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Your Story vs Your Facts

December 11, 2019

Salesmen know it instinctively.

All purchasing decisions are emotional. “Facts” are simply a way we convince ourselves to feel better about the decision we’ve already made.

Emotions affect debate as well. And I don’t mean only formal debate, but political discussions, family decisions, even who was the greatest basketball player of all time.

If you try to argue against an emotional point using logic, you are destined to fail. Likewise if you make an emotional response to a logical argument, the person you are debating with will completely miss your point.

For example, I love baseball. And I especially love the Seattle Mariners. The greatest player to ever wear a Mariners uniform was Ken Griffey Junior. While I might like to consider it a fact, it’s an opinion. And it’s an opinion I’m somewhat passionate about. In other words, an argument based on emotion.

Randy Johnson was one of the greatest pitchers to ever put on uniform for any team. He played for the Toronto Blue Jays, the Seattle Mariners, the Houston Astros, the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the New York Yankees. Randy, as he’s affectionately known to Mariners fans, had a great career. He pitched in two world series. He pitched a perfect game. And he killed a bird with an ill-timed pitch.

The latter is just a sad commentary, but the other successes are impressive. Was he a better player than Junior? He was certainly a better pitcher. (Griffey played the outfield.)

Still, since my argument is based on emotion, no amount of logical arguments are going to make a difference. You could point out that Griffey never played in a World Series, while Johnson helped his team win titles.

But, I’ll counter, World Series don’t count. Since the Mariners remain the only Major League team to never play in a World Series, when deciding the greatest Mariner player of all time, we don’t have to consider World Series appearances.

You could quote Johnson’s WAR rating (Wins Above Replacements.) Essentially the WAR rating tells you how good (or bad) a player is compared to the average player in his position. Johson’s WAR is 101.1. Griffey was 83.8. But, I could counter with the difference that Griffey made on an otherwise bad team.

I could even counter with Griffey’s Hall of Fame voting. He earned 99.32% of all possible votes. Johnson? 97.3%.

The fact is that we won’t be able to come to an agreement if you are quoting facts and I’m relying on my feelings.

What’s the point? The point is that in business, just as in baseball, you are going to find that some people use emotional arguments (I remember when Microsoft products were not allowed at some companies because ‘Microsoft was evil,’) and some peopl are going to argue from logic. (ROI, cost of licensing, etc.)

If you want to have success in convincing teams, managers, and executives, you need to match their language, and avoid trying to convince them that Griffey is the greatest Mariner if they are most interested in statistics and WAR ratings.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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(c) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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