Communication by definition is the sharing of meaning. The business of communication needs to extend further. It simply has to.
When it comes down to it, the business of communication is all about influence. Imagine then how easy that business becomes when people believe what you say, write or share. Belief is a state of readiness for influence. Without it you sit squarely behind the eight-ball. You’ve little room to move.
An important thing to remember is, belief is a choice. Facts are not a prerequisite. It’s based on willingness to accept.
Journalist and self-described psychology nerd, David McRaney writes “All you can ever know about your own body, or the world outside of it, is what your brain tells you, and your brain doesn’t tell you the truth. It just makes an approximation, it makes a model of the world. This is where belief begins”.
We are all a by-product of our experience. The idea of communication then must be to shape people’s experience, not simply talk to it. Funnily, I recall discussing that on my very first post ever on this blog. Since then debate has run rife about the challenges confronting the public relations industry. At PR Asia a remark was made that the sub-optimal levels of engagement for PR are due to lack of understanding of what the function actually does. I agree. The problem is it’s a misunderstanding in and outside the profession. I’ve written extensively on this issue. Today I want to address what makes someone a believer. This lesson is critical. If you don’t first understand it, lack of engagement is the least of your problems.
Four things you should know, but probably don’t:
The Trojan Horse was really just a battering ram. I just found out too. But geez – doesn’t that make the story far less interesting. It’s not nearly as cool. It is an example of people being more inclined to believe a story when it’s clever. The old adage never let the truth get in the way of a good story certainly applies here. The point though is people happily accepted the myth because we like to place ourselves inside stories, and “we” like to think we are clever, so we adopted it as a belief. The moral of the story is what is real. It’s the belief we don’t want to shake.
People believe things that help them avoid feeling uncomfortable. This is the premise of cognitive dissonance. In honesty, there is no way I could explain this concept any better than the below cartoon:
Aliens exist! Remember facts matter little when it comes to belief. I am not here to present evidence for or against the phenomena of UFO sightings. What I want to show is while belief relates to logic, it has more to do with feelings. It seems logical that in a Universe the size of ours there must be life elsewhere, but more to the point most people that believe in intelligent life on other planets believe this because it’s easier to accept than be left feeling the Universe has little point and we are flukes, or that we (humans) are the plan of a creator that has set us apart as special and all the subsequent responsibilities that reality comes with.
Belief comes down to three things. As a Comms Pro if you can create stories with morals people identify with; wrapped in scenarios that validate people’s predispositions; contextualised by emotional triggers that affirm how they feel, you will be much more valuable to your employer. That’s better than a fact – it’s a promise. Believe me?
– My name is Aaron Crowther. Follow me on Twitter @ascommstweeter