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Win Bigly by Scott Adams.
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People are Irrational and Emotional

You think of yourself as rational, making decisions with facts and logic. Instead, people are governed by emotion and heuristic thinking much more than they think.

Consider instead that humans are 90% irrational and emotion. They make a decision first by gut, then rationalize it afterward.

The only exceptions are when decisions have no emotional content, like buying an identical product for less money.

Think of humans as “moist robots,” a programmable entity that produces the right output when given the right inputs.

Master Persuaders

Master persuaders are people who have incredible persuasion skills and form “reality distortion fields.” Examples include Steve Jobs and Donald Trump.

Master persuaders often have a persuasion “talent stack,” or a collection of persuasion-related skills that work well together. The more you can combine, the more persuasive you will be.

According to Scott Adams, Trump’s talent stack made him very persuasive even when he wasn’t notably brilliant in any one field. Trump had the combination of (Publicity | Reputation | Strategy | Negotiating | Persuasion | Public speaking | Sense of humor | Quick on his feet | Thick skinned | High-energy | Size and appearance | Intelligence).

Persuasion Principles

This is Scott Adams’s ordering of methods of persuasion, from least to most effective:

  • Word-thinking/semantics
  • Pointing out hypocrisy
  • Reason/facts
  • Analogy
  • Habit
  • Appealing to aspirations
  • Identity
  • Appealing to fears

Set the Expectation of Being Persuaded

People are more easily persuaded if they expect to be persuaded.

  • Doctors post their degrees on their walls. Salespeople drive fancy cars to show they’re good at their jobs.
  • Trump wrote Art of the Deal and convinced the world he was a great negotiator. Now every person going in had subconscious permission to do worse against Trump as a persuader. Brilliantly, the book is not just about persuasion - it is persuasion.

Brand yourself as a winner. If people expect you to win, they will be biased toward making it happen.

Display Confidence and Energy

Display confidence to improve your persuasiveness. You have to believe yourself to get anyone else to believe. Energy is contagious.

People perceive high energy as competence and leadership.

Confidence works in signaling status and quality. People with status have the freedom to act however they like, including like assholes. People without status need to grovel and be excessively nice to get what they want.

Communicate Simply

Simple is catchier. It’s easier to understand and remember.

Get rid of extra words. Don’t write “he was very happy” when you can write “he was happy.” Prune your sentences.

Write short sentences. Avoid putting multiple thoughts in one sentence. Readers are lazier and less thoughtful than you think.

Visual Imagery

Images stick more stably in people’s minds, making them more readily available and thus thought about more.

Use simple imagery.

Leave it vague enough to let people fill in their own blanks.

Example: Trump’s “big, beautiful wall.” If you’re like most people, you pictured a large concrete wall 15 feet high.

  • Obviously, this would be impractical - a metal fence or digital sensors would be better - but the imagery was powerful. “The wall” was obviously more persuasive and catchy than “border control using a variety of security technologies.”
  • He didn’t provide his own renderings or descriptions of the wall. Het let people imagine it, which made them more attracted to their own conception of the idea.

Persuasion Strategies and Tactics

Linguistic kill shot: a unique (non-trite), visual, meaningful catchphrase. “Crooked Hillary,” “Lyin’ Ted,” “Little Rubio.” Trump was called “dark.”

  • Confirmation bias secures these nicknames.

High-ground maneuver: instead of engaging with a complaint specific to you, neutralize it by relating it to a universal problem everyone can relate to.

  • In response to Antennagate, Steve Jobs said, “We’re not perfect. Phones aren’t perfect. We want to make all our users happy.”

Visual persuasion: Images are far more effective than abstract words.

  • Trump’s border wall along Mexico.
  • Trump on SNL with a skit in the oval office. It became easier to picture him as President.

Pacing and leading: Follow the pace of your listener - speaking tone, content, beliefs. Then once you feel they’re following you, bring them to your conclusion.

  • Trump matched the complexity of speech of his voters - simple words, simple sentences. This made him easier to relate to.

Anchoring to hyperbole, then backing off: Propose an outrageous solution. Then as people argue about it, dial it back to show an earnest concession.

