Build trust by admitting a flaw


A well-known copy writing principle for making an ad or offer more believable is to admit a flaw. When you admit that your restaurant often has a two hour wait to get seated, or that it takes 23 minutes of bicycling to burn off the calories in a can of coke, as a recent Coke ad declares, you appear more trustworthy.

Sometimes, your admitted flaws are benefits in disguise. The two hour wait for a table suggests that you have great food and that it’s worth the wait. The Coke ad was thought to be an attempt to counter a film in which, “a health advocate states that a child would have to bike for an hour and 15 minutes to burn off the calories in a 20-ounce Coke.” By comparison, 23 minutes doesn’t seem so much.

For lawyers, admitting a flaw may be a good strategy in a trial, in a negotiation, or in speaking with a prospective client. The trick is to find something about you, your client, or your position, that shows a vulnerability, but doesn’t go too far.

Telling a prospective client you don’t have a lot of experience with his particular matter, for example, may be admitting to a flaw that causes the client to look elsewhere. On the other hand, your honesty may be exactly what the client needs to hear for him to decide that you’re the lawyer he wants.

Admitting that clients may have to wait up to thirty minutes after their scheduled appointment time to see you, because you’re so busy, may be an effective strategy. But maybe you better start serving great food.

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