Doubling Down on Your Dubitatio

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Here’s an idea to enhance your trustworthiness. Reading time: 3:12

      “Fishing Tickle.”  The sign in the fishing bait store window was misspelled. On purpose.

       campbell'sLikewise the print ad for the Campbell Soup Company headlined a factual error. On purpose.

       What’s going on here? Incompetence? No, dubitatio.

       Rhetoricians define dubitatio as a personal form of aporia which is doubt or ignorance – feigned or real—used as a rhetorical device to make the speaker/leader seem more human, more real and ultimately more honest.

       The most effective leaders double down on their dubitatio.

       The more vulnerable a leader the more venerable they can become in the hearts and minds of followers (a.k.a. customers).

      Large corporate entities seem more human when they make easily-discovered mistakes in public. Then followers (a.k.a. customers) parlay that vulnerability into building a more intimate relationship with that big conglomerate. And sales soar.

     That’s what happened when Campbell Soups  listed 22 different soups in a print ad. But the headline screamed “21 kinds of soup.”

     Lots of readers (a.k.a. customers) notified the company of their error. But Campell Soup, doubling down on their dubitatio,  was deliberately slow in correcting the error.

       mud baseballThey figured they would gain more in customer loyalty the longer they demonstrated their vulnerability,especially in an area that had nothing to do with the taste, or nutritional value, or safety in the manufacturing process of the soup.

      Leaders know that sometimes you shine more accurately and credibly with less sheen. Just ask major league baseball pitchers. They never get to pitch a brand new baseball pristine right out of the box. Not with the umpires doubling down on their dubitatio.

     For two hours before every game, the umpires rub all 156 baseballs allocated per game with a specially prepared mud to take the sheen off the ball. Rubbing off that shine gives the ball a coarser feel that is more readily gripped. The greater the integrity of the grip the more control the pitcher has over the velocity and trajectory of the baseball.

    Leaders know the more vulnerable they are the more venerable they can be.

    Consider the tough looking lawyer with the stern military look who could easily intimidate a jury–until he uttered a word or rather st-stut-stut-stut-stuttered a word. Then the jury was no longer as intimidated.

     They began listening more closely to his argument. He spoke with a sense of respect and humility yet with knowledge and understanding. The jury ultimately ruled the case in his favor over a much more articulate, more experienced lawyer.

    The most effective leaders double down on their dubitatio.

    Consider President Thomas Jefferson who declined to wear a ceremonial sword at his inauguration– the first US President to eschew the symbolism of the sword during his inauguration.

     Likewise, doubling down on his dubitatio,  he sold his generation’s equivalent of Airforce One once he was in office. He sold the  8-horse carriage and spectacular silver harness that he inherited from the previous president, John Adams.

    President Jefferson’s down-home sensibility even manifested itself in the White House, then know as the Executive Mansion. He would generally show up for dinner in his slippers and insisted on no assigned seating for his guests. He just wanted to sit and chat with you — human to human- not as President of the United States to formal guest.

    President Jefferson made a judgement call.  And doubled down on his dubitatio.

Today’s ImproveMINT

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