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How to Get Every Email Returned

From Trish Hall, writing for the New York Times:

We’re all writers now. We fling words out into the universe through text, email, Facebook and more. Even people who hate writing have to do it, because you need to text your husband back, write your boss a condolence note and do better on Tinder than “hey.”

On average, American adults are texting about 30 times a day, twice what they did back in 2011. Not so long ago, these people would have made a phone call; now no one does that except telemarketers who wake you in the middle of the night. On Facebook, more than half a million comments are posted every minute.

So many words. And too often, they are neither convincing nor entertaining. There are ways, however, to write persuasively in your everyday life. To break through the clutter, to get attention and even to bring people over to your side.

In the course of doing research for a book on how people actually change their minds, and what gets them to say “yes” rather than “no,” I was distressed to find that I knew much less about it than I thought I did. I figured that my nearly five years as the New York Times Op-Ed editor gave me a pretty strong vantage point on what worked and what didn’t. It did — but I didn’t always know why. What I sensed intuitively about effective writing turned out to rest on some deep psychological truths. Understanding them provides tactics that can be exploited in both personal and written interactions.

Some of these rules can be used both in writing and in real life. Until we’ve banished written communication entirely, we’re going to have to keep doing it — so you might as well get your text messages returned.

This is a weird one. Facts don’t matter all that much as a tool in persuasion. Research going back decades, confirmed again and again, shows that people have a preference for the information that matches what they already believe, and they avoid facts that might disabuse them of their notions. In general you cannot rely on facts to make your case — more important by far is emotion. On the other hand, people get angry if you mislead them. If you use an anecdote in your argument, make sure it rings true. If it doesn’t, you will instantly lose your reader. Truth telling applies to personal interactions, too.

For the rest of this excellent article, please click here.


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