  • Trump proposed deporting millions of undocumented immigrants. This was clearly an impractical idea that branded Trump as the candidate who cared the most about our borders. He then walked it back to focusing on criminals.

Highlight the contrasts: Always present your solution in the context of worse alternatives. You will look more thorough/objective, and your option will look better.

  • When trying to impress people, participate in activities at which you excel compared to others. People will form an impression of you as generally talented, even if you are otherwise equal to others.
  • Compare someone’s small issue with a big problem. This will re-frame their small worries.

If these sound interesting, look in the full summary for many more tactics we don’t have space to cover here.

Example of Trump’s Persuasion

In a debate, Megyn Kelly asked, “You’ve called women you don’t like ‘fat pigs,’ ‘dogs,’ ‘slobs,’ and ‘disgusting animals’...” Trump interrupted, “Only Rosie O’Donnell.” The crowd laughed and applauded. When Kelly finished the question, Trump continued with an answer about the problem of political correctness.

Here are the persuasive tactics Trump used, in just 3 words:

  • Visual image - Rosie O’Donnell was a recognizable...

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Win Bigly Summary Introduction

Most people think there is one objective reality, and we can understand that reality through facts and reason.

The problem is that we all think we’re the enlightened ones, and people who disagree with us just need better facts or better brains. If there is a single truth, isn’t it odd that everyone sees their personal beliefs as the truth, and that so many people disagree on what the truth is?

People actually make decisions more irrationally than they realize. We are subject to biases and pulled by our emotions. We make decisions first, and rationalize them after the fact. Analogously, asking someone what they want to do and why is also faulty. People don’t understand the reasons for their own behavior.

Consider humans as moist robots, computers that respond predictably when given certain inputs. Furthermore, moist robots can be reprogrammed if you know how to interface with them.

The view of reality that you have is a “filter” that interprets the data you get and predicts an outcome. The filter doesn’t have to be objectively correct - as long as it makes you happy and it predicts events accurately, it’s a good filter.

  • The moist robot filter lets you influence people and predict people’s irrationalities more than if you assumed everyone was fact-based and rational all the time.
  • You may think that you can will a successful future into being by envisioning it. Confirmation bias will highlight the times this worked and discard the failures. That’s fine - as long as it makes you happy and it works some of the time, it’s a decent filter for life.
  • Multiple filters or interpretations of reality may explain the existing data. You won’t know which one is true until you see how it predicts future...

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Win Bigly Summary Cognitive Biases

Cognitive biases may exist because they save the brain energy - the thoughts are not perfect but are good enough for survival. It would be exhausting to reinterpret your reality with every new piece of information.

The important principle here is that biases are not flaws in our operating system - they are the operating system.

Funnily enough, even when you know exactly what’s going on, it’s still effective.

  • Everyone knows that $9.99 is chosen because it looks much cheaper than $10.00. It still works.
  • The McGurk effect (video of someone saying “bah” with audio of “fah”). Even when you know the effect, you are still subject to it.

As we’ll explore in later chapters, many persuasion strategies take advantage of cognitive biases.

Confirmation Bias

What it is: you pay attention to information that confirms your prior beliefs, and discard data that contradicts your beliefs.

In politics, all sides suffer from this.

  • There was alleged collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. No smoking gun was reported, but there were stories of Russian influence on the election (eg Facebook). Anti-Trumpers say there is so much smoke that collusion must have happened. Trump supporters say that without evidence, Trump has been proven innocent.
  • (Shortform example: watch different TV channels for liberals and conservatives and you’ll rarely see the same top stories at once. A scandal for a conservative politician will be the rage on the liberal channel and totally absent from the conservative channel, and vice versa.)

When trying to persuade, you might think that facts alone can win the day. But people will just filter the information for whatever confirms their current beliefs. People often don’t change opinions just because they see some information that discredited their opinion.

Cognitive Dissonance

What it is: When people perform actions that are inconsistent with their underlying beliefs, they rationalize the action in the context of their beliefs, often forming delusions.

