Admitting Faults Can Make You Trustworthy

People usually go through life thinking that they have to be perfect in order to be truly persuasive and influential. While it might sound logical to want to be perfect, recent studies show that admitting little faults can actually help you create an image of trustworthiness and credibility.

How is this possible? A study spearheaded by Gerd Bohner sheds light on the idea of using faults to boost one’s public image and acceptability. In Bohner’s study, three advertising campaigns were created to test the effectiveness of admitting faults in boosting the appeal of a restaurant to newer patrons.

The first advertising campaign focused on just the positive characteristics of the restaurant. The second campaign on the other hand, provided positive characteristics and negative characteristics that had absolutely no connection with the positive ones.

The third advertising campaign provided related negative and positive traits. In the last campaign, the restaurant was touted as very cozy but relatively small. The negative trait of the restaurant was its size but that was exactly the reason why it was so cozy in the first place.

To the recipient of this message, the advertisement showed why the restaurant should be patronized in the first place (i.e. it was so cozy and the owners wanted to keep it that way). The negative aspects that were revealed in the third advertising campaign were not really meant to showcase the flaws of the restaurants. The advertisements covertly promoted the weaknesses as strengths.

While the second and third advertising campaigns raised the appeal of the restaurant to would-be patrons, it was the third campaign that created the most buzz because the negative and positive traits are related, as opposed to the second campaign which featured unrelated positive and negative traits.

What does this study show us? If we were to apply Bohner’s findings to our own quest for influence and persuasion, it is clear that if we were to reveal our weaknesses, we have to make sure that every negative side is associated with a positive side that would outshine the negative.

The positive traits should always stand out in any statement; otherwise, you might end up destroying your own image in the attempt to make yourself look good.

If you are building your own personal image so that people would find it easier to trust your ideas and decisions, do not be afraid to reveal your weaknesses and at the same time remain humble.

Humility is a sign of power and history has taught us that the individuals with the most bombast are often the ones who fall and fail the hardest. If you want to create an aura of power and authority, you have to keep your ego in check. If you let your ego run wild, people will most likely become defensive and they will reject you.

Now, if you want to use this approach to promote a service or a product, you have to take a slightly different route. When it comes to selling, the point of contention is almost always the price point of the product or service.

The price is also the most common reason why people turn away from an offer because people are hardwired to preserve their resources. So how can we convince a person to give up his precious financial resource? The secret is to show all of the great advantages of what you are offering (positive traits) first before showing the negative aspect (the price).

Does this sound like you are destroying your own chances of success? Not really. You see, people like sincerity. People love the fact that an influencer can be completely honest with them. Honesty is always a good route in any situation, bar none.

Your genuineness and honesty will bring you above the competition because you will be giving your offer a human face. You will be able to trigger emotional responses more easily if you follow this route. Some of you might be asking: if it were this easy then why don’t people just buy great stuff at premium prices all the time?

People usually turn away from pricey offers because they get the impression that the high price point is a good thing/positive trait. No one in their right mind would think that a high price point is always a good thing. But when an influencer comes out and says that the high price point is a negative aspect that comes with providing so much value.

After showing them the negative aspect of the product, you can then follow up with more feature-benefits. You can tell your clients that your product might be more expensive in the beginning, but it will pay for itself over time because it will serve its purpose for a longer period of time and it will provide all of the benefits throughout its lifespan. You must appeal to both the audience’s emotions and logic because some people rationalize while some let their imaginations and emotions do all the thinking. It would be better to appeal to both groups of people.

If you are interacting with just one person, do the same – appeal to his sense of practicality and logic while stimulating his emotions and imagination. He doesn’t stand a chance against a master influencer who is pulling out all the stops to get the deal.

Now, before we end our discussion I would like you to take a look at these two statements:

“My product is 40% more expensive than what the competitor is offering but it’s better.”

“My product is 40% more expensive but over the long term it will work better, consumes fewer resources and will help you save time and other resources. You can relax now knowing that something this good will be helping you along the way.”

Which of the preceding statements do you think would appeal to both imaginative/creative individuals and rationalistic individuals?