We all like to think how smart, sophisticated and logical we are. We think we can’t be manipulated by people trying to use our emotions in order to get us to buy something or agree to someone’s opinion. We may be overestimating ourselves. The truth is an argument based on an emotional appeal has a greater chance of getting someone to agree with you than facts that support your position, according to an article in “Quartz”.

Rob Yeung, a psychologist and author of How to Stand Out, states the most effective strategy to win an argument may be to use emotion, not logic and facts. He states that people who smoke or are overweight know they’re not healthy, but that doesn’t change their minds. Facts aren’t always enough to motivate people to change because people don’t pay attention to facts, but they can be convinced if given the appropriate emotional argument.

Logic and Facts

Yeung says there are some facts to back up his argument. Researchers have found those who cannot process emotions have difficulty making decisions, which suggests that the two are related. Which emotional appeal to use in an argument depends on the topic, the people involved and the situation. Yeung warns that there are many options so you need to choose wisely to be effective.

Yeung cites former Nokia chief executive, Stephen Elop, as one who tried an emotional appeal when speaking to employees but the results weren’t what he hoped for. In 2011 he addressed employees about the company’s worsening situation.

  • He analogized the company as a man standing on a burning oil platform far above the freezing waters of the ocean.
  • Elop said the person had to choose burning to death or a high leap into the ice cold ocean.
  • He warned that the growing success of the Apple and Android systems was the proverbial fire burning the company’s platform.

As compelling as this may sound it didn’t save the company because it failed to motivate listeners enough because he didn’t offer a solution (maybe he didn’t have one). Yeung stated a drawback of using fear is that the solution may also be complex and frightening. If given two painful options the listener may choose not to make a choice, preferring inaction to taking action.

Yeung suggests that pride and shame might be used instead of fear because they are also very persuasive emotions.

  • Researchers did an experiment concerning how to motivate people to vote in 2007.
  • Some were told the names of those who had voted would be published (to inspire pride) while others were told that the names of those who had not voted would be published (to inspire shame).
  • They found shame was generally more effective to motivate test subjects.

Whether you’re trying to get the other party in a negotiation to see your way or convince a client a course of action is in their best interests facts and figures may be useful to support your argument but basing your argument on an appropriate emotional appeal and proposing a workable solution probably would be the best way to go.