Imagine that you have just bought a house in a new neighborhood. You do not know any of your neighbors well, but you do greet them on the street. You learn that the owner of a vacant lot on your block plans to erect a bowling alley and cocktail bar there. Although your neighborhood is a residential district, there is no zoning ordinance which would forbid businesses opening up there. You worry that such a business will lower property values and cause problems for the young children who play on the street. You learn that by getting enough signatures on a petition you can prevent the business from being built. You get the necessary forms and start down the street to get signatures. How would you go about persuading your neighbors? Write opening remarks during the first minute of your talk. Pay special attention to getting a “yes-response.”

Expert Answers

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There are several different persuasion techniques you could use to encourage your neighbors to sign this petition. First of all, it would be a good idea to note the urgency of the matter—people are more likely to take action when they feel that something is imminent. People are also more likely to respond when they feel emotionally connected to someone, so paint a picture of the effect that these businesses would have on your neighbors—think about the noise that it might create, leading to trouble sleeping; to the busyness on the streets making it unsafe for children to play outside; to the mere look of the business taking away from the beauty of a residential neighborhood.

Another tool that you could use would be to provide statistics to appeal to those who may be more attached to facts. Tell the neighbors how much this will impact their property taxes. You could also look up statistics about crime in the area—is it more unsafe to live in areas that are nearby a cocktail bar? Would it be more difficult for people to sell their homes going forward if they lived near these businesses? Would it impact the value of their homes?

When crafting your pitch, there are several things you might keep in mind. First of all, people tend to respond to powerful adjectives and personal stories, so don't be afraid to include these! However, it is also important to ensure that your argument isn't too long. You want to capture people's attention, ask, and encourage action, not providing too much extraneous information which may complicate the decision-making process.

Finally, you might want to consider any counterarguments and think about how to respond to them. For example, if someone is excited about having a bowling alley near their home, how might you persuade them otherwise?

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