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One Trick To Persuade Nearly Everyone: Don’t Be Too Creative

One Trick To Persuade Nearly Everyone: Don’t Be Too Creative

Have you ever thought that you’d be more successful if only you were more creative? Most of us believe that being as creative as possible will yield the best results, but there’s actually lots of evidence to the contrary.

Studies have shown that proposals that show too much creativity often fail, and that humans are drawn to what’s familiar to them. There are many ways we can use these insights to be more successful, and we’ll explore these below.

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Ideas that are too novel aren’t successful.

In 2014, researchers from Harvard and Northeastern University set out to find out how important novelty is when submitting funding proposals. Surely, the most creative proposals would be the most successful? Surprisingly, this wasn’t the case.[1]

150 proposals were prepared, and each was rated according to how novel it was. The proposals were then evaluated by a team of scientists, who gave a score to each. The proposals that were the most novel and creative received the lowest scores overall. Up next were the safe, familiar proposals, which scored only slightly higher. The proposals which received the best scores were those considered ‘slightly new’ – not too novel, but also not completely familiar.

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This study demonstrates how important it is to get the right balance between familiarity and newness. It’s not enough to simply come up with the most creative idea you can – you also need to make sure that it contains some familiarity. For example, when pitching a new business idea, try comparing it to existing services, saying, “It’s like McDonalds, but healthy,” or, “It’s eBay for bikes.” This approach makes your proposal easier to understand and less threatening. If an idea is so new that it’s hard to understand and explain, it’s unlikely to be successful.

Humans crave familiarity.

In the 1960s, a psychologist named Robert Zajonc conducted experiments which proved the human preference for familiarity. He showed subjects a variety of images, shapes and characters, and asked them to rate which they liked best. The images which were familiar to the subjects consistently received the highest ratings, while images which they had not been shown before were rated poorly. This shows that we are naturally inclined to like what we know, regardless of whether or not it’s actually better.

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This is described at the ‘mere-exposure effect’ and is often used in advertising. By showing consumers the same advert over and over again, the chance of them liking it and buying the product shown is increased. The same theory can be applied to many areas of life – music, art, cinema, and even people.

By bearing in mind that most humans crave familiarity, you can be more successful in many areas of life, including work, creative projects and relationships. You could pitch a novel idea to a familiar problem at work, paint a familiar scene using new materials, or suggest trying a new variety of your partner’s favorite cuisine for dinner.

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A combination of surprising and familiar works best.

Raymond Loewy, one of the most successful industrial designers of all time, knew all about getting the right balance between surprising and familiar. He developed a design principle called MAYA, which stands for ‘Most Advanced Yet Acceptable.’ and refers to the practice of creating designs that are as advanced as possible without being so new and unusual that they aren’t accepted by consumers. The MAYA principle can be used to explain why high-tech products, like the recent Google Glasses, can fail. While consumers are used to devices like phones and tablets, making the leap to a wearable device could feel too unfamiliar and strange.

Next time you’re pushing yourself to be more creative, stop. Think instead about how you could put a creative twist on a familiar idea. You’ll see better results, and won’t suffer the disappointment of your most creative endeavors being unsuccessful.

Reference

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Eloise Best

Eloise is an everyday health expert and runs My Vegan Supermarket, a vegan blog and database of supermarket products.

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Last Updated on August 6, 2020

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

We’ve all done it. That moment when a series of words slithers from your mouth and the instant regret manifests through blushing and profuse apologies. If you could just think before you speak! It doesn’t have to be like this, and with a bit of practice, it’s actually quite easy to prevent.

“Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napolean Hill

Are we speaking the same language?

My mum recently left me a note thanking me for looking after her dog. She’d signed it with “LOL.” In my world, this means “laugh out loud,” and in her world it means “lots of love.” My kids tell me things are “sick” when they’re good, and ”manck” when they’re bad (when I say “bad,” I don’t mean good!). It’s amazing that we manage to communicate at all.

When speaking, we tend to color our language with words and phrases that have become personal to us, things we’ve picked up from our friends, families and even memes from the internet. These colloquialisms become normal, and we expect the listener (or reader) to understand “what we mean.” If you really want the listener to understand your meaning, try to use words and phrases that they might use.

Am I being lazy?

When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, a strange metamorphosis takes place. People tend to become lazier in the way that they communicate with each other, with less thought for the feelings of their partner. There’s no malice intended; we just reach a “comfort zone” and know that our partners “know what we mean.”

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Here’s an exchange from Psychology Today to demonstrate what I mean:

Early in the relationship:

“Honey, I don’t want you to take this wrong, but I’m noticing that your hair is getting a little thin on top. I know guys are sensitive about losing their hair, but I don’t want someone else to embarrass you without your expecting it.”

When the relationship is established:

“Did you know that you’re losing a lot of hair on the back of your head? You’re combing it funny and it doesn’t help. Wear a baseball cap or something if you feel weird about it. Lots of guys get thin on top. It’s no big deal.”

It’s pretty clear which of these statements is more empathetic and more likely to be received well. Recognizing when we do this can be tricky, but with a little practice it becomes easy.

Have I actually got anything to say?

When I was a kid, my gran used to say to me that if I didn’t have anything good to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. My gran couldn’t stand gossip, so this makes total sense, but you can take this statement a little further and modify it: “If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

A lot of the time, people speak to fill “uncomfortable silences,” or because they believe that saying something, anything, is better than staying quiet. It can even be a cause of anxiety for some people.

When somebody else is speaking, listen. Don’t wait to speak. Listen. Actually hear what that person is saying, think about it, and respond if necessary.

Am I painting an accurate picture?

One of the most common forms of miscommunication is the lack of a “referential index,” a type of generalization that fails to refer to specific nouns. As an example, look at these two simple phrases: “Can you pass me that?” and “Pass me that thing over there!”. How often have you said something similar?

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How is the listener supposed to know what you mean? The person that you’re talking to will start to fill in the gaps with something that may very well be completely different to what you mean. You’re thinking “pass me the salt,” but you get passed the pepper. This can be infuriating for the listener, and more importantly, can create a lack of understanding and ultimately produce conflict.

Before you speak, try to label people, places and objects in a way that it is easy for any listeners to understand.

What words am I using?

It’s well known that our use of nouns and verbs (or lack of them) gives an insight into where we grew up, our education, our thoughts and our feelings.

Less well known is that the use of pronouns offers a critical insight into how we emotionally code our sentences. James Pennebaker’s research in the 1990’s concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do.

Starting a sentence with “I think…” demonstrates self-focus rather than empathy with the speaker, whereas asking the speaker to elaborate or quantify what they’re saying clearly shows that you’re listening and have respect even if you disagree.

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Is the map really the territory?

Before speaking, we sometimes construct a scenario that makes us act in a way that isn’t necessarily reflective of the actual situation.

A while ago, John promised to help me out in a big way with a project that I was working on. After an initial meeting and some big promises, we put together a plan and set off on its execution. A week or so went by, and I tried to get a hold of John to see how things were going. After voice mails and emails with no reply and general silence, I tried again a week later and still got no response.

I was frustrated and started to get more than a bit vexed. The project obviously meant more to me than it did to him, and I started to construct all manner of crazy scenarios. I finally got through to John and immediately started a mild rant about making promises you can’t keep. He stopped me in my tracks with the news that his brother had died. If I’d have just thought before I spoke…

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