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15 Aug 2011

Eloquence Trumps Honesty in Trust & Likeability Wars

Intuitive approaches often work because we don’t believe they do. Advertising is an excellent example: it influences us because we often believe it doesn’t.

This extends to our complaints about politicians not answering the question. Todd Rogers and Michael I. Norton researched this and were asked to “Defend Your Research” in “People Often Trust Eloquence More Than Honesty” appearing in the November 2010 issue of the Harvard Business Review. They found:

People who dodge questions artfully are liked and trusted more than people who respond to questions truthfully but with less polish.

In fact, when answerers perform the dodge effectively, less than half of the people could remember the question accurately. The key rests in the answer’s first ten words by disrupting the cognitive link we have for the question and expected answer. In everyday life, we like to complain about the fast-talking salesperson; however, on a higher level, fast-talking becomes eloquence. It’s here that we increasingly trust and like eloquence more than honesty.

Even though I promote the practical understanding and application of intuition in business on this blog, people can use intuitive approaches for ill or good. For instance, my guest 12 Most post, lists ways to influence people intuitively to build morale; however, people can use these techniques for questionable purposes too.

How do we defend ourselves? There are two broad introductory ways:

  1. Realize people can influence us intuitively and subconsciously even if we believe they can’t
  2. Raise our awareness regarding intuitive approaches

In this way, we can begin accounting for these natural biases in our decision-making and actions. However, believing others can influence us without our knowledge is scary for many of us, especially if we believe in the supremacy of the conscious mind and free will.


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