Message Success Driven By State of Mind

I recently finished a great book, “Made to Stick” written by Chip and Dan Heath. It’s an incredible book that everyone should read. The book is full of research-based information on how to get your message across and make it impact people. I littered my copy with highlighter. The concrete ideas in this book will instantly take your message from forgettable to profound, and it has little to do with the content of your message. This book has to do with the delivery. The book will help develop ideas that are simple, credible, concrete, and emotional. But of all the ideas in this book, the one that “stuck” with me the most was the concept that an audience state of mind can make all the difference in the success of your message.

The Heath brothers write this about a Carnegie Mellon University research project concerning charity: “When people where primed to feel… they gave $2.34… but when they where primed to calculate… they gave $1.36.” These results are shocking. The mere act of calculation reduced people’s charity. Once we put on our analytical hat, we react to emotional appeals differently. We hinder our ability to feel.

The full research is phenomenal and telling about how we work. Those that where in the right mindset gave double the amount. Think about that for a minute. The research shows that this was due to the change in mindset. It brings home an incredibly interesting point: the success of a message can simply be driven by the audience state of mind. If you are delivering an emotional message, be sure to put your audience in an emotional state of mind. Don’t rattle on and on about cold facts and then expect someone to receive an emotional story. At the same time, a sob story probably isn’t the best way to kick off a finance meeting.

For more great information, visit the Carnegie Mellon Center for Behavioral Decision Research at

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