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Dr. Jamie Fettig

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Persuading authority Figures

How to Talk Yourself out of a Speeding Ticket

Or influence anyone who is an “authority figure” to give you what you want.

1. Admit that you are wrong.

If, for example, you're dealing with a police officer who pulled you over, you might be tempted to say, "Excuse me, officer, but I don't think you know who you are dealing with. I am a personal friend of the mayor."

This is not a good idea. It is unlikely that just because you know the mayor the officer will not write the ticket. Instead, it is better to say, "I'm not going to try and claim that I wasn't speeding, because I know I was ... and I shouldn't have been doing it."

Never try and claim that you are right. Chances are, the authority figure has heard all of your arguments before. If anything, it will only antagonize the guy. If your goal is to persuade the authority figure to accept your point of view (as opposed to laying down groundwork for a legal defense), it is much better to acknowledge that you were completely wrong. If he was expecting a confrontation, that will take all the wind out of his sails.

2. Acknowledge that the authority figure has all the power - and that his decision is final.

Say something like, "I understand that the final decision for this matter is yours. So I understand if you have to give me a ticket."

By saying this, you have done something for the authority figure. You have acknowledged his power - so he will instinctively feel like reciprocating. In simple language, since you did something nice for the authority figure, he will want to do something nice for you.

Now, that does not mean the police officer will simply forget about your ticket. He has a conflict ... the sense that it is his obligation to write you a ticket because it is his job. So, there is one final critical step.

3. Shift the blame somewhere else ... so it seems that it is not your fault that you made the error.

In our justice system, this "parry technique" is commonly used. It's a kind of defense that is well recognized, and deeply embedded into every level of our culture.

So, you explain your reason. Perhaps you were speeding because you did not want to get to work late. And the reason you got a late start was because your kid was vomiting. Now, you have offered a sympathetic reason why you were speeding. It can be argued that it was not your fault. After all, you were just trying to be a good parent and a responsible person by staying employed. By providing such an explanation, you have given the officer a way to justify giving you a warning instead of a ticket.

Naturally, there are many variables in situations such as these, so there is no way to guarantee that these persuasion techniques will work every time with every authority figure. But they have been successfully used, over and over again, by me and other students of the art of persuasion.


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