In the last post I introduced the first principle of persuasion: Do not try to manipulate or your efforts will be ruined. As promised, in this post we are going to talk about one of the main principles in persuasion: to know the basic human needs.

2. To persuade, consider the two most basic human needs: to avoid pain and seek pleasure.

¿Hablas español? Encuentra la versión original de la publicación en: Principios básicos de la persuasión: Parte 1

Fundamentals Of Persuasion

To be persuasive is to know what people want. If you do not speak to their emotions and most basic and fundamental thoughts and needs, it will be very difficult for you to persuade anyone.

When man was a hunter-gatherer (thousands of years ago), he did not have many alternatives in life but to survive and reproduce. The program that allowed him to achieve this was located in his reptilian brain (the earliest and deepest layer of our brain that governs our most primal, emotional and instinctive behaviors) and was guided by two simple behaviors: Running away (to avoid pain) and/or attacking (to seek pleasure in situations that did not represent too much risk).

For this reason, people are motivated by two complementary and essential needs: to avoid pain and seek pleasure. Humans have evolved by suppressing pain (danger, discomfort, overexertion, etc.) and seeking pleasure (rest, food, sex, etc.). To put it another way, we were able to survive and evolve thanks to the blindly comply with these 2 requirements.

This behavioral program remains in our way of thinking and acting, even though current conditions are no longer the same. The brain has adapted to new circumstances, but the program that prevents pain and seek pleasure is still active. This means we can get someone to act if we allow him/her to avoid the pain (if you hit them with a stick until they do something to avoid more hits) and/or seek pleasure (if you offer them a sweet).

Fundamental Rules Of Persuasion
In the simplest possible terms, the human being is determined by the two sides of the same coin (if pleasure is absent, the pain will be present, and vice versa), they are the most basic and primitive survival mechanisms and we can use them to persuade others.

How do pain and pleasure manifest in our lives?

The natural condition of human beings is wellbeing. Everything that a man do is judged as desirable or undesirable depending on whether its actions are agents that cause pleasure or pain.

The pain does not have to be understood literally (as physiological pain caused by aversive stimulation somewhere in our body) but all that pain means be considered negative or undesirable, as problems, fears, concerns, poverty, disease, insecurity, contempt, etc.

Likewise, pleasure is all that gives us satisfaction and we consider benevolent or positive: solutions, tranquility, security, serenity, relaxation, success, health, recognition, esteem, popularity, etc.

For this reason, advertisers make a desperate emphasis on these two principles. The next time you're watching TV, look at the ads in the middle of TV shows. Advertisers will emphasize the purchase of a product by "preventing" something bad in a explicit or implicit way ("avoid unpleasant odors with this medicinal powder", "avoid unnecessary expense by buying this multipurpose product," "avoid social rejection with this perfume or deodorant", etc.) or by "provinding" welfare ("on your new car you will be more comfortable," "consuming our new drink will make you feel happier", "buy our vacation on a Caribbean cruise and enjoy the most exciting experience of your life" etc.).

Fundamental Laws Of Persuasion
Regardless of the specific strategy advertisers use, ads always take into account the principle of pleasure and pain. When they focus on pleasure, usually often they resort to notions such as love, friendship, comfort and happiness, which are the more powerful. Take, for example, CocaCola (they promise you happiness in a bottle, not a beverage to avoid thirst).


Share your opinion: Is it more important to avoid pain or to seek pleasure?

Usually, the need to get rid of the pain is more readily available than the need to approach the pleasure. Getting rid of pain is a more passive activity and usually requires less effort (to avoid pain you can simply stay at home sleeping or sitting on a couch while in finding pleasure we may have to do a bit more).

Also, to erase the pain is more urgent for humans, since it is essential for us not to be uncomfortable. If we get to choose between "be calm" or "feel a shock," we will choose "to be calm" (and maybe, bored). But if given the choice between "run 100 meters for candy" or "be calm", most will choose to "be calm". In this case, we prefer to do nothing and avoid pain (it costs less and we can still be calm) to do something to seek pleasure (pleasure is something additional, which comes after avoiding pain, and it costs more.

As if that were not enough, to find pleasure we sometimes have to do things we do not like (exercise, study, work, learn to speak in public, to change our way of thinking, learn how to persuade, etc.) and often we must be more active than if we had simply to avoid pain. That's why a lot of people are lazy and remain in their comfort zones.

Nevertheless, pleasure is very powerful to many people and that is why they expent a lot of money in travelling, concerts, food, etc. But, you need to consider that, to seek pleasure, the fundamental condition is to be able to avoid pain effectively. In other words, you have to satisfy your most basic needs first and then go for secondary needs that offer pleasure.

Introduction To Persuasion
Usually, marketing campaigns are more focused on what the users want to avoid if they want to buy a certain product.

Consequently, one can say that avoiding pain is the great engine of human beings.However, the most effective strategy are often those who first appeal to the principle of avoidance of pain and then reinforce his message appealing to the pleasure principle.

Personally, I think a combination of both principles is often more effective, but this really depends on the particular conditions of each person.

What do you think?

Remember that you're allowed to fall, but you must get back up!


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