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Stop! I mean, Go! Confused?

Mixed signals cause a lot of confusion. In business confusion in communication often leads to errors, delays and lost opportunities. It’s like telling someone to stop, then go, then stop. Do that and they will be confused. “But I thought you want me to…?”

This was top of mind recently when I was working on a presentation around the ideas of pre-suasion. Pre-suasion focuses on things you can do before you make a request of someone to increase the odds of hearing yes. A couple of examples include:

  1. A man sending flowers to a woman before asking her out. Flowers boost the chance of getting a date because they prompt thoughts of romance.
  2. Playing upbeat music later in the day. This will lift the mood and energy at a training event or conference. If you want people to say “Yes” to you then your chance goes up significantly if they’re feeling energetic and positive.

Much of persuasion and pre-suasion take place at the subconscious level which means, most of the time people are unaware of the impact. Something that affects your thinking is color. For example:

  1. Green has positive associations for most people. It conjures up thoughts of “Go” because of traffic lights. In the United States it makes people think about money because that’s the color of our printed currency. And more recently, it prompts thoughts of the environment.
  2. Red is usually experienced in a more negative way. When you’re losing money, you’re said to be “in the red.” Red signals to “Stop!” because of traffic lights and stop signs. It’s also the color of aggression – think Tiger Woods in Sunday in his trademark red shirt. And then there’s blood!

Sometimes marketers, advertisers and others forget these associations and hurt their efforts when it comes to moving people to action. This came to mind when I was on the New Yorker Magazine site recently. A pop-up box appeared to encourage people to subscribe to the monthly magazine and the “Sign me up” button was red. As I looked around the site I found another instance of the same thing.

The website designer probably thought the color stood out and would get attention. While it does that, it also subconsciously is telling your brain to stop. The magazine would be much better off having a green box because it signals “go” as in “Go ahead and sign me up!”

On the flip side, if you wanted someone to stop doing something it would be unwise to incorporate the color green. Doing so will cause confusion because the subconscious will think “Go!” and end up working against the conscious.

Conclusion

You might think what I’ve just described is insignificant but it matters. Despite a very good economy businesses are always looking for ways to impact the top and bottom line. If something as simple – and costless – as aligning the right colors with the actions you want people to take can reduce expenses or increase sales why wouldn’t you take advantage?

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An international speaker, coach and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, the most cited living social psychologist on the topic of ethical influence. Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses Persuasive SellingPersuasive Coaching and Building a Coaching Culture: Improving Performance through Timely Feedbackhave been viewed by more than 65,000 people! Have you watched them yet? Click a course title to see what you’ve been missing.