Humans are complicated creatures, but creatures none the less. Throughout the course of our evolution, our sensitivities, cultured by our faiths, personal histories, political systems, social groups and the like established foundations of “normal” which are capable of offense. In fact, I’ll bet some of you paused for a moment at my assertion this was evolutionary – a term which some faiths find controversial. After reading the sentence, did you shape your sensitivities to be more aligned with a faith-based perspective? Did you discard the word choice because it was not important to you, personally? Did you even notice? How about the title of the article? Of course, I chose it to mock the ever growing number of advertisements which would have you believe someone is keeping something from you, an offense to your freedom. Better still, ad agencies design such “shockvertisements” to stand apart from other advertisements by bothering you – by getting under your sensitive skin – making reading them mandatory. After all, you can’t possibly lose weight without the help of some horrible looking exotic fruit, can you? Influence through communication is an art worth mastering.

Now more than ever, there is a tendency toward offense, and to combat this requires inverted thinking. This does not mean just thinking differently. It means thinking like someone else who might think differently.

Words and Emotions

Simply put, words create emotion. A song can bring tears, or a soliloquy can evoke tension or excitement. Words modify the listener’s state from wherever it was to wherever it’s going. Advertisers know where they want you to go, and our animal instincts (offended again?) will take us there. Now more than ever, there is a tendency toward offense, and to combat this requires inverted thinking. This does not mean just thinking differently. It means thinking like someone else who might think differently.

Simon Sinek might suggest that you ask “why” up front. He’s referring to the idea that in creating a product, people don’t buy because of what it is, but why the company made it. When you see a shockvertisement, take a moment to think about why someone else might click on the ad/story/thing. Then compare to what you think about it. And then think about why the publisher of that ad/story/thing might want you to click on it – an easier question to answer. Hint: ads! By pulling you a step deeper into the originating site, the advertiser can expose you to even more shockvertisements, and even more impressions (using the marketing term) than you might have on the original site! Just how deep does that rabbit hole go? Careful, you may not like what you find at the bottom…

Conveying the Business Why

In business and in leadership, this same process works, too. Be it vision or mission statements, tools from savvy consultants, or internal motivation campaigns; companies like to convey why you should care about your job – about what the company does. If you care, your clients will care. It’s certainly more subtle than stating how some mysterious berry will solve your hair loss woes, but done well, it is effective none-the-less.

In no way am I saying this is (always) a bad thing! Effective communication and manipulating human instinctive behaviors is the basis of selling. It doesn’t matter if the selling is a product or a message, internal to the company or external, or at the bar, or around the kitchen table. Influence through communication works! We just have to be able to be analytical enough to know when it’s happening. Influence is a product of communication, and in this series, our goal is to apply a filter at the appropriate times to assess when, how, and why influence through communication happens. We will allow some things through, and will cast others to the side – except maybe that hair loss berry. I may need that.

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