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Plain Folks


Techniques > Plain Folks

Method | Example | Discussion | See also



Make the leaders look just like mom'n'pop-style 'plain folks'. Things you can do to achieve this include:


Wear ordinary clothes. Especially avoid designer gear. When you must be formal, be plain, so you clothes do not send 'flashy' messages. When you are seen in 'informal' settings, wear jeans and other 'relaxed' clothing (but do make sure they are always clean).

When visiting particular groups, you can dress to show you are like them. When 'down on the farm', wear bibbed denims. When visiting the troops, wear simple fatigues (careful not to show rank here).


Use simple words, simple grammar and short sentences. Pause, as if you have to think hard about words before speaking.

When talking with a particular group of people, use their language, but with care not to appear that you are aping them (be careful with local dialects and professional jargon). Perhaps use just a few of their words, or use parallel words that say 'I may not be you, but I'm so like you it is the same thing, anyway'.

A subtly is to use minor speech errors and incorrect grammar. If you are a linguist, this can be painful. But it sends the basic message: 'I'm an ordin'ry person, jus' like you.' Do this carefully: you want to appear ordinary, not foolish.


When you are shown doing things, do normal things. Be seen doing chores around the house. Go out running. Walk the dog. Play with your kids. Appear interested in things and people. Be surprised. Be normal.

Just as with dress and speech, you can copy body language, sending 'I'm like you' signals.

Like speech errors, you can make simple action mistakes. Drop things. Knock things over. Slip up a bit. Again, be careful to look ordinary, not a fool.


Visiting a church, the President dresses in a dark suit and blue shirt. He walks slowly and with hands together in front of him. He talks gravely with people. He sings with joy and prays with fervor. Later that day, he has changed into denims and fleece top to take the dog for a walk. Along the way, he meets another dog owner and exchanges cheery pleasantries.


When you dress, speak and act like other people, you say 'I am like you'. When they see you as like them, they are more likely to like and trust you in return. Once they have decided that you are trustworthy, they will accept what you say without question.

Appearing ordinary also makes you appear uncomplicated and very unlikely to tell lies. As a result, people are more likely to trust you further and believe more of what you say.

This is a method that is often used by people aspiring to (and working in) high office. It is easy for such people to lose track with the ordinary person -- or at least appear to do so. Using the 'Plain Folks' method helps mitigate this risk.

See also

Similarity principle, Bonding principle


Clyde Miller, Propaganda Analysis, NY: Institute for Propaganda Analysis, 1937


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