Very Superstitious: There Are No Accidents

Dear Persuader,

I thought this an appropriate subject to discuss on Halloween…

When a person sneezes, we say ‘God bless you’. That’s a superstition. It started in the Middle Ages when it was thought that the devil could enter a person when unguarded, such as in the midst of a sneeze. If someone said the magic words, ‘God bless you’, immediately after the sneeze, then this unfortunate demonic possession could be avoided.

In many high rise buildings, you can take the stairs one flight up from the twelfth floor to the fourteen floor. What happened to the thirteenth floor? It’s called triskaidekaphobia, and in Western cultures, it’s a fear of the number 13. (Eastern cultures have a superstition about the number 4 called tetraphobia.)

As our world becomes more unstable, the more we look for stability and for explanation. In a moment I’m going to tell you how to use this fact to your advantage in persuasion.

What about something as innocuous as walking under a ladder? This dates back to early Christianity as the sides of the ladder and the ground form a triangle, the symbol of Holy Trinity.

It was thought that when one walked through it, it violated the trinity and put you on the same level as the devil. Nowadays, no one really knows where this superstition came from and yet, people avoid walking under ladders without reason. Maybe it’s wise to avoid walking under ladders simply because you might end up with a bucket of paint on your head, but to believe bad luck will befall you? It’s kind of a stretch.

I have an acquaintance who believes all religion and spirituality is superstition. I happen to think he’s wrong, but I appreciate the perspective in that it’s just another example of how framing is a powerful tool for looking at the world around us.

Superstition is defined as ‘an irrational belief that an object, action, or circumstance not logically related to a course of events influences its outcome.’

Even Helen Keller’s assertion that, “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature…. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing,” is an example of how diverse we all are, and yet, we all believe in something irrational.

With that said, how can we use the fact that we all believe in something (which may actually be an ‘irrational belief’) to persuade?

The more our world becomes unstable, the more people look for stability and look for ways to explain things. As a persuader, you have the ability to offer explanations, just the same way that they do to make sense out of their life.

So in the same way that people look for supporting reasons, even nonsensical ones, to explain their reality, and they look to assign blame, we can do the same.

‘There are no accidents’ is a great phrase born of superstition, that we can use to persuade our affluent clientele. Especially if our prospects have had problems in the past, we can use this term to indicate that, ‘Yes, you’ve had problems in the past (with your agent, advisor, etc.), but those problems are over now and we live in an infinitely wise universe where there are no accidents. You ended up with me for a reason.’

Is this true and verifiable? No. Absolutely not. But will you be called on it? Unless you’re trying to sell my acquaintance, the cynic, who views the world through the frame that everyone is superstitious except him, I seriously doubt it.

For more language patterns and ideas on how to layer them for maximum persuasion, check out my Persuasion Factor monthly at-home program. For more intensive learning, for those of you who reach or wish to reach a truly affluent clientele, consider my Elite Coaching Club. You will find yourself becoming less superstitious as you take control of your universe and begin hitting your targets.

Happy Halloween!

Kenrick E. Cleveland

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 2 comments
Jack Ford - November 15, 2007

Hey Kenrick,

Another thought provoking post.

After reading this post, I got to thinking about Myths and their usefulness to us as persuaders. There are personal,family, cultural, as well as professional myths. You know what I’m talking about– those “sacred cows” few people want to stand against.

How can they be useful to us as persuaders? I can think of a few ways right off the top of my head.

Here are two:
1) Show them how the solution is congruent with the myth
2) Show them that they’ve been lied to and that their current predicament was caused by the myth, but there is a way out of their misery — I like this one a lot better.

What do you think?


Norman Parsson - December 12, 2008

If we are willing to resort to uttering concept or beliefs or ideas that we ourselves do not believe, what are ultimately persuading ourselves to believe about what is valuable and what isn’t?

I advocating this bordering on manipulation.

By manipulation, I mean:

1. Stating as fact something that is not fact. That would include saying that you believe something that you do not.

2. Using guilt, fear, shame or other painful emotions to coerce a choice.

3. Hiding an agenda that is harmful to the other person. Like pretending to be a loyal employee while spying for a competitor.

Why would someone with untold levels of skill advocate such an approach?

I don’t get it.



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