Years ago, I was this young designer, eyes full of stars, thinking I had the next big thing. I walked into a boardroom with what I thought was a killer app idea. I had all the bells and whistles: spreadsheets, snazzy prototypes, and I even wore a damn suit. For real, I thought I was the bee’s knees.

So, I strutted into that room, full of confidence and… got totally crushed. Walked out with zero dollars, zero cents, and a bruised ego. Nada. Zip. A big ol’ goose egg. I felt like I was in a boxing ring and didn’t even know how to throw a punch.

Enter Sara, this incredibly sharp lady I met at some random networking event. She took one look at my pitch deck and said, “Dude, you’re playing checkers in a chess game. Let me show you how it’s done.” And man, did she ever. She turned my world upside down and showed me the secret sauce of persuasion. The real deal, not the flashy gimmicks you read in those ’10 Easy Steps to Success’ books.

What I’m about to share with you isn’t some magic trick or Jedi mind trick. Let’s get something straight right off the bat: when I say ‘manipulation,’ I don’t mean that shady stuff you’re probably thinking of. Nope, I’m talking about ethical, clean-cut, and darn effective persuasion. Let’s dig into that.

Two-Brain Theory: The Twin Engines of Persuasion

You’ve got two things rattling around in that beautiful head of yours: an emotional brain and a logical brain. Imagine them as two engines powering a jet plane. One’s got the fuel, the other’s got the navigational system. You need both to take off, cruise, and land smoothly.

First up, the emotional and unconscious brain. Think of it as your gut, your instinct. It’s the part that flinches when you see a spider or makes you swipe right on someone because “Oh, damn, they’re cute!” It’s quick to act but notoriously hard to control. It’s like a pet dog; it can either bring you your slippers or chew up the couch.

Then there’s your logical and conscious brain—the Spock to your Kirk, if you will. This is the part that plans, analyzes, and loves a good Excel sheet. It’s calculated but, on its own, kinda lacks the pizzazz, the fireworks. I mean, when was the last time a pie chart made your heart race?

Now, here’s where it gets wild: Combine the two, and you’ve got yourself an unbeatable tag team. Logic is like a sledgehammer; it’s strong and forceful. Emotion? That’s your stick of dynamite. Use them together, and you’re not just knocking on walls; you’re blowing them the hell down.

There’s a reason why the best movies, ads, or any persuasive piece of content, really, combine both elements. Ever watch a commercial and think, “Whoa, that’s so smart,” only to have your eyes mist up a few seconds later? That’s emotional logic at play, baby. It grabs you by the heartstrings while tapping your forehead, saying, “Hey, listen up, this makes sense.”

This power combo is what you need to master if you’re trying to persuade anyone to do anything. Whether you’re selling an innovative product, trying to make your design stand out, or just convincing your pals to try that new sushi place downtown—you need both the sledgehammer and the dynamite. Logic gets them to listen; emotion gets them to act.

If you’re thinking, “But Geoffrey, I’m a logical person; emotions aren’t my thing,” or vice versa, stop selling yourself short. The most influential people are those who can navigate both realms with finesse. So next time you’re ready to make a pitch or launch a campaign, keep these twin engines in mind.

The Emotional Spectrum: Know What Drives People

Alright, so now you get it—you’ve got to work with both the head and the heart. But if we’re talking emotions, which ones should you tap into? Great question. Emotions aren’t a one-size-fits-all deal. It’s not like there’s a universal “buy now” button in the human psyche (although how epic would that be?).

Here’s the deal: Emotions can be sorted into two simple dimensions. One is whether the emotion is positive or negative. Your audience either gravitates towards pleasure or sprints away from pain. Now, you might be thinking, “Duh, go for the positive, right?” Not so fast, hotshot. Negative emotions like fear or urgency (think FOMO – Fear of Missing Out) can be equally potent motivators. Ever bought something just because you thought it might sell out soon? Yeah, thought so.

The second dimension is whether the emotion is active or inactive. Some emotions prompt us to take action, while others kinda just… let us simmer. For example, curiosity? That’s active; it makes you want to dig deeper, explore, and take some sort of action. Contentment, on the other hand, is inactive. When you’re content, you’re less likely to change anything; you’re good where you are.

So, how do you use this to your advantage? It comes down to the Golden Rule: Simplification. Instead of getting lost in a dizzying array of emotional options, hone in on what truly drives your audience. Is it the excitement of novelty or the fear of becoming irrelevant? Is it a burning desire for success or a deep-seated fear of failure? Nail this, and you’ve laid the groundwork for a killer persuasion strategy.

In practice, this could mean using nostalgia to evoke warm, fuzzy memories (positive) or leveraging the fear of missing out to create a sense of urgency (negative). The key is to match the emotion to the desired action. If you’re launching a new app feature, sparking curiosity could lead to more user engagement. If you’re raising funds for a venture, tapping into a sense of urgency could prompt quicker investments. You get the gist.

Before you dive into the deep end, take a moment to analyze your audience. This isn’t a wild guess game; it’s a targeted mission. Get this right, and you’re not just throwing darts in the dark—you’re a freaking sniper.

Step-by-Step Guide: From Understanding to Execution

So, you’ve decoded the human psyche—or at least you’ve got a beginner’s guide to it. Great. But how the heck do you go from understanding these emotional levers to actually pulling them? In a word: strategy. And by that, I mean a well-thought-out, meticulously crafted, no-stone-unturned kind of strategy.

