Source of article The Jury Room - Keene Trial Consulting.

Seven years ago, we blogged about a disruptive persuasion strategy meant to catch the listener off guard and thus, elicit cooperation. Four years ago, we blogged about a negotiation strategy to help you more successfully negotiate prices (from salaries to farmer’s market produce).

Now, in a new meta-analysis, the strategy is called the pique technique (which is very catchy). The pique technique is a persuasion strategy believed to work by raising the listener’s curiosity and thus disrupting the automatic “No” and encouraging you to engage with the asker. Most people ask, “What is it for?” to an unusual request like “47 cents”.

We are surprised this technique has not caught on with more US panhandlers since it was first written about in 1994. The researchers tell us one possible reason why—we’re living in the wrong country:

“the technique worked significantly better [snip] when a smaller amount was requested, when the reason for the request was included, and when the technique was used in France. Truly. (And just FYI, we are all invited to move to France by their President.)

The point is that you want to use this for smaller requests only and include the reason ‘why’ you want this odd amount of money. And the most important point in terms of success? According to this meta-analysis—you should live (or panhandle) in France. We also want to clarify that there have only been 6 studies done on the pique technique in the past twenty-five years so we are not talking about a high number of studies—maybe it would work well in Scotland too.

Alex Fradera (over at BPS Research Digest) pointed out there is no data to say the curious folks (“What is it for?”) actually gave money more often but says then when the asker explained upfront what the money was for—the listener was more likely to give. However, it only works in amounts up to a dollar and not for more than one dollar.

Oddly enough, we have seen a trend for the past five years or so for “funny signs” being used by panhandlers, as well as an apparent religious renaissance among panhandlers more recently. Both of these strategies are uses of the same sort of disruption tool (at least until it becomes ubiquitous like “God Bless” on panhandler signs). It is a strategy worth exploring for larger amounts.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, we think there are still tools here to use. As we said in 2013, it is worthwhile to consider being very, very specific in your damages requests. It just sounds more credible, and makes you appear thoughtful and prepared.

The researchers believe that when you lead with a precise number, in any sort of negotiation, you send the message that you are prepared, informed, and knowledgeable about the value of either the item for which you are offering money or for salaries in your field. This precise offer leads the recipient of your opening bid to offer a returning number that is higher (when negotiating salaries or bartering on CraigsList items) than you might get if you offer a round initial request.

It’s an interesting piece of work, with applications to salary, mediation offers, jury charge “asks”, auto purchases, and even bartering at the farmer’s market. The researchers recommend bumping a $50 item to $49.75 (if you are the seller) or offering $49.25 if you are the buyer. They also comment that the research “highlight[s] how a lack of awareness about the power of precision may put the recipient of a precise offer at a disadvantage”. It’s intriguing research to experiment with in your day-to-day life–whether for mediation or that nice bunch of carrots next to the bright red radishes.

We have seen many mock jurors become numb to damages award amounts in the many millions of dollars. But a request that asks for $47,976,428 looks unusual and may be seen as more credible in deliberations.

Seyoung Lee and Thomas Hugh Feeley. (2017). A meta-analysis of the pique technique of compliance. Social Influence, 12 (1).

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