Don’t Confuse Them with the Facts
by Frank L. Williams
We’ve probably all heard the saying, “don’t confuse them with the facts.” When I Googled the phrase while writing this article, I found another article entitled “My Mind Is Made Up. Don’t Confuse Me with the Facts.”
In his timeless classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie said that when you directly tell someone they are wrong, “you have struck a direct blow at their intelligence, judgment, pride and self-respect. That will make them want to strike back. But it will never make them want to change their minds.”
If we take a step back and look in the mirror, I believe we’ll all admit that Mr. Carnegie is correct. We don’t like it when others jam facts down our throats in an effort to prove their point – yet when the shoe is on the other foot, that is exactly what we are inclined to do to them.
Force-feeding facts to people doesn’t work in interpersonal relationships, nor does it work in business relationships. Most people tend to react to situations emotionally, not logically – especially in a crisis. Their perspectives are tinted by preconceived notions. They often judge the message based on their opinion of the messenger. They are distracted by a myriad of issues and priorities competing for their attention. Each of these factors contributes to interference that can prevent your message from being received and understood by the people in your intended audience.
All of this leads me back to the title of this article: don’t confuse them with the facts. I’m not saying you should be untruthful or misrepresent the facts. What I AM saying is that, while your message must be grounded in truth, you should frame your arguments in a way that will generate an emotional response from those in your intended audience. Choose words and images that will tug at their heartstrings.
John C. Maxwell says that even in a large group, we should connect to people as individuals. It is important to know what matters to your key publics. If you invest a great deal of time and energy in communicating a laundry list of facts that your audience doesn’t care about, you’ve wasted that time and energy.
Assuming the issue is one that matters to your audience, you should frame your message in a way that has an emotional meaning that individuals can identify with. For example, telling people you are cutting taxes by $10 million dollars sounds impressive, but saying that an average family of four will save $350 per year frames the issue in a relatable way.
Generally speaking, people react to situations and information based on emotions that are shaded by their preconceived notions. Beating them over the head with a laundry list of facts is unlikely to change their opinions, even if those facts seem compelling to you. Don’t confuse them with the facts. Instead, frame your message in a way that has meaning, is relatable, and which generates an emotional response.