By Jeff Beals
Tensions flared and emotions ran high as the calendar neared Election Day. For weeks, television reports showed footage of passionate citizens campaigning – feverishly trying to convince their fellow countrymen and countrywomen to vote one way or another. Images of large crowds holding little blue signs saying “YES” and “NO THANKS” will be remembered for generations.
It was an historic vote that took place recently in Scotland. The ballot language was simple: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”
Such a simple question. Such raw emotion.
A group of Scottish nationalists had been urging the Scots to vote for independence and thus end the country’s 307-year union with the United Kingdom. Geographically, Scotland is small and its population is little more than 5 million. But it’s an important part of the U.K. for both cultural and economic reasons.
For a while, the pro-independence nationalists, known as the “YES” campaign, looked like they might pull it off. They stirred passions, inflamed feelings of Scottish pride and painted a rosy picture of what life might be like in an independent Scotland.
A pro-British-union group, known as the “NO” campaign, sprung up to protect the status quo. Politicians in London, desperate to keep the union intact, promised concessions and incentives if the Scots voted to stay.
In the end, the “NO” campaign won as the Scots voted 55-to-45-percent to remain part of the U.K. While the final margin was 10 percent, the polls showed a much closer race just a couple weeks prior. At times during the campaign, it appeared to be a toss-up.
I’m not Scottish. I’ve never been to Scotland. And other than a European history class in college and watching Braveheart on cable 20 years ago, I’m not schooled in Scottish history.
But I was fascinated with this election and the campaign preceding it.
Like many political campaigns, emotion played a key role.
A quote in the Wall Street Journal illustrates that emotion: “My heart says ‘yes’ but my head says ‘no,'” said Kyle McBride a 21-year-old resident of Glasgow who supported independence.
If you look at the campaign from a purely logical perspective, most Scots are probably better off keeping the status quo. Had the country chosen independence, the economic ramifications, at least in the first few years, could have been onerous.
Choosing independence generally would have been a “heart” decision over a “head” decision. I’m not saying “head” decisions are always best and that “heart” decisions are bad. I usually think with my head, but sometimes it does make sense to go with your heart. As a non-Scottish and non-British person, I didn’t really care which side won.
The point here is that the use of emotion, playing to the Scottish people’s hearts, was effective. Until the “NO” campaign pulled out all the stops near the end, there was a decent chance the “YES” campaign would have won. Scotland would have shocked the world.
I have often said that a person’s life is like an ongoing political campaign. We are all “running” for something. We’re all trying to “get elected” to whatever is important to us.
Political campaigns have a long history of using emotion. Businesses have also played on emotion to sell products. Individuals often rely on emotion to convince others to do something or to change their way of thinking. Emotion is powerful. It’s motivational. Emotion is flat-out useful.
Savvy professionals search for and identify the emotion in any situation. They figure out what’s causing the emotion and take it into consideration before making a decision.
Whenever human beings are involved, emotion is present.
While it is possible to overplay the emotion card, you would be wise to harness its power. Whether you are trying to close a deal, win an argument or convince your colleagues to adopt your idea, you stand a much better chance if you understand others’ emotions, control your own emotion and manipulate emotion to support your desired outcome.
Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (402) 637-9300.
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