When a person sneezes, we say 'God bless you'. That is a superstition. It started in the Middle Ages when it was thought that the devil could enter a person when unguarded, such as in the midst of a sneeze. If someone said the magic words, 'God bless you', immediately after the sneeze, then this unmonitored demonic possession could have been avoided.
In many high rise buildings, you can take the stairs one flight up from the twelfth floor to the fourteen floor. What happened to the thirteenth floor? It is called triskaidekaphobia, and in Western cultures, it is the fear of the number 13. (Eastern cultures have a superstition about the number 4 called tetraphobia.)
As our world becomes more unstable, the more we look for stability and for explanation. In a moment I will tell you how to use this fact to your advantage in persuasion. What about something as innocent as walking under a ladder? This dates back to early Christianity as the sides of the ladder and the ground form a triangle, the symbol of Holy Trinity.
It was thought that when one walked through it, it violated the trinity and put you on the same level as the devil. Nowadays, no one really knows where this superstition came from and yet, people avoid walking under ladders without reason. Maybe it is wise to avoid walking under ladders simply because you might end up with a bucket of paint on your head, but to believe bad luck will befall you? It is kind of a stretch.
I have an acquaintance who believes all religion and spirituality is superstition. I happened to think he's wrong, but I appreciate the perspective in that it's just another example of how framing is a powerful tool for looking at the world around us. Superstition is defined as 'an irrational belief that an object, action, or circumstance not logically related to a course of events influences its output.'
Even Helen Keller asserted that, "Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature …. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing," is an example of how diverse we all are, and yet, we all believe in something irrational. With that said, how can we use the fact that we all believe in something (which may actually be an 'irrational belief') to persuade?
The more our world becomes unstable, the more people look for stability and look for ways to explain things. As a persuader, you have the ability to offer explanations, just the same way that they do to make sense out of their life. So in the same way that people look for supporting reasons, even nonsensical ones, to explain their reality, and they look to assign blame, we can do the same.
'There are no accidents' is a great phrase born of superstition, that we can use to persuade our affluent clientele. Especially if our prospects have had problems in the past, we can use this term to indicate that, 'Yes, you have had problems in the past (with your agent, advisor, etc.), but those problems are over now and we live in an infinite wise universe where there are no accidents. You ended up with me for a reason. '
Is this true and verifiable? No. Absolutely not. But will you be called on it? Unless you are trying to sell my acquaintance, the cynic, who views the world through the frame that everyone is superstitious except him, I seriously doubt it.