You want to make your point. So, which do you try to do? Appeal to your listeners emotions? Or hit them with cold, hard reason?
Martin Waxman and I have a wide ranging and maybe too personal discussion of that question on this week’s Inside PR podcast. And in doing so, we may reveal a little too much about ourselves. But isn’t that why we podcast in the first place? So that we can not just communicate our ideas, but communicate them as real people?
What got us off on this line of discussion? An article by Lisa Lai published recently on HBR.org. In her article, Lai provides both a conceptual overview of the emotion reason dichotomy and some practical advice on how to decide which route to go in specific situations.
As I read this article, I realize that one of my failings through my career has been my propensity to appeal to reason. I approach the world as a rational place in which causes can be discerned and solutions devised. That’s a world in which all things can be engineered with determination, focus, and a well thought through plan of action.
Martin allows that he sees things through the human lens and his first instinct is to appeal to emotion. He has struggled with the need to introduce the rational in situations where emotion just won’t do it.
This leads us to think about the importance of being attuned to the other person in order to read which persuasion technique is best for them. And that takes us back to the most basic communication skill, listening. We must listen to the other person for the clues about what’s important to them in order to figure out which approach to take with them. My preference doesn’t matter. If I want to persuade another person I need to start with their preference as my anchor point.
That takes us even further afield to the most often used and most often abused communications technique of the digital era: email. You can’t read the other person using email. You can’t tell whether your argument is going to be effective, is going to tap the right place, either emotional or rational.
Finally, we talk about Crystal, a new app that promises to tell “you the best way to communicate with any coworker, prospect, or customer based on their unique personality.” Machine-generated empathy!
We’d love to hear your views. What do you think of the reason vs. emotion dichotomy? Are you ready to rely on a machine algorithm to help you communicate in the mode preferred by the other party?