Examples

  • (Shortform example: one classic experiment showed that people who were paid nothing for a tedious task enjoyed it more than people who were paid more for the same task. The ones who were paid nothing had to reason subconsciously, “well this task is boring. But clearly I’m not doing it for money since I’m not getting paid. So maybe I enjoy it more than I thought I did?”)
  • If you believe you’re an honest person but you do something dishonest, you rationalize the action as justified in a tortuous way.

According to Scott Adams, a “tell” for cognitive dissonance is the absurdity of the rationalization, and how many there are.

  • Someone claims smoking won’t hurt him because a person smoked a pack a day and lived to be 100. This is a personal illusion where he is one of the few people alive who is immune to lung cancer.

Another tell is responding with an absurd absolute position, combined with a personal insult. This person doesn’t have a rational reason for their views, forming a dissonance in their mind that they resolve by discrediting the other person’s viewpoint.

  • Someone expresses a view in favor of gun ownership. In return, someone says, “ha, so I guess you want to give guns to toddlers!”

Consistency Bias

What it is: People don’t want to change their minds. If you attack a person’s belief, that person will double down and entrench, rationalizing it along the way.

Recency Bias, Availability Bias

What it is: You tend to overweight information that you thought about recently, or that is more available to you.

Be wary when someone is repeatedly pressing your button to get you to return to an issue.

Two Movies on One Screen / Filters

What it is: People see differently realities. Given the exact same set of data, two people with two different reality filters will see two different things. Scott Adams calls this “one picture, two movies.

  • Two people can view the same Presidential speech and have wildly different conclusions from it.
  • Using mind-altering substances (even alcohol or caffeine will do) gives you a different experience of the world. You yourself can experience different realities just by going from normal to high.

Beware of selecting inaccurate filters. It’s easy to fit completely different explanations to the same set of facts. To be useful, the interpretation must be able to predict accurately.

Mass Delusions

People often assume these are rare, but Scott Adams argues mass delusions are the norm, and it’s the rare time when a population is behaving rationally.

Mass delusions are Often due to a combination of biases, including social proof, confirmation bias, loss aversion.

  • Stock market booms and busts
  • News reports that exaggerate the prevalence of a problem.
    • Orson Welles’s broadcast of War of the Worlds. A small portion of the country who heard it believed an alien invasion was occurring. Then, it became a folk myth that much of the country had been fooled.

Delusions can occur when there are 1) complicated prediction models with lots of assumptions, and 2) financial...

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Win Bigly Summary The Most Effective Persuasion Methods

There are broad categories of persuasion methods, ranging from logical reasoning to appeals to emotion.

Scott Adams considers some persuasion methods to be terribly weak and others to be formidably strong. We’ll cover his ranking of methods, starting from strong to weak.

Rank 1: Appeal to Fears

Fears trigger stronger reactions than positive emotions like hope, and is the strongest persuasion method of all.

Nuances of fears:

  • Personal fears are more persuasive than generic large-scale problems (losing your house vs general climate change)
  • A fear you think about more often is stronger than one rarely thought about.
  • A visual fear is scarier than one without.
  • A fear you’ve experienced firsthand (eg a crime) is scarier than a statistic.

Examples:

  • In the 2016 US Presidential election, Trump engaged people on fears of losing jobs and crime.
  • Clinton couldn’t use the same fears because of her brand, so she used Trump as the object of fear, portraying him as the next Hitler.
    • The painting of Trump as Hitler contributed to the militancy of Clinton supporters. If you had a chance to stop a literal Hitler and save millions of lives, you have moral authority to kill people to do it.

Rank 2: Identity

People like to back their tribe. If you seem like you’re on a person’s team, they’ll more likely support you.

  • We evolved to feel safer with people who are like us, and oppose people who were different who seemed to be trying to hurt us.

People like to think of themselves as honorable and trustworthy. If you want to correct someone’s behavior, appeal to this high ground by asking if that is what the person wants to be.

When you identify as part of a group, your opinions tend to bias toward the group consensus.

Examples:

  • Sports teams use local geographical tribes effectively.
  • Trump reminded voters they were Americans first. Clinton appealed to women, minorities, and LGBTQ.

Rank 3: Aspirations

While a person’s aspirations don’t trigger as strong a reaction as fear, they still create powerful, uplifting feelings. To persuade, graft your story onto people’s existing aspirations.

