Advanced Business Writing
Influence and Persuasion

Evidence Preference

To persuade readers, you must prove your case. To do that, it helps to know how people prefer to consider your case; specifically, how they prefer to be exposed to the evidence you present.

Most people have a strong preference for only one of the four ways that evidence can be presented: see, hear, do, and read.

Some people prefer to See - they have to see some evidence; they need to visually see a product, service, or idea before they accept it. Note: 55% of people prefer to See the evidence.

What you might hear them say: "Just by watching them, I see."

Something you might say to them: "I would like to show you a sample."

Words that align with their evidence preference:

see, look, show, watch, image, clear, light, dark, shiny, colorful, visualize, light up, vague, foggy, flash, get a look at, picture it, see it in action, view it

Some people prefer to Hear - they need to hear or listen to an oral presentation; they will listen to or hear what you have to say. Note: 30% of people prefer to listen to or Hear the evidence.

What you might hear them say: "When they personally explain their decisions to me, I can judge their rationale and thinking process."

Something you might say to them: "That sounds right, doesn't it? Is there anything else you would like to talk about?"

Words that align with their evidence preference:

hear, talk, listen, say, question, ask, dialogue, ring, noise, rhythm, in tune, harmonious, musical, tone, discord, shout, discuss, sounds right, hear about

Some people prefer to Do - they have to be physically involved and do something; they have to work with someone to decide. Note: 12% of people prefer to Do things associated with the evidence or somehow participate as they make their decision.

What you might hear them say: "I have to work with them to get a feel for how they work."

Something you might say to them: "You'll want to work with it for a bit to decide."

Words that align with their evidence preference:

feel, touch, grasp, gather, in contact with, connect, pressure, sensitive, solid, closed, open, soft, link, hot, cold, warm, work with it, grapple with it, try it on, test it out

Some people prefer to Read - they prefer to Read a memo or report. Note: 3% of people prefer to Read to make their decision.

What you might hear them say: "I read their report."

Something you might say to them: "Here, read this."

Since this course is about writing things that people will read, these "Read evidence" people are included by default in the efforts we make to accommodate evidence preference in the three main categories of See, Hear, and Do.

An exercise in Evidence Preference

Your company needs to drop a product line. You are sure of this, and you want to convince the marketing manager that this is true. The marketing manager is new to your company. You have not spoken with her, but she has asked for your advice. You draft an initial email:

The strategic decision should be made to drop the Imagewear product line of workplace apparel. Its life cycle stage has progressed from maturity to decline. Too many suppliers led to too much competition and a drop in sales and margins. Differential analysis shows this is likely to continue.

But then, to play it safe, you assume she is likely in the majority of those who prefer to See evidence, and you rewrite the message:

In light of our current strategy, we should probably drop the Imagewear product line of workplace apparel. We have seen its life cycle stage progress from maturity to decline. Too many suppliers saw a great opportunity, resulting in too much competition and a drop in sales. Take a look at our differential analysis, which shows this is likely to continue.

But before you assemble your final email, you overhear her in a marketing meeting in the conference room:

"I want them to present their case in person. When they answer my questions, I can do a better job of judging how well they have talked through all the options. Dialogue is key."

Aha! Maybe you got it wrong. It sounds like she prefers to Hear evidence. So you rewrite your email:

We should discuss dropping the Imagewear product line of workplace apparel. There is little question that its life cycle stage has progressed from maturity to decline. As you may have heard, too many suppliers led to too much competition and a drop in sales and margins. Please ask us if you want to talk about the differential analysis that predicts this is likely to continue.

But then, just in time, you learned (1) that the person in the meeting you overheard was not the marketing manager, and, (2) that the marketing manager has initiated a program where marketing employees are required to visit nearby big-box retailers where your products are sold to mingle with consumers and learn what they really think about your products. Aha! You did get it wrong. She actually prefers to Do things associated with the evidence. So you rewrite your email:

Closing down the Imagewear product line of workplace apparel is something we have grappled with. We feel that its life cycle stage has progressed from maturity to decline. We gathered enough data to prove that an overabundance of suppliers had led to too much competition and a drop in sales and margins. Working with differential analysis experts, we learned it is likely to continue.

Is this exhausting, or what? It's practice. It's exercise. And, most of all, it's helpful if you really do want or need to be a persuasive person at work.

Lesson: Evidence Preference
Module: Influence and Persuasion
Course: Advanced Business Writing