Sweet Emotions: Choose Your Words and Phrases Wisely

Logic makes you think, emotions make you act. You’ve heard this before, right? But you know what you haven’t heard? Someone telling you how to leverage emotions.

Until now.

The language you use and the phrases you choose can help you stir emotions of the person you’re trying to persuade. One way to create an emotional response is by using adjectives in your persuasive conversations.

Relax: I’m not going to go all “Schoolhouse Rock”  on you, but here are some great examples you can use to punch up your language.

• Adjectives can be absolute, comparative or superlative.

Good, better or best. Caution: Don’t overuse superlatives. A few add impact; using them a lot blunts their effect and erodes your credibility. Because not everything can be the best and the most.

“The Basic package is good. The Open Road is better. The Enthusiast is better still. But the Legendary is the best — and most comprehensive — package we offer. That’s where we should start.” 

Notice how this builds anticipation (a fundamental emotion) and finally joy at reaching the summit of your offering.

(Note that I don’t say the biggest, most expensive package is also the most popular. It makes consumers suspicious when your most expensive is also — curiously enough — your most popular. If it’s true, fine. But otherwise, avoid it.)

• Turn nouns and verbs into adjectives by adding an ending.

Try “-ic” or “-ish” or “-ary” or “-est,” as in “Our savviest customers typically put 20 to 25 percent down.”

Savvy is an adjective, but what’s really great about it for this example is that it also is aspirational. Everyone wants to be savvy.

• Add an adjective to a noun.

Understand that — when working with you — your target will make important decisions. “Decision” is a noun; “decide” is a verb. So add an adjective in front of that “decision.”

– A big  decision.
– A critical  decision
– A crucial  decision.
– Afar‐reaching  decision.
– A significant  decision.

“Picking the coverage for your Harley‐Davidson experience is a significant decision, and I want to make sure you have all the facts.”

Another variation involves stressing to your target that they are making not only important decisions, but also informeddecisions. Your role is really to educate others to help them make the best decision possible. Here are some variations:

– We want you to make a knowledgeable decision.
– We want you to make an educated decision.
– We want you to make a wise decision.
– We want you to make an enlightened decision.

“Picking the coverage for your Harley‐Davidson experience is crucial, and I want to make sure you have all the facts so you can make an informed decision.”

Note: It can also be helpful to identify decisions as “responsible” or even “irresponsible”:

– The responsible thing to do is consider and plan for these possibilities.
– It would be irresponsible not to consider these possibilities.

These descriptors amplify the importance of the decision and subsequently the significance of your advice. This goes a long way toward creating a trusting relationship.

Similarly, when talking about decisions that involve an element of risk, make your language more interesting by trying some of these variations:

– It’s about diminishing risk.
– It’s about lowering risk.
– It’s about decreasing risk.
– It’s about downsizing your risk.
– It’s about paring down your risk.

“Having peace of mind is all about diminishing risk. And that’s why I’d like to talk to you about the Harley‐Davidson Guaranteed Asset Protection program.”

Fear — specifically fear of loss — is probably the most powerful human emotion. We are much more influenced to act (or not) by fearing what we might lose, rather than what we have to gain.

I consider language to be of crucial importance to your persuasion success. The words you use and the phrases that you choose have a huge bearing on what others think, say and do.

Give these ideas a try immediately.

Persuasion Power: Creating Emotional Links

There are quantitative and qualitative aspects to any persuasive argument, and you can’t afford to omit either dynamic.

In previous posts, I wrote about the importance of building your business case. It all begins with such quantitative actions as doing due diligence, then measuring return on investment and knowing how much you need to sell.

Mastering that synthesis of both quantitative and qualitative reasoning will place you far ahead of the other persuaders at the table and down the block.

In this post, I’ll focus on the importance of qualitative reasoning. As a result of your persuasive efforts, will your  organization establish higher morale, for example? Or will communication be enhanced and problems more easily solved? Will silos disappear or at least be altered? And might the organization’s image or brand also be enhanced?

