People’s expectations can negate the best intentions, and that reminds me how a Johnny Depp anecdote is outlandishly related to my rather private professional background – and a lesson in persuasion:

While visiting Disneyland after the first Pirates Of The Caribbean movie hit the theaters, Johnny Depp was eager to pull a prank in the attraction of the same name.

The idea was to dress up as Jack Sparrow, stay among the other animatronics, wait until people came over in the boats and then jump and scream. Simple!

When the moment arrived, Depp couldn’t contain his excitement. He remained frozen while a group of boats full of visitors.

Then, he jumped and shouted, “Oi! what are you looking at!?”

But the reaction he got was far different than he expected. What he got was everyone getting their phones out and saying, “Whoa, that’s a pretty good animatronic!”

Which is a fun story that brings us to the topic of expectations. People’s expectations are a force to be reckoned with. In this case, no amount of crazy antics from one of Hollywood’s most famous actors could break the spell of people expecting to see robots and not humans – much less the protagonist of a recent movie hit!

This is one of the reasons why I don’t mention my professional qualifications anymore. First, they’re rather diverse and divergent, and others simply have nothing to do with what I’m ‘known’ for (e.g. body language and behavior).

I did that experiment years ago. I noticed that when I mentioned I had studied psychology, people reacted differently to what I said than when I didn’t mention the fact. It’s like a qualification or degree adds gravitas to your words! who would have known? 😉

But this carried another problem: categories. If I said I had studied psychology, then people would add me to the ‘psychologist’ category in their minds. And this was not good in many ways, because that, in turn, created a bias in them towards my words and ideas.

It’s also about expectations: If I say I’m a psychologist and say things that people expect from a psychologist, then all goes well. But what if I said things that people did not expect from a psychologist?

Like Johnny Depp! people did not expect a human among a bunch of animatronics.

Will spare you the details of me making sure to craft words and ideas so people could consider, apply and benefit from them regardless if they were aware or not of my qualifications. And it has paid off.

But back to those expectations, and persuasion:

Think of people’s expectations as a strong river current. Sometimes it’s better to go with the flow for some time until you figure out a way to redirect it to where you want.

You can try to block the river’s current abruptly, but that could backfire in many ways (but it will still be easier than trying to convince people of things they don’t expect).

Also, breaking people’s expectations leads to confusion, which leads to a state of warning, which is the direct opposite you want if you want to persuade.

Yeah, sometimes it will be a good idea to ‘subvert people’s expectations’ for shock value, but right now I don’t remember a scenario where it can be applied, besides as a warfare strategy to confuse your opponent, lol

Let’s say you need to have a difficult conversation, or give a controversial speech. Don’t confront people’s expectations, values and opinions right out of the gate. Start with every point that you agree on.

And then, slowly, lead them to your idea. Maybe you won’t convince them either way, but you will earn their respect.

As usual, if you have questions about how to implement this in conversations, speeches or other interactions, all you need to do is reply to me and we’ll figure it out!

Meanwhile, today you can enroll in my Body Language and Persuasion Masterclass.

My all-in-one master course to unleash your people skills, read people like a book, and boost your persuasion powers:

Also, as a member of my Masterclass you’ll have access to my private webinar “How to Convince Anyone of Anything”, not available anywhere else.

I’ll see you at the virtual campus!

Much Love and Bliss,


The Body Language Guy.