I read some interesting research in Scientific American on how touch affects how people feel. It turns out that “everything we think is somehow tied to the physical experiences we have.” These experiences fall into these categories: Weight, texture, and hardness. For example, weight itself implies that something is more important. People who simply held a heavier clipboard rated job candidates as better and more serious about a job. Similarly, people who handle rough textures before observing a social scene rated it as more harsh; and even sitting on a hard chair made people less likely to veer from an original offer in negotiating with a car dealer. Across the board, there was about a 25% difference in how people behaved when given something heavy, rough, or hard.
The researchers concluded that understanding these tactile effects presumably would give you the upper hand. So, can you use this understanding in management or sales? To begin with, if I wanted to have a prospect take something seriously, I would provide them with something heavy to hold on to or think about. I would have them sit in comfortable surroundings in a soft chair. Not all of this should come as a surprise. For example, I can remember shopping for a bed for the guest room. The salesman asked me if I wanted the guest to stay for two days, two weeks, or two months. He would sell me a bed with the right texture to assist in that outcome. So, think to yourself, “How can I make this heavier or lighter, rougher or smoother, harder or softer, depending on what I need under the circumstances?” If I’m trying to train a Marine, it’s going to be heavy, rough, and hard. If I’m coddling a baby, it’s going to be light, smooth, and soft.
We can create metaphors that will affect the way that people think about things. For example, if in your discussion, you say something like, “What kind of criteria do you use when you make a serious decision such as buying a car?” The prospect will take the situation more seriously. Other times you might want to talk about a smooth transition or a soft landing. Finally, studying neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) you learn that people are primarily auditory, visual, or kinesthetic. So, you might say something like, “Can you see the heaviness of the situation?” “Can you feel the weight of the situation?” or “Can you hear the gravity of the situation?” (Depending on which modality the person favors). Remember this: How we use language has a significant impact on how we are perceived and how we influence others.