Tag Archives: Emotion

Is Logic for Losers? Persuasion, Influence, and Biased Assimilation Effect

When engaging in a heated debate, how do you convince your opponent to abandon their stance and jump onboard yours? Most of us try to prove our point with a barrage of graphs, charts, statistics, and research studies. We cite last week’s 60 Minutes interview and regurgitate the numerous articles we’ve read. And then we wonder why we were unsuccessful in changing anyone’s minds. As a result, it would behoove us to consider whether logic-based arguments are effective.

There is plenty of research illustrating the ineffectiveness of logic as a persuasion tool. A study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that when participants were presented with a counter-argument for the death penalty, not only did individuals not change their minds, rather they ended up with more extreme views than before the experiment began—those for the death penalty became more for it, those against it became more against it. Classic biased assimilation.

The idea of biased assimilation effect, where we tend to believe ideas that synchronize with what we already believe, is not new—research like the one previously mentioned has been replicated with everything from climate change to health. It turns out that biased assimilation effect is the very barrier we are trying to overcome when engaging in a debate.

Getting back to my original question about the effectiveness of logic-based arguments, there is plenty of research showing that utilizing emotion is more persuasive than logic. One study concluded that up to 90% of decisions are based on emotion. But what if this is not accurate? What if biased assimilation effect supersedes both emotion and logic?

In a classic study by Randall Reuchelle, students prepared speeches written from either a logical or an emotional standpoint. While we may argue about the use of emotion over logic, Reuchelle found that speeches displaying a message the evaluator agreed with were rated as more logical even if they were intended to be emotional, and those the evaluator did not agree with were considered to be more emotional even if they were intended to be logical. This means we can’t even distinguish between facts and opinions; biased assimilation effect is too powerful.

As leaders, we must be equipped to overcome biased assimilation effect. While there is a strong case for utilizing emotion over logic, you have a more powerful case when you use them together. Start by employing a healthy dose of storytelling and personal anecdotes. This will inject the emotions necessary to connect with the audience, lower defenses, and allow for a more open-minded conversation.

Once you’ve created a mutual understanding, sprinkle in the relevant facts. This use of logic creates a necessary foundation for emotion. It justifies actions and provides the evidence others can rely upon.

We are in a constant battle against biased assimilation effect. It shuts down the open flow of ideas and precludes us from reaching consensus. Instead of conceding with the weak acceptance that we can “agree to disagree,” develop your ability to articulate logical points that reverberate with your audience. Then use your emotional radar to trigger emotions that embody your case. It is not easy, but changing someone’s mind never is.

The Business Case for Giving Thanks

thankful-cartoonMy favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. It’s the one day of the year where I am able to slow down. Other occasions provide an opportunity to unwind, but on Thanksgiving I can consistently achieve this goal without effort. While I credit the quality time with family and the incredible food, there is something to be said for a present-less celebration whose only purpose is to take stock of all you have and give thanks.

This may sound like an idealistic, “aw shucks” sentiment, but researchers have dedicated a great deal of time to studying gratitude over the last few years. Their findings show the many benefits both for individuals and for organizations. Here are a few recent studies that will improve your workplace and make you a better leader.


Gratitude reduces social comparisons. This allows us to appreciate other’s accomplishments and feel less resentful, which is a key factor in self-esteem. A study in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology found that athletes who expressed higher levels of gratitude toward their coaches had more self-esteem than those who weren’t as openly thankful. And the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology reported that people with neuromuscular diseases who kept a “gratitude journal” had a greater sense of well-being and more positive moods.

Mental Strength

The ability to recognize what you are thankful for, especially during traumatic event, fosters emotional buoyancy. It helps you bounce back quicker and maintain an optimistic outlook. A study in Behaviour Research and Therapy found that veterans who experienced higher levels of gratitude were more resilient, more willing to forgive other, and less likely to experience post-traumatic stress. Similarly, a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that gratitude was a major contributor to resilience following terrorist attacks.

In the household in which I was raised, the themes were pretty simple. ‘Work hard. Don’t quit. Be appreciative. Be thankful. Be grateful. Be respectful. Also, never whine, never complain. And always, for crying out loud, keep a sense of humor.’—Michael Keaton


Displaying gratitude is more than just being polite; it can help you build your network. A study published in Emotion found that thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship and has an increased potential for a “high-quality social bond.” This display of gratitude can be as simple as saying thank you or writing a short note. In addition, a slightly older study from Cognition & Emotion shows that gratitude promotes social affiliation and strengthens relationships, which is helpful when facilitating teamwork and group activities.


