As an expert, projection of confidence is a key component in your level of persuasion, right? Right. But not the way you think.
In a recent Stanford Business study, researchers confirmed that experts increase their level of persuasiveness if they express some degree of uncertainty or doubt about a particular opinion. In doing so, audiences that naturally assume an expert is confident in their perspectives, perk up and begin to pay closer attention to the gap in certainty. As human’s we’re hardwired to make sense of things, and closing the loop on an expert opinion is no exception. Once the audience’s attention has been captivated in story details in an effort to arrive at the right conclusion, their minds become more open to persuasive evidence. To add my own scientific opinion, expressing occasional uncertainty reinforces a sense of authenticity and transparency in the expert, which enhances connectivity and resonance in the audience.
So how does this translate to applied communications? Zakary Tormala, the brains behind this theory suggests that if you want to capture attention and influence, consider opening your argument with a position of doubt. In doing so, you have a higher likelihood of increasing focus and getting your audience to process the message more effectively. However, if you’re a CEO looking to gain confidence in a time of uncertainty, this tactic might not be the way to go. Confidence and charisma will take you much further when addressing tenuous issues.
What’s the take away here? Judge your audience, anticipate their level of attention, and determine what you need them to feel (persuaded and engaged or comforted and reassured) and consider the “expert doubt” factor as a tool of persuasion to be used at the appropriate time.
Get the whole story on the HBR website.