A friend of mine had a long-running show at a Soho Theatre in New York City. As a con artist he had spent time in jail. He was a consultant to the television show “White Collar” after he went straight. Or so he says.
“It’s so much easier to con people now.” He told me.
Why? Because people are so focused on technology that they are largely unaware of what’s going on around them.
Persuasion, a key skill for a con artist, requires keen observation of patterns of behaviour and knowing how to leverage those patterns. Cons watch people when they don’t know they’re being watched. Most people today wouldn’t know if they were being watched because they’re not paying attention.
Within the first few minutes of my seminar I tell a room of participants that a short, visual demonstration will only take a minute and a half. Immediately, I scan the room to see who checks their watches. Later on, to set up a longer team exercise, those people are designated as timers. They don’t know it, but they are pre-selected.
Observation over time is the key when it comes to influence and persuasion. With deliberate observation of people around you, think of the possibilities. Honest ones, of course.
There are many patterns to watch for, but one technique to influence involves seeing how someone reacts to something. If someone displays pleasure or displeasure over something there is an opportunity for you to follow up on this and ask “What do you think about _______?” They will be more than glad to share their opinion with you, which you will validate with non-verbal affirmations such as nodding your head and 100% eye contact.
How many people do you know who really listen to you with 100% attention? I venture to guess, very few.
My friend recently left the United States quite abruptly for some reason. He has taken his skills back to England where he is working in a less lucrative market due to an abundance of charming competition and a new and improved Scotland Yard.
Lucky he has a Swiss bank account. Or so he says.