Get In Touch With Emotions

Qualitative reasoning is much harder to measure and report than quantitative reasoning, but it’s worth the effort. With a bit of cognitive effort, practically any element of qualitative reasoning can be constructed to present meaningful numeric data. Two of the most common types of such data are customer and employee satisfaction indices.

Every organization — public and private, large and small, product or service — seeks the following if it is of sound business mental health:

  • Sustained high morale
  • Efficient and effective teamwork
  • Rapid and accurate problem-solving
  • Positive repute and community “citizenship”
  • Decreased distraction and disruption
  • Accurate and unbiased communication

These “emotional” factors (sometimes referred to as “soft factors”) are usually the most important when it comes to presenting your case and persuading your target. Because, as you already know, logic makes you think and emotion makes you act. All the new plant cost calculations in the world are useless unless current customers are providing the repeat business and referral business to drive the expansion.

Thus, your emotional appeals should deliberately and fastidiously involve soft factors, without exception. (Steve Jobs adamantly mandated that Apple’s engineers and software experts accommodate matters of style and design. I’ve seen million-dollar construction vehicles, capable of traveling at speeds up to 1.5 miles per hour, with rounded and streamlined sides! Why? Aesthetic appeal, of course!)

Determine which emotional factors best appeal to the other person. Don’t attempt to please yourself or choose to fulfill yourself and your needs, quantitatively and qualitatively. Rather, ensure that you address the other person’s emotional needs and push the appropriate visceral hot buttons.

This is not manipulative; it is the essence of sales and persuasion.

Persuasion Power: Know How Much You Need to Sell

In previous posts, I began explaining how to build your business case to achieve skyrocketing persuasion results. It all begins with doing due diligence and then measuring return on investment.

Another step with which you should be familiar when building a persuasive business case is the break-even calculation, which answers the question: “How many units do we need to sell to recoup our investment?” It is primarily used for product sales and can be determined in two easy steps.

Step 1:

Calculate the gross profit margin for selling one unit by taking the revenue derived from selling one unit at full retail price and subtracting the cost of goods sold for one unit. That equals the gross margin per unit.

Step 2:

Calculate the break-even number by dividing the net initiative by the gross margin.

For example, let’s say you’re a manufacturer partnering with a software design company to develop a point-of-sale software program for your retail distribution channel. The software company is charging you $15,000 per copy for the software, and you’re going to sell it to your retailers for $20,000. Your gross profit here is $5,000 per copy. The software company requires a minimum purchase of 100 copies in order to complete the customization required. Your initial investment is $15,000 x 100 = $1.5 million

Now, divide that $1.5 million by the $5,000 gross profit, and your break-even for this product is 300 units.

Break-even calculations are valuable because they help keep an organization headed toward a recognizable goal. The problem here (at least in terms of making a financial decision) is that break-even calculations don’t take into consideration time dedicated to the project. For that, you’ll need to do more calculations.

Master the break-even calculation and other fundamental business measures and calculations that often arise in meetings and discussions, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a professional persuader.

How To (Successfully) Sell an Idea

Selling an idea is a lot like making a persuasive presentation; the biggest difference is that ideas lack tangibility. You’re not soliciting donations, rallying for a raise or convincing an on-the-fence customer to choose between a Kia and a BMW. Rather, you’re making something concrete out of the abstract, which means you must instantiate to captivate.

This requires some creativity on the part of both persuader and target, so provide vivid mental imagery via storytelling to help a client, customer or colleague “see” your idea. Try these:

  • “Imagine the look on your client’s face when you tell him you can help his company double revenue and decrease expenses in 12 months.”
  • “What if I said I can help you overcome your fear of public speaking by the time you give your next presentation?”
  • “If you take the time to read this book and develop a persuasion priority, you’ll be hearing people say ‘yes’ more often than you ever thought possible.”

To help your target better “see” your ideas, it might be helpful to use images such as photographs or illustrations, double-axis charts and Venn diagrams. These can further solidify your pitched idea in the mind’s eye of your target.

Now, go persuade somebody.