are excused when you break it.
People who are socially awkward — essentially what it breaks down to is that they don’t understand social tact and social norms. People who are exceptionally hilarious and fun to be around — they break social norms all the time. The difference is that you can tell that the fun people understand what they’re doing and they’re doing it on purpose.
If you acknowledge upfront that your action is breaking a social norm, people will see that you understand the norm and will feel content with you breaking that norm.
You meet in a grocery store, the person seems cute, you are getting along…
“So, I know this is kind of unusual, meeting in the produce section, but my friends and I are going to [insert activity here] tomorrow night, and you should totally come with us.”
That phrase at the beginning puts people at ease.
“I know I’m not a customer, so normally you wouldn’t let a random stranger walk in and do this, because it’s really impolite… and I know you’ll say no because this is a little strange, but could my friend here perhaps use the restroom?”
That whole sentence is actually full of persuasive tactics. I’ll break them down:
– Acknowledging that the situation is unusual, which is what this post is about. Essentially you are apologizing for breaking a social norm.
– I know you won’t do this, but– tells the person what they’re going to say, naturally causing them to think the opposite because people don’t like being told what they are going to do or say.
– Overshooting the gravity of the request (which is what Friday’s post will be about).
– Introducing someone else as the requester. People trust people who are trusted by other people. You’re demonstrating social proof that this person is worth the request just by you asking. This is why the concept of a “wingman” is so popular, and why speakers don’t introduce themselves at concerts — someone else will introduce them and provide proof of their credibility.
Overall, this is admittedly not the greatest example because usually a restaurant won’t have a problem with it. Persuasive language isn’t necessary. But the person working at the restaurant is much more likely to say yes than if you said this:
[You, in a whiny voice] “Can we use the toilet…?”
Using ‘toilet’ instead of a more professional-sounding ‘restroom,’ not apologizing for the weirdness of the situation… etc. The more you consciously consider persuasion in your daily life, the more you’ll just start to feel that things like the above whiny-voice request is so much less likely to result in success.
I used this post’s advice within the post itself. Three paragraphs ago when I said “Overall, it’s admittedly not the greatest example because…”
If anyone had read the example and thought “Well that’s easy, usually people can use a restroom, or just walk right in without saying anything,” then they might think I’m not the best at writing or explaining things.
But I acknowledged it, so now you, the reader, understand that I understand it wasn’t a perfect example. And now I’m off the hook. I’m acknowledging that I am socially intelligent enough to recognize how you are going to perceive what I’m saying. Therefore you don’t think negatively of me.
See how that works?