We all use emotion to persuade.
We smile to establish trust, signal friendship with compliments (“Great outfit!”) and offer gifts to encourage affection. (“Can I buy you a drink?”)
This isn’t something we’ve been taught. It’s natural.
From our evolutionary beginnings, humans understood the power and necessity of emotional persuasion. We used it to secure our place in the tribe.
It is something we continue today, following a trend or conforming our opinions to fit neatly into that of our communities. Our prehistoric instincts shape us to be accepted and to use persuasion to influence the people in our lives.
Needing people to believe, we act trustworthy. Needing others to act accordingly, we use urgency: “Do you have a reservation?” Needing others to comply, we use exclusion (“There will be ridiculous lineups, but I can get you an invitation to the private opening.”) and inclusion (“Or just sign up to join our V.I.P. list”).
We instinctively revert to coercion and guilt: “You don’t want Mommy and Daddy to get upset, do you?” We use conformity: “Our team is painting houses on your street—would you like a free quote?”
We use fear of the unknown (“They have weapons of mass destruction…”) and fear of loss.
We can’t help it. It’s natural. We’ve evolved to use emotional persuasion. But we’re also hardwired to react to it. And that is the problem.
It’s not our reaction to a secret toy in the cereal box, or cash back on a purchase, or the astonishing possibility of receiving “a second set of Ginsu Knives absolutely free.” What’s dangerous is when emotion is triggered as weapons-grade mass manipulation.
Those who are skilled in this dark art go beyond influencing our preferences of kitchen utensils and breakfast cereals. They magnify our emotions to manipulate how we feel about what’s right and what’s wrong. What we are afraid of. What we believe in and what we don’t. What we buy, where we shop – and how we vote.
Identifying the persuaders’ tactics is something I write about in my Lions in the Grass. By the end, you’ll be able to spot the persuader’s patterns and techniques and unlock your independence from their powers.
More importantly, once you understand the power of emotional persuasion and recognize what influences your decisions, you’ll be able to influence others—consciously and effectively—for win/win outcomes.