From the Lab: Tell People How to Feel

In a recent study, researchers found that the more moral/emotional words (like “fight,” “hate,” “love,” and “peace”) there were in a tweet, the more likely it would be to be retweeted. In fact, with each additional moral/emotional word, the spread of the tweet increased by 20%! As summarized Katie Heaney of the Science of Us, “People Like Tweets That Tell Them How to Feel.”

Of course, this effect was most pronounced within political groups: liberals were more likely to share liberals’ moral/emotional tweets, and conservatives were more likely to share conservatives’. But in general, the more a tweet appealed to Heart and Halo, the greater impact it was likely to have.

This only further underscores the importance of including these kinds of appeals in your speaking: appealing to the Head alone won’t cut it. Wherever possible (within reason), include language that appeals to your audience’s values and emotions, and they’ll be significantly more likely to spread your message.

From the Lab: Sell Experiences, Not Things

In The Science of Speaking, I advise you to consider all of the things that might motivate people when pitching, not just the obvious ones like money. Today’s post is a subtle addition to this advice.

It’s based on the fact that experiences make people happier than material possessions. Across a variety of demographics, researchers have found that “experiential purchases—those made with the primary intention of acquiring a life experience—[make people] happier than material purchases.” This is true both in hindsight (looking back at purchases already made) and foresight (looking forward to purchases that might be made in the future).

This means that when making your pitch, it’s often better to focus on the experience(s) the audiences will gain if they accept your ask (or the experiences they’ll miss out on if they don’t), rather than the material possessions they will gain. As an example I’ve used before (to illustrate the power of emotional appeals), take Sam Mendes’ FaceTime commercial: rather than focusing on the product itself—an iPhone 4—it focuses on the amazing experiences it enables. When you focus on selling experiences, not things, you’ll likely sell a whole lot more.

In the News: Truth Is Not Enough

Today in Slate‘s “The State of the Universe,” Jess Zimmerman writes,

It’s time to give up on facts, or at least to temporarily lay them down in favor of a more useful weapon: emotions. . . . Truth is not enough. It never has been.

In the terminology of The Science of Speaking, it’s a pitch for the utility of Heart over Head. Or, at the very least, in addition to it.

The whole article is worth a read, but here’s a tl;dr version:

When the argument is an emotional one, fighting with facts is unlikely to work. Instead, it may be more effective to directly engage with the emotions at play (in an empathetic way).

For example, as Zimmerman writes,

If someone says that the Muslim ban is OK because all terrorists are Muslim, it might be more worth it to ask about their fear of terrorism than to rail against the falsehood about terrorists. That can yield a more useful conversation. What’s really going to make them safer? How much safety is really possible, and what are we willing to trade for it?