If You Want to Influence People, Pay Close Attention to Emotions!

I have a technical behavior type and I pride myself on making fact-based decisions. As my years in the work force have progressed and my hair has moved past grey to white, I have come to realize that emotions are way more important than facts when working with others. For a person like me to say that is groundbreaking. Over the years my wonderful wife Merrill and I have had a few disagreements, okay maybe more than a few. When those altercations happen, it has become a standing comment from her to say, “I couldn’t care less about the facts, let me tell you how this makes me feel. At that point in time, I realize two things; first, I better change the way I am approaching the topic, and second, that I have probably lost this round. You see in my world, I cannot possibly understand how facts don’t rule the day in any decision, but in my wife’s world, and in many people’s world, emotions play a major part in how decisions are made.

A Powerful Example


To prove my point let me explain the strangest situation I have encountered. Most people think that facts should and do rule the day in our judicial process, or at least that is what we think should happen. Our company was sued along with 20-25 other companies. It was clear to me that our company should not be involved. I was deposed by numerous lawyers, some in person and some on the phone over the course of a day. In the mediation that followed all the companies met in some building in some city.  We were all sequestered in separate rooms with our lawyers while the mediator went from room to room to try to get as many companies to settle out of court as possible. When the mediator came to our room, my attorney explained that we had submitted documentation and that we should be dropped from the lawsuit. After one minute the mediator left and went back to the plaintiff’s lawyers to try to understand the situation. Shortly after that, the plaintiff’s lawyer came to our room. For those of you who have been in a mediation, that is not how this works. The plaintiff’s lawyer spent the next 15-20 minutes clearly outlining my defense. I was shell shocked.  They clearly knew we had no business being there. So, I’m thinking what the heck is going on and why was I there?  During the day long deposition, they felt like I was the type of witness that would connect well with the “emotions of a jury”.

Then she said that she wanted me to testify in front of a jury because my testimony would help them against the other defendants.  In return, if I would agree to testify, they would ultimately let us out of the lawsuit. Again, shell shocked.  After some private time with my attorney, I decided that I was not up to all that, so we settled for a nominal amount and I went on my way.  That single event solidified to me just how important emotions are even in a scenario where I thought facts would or should rule the day.

Winning People Over

Recently, I finished the book, “Never Split the Difference” by Chris Voss.  He was the chief hostage negotiator for the United States for 13 years.  This is an excellent book and I would highly recommend it.  For me, it challenged and erased much of what I have learned about negotiating, or a better way to say that is about how to “win people over”.  This book focused almost entirely around the importance of emotions in getting what you want in any situation.  That leads me to my point.  If you want to be successful, spend the necessary time to understand people’s emotions.  The only way to do that is to listen to people and to understand what their body language is telling you.  People will not work effectively with you if they think you don’t care about them.  Genuinely caring for someone or feeling cared for by someone is totally emotional.  You can do your best to try and verbally convince someone that you care for them by saying whatever facts you would like; how much time you spend with them, how you helped them on a project, or how you get them coffee periodically, but unless they feel genuine caring, you are wasting your breath.  They are going to feel what they are going to feel, and it is your responsibility to figure that out.

Have you ever had a decision to make and the facts clearly tell you what you should do, but for some reason, it doesn’t “feel” right?  This is an example that we have all had, so if you don’t think emotions dictate your decisions, think again.  Most people call that their intuition.  Why do people spend too much on a car, a house, or in my wife’s case clothes (I hope my wife doesn’t read this)!  Emotions matter.  Realizing that will make you more successful.

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Chuck Keeley was appointed the President of CGR Products in 1995. He has also served on the Gasket Fabricator Association board since 2011, of which CGR has been a member for over 20 years. Chuck graduated from North Carolina State University and resides in Greensboro, North Carolina.

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