Communication is the exchange of information? Is this correct? Not necessarily! Communication is primarily the exchange of images. Words that create familiar images in the listeners mind induce an emotionally response. This response is not questioned by the mind. This is only the case if the delivered message does not provide an image, no intuitive idea. Then, the listener begins to think – and creates his own image. An image that he understands.
More about the effect of information and arguments can be found here: „Why good arguments help but are of no real use”.
This article provides also a detailed description of the behavioral model “pilot and autopilot”. Pilot represents our conscious, rational behavior. Autopilot refers to our subconscious, emotional behavior. Thus, the autopilot is responsible for our gut decisions. The pilot on the other hand stands for clarification and factual decisions. Fact-based decisions of the pilot only last if they cause a good gut feeling (autopilot).
Our autopilot operates about 150,000 times faster than our pilot. Therefore, any communication always causes a first impulse by the autopilot.
When the gut decides – and when the mind?
For results without long discussions, we need a figurative language that puts our proposals, requests or demands „into a picture”, that maximizes their chances to be accepted by the autopilot of the addressees.
People decide emotionally, from their gut feeling, if they feel familiar with the issue or the problem. Every feeling of insecurity activates the conscious mind. Otherwise the issue is scrutinized, reconsidered and discussed. A decision is delayed or there is no decision at all.
word.power.period. provides you with simple rules for preparing pictorial verbalizations favoring an emotionally positive reaction to your concern.
First, you should define your relation to the interlocutors or listeners. Just as important: What is your mission? What exactly do you want to achieve?
Find answers to questions like: What do we have in common? Which knowledge, which information is mutual?
The answers to these questions will help you to find the images that you want to transfer to your audience, your discussion partner or to the readers of your email. Constructive questions can help you as well. Like: What common images have a positive context? What is expected from you? What expectations can you fulfill ? How can you phrase positively if you can not fulfill expectations? What can you offer instead?
How motives and fears affect our actions
In short, what can prompt the autopilot of your counterpart to act the way you like it? How can specifically target emotions?
The key is based on the knowledge of the three basic human motives and basic fears that control the actions of the autopilot:
The motive „power“ (enforcement, autonomy, freedom of action) corresponds to the fear of becoming powerless (defeat, subordination, constraint).
The motive „approval“ (socially, professional, successful) corresponds to the fear of humiliation in the same context.
The third motive „belonging“ (community, social group) is paired with the fear of being considered worthless (being excluded, socially condemned).
In this simple model our behavior in the autopilot is driven by three categories of motives and fears. Messages activate or reach the autopilot, if they address either a motive or take away fears. Striking examples are the advertising messages of travel agencies (motives) or insurance companies(fears) respectively. Even the combined approach of motives and fears can be successful: Instead of the German term „sickness fund“ the AOK calls itself “health fund” – the English term.
A practical example of accomplished communication
A popular YouTube video tells the story of a blind beggar. A sign next to him said “I am blind. Please help!”. His yield of donations was moderate. That changed immediately and clearly visible, after a woman wrote him a new text on the back of his sign: “It’s a beautiful day. But I can not see it.“
Why causes the second wording significantly more willingness to help than the first one?
Well, the original sign combines a factual statement directly with a demand. This combination easily raises questions: Is this really true? What will change through my donation? Aren’t there specific organizations for this? Shouldn’t we better support those?
Questions provoke thinking – and while thinking we don’t act!
The second wording describes a feeling for the situation. A feeling we can easily agree with. Caused by this feeling the statement of the second message affects us emotionally. Sympathy and readiness to help are activated in our autopilot. We act immediately and without any reflection.
If you want to work actively on phrasing emotional messages, messages that have an effect and make a difference, then feel free to attend one of our seminars: Communication with PEC – Practical Emotional Competence