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February 4, 2022

Most people (you, perhaps) like to see themselves as positive people who respond better to positive messages -- right? But, we know that negative messaging works to get people's attention. Neuroscientists call this the Negativity Bias; which quite simply means that our brains are more highly activated to negative messaging and events than positive one. Study after study demonstrates this is true in social judgements, attribution of intentions, cognition, attention, learning and memory, decision-making, and politics.

You don't need me to tell you this. 

Wikipedia does a great job of laying it all out, starting with, 'something very positive will generally have less of an impact on a person's behavior and cognition than something equally emotional but negative.' Social scientists and anthropologists tell us that this tendency is hardwired in us as a survival mechanism. It makes us hyper aware of the risks in our surroundings so we have a better chance of survival.

You also likely know it from your own experience. Clickbait always seems to be related to something negative - because it works. Populist politicians use negative rhetoric to tap into people's anger and heighten the divisions among us, because it works. And, you are far more likely to focus on the one negative comment on your social media post (or performance, or presentation, or whatever you do), than the all the positive ones combined, because that's how we're wired.

And yet, when the president of a prominent Speaker Bureau recently posted a good news story about a great customer service experience he had, the response was overwhelming positive. OK, so maybe all the speakers in the house (including me) were trying to curry favour with the bureau, but it was unequivocally clear that people really do respond well to a good news story.

So what's the deal with testimonials? If you subscribe to all the research on negativity, you might wonder if testimonials are worth doing at all. Testimonials are, after all, overtly positive messages… or are they?

The difference is in how the testimonials are crafted.

It's true, overtly positive testimonials or simplistic claims of greatness, are easily discounted by the reader or listener, but a well-crafted testimonial has all the emotional elements of a great story, complete with desires, needs, inner conflicts, and wrong turns. In other words, it has the magnetic appeal of negativity bias built-in, while outwardly projecting a 'feel-good' vibe.

The best of both worlds.

A well-crafted testimonial also takes the reader or listener on a journey that reflects the transformation of the main character's relationship with the brand, product, or service that's the focus of the testimonial.

Do you get testimonials like that? Because that kind of testimonial is worth telling, sharing, and hearing!

Check out our Online Course: Get Better Testimonials

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About the Author Michel Neray

My work in Message Strategy, Category Design and Storytelling for over 30 years has taught me that at the bottom of every meaningful value proposition is a story.

As the founder of momondays, I have listened to and watched countless stories being performed -- it has given me a fundamental grasp of what works, and what doesn’t. As a professional speaker, trainer and consultant, my passion is helping people and organizations lead better, sell more, and change the world.

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