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SPICE Up Your Approach

Get a date with split-second persuasion.

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Asking someone out is never easy. But, recent research in "Split-Second Persuasion" by Kevin Dutton can help. Dutton (2011) studied masters of persuasion to uncover the components behind their success. He then distilled those components down into 5 principles; his SPICE model (standing for Simplicity, Perceived self-interest, Incongruity, Confidence, and Empathy). The SPICE model can help you sell a car, make a new friend, or even get a date. By SPICE-ing up your approach toward a potential partner, you can stand out from the pack, be more persuasive, and have a better chance of getting the date you want.

SPICE in Detail

According to Dutton (2011), changing someone's mind in the moment requires five principles:

1) Simplicity - the message you present must be short and simple. This not only aids quick processing, but also makes people think it is true.

2) Perceived Self-Interest - to motivate someone to take action (especially on something they are unsure they want), you must appeal to their self-interest. What is in it for them?

3) Incongruity - surprise people. Do something out of the ordinary. This makes them pay attention to your request and has you stand out from the crowd.

4) Confidence - the greater an individual's confidence, the more he/she is perceived as right. You can get away with almost anything, if you are confident enough doing it.

5) Empathy - make good eye contact and smile. Connect with others on little details. Make them feel that you care about them. Empathy leads to trust. Trust leads to accepting a request.

Adding a Little SPICE to your Approach

This powerful blend of principles can be harnessed to make your dating life more successful. Just take whatever bland pick-up line or approach style you're using to get a date...and SPICE it up! Here are some examples:

When the "average" person asks someone out, he/she usually says something like, "would you like to go out with me on Friday." Or, "I would really like to go out with you sometime."

At best, these requests use two out of the five SPICE principles. The requester gets credit for simplicity and confidence (for asking). But, the requests are certainly not attention-grabbing, not very empathetic, and also don't spark the other person's self-interest. As a result, the person asking just sounds like everyone else and ends up being unpersuasive.

In contrast, let's try something full of SPICE. How about, "You look like you're a fan of Italian food. I know a great restaurant you have to try. We could go there Friday." Or, "You sound like you need a little adventure. Let's go to the amusement park this weekend. I'll drive."

These requests are still simple and confident. Now though, they include self-interest (e.g. a restaurant he/she "has to" try). They are also incongruent and different, making a unique request. Finally, they are empathetic, because the requester is trying to figure out what the other individual likes to eat or do for fun. This comes across as much more caring, tempting, different, confident...and persuasive.


The next time you're looking for a date, remember the SPICE principles. Don't be afraid to stand out, be a bit different, and say something unique. Remember to keep in mind what is in it for them (e.g. the fun and excitement of your company). Always pay attention to their emotions and make them feel cared about. Finally, be simple and confident in your asking. Put it all together and your social life will be full!

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Until next time...happy dating and relating!

Dr. Jeremy Nicholson
The Attraction Doctor

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  • Dutton, K. (2011). Split-second persuasion: The ancient art & new science of changing minds. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

© 2011 by Jeremy S. Nicholson, M.A., M.S.W., Ph.D. All rights reserved.