(by K. Dutton)


Dutton has looked into a great body of research and case studies and set himself the task of distilling the elements which, if combined judiciously, can help one persuade others instantly. I do not know whether people can master this art, but the principles he comes up with are certainly interesting: he has identified 5 of them (acronym: SPICE!): a) Simplicity: simple messages tend to be more persuasive.   b) Perceived interest: recipients of a message subconsciously ask themselves ‘What’s in it for me?’  c) Incongruity: surprise means people notice the message and noticing is a precondition for persuasion.  d) Confidence: confidence convinces. Period.  e) Empathy: you are more likely to persuade others if you are seen to be (or to have been) in the same boat.

What could all this mean for language teachers? a) Whether you are talking to your students or giving a talk, avoid jargon and metalanguage as far as possible. b) ‘Sell’ your activities to students; don’t tell them a particular task is going to improve their vocabulary – tell them it will enable them to read the instructions for WoW!  c) Instead of telling your students how to pass exams, why not give them tips on how to fail them? Indeed, you could ask them to give a talk on this themselves! d) There is a difference between admitting you do not know something for instance and being diffident; can you walk into a classroom and address your students like Miss Brodie did?  🙂 *

e) Lecturing students is often counterproductive; instead of telling them what to do in order to improve their vocabulary for example, why not share with them the strategies you used when you were learning, say, Spanish?

The book is amazingly fast-paced and I simply love the directness of the style; it is like the writer is talking to you directly! There are lots of reference to personal anecdotes, case studies and research – many of which are taken from the world of business. For instance, did you know that employees work better if they think they control the volume of background music? (p. 199) OK – now here is a story (p. 245): The scene: The London tube; despite the ‘No smoking’ signs in the carriage, someone lights up anyway. An ominous silence descends… Q: How do you get him to put it out – without a confrontation? A: A guy steps up to him and asks him if he too can have a cigarette!! Then one of the passengers cannot take it anymore ‘Have you not seen the signs?’ he growls. ‘Oh, I’m sorry’ the requester says, pretending surprise. Then he turns to the first guy ‘Perhaps WE’d better put them out…’ (Remember point (e)?!? – pure ju-jitsu!!)*