Is it unethical to use knowledge of human psychology to be more effective at influencing their behavior? Is it a type of trickery or manipulation?
In theory, we could cross the line to manipulation. And we shouldn't. But "using emotion" isn't mind control. It's merely encouraging people to do what they intend to do anyway.
But here's another reason you should feel free to fully use our understanding of the way the brain, the eyes, the limbic system -- all the things that make humans human.
We are integrated systems. There's not a rational side that's separate from the emotional, subconscious, hormonal parts of us. Appealing to one while bypassing the others is not possible.
If you think you're going to be "non-manipulative" and only apply to the rational side of your audience, you'll still end up communicating on deep psychological levels. You'll just be doing an inept job of it. The subconscious emotional message you think you're omitting will still be there; it just won't be working with the rational messaging.
While you're earnestly trying to persuade people to give, you'll be signaling something like:
- You don't matter very much.
- This problem is way too big for you to tackle.
- This issue is not very important.
- We're only pretending to like you.
- You're way less educated than we are.
And the unconscious part of your message will be much louder and more persuasive than the part you're so carefully focusing on.
You can't make the unconscious part of your message go away. Something will fill those slots. Wouldn't you prefer to fill them with the message you want to send?
Asking if unconscious communication is unfair is a meaningless question. The real questions are Am I doing it right? and Am I telling the truth?
Learn more about emotional communication at my 4-session Moceanic masterclass, Irresistible Communications for Great Nonprofits. Register now. It starts on November 6 -- and you can take the course on your own time, at your own pace.
If you register by November 3, you can get $100 off by using the checkout code FFN100.
(This post first appeared January 25, 2012.)