People who express gratitude are more likely to engage in “pro-social” behaviors. Research in Social Psychological and Personality Science found that “gratitude motivates people to express sensitivity and concern for others.” These individuals display significantly greater empathy and sensitivity. They are also less likely to retaliate against others, even when given negative feedback. Another study found that people who express more gratitude are more likely to help others, a key ingredient when working with a team.

Still not convinced that your organization needs a boost of gratitude?

  • Gratitude reduces turnover, fosters employees’ organizational commitment, and aids in “eliminating the toxic workplace emotions, attitudes and negative emotions such as envy, anger, and greed.” (International Business Research)
  • Gratitude positively influences the relationship between managers and their direct reports, affecting subordinates’ sense of feeling trusted, improved performance, and overall satisfaction. (Journal of Psychological Science)
  • Individuals who feel more grateful demonstrate greater patience and delay making hasty decisions. (Psychological Science)
  • More gratitude leads to increased loyalty from employees and clients. (Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology)
  • Daily gratitude exercises result in higher levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, and energy. (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology)

At the age of 18, I made up my mind to never have another bad day in my life. I dove into an endless sea of gratitude from which I’ve never emerged.—Patch Adams

To be a better leader, be a more thankful leader. Find reasons to show appreciation to your team. It’s inspiring, motivating, and as per the numerous research, it is good for business. To kick off this new initiative, start the holiday season with a gratitude list. If you feel it’s making a difference, keep it going through the new year. It is cheaper than buying everyone a turkey and its positive effects will last much longer.

Suicide Squad’s Three Steps to Turning Enemies Into Allies

Suicide Squad bannerHave you ever experienced a workplace rivalry? Moving beyond healthy competition, I’m referring to opposition that is counterproductive to both you and your organization’s success. It can be as obvious as jockeying against an adversary for a promotion, or as subtle as a colleague undermining your authority, abilities, or accomplishments. In some extreme cases, it can feel like we are being forced to work on a team with psychopathic criminals. No wait, that’s the plot for the new movie Suicide Squad.

In DC Comic’s movie Suicide Squad, a secret government agency recruits imprisoned supervillains to perform dangerous missions in exchange for clemency. Imagine the opposite of the Avengers or the Justice League, where instead of working together for a common good, each member of the team is self-serving, manipulative, and basically evil.

Your worst-case experience (hopefully) is not as bad as the Suicide Squad, but there may be similarities— infighting, a lack of mutual trust, bickering, backstabbing. When faced with these situations, you have two options, run away or deal with it. The first is self-explanatory and, being the leader you are, is not a likely choice. To deal with it, we need to learn how to turn our enemies into collaborators.

In Brian Uzzi and Shannon Dunlap’s Harvard Business Review article, they introduce a method that, if executed correctly, turns adversaries into allies. Unlike previous techniques that rely on reasoning and logic, Uzzi and Dunlap focus on the emotional aspects of forming trusting relationships. Their process called the 3Rs is as follows:

Step 1: Redirection

To begin your rivalry-conversion program, you need to re-establish the relationship. This involves channeling your adversary’s negative emotions away from you. In a comfortable setting, demonstrate that you understand their value. A sincere compliment, public recognition, and flattery can go a long way to redirecting the relationship towards more positive rapport.

Then, if possible, clear the air. Take responsibility for your actions and admit fault. Don’t push them to concede their part in stoking the rivalry, nor should you seek an apology. This is about you displaying a willingness to improve the relationship. Once redirection has taken place, which may take more than one instance depending on the relationship’s toxicity, you’ve set the groundwork for the next step.

Step 2: Reciprocity

After exhibiting energy to repair the broken relationship, it is time to loosen their negative feelings by giving up something of value. The idea it to consider how you can fulfill one of their more immediate needs or reduce a pain point. Carrying out this assignment will further establish trust and demonstrate the benefits of your partnership.

Once you’ve satisfied your promise(s), ask for something in return. Choose a task that requires little effort for them to reciprocate. If you get greedy, they will question your motives, which will only intensify the rivalry. Also, don’t give and then instantaneously ask for something in return. Let the good feelings simmer before trying to collect.

Step 3: Rationality

The final step establishes your expectations of the new relationship. You can get lost in redirection and reciprocity, but that won’t necessarily patch up a conflict. By expressing your expectations, you are mitigating your challenger’s ability to second-guess your intentions. This pushes your adversary to consider a reasoned perspective, comprehend the benefits, and recognize that they are being offered a valuable opportunity.

Rationality is like offering medicine after a spoonful of sugar: It ensures that you’re getting the benefit of the shifted negative emotions, and any growing positive ones, which would otherwise diffuse over time. And it avoids the ambiguity that clouds expectations and feedback when flattery and favors come one day, and demands the next.—Brian Uzzi & Shannon Dunlap

Workplace enemies are harmful to all involved. It distracts us from reaching our goals, absorbs our energy, and is a certain culture killer. As leaders, we cannot ignore or attempt to contain these caustic relationships. We must first model positive behavior by mending our rivalries and then assist our team to do the same. The other option is to form a team of self-interested supervillains, but with their proclivity towards destruction, that’s probably not a long-term solution.