Let’s break it down.

Know Your Customer.

I’m talking psychological profiling—but, like, the non-creepy kind. What gets their gears turning? What ticks them off or turns them on? This is where you become part detective, part psychologist. Pour over your analytics, dive into customer reviews, and even directly interact with your peeps. You’re basically building an emotional map, pinpointing the landmarks that say, “Hey, this is where you get me.”

What to Say: Crafting Your Strategy.

This isn’t just about what your product does; it’s about how it fits into their lives or solves a gnarly problem for them. Are you the aspirin to their pain or the protein shake to their gains? Either way, you’ve got to know it, and more importantly, they’ve got to know it. So map out that customer journey, identify the pain points and pleasure peaks, and tailor your message accordingly.

How to Say It: The Elements of Emotional Design.

Words matter. Colors matter. Hell, even fonts matter. You’re not just throwing stuff on a wall to see what sticks; this is more like painting a masterpiece where every stroke serves a purpose. The copy should resonate, the colors should evoke the right feelings, and even the fonts should align with your overall vibe. Don’t underestimate the power of well-placed social proof or the pull of cognitive biases. Everything counts.

Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3.

Thought you were done? Cute. The real game starts now. Time to get into the nitty-gritty of A/B tests and feedback loops. Because what good is a strategy if you don’t know how well it’s working? This is the phase where your strategy evolves, where you fine-tune the dials and maybe even discover some emotional triggers you didn’t know existed.

So, that’s your roadmap, your step-by-step guide to go from “Hey, I think this might work” to “Holy cow, this is working!” Trust me, it’s like building a house. Get the foundation right, and the rest pretty much falls into place.

Emotional Energy: The Undercurrent of Persuasion

Buckle up, because we’re diving into the essence of the whole game—the emotional undercurrent that makes or breaks your persuasion strategy. If you’ve ever wondered why some messages stick like Super Glue while others flop like a fish out of water, you’re about to have your “aha” moment. And no, it’s not about throwing more marketing dollars or piling on the features. It’s about emotional energy.

Emotion Fuels Action.

That’s the golden nugget, my friends. Behind every click, share, purchase, or eye-roll, there’s an emotional engine revving up. Think about the last time you bought something you didn’t actually “need.” What pulled you in? Odds are, it was an emotional tug, something that spoke to your fear, desire, ambition, or even vanity. That’s the fuel driving every decision—the invisible hand pushing the buttons.

Let’s get something straight: I’m not saying logic doesn’t matter. It absolutely does, but it’s often the second rung in the ladder of decision-making. You feel first and justify later. Let that sink in for a moment. If you nail the emotional pull, you’ve won half the battle. The rest is about providing enough logical scaffolding for people to climb onto your ship willingly.

Make it Meaningful.

Generic doesn’t cut it. Period. If you’re peddling the same emotional lines as every other brand, you’re not just boring; you’re forgettable. Emotional energy thrives on uniqueness and authenticity. So don’t just aim to trigger an emotion; aim to make it resonate on a deeper, more meaningful level. When people feel a genuine connection, they don’t just engage; they evangelize. They become your brand’s ambassadors, a walking, talking billboard for what you offer.

What we’re talking about here is the difference between a ripple and a wave. A ripple is what happens when you throw a pebble—a small, singular action. But a wave? That’s a force of nature. It’s what happens when you channel emotional energy effectively and authentically. And unlike a ripple, a wave has the power to move things, to change landscapes. That’s what you want to become: a wave maker in a sea of ripples.

So, there you have it. Emotional energy is the gas in your persuasion tank. It’s what turns potential energy (a.k.a. your strategy) into kinetic energy (a.k.a. action). Without it, you’re just spinning your wheels, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.


By now, you should be feeling like the emotional maestro you were born to be. But, let’s do a quick recap, shall we? We kicked off talking about the Two-Brain Theory, how emotion and logic are the Yin and Yang of persuasion. Remember, one without the other is like Batman without Robin—cool but not as effective. Then we talked about understanding what really makes people tick. I mean, if you’re going to play the heartstrings, you better know the tune, right?

We dived into the nitty-gritty of crafting and executing a strategy. That was like your “Persuasion 101” and “Advanced Persuasion” crash courses rolled into one. And finally, we dissected the mojo of emotional energy, the hidden puppet master behind every click and conversion.

Now listen up, because here’s the big take-home: You’re not just a designer or an entrepreneur; you’re an emotional architect. That’s right, you’re not just pushing pixels or hawking products; you’re creating experiences that stir the soul. It’s like you’re building emotional bridges, my friend, not just physical or digital ones. And these bridges, they don’t just connect people to a product or a service; they connect them to a feeling, a moment, a part of themselves they didn’t even know they were missing.

And hey, why limit this to just your professional life? The art of persuasion is like the Swiss Army knife of life skills. You can whip it out in so many scenarios, it’s ridiculous. Trying to persuade your friends to go on a road trip? Emotional architect. Want your significant other to finally watch that show you’ve been raving about? Emotional architect. The list is endless.

So go ahead, supercharge your next endeavor. Build that bridge and let the world come to you. You’ve got the blueprint, the tools, and the know-how. All that’s left is to roll up those sleeves and make magic happen.

About the Author: Geoffrey Byers
Geoffrey is one of the world's foremost Designers. He is also a Serial Entrepreneur, Author, Speaker, and Mad Scientist. Hypothesis-Driven experimentation is his love language.