Examples:

  • Apple stresses personal creativity.
  • Financial services companies stress being financially independent.
  • Trump played to voter aspirations of being wealthier, safer, and greater. In contrast, Clinton used the weaker “Stronger Together,” which is more defensive than aspirational.

Rank 4: Habit

Instead of changing habits, try to piggyback onto existing habits.

Examples:

  • Turn vitamins into once-a-day morning rituals like brushing teeth and shaving.
  • Morning shows tie to the time period specifically. “Good Morning America,” “Morning Joe,” “Coffee with Scott Adams.”

Rank 5: Analogy

Analogies are relatively weak persuasion methods. They’re useful to explain a new unfamiliar concept and to be directionally correct.

However, analogies are so imprecise that they invite criticism on narrow grounds - “that analogy doesn’t work because of this detail.” Your opponent then uses this detail to invalidate the directional accuracy.

This is a form of persuasion by association - if two things have something in common, surely they must have many more things in common.

  • To use an analogy - the analogy is the holster, and the negative association is the gun. The analogy (holster) is a vehicle for delivering the negative association (the gun).

These are more effective when piggybacking on other biases, like confirmation bias, visual imagery, and fears.

  • The analogy of Trump to Hitler was effective for Clinton’s base, since it fit their confirmation bias, and to voters new to Trump, since it explained a new concept. It wasn’t effective for Trump supporters since they could poke holes in the analogy.

Rank 6: Reason

This is much less effective than people think. We tend to make our decisions first emotionally, then rationalize them later. Most topics are emotional - our identity, relationships, career choices, politics.

We deceptively think most of our lives are rational because many smaller decisions are rational - brushing teeth to avoid cavities, using coupons to save money, following the GPS navigator to save time. But the big decisions in life are actually mainly emotional.

Reason is most effective when there is no emotional content to a decision, like shopping for the best price of the same car across multiple sellers.

Example:

  • In Jimmy Kimmel, people were presented Trump’s policy positions framed as Clinton’s, and asked if they agreed with those positions. Many said they did.

Rank 7: Hypocrisy

A persuasive attempt based on hypocrisy is arguing that the other person also did something they’re complaining about.

This is ineffective because it frames both parties as naughty children - there is no winning here.

Resist the reflex of feeling unfairly attacked and having to sling back mud. Appeal to the high ground: “I agree with you. We’ve learned a lot since that mistake. Let’s try to find the best way forward and stick to that.”

This frames yourself as the wise adult in a room of children and small thinkers - someone who knows how to solve problems.

Rank 8: Word-thinking

Word-thinking is an argument based around semantics. One person can adjust the definition without any appeal to reason or logic.

This is Scott Adams’s lowest ranked form of persuasion. If two people disagree on a definition, there is no room to go.

Examples:

  • Trying to convince someone of your abortion viewpoint by changing their definition of what “life” is.
  • People argued about whether Trump was “conservative enough” to represent...

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Shortform Exercise: Persuasion from Personal Experience

Think about effective persuasion methods you've seen recently.


When have you recently seen an example of persuasion by appealing to fear? Was it effective?

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Win Bigly Summary Persuasion Principles

These are principles of persuasion that hold true with all methods of persuasion.

Communicate Simply

Simple is catchier. It’s easier to understand and remember.

Get rid of extra words. Don’t write “he was very happy” when you can write “he was happy.” Prune your sentences.

Write short sentences. Avoid putting multiple thoughts in one sentence. Readers are lazier and less thoughtful than you think.

Your first sentence needs to grab the reader and inspire curiosity. Keep rewriting it until it’s good.

  • Scott Adams began his post with “I went from being a bad writer to being a good writer after taking a one-day course in business writing.”

For humorous writing, choose your words with specificity. Don’t say “drink” when you can sway “swill.”

Learn how brains organize ideas.

  • “The boy hit the ball” is easier to understand than “the ball was hit by the boy.” Actors do things to objects.
  • (Shortform note: start with the trunk of an idea, then attach details as branches and leaves to the trunk of the tree. Connect new ideas to other ideas the reader already knows. Summarize your main points after you’re done.)

