60-Second Mind

How to Speak Persuasively

Discover how to successfully persuade others with these findings from a recent study on speech. Christie Nicholson reports

Want to convince with your gift of gab? Sales people are hip to the tricks, stating everything as a question and doing more listening than yapping. But a recent study found more subtle ways to persuade.

Scientists had 100 interviewers make calls attempting to convince responders to take a survey. They then analyzed recordings for the interviewers’ speed, pitch and fluency. What emerged were specifics that succeeded in convincing people to take the survey.

Talkers at this speed, “a nice comfy pace,” were much more successful than “a languid pace” and these talkers “boy, I’m really hopped up.” So there's a “just right” speed and it’s about three-and-a-half words per second.

Surprisingly varied pitch made no difference. So “this is really interesting” was just as convincing as “this is really interesting!”

People who pause often are typically seen as awkward but scientists found even big pausers still beat out anyone who was perfectly fluent. So “this’ll…just take…a minute” was always more successful than “this’ll just take a minute.” The research was presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Public Opinion Research. [José Benki et al., "Effects of Speech Rate, Pitch, and Pausing on Survey Participation Decisions"]

—Christie Nicholson

[The above text is an exact transcript of this podcast.]

Spoken incredibly fast: “Void where prohibited, your mileage may vary, check with your doctor, all rights reserved, any rebroadcast or retransmission of the descriptions and accounts of this game is prohibited without the expressed written consent of Major League Baseball.”

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