Simple Jury Persuasion: Alpha and Omega Persuasion Strategies
Persuasion strategies that have the effect of making a story more attractive or palatable are known in the research as “alpha” strategies. They are the most commonly used and most commonly understood persuasion tools. For example, when a car sales person lowers the price of the vehicle you are considering purchasing–that can be seen as an “inducement” to purchase or an “alpha strategy”. There are other tools however, known as the “omega” strategies that are used to minimize resistance to the offer being given or the story being told.
Eric Knowles, Ph.D. has done a fair amount of research in the omega strategies. As Dr. Knowles concisely states on his website:
“Rather than adding inducements for action, I study how to identify and dispel opposition to change. Resistance can be avoided, minimized, confronted, reframed, acknowledged, distracted, used up, or turned against itself using a variety of effective, inexpensive, psychological techniques. If an action didn’t have resistance, there would be no need for persuasion.”
Not surprisingly, we like to think about Dr. Knowles ‘omega strategies’ in the context of litigation. But we turn them inside out a bit and think about how to use them to either decrease or increase resistance depending on your goal. (We’re funny like that.) Let’s take just one of the omega strategies and show how this can be done in a litigation scenario.
Anticipated feelings of regret: As we make decisions, we are anxious about making mistakes or somehow being disappointed in ourselves over choices we made. Addressing those fears directly can result in either an increase in resistance or a decrease in resistance—depending on your goal.
“The Defendants are saying the Plaintiff will not live to a full life expectancy so why fund a full life care plan? The one thing you can be absolutely sure of is this: No matter how much money you think she will need for care, no matter how long you think she will live—You are wrong! You can’t know for sure, no one can. So in a very real way, the question for you to answer is ‘What mistake would I rather live with? Would I rather run the risk that she exhausts the money she needs to live a life with some dignity, or would I rather run the risk that she will die prematurely, and her family will inherit what she leaves behind?’”
“The plaintiff is right. Ms. Jones has been horribly injured and no amount of money will ever bring her back to the life expectancy she may have had. It’s a very sad thing and we join you jurors and everyone else in this courtroom in feeling the tragedy of her injuries. As a society, we need to care for one another. But as individuals, we are responsible only if we are the cause of the injuries. My client, even though they are a company, is to be treated like a person. Like any person, in any courtroom, seeking justice. It is no more or less than any of us deserve. And the evidence is, that the person that is my client is not responsible for the needs of Ms. Jones. If we are, as a society, let’s gather somehow and have that discussion. But that gathering place should not be this courtroom, and the responsible party is not my client.”
There are other omega strategies, including ‘disruption’ (asking for the unexpected which decreases resistance) and ‘exposing deception’ (“you’ve been fooled by the other side already” which will increase resistance). Using these strategies effectively in litigation requires you to think creatively. Instead of thinking of ways to change the juror’s minds, think of how you can increase resistance to the other side’s case and decrease resistance to your own case.