Persuasion Talent Stack

A persuasion talent stack is a collection of persuasion-related skills that work well together. The more you can combine, the more persuasive you will be.

According to Scott Adams, Trump’s talent stack made him very persuasive even when he wasn’t notably brilliant in any one field.

  • Trump had the combination of (Publicity | Reputation | Strategy | Negotiating | Persuasion | Public speaking | Sense of humor | Quick on his feet | Thick skinned | High-energy | Size and appearance | Intelligence)

One popular perception of how Trump won is that he understood the ethos of America and devised the policies they wanted. Adams argues the opposite - Trump convinced the public that his policies were the ones that mattered.

Combining multiple skills together is rare. Being pretty good at multiple skills makes you more valuable than being very good at one skill.

  • Scott Adams notes that he is nowhere near the best cartoonist nor the best comedian, but he is one of the best comedian cartoonists.

Visual Imagery

Images stick more stably in people’s minds, making them more readily available and thus thought about more.

Use simple imagery.

Leave it vague enough to let people fill in their own blanks.

Examples

  • Trump’s “big, beautiful wall.” If you’re like most people, you pictured a large concrete wall 15 feet high.
    • Obviously, this would be impractical - a metal fence or digital sensors would be better - but the imagery was powerful. “The wall” was obviously more persuasive and catchy than “border control using a variety of security technologies.”
    • He didn’t provide his own renderings or descriptions of the wall. Het let people imagine it, which made them more attracted to their own conception of the idea.
  • Trump cultivated his visual identity:
    • On SNL, a skit imagined him as the president sitting in the Oval Office giving an address. This was a huge influence on picturing him as a legitimate president.
      • In contrast, Clinton’s SNL skit had her play a bartender serving a drunken Clinton. This visual imagery was terrible, especially in contrast with Trump, a noted abstainer.
    • Trump’s private jet reminds you of Air Force One. Filming him stepping out of the plane makes him look presidential.
  • Trump’s bright red MAGA hat. It was clearly identifiable, created social proof and...

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Win Bigly Summary Persuasion Strategies

These are high-level ideas to persuade. They establish a foundation for persuasion and underlie the specific words and tactics you use.

Set the Expectation of Being Persuaded

People are more easily persuaded if they expect to be persuaded.

  • In his book, Scott Adams repeats that he’s a trained hypnotist. This sounds amazing, almost intimidating, until you realize there is no formal certification for this and makes him sound more credible than perhaps it deserves.
  • Doctors post their degrees on their walls. Salespeople drive fancy cars to show they’re good at their jobs.
  • Trump wrote Art of the Deal and convinced the world he was a great negotiator. Now every person going in had subconscious permission to do worse against Trump as a persuader. Brilliantly, the book is not just about persuasion - it is persuasion.
  • It’s easier to persuade someone who is paying you for a service, since they perceive a higher value to your skills. They want and expect to be influenced.

Tactics

  • Brand yourself as a winner. If people expect you to win, they will be biased toward making it happen.
  • Improve your physical appearance. Dress for the part. Attractive people are more persuasive.
  • Broadcast your credentials in a way that is natural but not braggy. Show a track record of success in whatever you plan to do.
  • Meet in the most impressive space you can control. Broadcast power, talent, success.
  • Set expectations ahead of time.

Display Confidence and Energy

Display confidence to improve your persuasiveness. You have to believe yourself to get anyone else to believe. Energy is contagious.

People perceive high energy as competence and leadership.

Confidence works in signaling status and quality.

  • An implicit assumption is that people who are generally confident without substance will have been called out and had their reputation damaged. Therefore, someone who is perpetually confident must have some real substance and quality behind her.
  • People with status have the freedom to act however they like, including like assholes. People without status need to grovel and be excessively nice to get what they want.
    • This causes the perception that assholes are more likely to be of high status. Thus causing the misperception that girls prefer to date assholes, when it is something else associated with assholes - money, social standing, confidence - that is the actual attractive thing
    • The dating tactic of “negging” tries to signal quality through being slightly rude.

