Everyone’s Doing It: How Generalizing Can Help You

Almost everybody in their life has used generalized terms as a form of exaggeration to make a point. To generalize something means to create a very broad view for a particular scenario.  For example, if you have kids, then I am sure you have heard the phrase, “come on…everyone’s going…” or “the test was so hard that everyone failed”. Kids purposely use generalizations as a persuasive tactic to sell you on why they should do something or why they can’t do something. It is a genius concept that most of us are already familiar with, but unfortunately not consciously aware enough to deliberately use it.  Many of you tend to overlook the fact that generalizing words, phrases, concepts, and ideas can induce guilt, following others, and urgency which ultimately leads into the action you desire.


The psychological meaning of guilt is an emotional experience one has when they feel as if they made a mistake about a decision they have made and hold themselves responsible for making it. Let’s continue with the example I used above about kids:

“Come on…everyone’s going to the party tonight…”

This generalized phrase for typical parents translates into:  if everyone’s going to this party, and their kid is not, the parent is ruining their life etc. Obviously some parents are smart enough to prevent this from working ;). So for the many that are convinced by guilt to let their kids go to this party, they are victims of persuasive guilt created by generalizing a phrase.

In a business scenario, one business man can be trying to persuade someone to donate money to his charitable organization. Most people would tell the man no, they don’t have the money or whatever. The man can use a generalized phrase such a:

“Almost everyone I spoke to today has decided to contribute to this charity because they quickly realized that it is the right thing to do…shouldn’t you?”

Now I combined the usage of generalizations and a tie down to convince a prospect to donate to the charity.  The business man told this prospect that almost everyone has donated money today. Now the prospect will begin to think they are being greedy considering that almost everyone this man spoke to today has donated. This puts feelings of guilt in their mind which will motivate the prospect to make the donation.

Everyone’s Doing “It”

The whole “everyone’s doing it” also correlates with people wanting to be like everyone else. Ironically, people who tell me about how different or unique they want to be from others are saying the same thing everyone else is saying.

My friend Jim runs several cell phone kiosks along the West Coast. He told me a tactic he always teaches his sales people is to create some kind of buzz around the cell phone kiosk. Maybe showing some potential customers a magic trick or just something weird. When other people passing by see a crowd forming, the naturally develop the urge to see what is going on. People want to know why other people are gathering around this kiosk. Since sales is a #’s game, this helps increases the odds of closing a deal.


People are more likely to take action on something when there is some sort of time limitation implemented.  For example, you see an infomercial on TV that says something about calling to purchase this product in the next 30 seconds and you’ll receive a free toothbrush or whatever with their company logo. You get the idea. Here is an example of how you can get someone to attend a personal development seminar by creating urgency and the other types of generalization listed above:

“Brad, you need to sign up for this event right now. Every successful person in the industry is going to be there so this event is guaranteed to sell out. You will never have this opportunity again.  Your looking to be a better sales person aren’t you? Well after the event, every time you are placed in a selling situation, you will know exactly what to say and do to close a deal. Isn’t that what you want?”

Here is the break down of what I wrote above:

  • Every successful person is attending: If all the successful people are attending, you definitely need to be at the event, especially if you want to be considered successful 😉
  • …never have this opportunity again: This causes urgency because this event is so unique, it is a once in a life time opportunity. You will hate yourself so much if don’t attend.
  • every time you are..close the deal: This tells the prospect that they will be virtually unstoppable with all the knowledge they learn after they attend
  • Everybody…
  • Everyone…
  • No one…
  • You always…
  • You never…
  • All

Words to Use When Generalizing

As a precaution, sometimes people call you out on what you say. For example, if a kid tells their parents that “everyone is going to the party,” to which some parents will say,”who exactly is going?” This obviously weakens your argument and can damage your point. The only way to bypass this road block is to simply rephrase what you stated before, “Mary, Sue, and all the kids from school are going” and quickly change the focus of the topic to something else like, “can’t this be the last time you tell me yes?”

The last example was pretty simplified, but is necessary for you to understand. Here is a business example to go alongside of the example I used above. “Almost everyone I spoke to today has decided to contribute to this charity because they quickly realized it’s the right thing to do…shouldn’t you?” Someone might say, “how many people exactly contributed?” To which you say, “Well the majority of them told me yes because they are interested in helping the less fortunate, aren’t you?”

Some may say that this is unethical while others will say this technique is brilliant. When it comes to persuading someone to do something, I always tell people that it comes down to your intention.

Now tell me, how will you use generalizations to get people to tell you “yes”?

30 thoughts on “Everyone’s Doing It: How Generalizing Can Help You

  1. John Sullivan

    Hey AJ great post I was actually inspired to write a post right after I read this where I mention you and this site in the beginning 🙂 hit my name LOL
    Stumbled &RT & FB 🙂

  2. Tess The Bold Life

    I used to answer my kids, “I don’t care about everybody else. Only you.” It’s a way they side track you.

    The one that sucks me in everytime is “the important people will be there!”

    1. AJ Kumar Post author

      lol! Your kids are very smart!! Now it’s funny because if you use their tactics as an adult, it will still be very useful and effective.

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