Persuasion Matters

Scrabble tiles spelling out the word

More Than Words

As I sat at my desk the other day mulling over themes and message points for a client’s Closing Argument, the procrastinator in me decided to hop online and hunt for something inspiring.  So glad I did!  I must give credit to a blog written by Michael Maslanka (“The lessons of 30 years as a lawyer: Show, don’t tell”), as it got me thinking…

One of my biggest challenges in working with trial attorneys on case presentation involves communication.  More specifically, the importance of messaging.  Themes.  Taglines.  Brands.  Symbols.

By the time some cases reach a jury, the trial team has lived with the facts for years (and years).  It’s an exceptionally difficult task to step away from the terminology, semantics, symbolism and lingo that have become everyday language for x-number of years.  But it must be done.

Jurors want to understand.  But more importantly?  They want to feel.

There is an important distinction to be made between presenting an intellectual argument and an emotional argument.  Both are valid.  Both are meaningful.  Both are important.  But the more persuasive argument is almost always the emotional argument.

Think about these word pairings:

Accelerate v. Speed Up

Terminate v. End

Concern v. Worry

Immediately v. Now

Rely Upon v. Trust

The words on the left are considered intellectual words; the words on the right, emotional.  Do they essentially communicate the same thing? Yep.  Does the intellectual word seem somehow “smarter” or more astute?  Probably.  But which has more jury appeal and a greater chance of persuading the panel?  Emotional words.  And the added bonus?  Emotional words tend to be easier to remember.  (And who doesn’t want jurors to use your words during deliberations?)

The next time you are crafting a presentation for persuasive purposes– whether it’s for a speech, a written motion, or an oral argument for judge, arbitration panel or jury– give some thought to the words you’re choosing.  Are they overly intellectual?  Could your points be stronger, more powerful and perhaps more persuasive if emotional words were used instead?

Don’t be afraid of emotion.  Sometimes it’s a good thing.



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