Zombies are coming

by Admin
Updated: July 6, 2018

Zombies are coming! The common enemy strategy is effective even when the enemy does not exist

Agreeing about negative opinions cultivates bonding and breaks down resistance faster and more strongly than bargaining or sharing positive opinions. As such, it’s an ideal primer for almost any human interaction. It can be very effective for negotiations and can even be used to take over entire countries.

Zombies are the archetypal common enemy. Everyone agrees they are not wanted and it doesn’t matter how extreme the methods for getting rid of them are because they are no longer human.

Zombies may not be real. But are you prepared to take that chance? Whether it’s voodoo or something scientific, we know that getting bitten turns you into one of them! It’s a fate worse than death!

A fate worse than a fate worse than death

A leader appears proclaiming bad news...

Leader: Zombies are coming! Be very afraid!

People: Oh no! What can we do?

You can’t do anything, but I can save you.

Please tell us what to do.

Lock yourselves in the jail - it’s the only safe place.

What about all our stuff?

Give me the keys to your stuff, I’ll take care of it.

Time passes. No zombies have shown up...

Hey can we get out now?

I’m not letting criminals out of jail.

We’re not criminals, we’re in here for safety.

And I will keep you safe.

It’s emotional

Most people think they do not believe in zombies but almost everyone has a primordial fear of them.

Even if there isn’t an imminent zombie crisis, we are still motived to support those who stand to protect us from bad things.

Most people who consciously disagree keep quiet.

Use in negotiation

  1. In any negotiation, set up those who oppose you to agree with you: “Despite our differences, we must work together or the threat from Zombieland will destroy us all.”
  2. If facts are lacking, stress that something similar to a zombie attach could still happen. It’s difficult to oppose perceived threats regardless of how vague or hypothetical they are.
  3. Accuse any parties that oppose you of being sympathetic to - or one of - the enemy. Even though this may be entirely baseless, it will put them on the defensive.

Countering the common enemy strategy

First and foremost, be sure that it really is only a strategy and the threat is false. It is no consolation that you defeated your opponent in negotiation when zombies have eaten your feet.

If it is an attempt to manipulate you, the obvious reaction - “I will not work with you, there is no threat, I am not a zombie-lover” - will almost always fall short.

The better technique is to remain non-committal pending more information and then, as quickly as possible, get as much info as you can to expose the ulterior motive:

  • Expose the current agenda
  • Expose prior exploitative behavior

More info

This strategy described at mademan.com.

The “Common Enemy” and the “Group­Norm Theory of Prejudice” at ncsu.edu (PDF, 66 kB).

Creating a Common Enemy (in the context of copywriting) at ryanhealy.com.

The Corrosive Effectiveness of a “Common Enemy” at executivecoachingconcepts.com.

Internal links

Dealing with complaints Choose your customers Opposite thinking Go to Articles
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