Jeff Masters Reviews ‘Lessons On Persuasion From Jesus, Shakespeare, Lincoln, And Lady Gaga’

By Jeff Masters via Wunderblog

With a name like “Language Intelligence: Lessons on Persuasion from Jesus, Shakespeare, Lincoln, and Lady Gaga”, a book with a title like that compels one to pick it up and see what the heck the author is talking about. And Joe Romm’s new book on how to communicate doesn’t disappoint — it’s a thoughtful and compelling look at the techniques used by some of history’s great communicators to help persuade.

Joe Romm is author of the blog, the most visited climate change blog on the Internet, and the main blog that I use to stay current on climate change and energy news. Romm defines Language Intelligence as “the ability to convince people of something both intellectually and emotionally, at both a conscious and unconscious level.” He goes on to say, “If facts were sufficient to persuade people, then experts in science would rule the world. But facts are not, and scientists do not. We filter out all the facts that do not match our views.”

At the heart of great communication lies great story telling, and Romm give us these tips on how to tell a story people will want to read:

  • Write a great headline: Newspaper readers read 56% of the headlines, but only 13% of the stories are at least half-read. Headlines are even more important on-line, since they are what show up on Google searches and tweets. An example of one the most re-tweeted headlines Romm used in 2011: “Mother Nature is Just Getting Warmed Up: June 2011 Heat Records Crushing Cold Records by 13 to 1” (Romm uses a pun and personification to help create an eye-catching headline.)
  • Short words are the best words.
  • Slogans sell.
  • If you don’t repeat, you can’t compete. Repetition and rhyming help people remember your message.
  • The golden rule of speech-making is: “Tell ’em what you’re going to tell ’em; tell ’em; then tell ’em what you told ‘em.”
  • Repeated distortions and smears are as effective as repeated truths, so beware of these sorts of attacks.
  • If you want to de-bunk a myth, you need to focus on stating the truth, not repeating the myth.
  • If you want to be more noticed and remembered, use more figures of speech (metaphors.) Examples of metaphors I’ve used include comparing our melting Arctic to the attic of a house that is on fire (Earth’s attic is on fire: Arctic sea ice bottoms out at a new record low) and comparing the impact of global warming on extreme weather to the impact steroids have on a baseball slugger (Extreme events of 2011: climate change a major factor in some, but not all).
  • Create an extended metaphor when you have a big task at hand. Countless books and articles underscore that extended metaphors are at the core of human thinking.

National Center for Atmospheric Research scientist Dr. Jerry Meehl uses a metaphor to explain how climate change’s impact on extreme weather is similar to how steroids affect a baseball slugger’s ability to hit a ball out of the park.

At 183 pages, the book only took me about two hours to read, and I was very glad I did. It was very entertaining and informative, and anyone involved in public communication can learn from this book.


I give it my highest rating: four stars out of four. Language Intelligence: Lessons on Persuasion from Jesus, Shakespeare, