When it comes to convincing people to buy your product, you might be taking the wrong approach. Numerous studies have shown that humans make decisions based on emotion, rather than logic.

So if there’s a glimmer of truth to the adage about the heart ruling the head, how do you write in a way that gets results for your business?

“We are not thinking machines. We are feeling machines that think.” – Richard Restak


There’s a tiger behind that tree…

Humans are hard-wired to make decisions based on emotions. It’s evolution. Consider the following situation.

It’s the caveman era. Good communication is critical to survival. The leader of a particularly tight-knit tribe has discovered a threat. Which of the following statements is most likely to keep the tribe out of danger?

“Don’t go behind that tree. It’s very dangerous.”

Hmm. Bit vague.

“Don’t go behind that tree. There’s a tiger asleep behind it. If you wake it up it will kill you painfully and eat you.”

As humans we are evolutionarily coded to respond to narratives. Outcomes. Emotional responses. That’s what people look for when processing information. And a glance at the physiology of the human brain backs it up.

Your brain funnels information in three stages

Joe Girard argues that the brain has evolved in three stages.

The first part to evolve was the reptilian brain. It controls primitive functions like breathing, heartbeat and fight or flight instincts. Next came the limbic system. This controls emotional responses, drawing us towards things that feel good and pushing us away from things that feel bad. The final system to evolve was the neocortex, which is responsible for thinking, speech, planning, visualisation and intellectual control.

What’s crucial, Girard argues, is the order in which information moves through these systems.

“Information flows from the inside out, meaning that we process ideas first from survival, then from emotion and lastly through thinking. This is the main reason that trying to get someone to see our point often doesn’t work when we try and ‘reason’ with them.”


No emotion, no decision

Pioneering research from neuroscientist Antonio Damasio seems to reconcile with Girard’s thoughts. Damasio studied patients with brain injuries that had specifically damaged the part of the brain that handles emotions – the limbic system. He found that their ability to make rational decisions was severely impaired – despite the fact that the rest of their brains (reptilian brain and neocortex) functioned as normal.

These patients could write poetry, perform arithmetic and think creatively. But without the limbic system – the emotional part of the brain – decision making was incredibly difficult.

So what does all this mean for the way you write?


Make it visceral

Be highly descriptive about the experience you are selling or problem you are solving. Make it real. Make it visceral. Dramatise your reader’s problem or opportunity using the most vivid language you can muster.

A simple way to begin making your writing more emotionally-slanted is to recognise an opportunity when you write the word ‘feel’. ‘Feel’ should never be unqualified. Feel what? It’s your job to explain.

NO: Make you feel you are working with the best.

YES: Make you feel confident you are working with the best.

NO: Until you feel you have had the celebration you deserve.

YES: Until you feel happy that you have had the celebration you deserve.

Framing your writing from an emotional point of view could transform your sales pitch. Ultimately it boils down to the fact that people relate to people, not faceless businesses and organisations. The human element of your business should shine through in your writing. You might find you get results by helping people to think less and feel more.