Traffic slowed to a crawl. I could see an electronic sign in the distance. It read:
“Two lanes closed up ahead. Extreme delays”
Why must they use the word extreme? A surge of anger followed.
“Some jerk driving like an idiot caused an accident and forces the rest of us to suffer.”
The fate of those in the car accident meant nothing to me. I only cared how it disrupted my commute. It’s a common knee-jerk reaction. Inconvenience me and I throw a fit.
My Anger Evaporates
Thirty minutes later I arrive at the crash site. Confusion reigned as cars waited until the last second to merge into the one open lane. As I drove past the site, I took a peak at the damage.
“Oh my god. I hope everyone is okay.”
My anger evaporated. The minor disruption to my commute seemed petty. Now, a surge of guilt raced through my bloodstream.
“How could I be so inhuman?”
I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. That’s what humans do. We react. We often react without thinking. It’s like a reflex or impulse.
Most of us replace our primal reactions after we take time to think and reflect.
What does all this have to do with persuasion and influence?
What lesson can we gain from this experience?
Sparking Emotional Madness
If we desire to persuade others through our writing we need to stoke the emotions of our reader. All emotions boil down to changes in our body. Our heart rate increases, stress may increase or decrease, perspiration levels change. It’s up to the individual to assign a label (emotion) to those feelings.
All this occurs without thinking. These are reflexes. It’s why my anger boiled when that sign warned me about traffic delays.
Think about the emotion your writing intends to generate. Does that get you closer to your goal? Are you eliciting anger when you really want compassion? The only way to know is to connect with your audience.
Pressing The Right Buttons
Let’s suppose you write about policies to curb global warming. To those who support your view, your words may rally the troops into action. The same writing filtered by global warming deniers may elicit anger. They see it as a personal attack on them.
Rousing emotion in your audience is crucial but tricky. These four steps help you craft your message to press the right emotional hot buttons. Go through these steps before and after you write your piece.
- Who Is Your Audience?
- How Do You Want Them To React? What emotions do you want to stir?
- How Are They Likely To React?
- Revise your approach to trigger the desired reaction
The drivers of both vehicles suffered no serious injuries. I saw them both surveying the damage as I drove by. The rear of one of the cars looked like an accordion. Good thing nobody was sitting in the back.