The Importance of Congruent Messages When Persuading

I had in interesting Facebook exchange not
long ago. Someone posted a picture of an attractive young woman wearing a
t-shirt that had the following message on the front, “To be old and wise you
must first be young and stupid.”
To be honest I didn’t pay attention to the rest
of the post, which read, “Reinvent yourself with enhanced awareness, renew
yourself with enhanced tolerance and regenerate yourself with enhanced wisdom.”
Focused on the picture and the saying
imprinted on it I light-heartedly commented, “But if you’re too stupid when
you’re young you may not live long enough to become old and wise.  : ) ”
My Facebook friend replied, “@Brian: You mean
ONLY stupid people die young?? Just to refocus your observation on the quote
which is my thought – it is not on the t-shirt.”
I replied one last time to let him know I
didn’t think only stupid people die young. Of course, the more stupid things
you do, the more risk you run of harming yourself, but even people who make
good decisions experience bad things.
This week’s post isn’t about Facebook or the
stupid things young people sometimes do. What stood out to me after the
exchange was the following communication problem that’s all too common – the message
was incongruent.
You see, the picture of the attractive lady
stood out and in my mind the message on her t-shirt had nothing to do with my
friend’s quote, which was what he really wanted to convey to readers. Again, his quote
was, “Reinvent yourself with enhanced awareness, renew yourself with enhanced
tolerance and regenerate yourself with enhanced wisdom.” If there was a
connection, then how many others missed it too?
When you’re trying to communicate with
someone, perhaps even trying to persuade him or her, you’d better be sure every
part of your message is congruent.
For example, if I conduct a sales training
session for business professionals I’d be foolish to not dress in a suit and
tie or sports coat at a minimum. If I went to a training session dressed as I
do on the weekends my appearance will detract from my message. People have
expectations about how a sales trainer will dress just like you probably have
ideas about how a minister should look at a wedding or a lawyer in a courtroom.
When there’s a mismatch people can lose focus and the last thing you want is
someone focused on how you look rather than your message.
We also have expectations for the environments
we find ourselves in. We don’t act the same in church as we do at work, a bar,
or in a college classroom. We conduct ourselves differently in each place and
acting like you’re talking in church to a room full of college students will
lose them faster than they can update Twitter.
When you want to communicate a message make
sure everything has a purpose and that every part of the message builds to your
main point. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say after a
training session, “It was pretty good but he kept going off on these tangents
that had nothing to do with the workshop.” If you have stories to share, make
sure they add to the message and don’t detract from it.
Practice helps and perfect practice makes
perfect. Do you ever ask someone for feedback on a presentation before you give
it? Running through your presentation with another, as you would if your audience were right
there, will help you in multiple ways. One big way is to make sure the person
sees how everything ties together. If you have to stop and make the connections
for them then you might want to rethink your approach.
The same can be said of writing. Have someone
proof read your articles and blog posts. Have them challenge you and if
something doesn’t make sense, ask yourself if there’s a better way to convey
the message. Again, if you have to take extra time to explain what you mean
then that should be a signal that other readers might not get your point
Communicating a message is like traveling to a
destination. Usually the shortest, most direct route is best. If you want to
get there in a hurry then limit your excursions and make sure everything is
working together like a well-oiled machine. The extra time and effort will be
worth it when people go, “Ah, I get it.”
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.


Free webinar! Would you like to learn more about influence from the experts? Check out the Cialdini “Influence” Series featuring Cialdini Method Certified Trainers from around the world.

3 replies
  1. Wedding Djs
    Wedding Djs says:

    A fascinating discussion is definitely worth
    comment. I do believe that you ought to write more about this issue,
    it might not be a taboo matter but generally people don’t speak about these
    subjects. To the next! Many thanks!!|If you
    don’t mind, I would like to share this blog with my followers on twitter?


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] and misapplied Dr. Mehrabian’s work. This came to light a few weeks ago when I wrote about The Importance of Congruent Messages When Persuading. At that time I also saw a social media post from a friend that prompted me to read more about Dr. […]

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