When trying to make a convincing argument, how would you describe your style? I’m not referring to your level of assertiveness or ability to find common ground; today, I’m more interested in how long can you speak? I use to aim for brevity, but maybe we should aspire to be more like Eminem.
Eminem has a talent that directly leads to more effective persuasion—he talks… a lot. A 2015 study by Musixmatch found that after analyzing the 100 densest songs of the 99 bestselling artists of all time, Eminem used an unparalleled 8,818 unique words throughout his catalog. This study took into account vocabulary size (the number of unique words), lyrical density (the total number of words used), and “new word interval” (the number of words after which a new word is used). The remaining top five artists included Jay Z with 6,899 words, Tupac with 6,569, Kanye West with 5,069, and Bob Dylan with 4,883.
Eminem’s ability to pack songs with so many words is not much different from the skill leaders need to appear more credible. According to research conducted by the University of Pennsylvania and published in the journal Cognition, you are more likely to be perceived as convincing if your explanation includes useless (though accurate) information. This complements similar studies that found longer explanations are more effective than short ones, and audiences are swayed by explanations that point to rationale for cause/effect, even if the rationale doesn’t help us understand the occurrence.
If you’re trying to explain why someone did something, you can count on neurobabble to make you sound more convincing.—Drake Baer, Tech Insider correspondent
Before you prepare to win over your team with immaterial data and irrelevant facts, the UPenn research includes additional recommendations and exceptions that you will need:
- Good explanations were rated better than bad explanations, even if the bad ones contained more pertinent information. Takeaway: Hone your communication and presentation style.
- Adding psychological explanations had less of an effect on increasing credibility. Takeaway: Stick to science-based facts that are quantifiable and tangible.
- People who are more informed on the subject matter more readily distinguish good explanations from the bad. Takeaway: Know your audience so you can speak to their level of knowledge and experience.
- Those with advanced logical reasoning skills are more adept at sifting through superfluous information to accurately evaluate an explanation. Takeaway: Know your audience so you can speak to their level of intellect.
The next time you need to persuade an employee, team member, or client, forget about being concise. While they may ask for the “short ‘n sweet” version, adding scientific details will give you a better chance of winning their support. Eminem may be the wordsmith winner on the radio, but with your encyclopedic industry knowledge, you can prevail in your organization.