Be the Voice of Certainty in Times of Uncertainty

In mass confusion, people gravitate to the strongest, most confident voice.

Offer clarity and simple answers, even if the answers are wrong or incomplete.

Use Occam’s Razor to your advantage. Simple explanations look more credible than complicated ones with lots of variables and assumptions.

  • While this might not be factually, scientifically true, it does appear to many to be the right explanation especially in times of uncertainty.
  • Often, two things rising together look like they cause one another, rather than being merely correlated.
    • Example: Illegal immigrants seem to be taking American jobs.

Pacing and Leading

Pacing means matching the person you’re persuading in as many ways as possible - how she thinks, speaks, breathes, moves, sits. People see you as the same as them and get comfortable with you.

Then you can lead, and the subject will be comfortable following.

  • Trump matched the complexity of speech of his voters - simple words, simple sentences. This made him easier to relate to.
  • Scott Adams introduces himself as an ultraliberal who is pro-choice, pro-marijuana, reparations for African-Americans for slavery. This gets liberal readers on his side instead of rejecting his opinion totally.

Explicitly point out your audience’s state of mind to build a bond with them.

  • “By now you’re wondering…”
  • “If you’re like most people, you’ll be thinking…”
  • If the person doesn’t have this in mind at the time, no harm is done. But if she does, then you gain credibility for reading her mind.

Leave enough blank space in your argument for the person to identify with.

  • In Scott Adams’s comic, Dilbert has no last name so you can identify with him as an everyman professional.
  • Trump’s insistence on a big wall left many people to fill in their own blanks for how the wall should work. This made people attach to it more than if he had itemized the specifications of a wall.

The Fake Because

People may have already made their decisions but are afraid to publicly endorse it. Give them an excuse to agree with you. As Dale Carnegie says, appeal to their higher motives.

  • In the election, people claimed to be able to switch sides because of some gross action the other did. Trump supporters may have been afraid to endorse Trump because of the fear of bullying, but Clinton’s email scandals gave them the “fake because” to say that was the last straw.
  • (Shortform example: an employee might be threatening to leave for another company. You give them a better offer, while also pointing out their importance and how their team would suffer if they left. The employee may stay primarily for the money, but they also now have a nobler reason to express publicly.)

Get People Talking

Use recency/availability bias to your advantage. If people talk about you or your ideas, then they will seem higher priority than otherwise. Move people’s energy to the topics that help you.

  • Similar: “no press is bad press.”

Consider being directionally accurate, but with some exaggeration or factual error that will attract criticism. People will spend hours talking about how wrong it is, repeating it in their minds so much that the ideas have large mental impact.

  • Trump’s calling his plan “the wall” invited plenty of skepticism about its cost,...

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Win Bigly Summary Persuasion Tactics

These are specific tactics to take in different situations. Beyond the persuasion principles and strategies above, these tactics teach how to persuade on a word-by-word basis.

Linguistic Kill Shot

A Linguistic Kill Shot is a nickname or catchphrase targeting your opponent. It can be so persuasive that it quickly ends an argument. They are more effective when novel (uncommon, unexpected) and visual.

The 2016 US Presidential election showed a variety of nicknames, some masterful and others ineffective.

  • Trump’s: “Low-energy Jeb.” “Lyin’ Ted.” “Lil’ Marco.” “Crooked Hillary.” “Goofy Elizabeth Warren.”
    • Note how the most memorable names weren’t common - no use of “liberal.”
    • Note too the deliberate contraction of words that invites a double take - lyin’, lil’.
    • These all fed confirmation bias and visual imagery - Jeb did indeed look listless, Ted did have beady little eyes that made him look untrustworthy.
  • Clinton’s nicknames for Trump weren’t as effective:
    • “Donald Duck” was meant to show him ducking criticism, but it associated him with an adorable beloved character and neutralized the Hitler image.
    • “Drumpf” was Trump’s Austrian original name. It was novel, but didn’t have any associations, and thus was unpersuasive. It was also inconsistent with Clinton’s brand of being welcoming to foreigners.
    • “Dangerous Donald” was better, but some people actually wanted a renegade candidate dangerous to the establishment (which Hillary represented) - it wouldn’t turn his base over.
  • Adams believes the best linguistic attack on Trump was describing him as “dark.”
    • It has sinister character but is vague enough to allow the person to fill in the blank with whatever scares them most. It captures all of our fears into a tidy package.
    • It’s unusual in politics and easily used in conversation
  • Scott Adams himself uses plenty of key terms in his book - “Master Persuader,” “weapons-grade persuasion skills”

Because of availability bias and confirmation bias, these visual catchphrases become more powerful over time as we receive evidence that fits the name. All that people needed to confirm “Lyin’ Ted” was some evidence that he had been less than truthful at one time, and the nickname would stick.

