Speech Is More Persuasive Than Text

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Microphone on stage

Over a year ago, I laid out seven ways to win an argument online. Among those ways were using a positive, valent voice in first-person. As well as using a lot of detail and formatting the text in a pretty, easy to read way.

One year later, the Association for Psychological Science published, “The Humanizing Voice: Speech Reveals, and Text Conceals, a More Thoughtful Mind in the Midst of Disagreement.” In it, researchers Juliana Schroeder, Michael Kardas, and Nicholas Epley found that people are more likely to dismiss an argument if it is in text. So while there are strategies to make yourself more persuasive online, the science has suggested that it's best to do it via audio.

The study found that when people read an argument in text, they dehumanize the author. They judged the argument as mechanical and less responsive and warm. But when they heard the same argument over audio, they found it more “human-like.” This experiment was even repeated with employers. When potential employers heard applicant pitches rather than read, they were more like to hire that applicant.

With this information, you might be thinking of starting up a podcast to have an effect on people. And you'd be right to think that'd have a bigger effect than a blog. But there's more to this story.

Researchers M. Mahdi Roghannizad and Vanessa K. Bohns published a related paper in March 2017. “Ask in person: You're less persuasive than you think over email.” In this study, they found that people are more likely to honor a request in person. Specifically, people are 34 times more likely to fill out a survey if the same request is made in person than if the request is made via email. While it may often be inconvenient, the science shows that you are much more likely to have an effect on people if you meet with them face to face.

Whether you're talking online, by phone, or in person, however, there are plenty of rules that remain universal. Many of which, I've talked about on this site before.

The number one thing that I always tell people, if you want to be persuasive, you have to listen. Listen and make an effort to be curious about what other people believe. Curiosity not only gives you a dopamine hit, but allows you learn more, remember more, and be less bias.

Once you understand who you're talking to, really know where they're coming from and how they think, you can use moral reframing. Moral reframing is when you change the wording of your arguments to address the concerns and values of the person you want to convince. Framing an argument from another persons point of view allows them to better understand and accept yours.

If you combine all of these strategies, talking in person, listening, and reframing, you get deep canvassing. Multiple scientific studies have shown that deep canvassing is the most effective way to get people to change their minds. While we can't always talk to people in person, we can always listen and reframe.

I encourage people to try and affect the people physically around them rather than strangers on the internet to have a bigger effect. The research continues to show this as well.