Watch Out! Your Amygdala Doesn’t Like Jargon in Business Writing!
We asked Srini Pillay, CEO of NeuroBusiness Group, about the intersection of neuroscience and business writing. He shared his insights on this new frontier of understanding below.
When you write, it is important to have a clear understanding of your intention. Why are you writing, and what do you want the reader to do? If you write to educate, that is one goal; writing to sell, another. Frequent myths arise when writing for business, because writers often make erroneous assumptions. For example, they may assume that technical jargon conveys mastery, or that business language should not be warm. Neuroscience debunks many of these assumptions and provides additional insights.
1. Technical jargon can be a double-edged sword
The part of the brain called the amygdala, which hyperactivates when suspicious or fearful, will stop someone from interacting with the written material. You want to write so as not to disrupt the amygdala with suspicion. Also, the amygdala over-activates to uncertainty — so the more ambiguous you are, the less likely the person will act the way you want them to.
Use clear and simple language, or else the amygdala will disrupt thinking and decision making due to fear and ambiguity.
“If you choose us, you will get X, Y, or Z” instead of the ambiguous: “try us out and see.”
2. Business language should be warm, not formal and cold
People who respond to the written word by buying need to be persuaded by what you are writing. Persuasion is more than just logic. It is also emotion. Even technical language can be used to elicit emotion. The emotional brain is an important part of decision making, and without its involvement, selling can be difficult. The medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) predicts behavior change above and beyond self-reported intention or attitude days in advance. This region integrates emotional and logical persuasion.
Examine your language to ensure that you are targeting emotions. Recognize that what people say they will do does not necessarily predict behavior. Give some thought to optimizing mPFC activation.
“Instead of agonizing over the uncertainty of P, why not enjoy the proven results that Q offers?”
3. Positively framed messages sell better
Greater likelihood of choosing something is associated with insula activation. The insula typically registers emotions that occur at a gut level, interpreting them for the thinking brain. Positively framed messages activate the insula; this activation is associated with a greater likelihood of choosing your suggestion. Even when a less preferred option is chosen, the more positively framed the message is, the greater the insula activation.
If you want someone to choose what you are offering, frame messages positively — even when communicating caution.
“N has 100 more calories than M, so buy M because it puts you on track to your weight-loss goals” instead of, “Why choose N when you can choose M?”
Business writing strategy and the brain
Srini’s fascinating insights align with Better Communication’s reader-centered writing approach. In this fast-paced digital world, we all need new ways to reach our audience and stand out. We’ll continue to ask Srini about new insights on writing and the brain and will happily share them with you!
For more information, visit Dr. Srini Pillay’s website at www.neurobusinessgroup.com, or order his new book “Your Brain and Business: The Neuroscience of Great Leaders.”