Furthermore, because they are simple, they are more likely to be used often, making them more available in people’s minds. These effects can form a virtuous cycle.

Create Effective Slogans

Like Linguistic Kill Shots, slogans are short phrases that convey your message.

Principles

  • Make the slogan about the highest ideals you are striving for, not about your independent company or team.
  • Each word should have a positive connotation or symbolism.
  • Have good rhythm, like iambic pentameter or percussion through consonants.

Scott Adams discusses the two slogans in the 2016 US Presidential election.

Trump: “Make America Great Again”

This slogan was first used by Reagan in 1980. When this was reported as criticism, it might have actually helped Trump - since Trump was an outsider to politics, the association to Reagan gave Trump slightly more credibility.

Decomposing the slogan by word:

  • Make: An active verb, connotes action and change. Also subtly connotes manufacturing and job creation.
  • America: Obviously a positively evocative word. It conveyed that Trump stood for the entire nation instead of for himself, fitting Trump’s “America first” stance.
  • Great: Everyone wants to be great. Greatness can be interpreted however one wants.
  • Again: A return to former glory days, which many of Trump’s voters pined for. This provoked some controversy over whether America was already great or not, which got people talking about the slogan.

The slogan was then put on a red hat, red meaning action, dominance, and sex (in contrast to Hillary’s pink hats). Red also meant Republican.

Adams says saying Make America Great Again had good percussion rhythm with regular consonant sounds, independent of the meaning. Contrast with Clinton’s “I’m with her,” which lacks those benefits.

Hillary Clinton’s Slogans

According to Scott Adams, Clinton’s slogans focused too much on her gender and unity of her party, not about America in general. Clinton used a variety of slogans throughout her campaign, never having one with as much common appearance as Trump’s:

“I’m with her”

  • This strongly emphasized her gender, which implied some sort of advantage.
  • It also focuses strongly on the voter’s action and Clinton as a candidate, not the nation in general.

“I’m Ready for Hillary”

  • Same problems as above, but with some added smug superiority around being “ready” for a woman president.

“Fighting for Us”

  • Who is us? If it’s America, why not say so?
  • “Us” can be taken too strongly to mean the in-group, and whatever people feel excluded from - women, minorities, immigrants. Would white male voters feel comfortable with saying “fight for us?”

“Breaking down barriers”

  • Suggests Clinton is fighting for the disadvantaged, but does this threaten people who are established - does it entail taking jobs?
  • This is also too evocative of breaking down international barriers and letting illegal immigrants in, the antithesis of Trump’s wall.
  • However, this slogan does have good percussion.

“Stronger Together”

  • The best one of the bunch, highlighting more unity.
  • But as Clinton supporters became bullies to Trump supporters, it sounded like a pack of bullies attacking people who disagreed.

High-Ground Maneuver

Instead of engaging with a complaint specific to you, neutralize it by relating it to a higher concept everyone can agree with. Clarify your intent along a direction that no...

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Shortform Exercise: Persuade Better

Try to be more persuasive in an upcoming situation.


What is an upcoming situation where you need to be persuasive? This can be at work or in personal life.

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Win Bigly Summary Notes on the 2016 Election

These are remaining notes on the 2016 US Presidential election that didn’t fit clearly into the persuasive ideas above.

On Trump’s Campaign Tactics

For some critics, Trump’s lack of specificity on his policies was maddening. But for his supporters, this was fine - he matched their overall priorities, and supporters trusted him to get the details right once elected.

