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Does Evoking Emotion in Persuasion Work?

Does evoking an emotional response make your argument more persuasive? If you can create a condition where someone is more afraid of something happening, does it become easier to make a decision? If you’re a politician and you can use the media to create emotion about a particular ideology, can that emotion be used to that person’s benefit?

Theoretically, it all makes sense, right? But Andy Luttrell emphasizes that if your best argument is emotional, make sure it puts the counterpart first. Then it will resonate.

The importance of knowing your audience

Do we focus so much on the issue that we forget about the person? What are their attitudes toward an issue based on their morals, economics, and sense of right and wrong? Do we need to persuade someone based on who they are and how they think about things as well as logical reasons?

An issue can be framed in different ways. You can frame something by saying it’s a moral issue and then suggest the correct action to take. If you persuade them that a decision is immoral, have you won the argument?

Your audience might only care about saving money. If you’re talking about environmental issues you might say, “It is morally incumbent upon us to protect this planet from climate change.” But your audience might point out that your organic and green products are 5x the price. You aren’t considering their needs.

There are morally driven consumers and they frame their decisions from an ethical perspective. Others focus on price and their buying decisions are practical and based on economics. If the rhetoric is only framed toward ethics, you’re missing your audience.

It can also be considered as a spectrum. Someone may wish to make a decision based on morals and ethics but as it becomes costlier, their decision-making process changes i.e. ambivalence. It can be tricky to help people choose a side when they’re conflicted.

What emotions do you evoke?

What is more persuasive? Do people make decisions based on pain, pleasure, or both? Any decision could be framed as “This choice will get you pleasure” versus “This choice will help you avoid pain.” That’s the same argument, right? But some people are drawn to one version over the other. So knowing your audience matters.

How do people pursue their goals? Is someone losing weight to become healthy and active? Or are they trying to lose weight to avoid disease and large medical bills? People have different ways of navigating the world and respond differently to different messaging. It makes the job of a persuader tricky.

Why cultivating fear is a common persuasion tactic

When I watch the news, everything is fear-based. It’s emotionally draining. Do they know fear is addicting? Or are they trying to catalyze change using fear?

Fear appeals are attention-grabbing. People generally have a negativity bias. They find negative experiences or information attention-grabbing and memorable. We do have to be vigilant against things that could harm us.

But is it effective as a means of persuasion? Generally, yes. So long as you provide viewers with a clear antidote to that fear. You point out that something can cause damage and then give someone the tool they can use to avoid that outcome. That combination sparks behavior and belief change in people.

Do we employ emotional persuasion in B2B negotiations?

In B2B sales, we tend to default to the features of the product—not the feelings the features of the product will evoke in the customer. It’s a powerful play and we ignore it. Why don’t we tap into someone’s feelings? Or the pain they could avoid as the result of a decision?

Does it feel inappropriate to do that in a business setting? Does it feel disingenuous to tell people how something should make them feel? Or are we holding them back from the possible outcomes? What if both sides lose out on value because we don’t help them feel an emotion?

If someone chooses another product based on how they feel about that product, you’ve lost a customer. The reality is that competitors may be sharing facts and figures plus telling someone how they’ll feel. If you choose the logic-driven approach, you may lose.

Are you willing to acknowledge that negotiations can’t just be logical? If so, why aren’t you utilizing more persuasive speech, actions, and body language to get someone to do something?

Learn more about the use of persuasion in negotiation in episode #333 of Negotiations Nina with special guest Andy Luttrell!