Dr. Noelle Nelson

A Dynamite Persuasion Technique: “But You Are Free”

We live in the “land of the free, home of the brave.” As a people, we cherish freedom, but it’s something lawyers do not always factor into voir dire and closing arguments.

And yet, 42 psychological studies on 22,000 people has shown that the single most powerful persuasion technique is to give people the freedom to choose. In other words, when you ask someone to do something, make sure to add to your request, “but you are free” to do otherwise.

The exact words don’t matter, for example, the phrase “But obviously do not feel obliged” worked as well as “but you are free.” What’s important is that people resist being forced to a singular choice. When you give them the option to choose, people are more amenable to being persuaded by you.

The used-car salesman who says “But of course, you’re free to compare the price with other dealers” is more likely to make the sale than the salesman who hammers a “this deal is the best deal you’ll ever get” approach.

However you phrase it, whenever possible, give jurors a “but you are free” option: free to choose as their conscience dictates, free to come to some other conclusion–all the while putting your choice forward, leading them to it rather than corralling them into it.

Photo Credit: Brandonrush, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

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