Scott Adams always knew Trump would drift back to the middle once elected, so Adams wasn’t concerned about Trump’s actual policies.

During the election, a wide range of issues were discussed, and Trump endured endless criticism. While this in total might have seemed to sink Trump, in reality the average person can hold only a handful of issues in her mind. Any less important topic fades from memory. All that she would remember is a general impression, that Trump didn’t apologize and his opponents called him a liar, like always.

Reflections on Trump’s Scandals

Trump had a number of scandals during the campaign, and while liberals hoped each one would sink Trump, they rarely had the impact hoped.

Scott Adams reflects on the impact of each scandal.

Trump’s Taxes

  • Releasing taxes was a losing situation if he had truly scandalous things in it. It’d invite endless scrutiny that he’d have to defend. Since most voters aren’t versed in accounting, mountains might be made of molehills.
  • In this case, it was better for opponents to imagine problems than for Trump to face them head-on.
  • Trump’s missing taxes invoked little visual imagery and fear, so the persuasive impact was likely low.

KKK Slow Denial

  • In an interview on CNN, Trump was asked about KKK grand wizard David Duke and whether he would explicitly say he didn’t want the votes of white supremacists. Trump hemmed and hawed, saying he didn’t know much about David Duke and would have to look more into it. Trump later said he had earpiece trouble that explained his confusion.
  • Given that Trump had previously disavowed support of the KKK and did so a day after the interview, Adams believe there was some chance Trump actually had earpiece trouble. But this was a clear persuasive error.
  • If it was strategic, Trump may have been simply waiting until the last moment to dissociate from a possible ally.
  • Adams considers this the biggest error in the campaign, as it fed the narrative of him as a dark racist.

Judge Curiel

  • A lawsuit against Trump University reached a court whose judge was of Mexican heritage. Trump said he wasn’t sure the judge could be impartial because she was Mexican. Trump explained that he meant the judge that because of Trump’s illegal immigration policies, the judge would indirectly be biased.
  • Taken least graciously, Trump was literally saying that Mexican judges couldn’t be objective.
  • Adams considers this a win-win. After his (clumsy) statement, the judge would either rule against Trump and he would seem validated; or the judge would overcorrect for the bias and allow the extension Trump sought, which would remove the toxic Trump U from the election cycle.

Khan Controversy

  • At a DNC convention, a Muslim lawyer talked about his son who died in the military. When asked about the speech, Trump wondered why his wife stood silently on the stage and implied that Muslim convention stifled female speech.
  • Trump was painted as anti-veteran and a xenophobe. In his favor, this might have triggered fears of outside beliefs becoming dangerous for domestic women.
  • Adams believes this was a small negative for Trump, if not neutral. He had done enough to support veterans in the past that he couldn’t commonly be seen as anti-veteran.

Pussygate

  • When Trump was preparing for a TV show, he said to the host, "when you're a star, they [women] let you do it, you can do anything... grab them by the pussy."
  • This was bad for Trump. It had a strong visual element and fed his reputation as a dark sexist.
  • But as a silver lining, it actually softened his Hitler image - he got promoted to an ordinarily flawed guy engaging in some lewd talk. And he already had some element of a “bad boy” image, so it wasn’t as shocking than if he’d presented himself as an angel.

Reflections on Clinton’s Scandals

“Basket of deplorables”

  • Clinton said half of Trump’s supporters were “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic...a basket of deplorables.” Trump said this pointed to her “true contempt for everyday Americans.” Adams considers Trump’s choice of the word “contempt” as ideal, much better than “awful, inappropriate, sick,” etc.
  • This furthered the perception that Clinton was fighting for her team and not for all of America. It rallied Trump supporters who were tired of being attacked for being racists when they were primarily interested in his character and politics.

Wikileaks, Comey, Email server

  • Clinton used a private email server as Secretary of State, leading to a series of related...

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Table of Contents

  • 1-Page Summary
  • Introduction
  • Cognitive Biases
  • The Most Effective Persuasion Methods
  • Exercise: Persuasion from Personal Experience
  • Persuasion Principles
  • Persuasion Strategies
  • Persuasion Tactics
  • Exercise: Persuade Better
  • Notes on the 2016 Election