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: Affirming Your Values

In a 2005 study by J. David Creswell, et al., they tested a new approach for reducing speech anxiety. Specifically, before giving a speech, they asked participants to reflect on a value that resonated with them. After reflecting on this value, the core-value-affirming participants were significantly lesser stressed than control participants, who had reflected on a value that wasn’t particularly important to them. (Although speech anxiety is what’s relevant here, a followup study found that this technique also worked for students preparing for a stressful exam—even when the value-affirmation occurred two weeks before the exam! Other studies have found that self-affirmation can improve our problem-solving abilities and increase our sense of meaning in life.)

Writing about these studies in Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges, Amy Cuddy notes that what’s surprising here is that “the participants affirmed their personal core values—not values or abilities that were relevant to the stressful tasks at hand. People didn’t need to convince themselves that they were good public speakers in order to be confident about giving a speech; they just needed to have shored up an important part of their best selves—such as ‘I value being creative and making art.'”

Before you give your next speech (or engage in any stressful task), these studies suggest that it will pay to take a moment to reflect on the values you most believe in, reaffirming your best self. By doing so, you’ll be even more likely to become it.