Paul Simon on the Hazards of Boredom

paul simon bannerI am worried about Paul Simon. After 61 years of making music, he’s announced that retirement is imminent. With the litany of groundbreaking music he’s released, I acknowledge that Simon deserves to go out on his own terms. My concerns are centered on whether he has sufficient interests to fill his time, because as it turns out, boredom is dangerous.

New research published in the European Journal of Social Psychology has found that “boredom puts people on edge: It makes them seek engagements that are challenging, exciting, and that offer a sense of purpose.” Couple this with the research where boring activities generate a sense of meaninglessness, and you end up with a less-than-favorable company culture.

When we are bored, there is a subconscious need to re-infuse meaningfulness into our lives. This re-infusion is not necessarily beneficial or constructive. In studies of binge eating, boredom is one of the most frequent triggers, along with feelings of depression and anxiety. It can lead to driving accidents, illegal drug usepolitical extremism, and an increased risk of mistakes. There is even research showing that boredom accounts for 25% of student achievement, the same percentage attributed to innate intelligence.

Accordingly, boredom can have detrimental affects on your workplace. Bored people make more errors, have more accidents, are less proficient, and engage in unhealthy habits. They also try to re-infuse meaningfulness with such negative conduct as gossip, conspiracy theories, uncooperativeness, and subversive behavior.

Some amount of workplace boredom is expected. We all have tasks that are both unenjoyable and unavoidable. Some are monotonous, others may feel like they are beneath us. To elude boredom, there are managers who delegate away all tasks that they do not find to be enthralling. You may have an employee who is excited by the chores you find to be painful; however, in many cases you are pushing down the boredom to others. As I said, sometimes this cannot be helped, but as the leader, very often it can.

A leader’s primary responsibility is not to be an entertainment director, but aren’t we accountable to provide some degree of intellectually stimulating work for our staff? How can we expect the most from them when we consistently dole out the least desirable tasks?

To minimize (or at least mitigate) the boredom of those on your team, you must first grasp their current level of boredom. Learn what motivates them and how they foresee their career progressing. Assign duties that align with their interests and needs. Create succession plans and track growth. Instill a sense of urgency. Basically, make an effort to engage your staff.

Like a bridge over troubled water, the sound of silence can make you crazy after all these years. Bad puns aside, we cannot allow boredom to become our go-to culture, nor can we allow the retirement of Paul Simon to negatively impact our team’s morale. Like Simon, we must make efforts to balance the tedious with the engrossing. And in the meantime, I’ll keep my fingers crossed that this is Simon’s first of many retirements from making music.

Weekender: Fred Savage on Avoiding Preciousness

fred savageWelcome to another edition of leadersayswhat’s the Weekender, a grinder of thought to start your weekend on the right track. Why a grinder? Because it’s the weekend!

I am still mourning the recent news that one of my favorite new shows of this past television season has not been renewed for next year. Dismissed way before its time, The Grinder pulled Fred Savage back in front of the camera where he belongs.

Before learning of its demise, Savage gave an interview where he prepared me for these difficult circumstances. He also reminded me of the ways I should approach these situations in the future.

I want [The Grinder] to succeed but its nice to know that there’s other work—I do a lot of directing, I do commercial directing, I do a bunch of other voice work—so the lights are going to stay on at the Savage house…we’re going to be fine. But I want this to be successful and I think its nice not to have to be so precious. I feel like sometimes, and I say this to actors sometimes, when they Lenny [from Of Mice and Men] something, like they love something to death. Hold it so precious and then they crush it and kill it. And I feel like that can happen so many times… We all came to [The Grinder] because we believed in it and wanted to be part of something that made us excited. There’s both a lack of preciousness but also we’ve all come into it with the best of intentions.

When I reflect on my past failures, I find that many were the result of desperation. That feeling of “needing it” mixed with taking it too personally clouded my judgment, warped my perspective, and negatively affected my behavior. As Savage discussed, I treated those opportunities like Lenny’s mouse where I wanted it so bad that I ruined them.

Perspective is an important leadership factor. As impassioned as you may feel for a particular project or initiative, maintaining a healthy distance has a better chance of ensuring your success. You can (and should) continue to care, but your intentions will remain more objective, thus allowing you to retain a holistic outlook without losing yourself in the emotional complexities. Believe in your efforts and fight for them, but don’t do it out of desperation, do it because it is the right thing to do. Grinder rests.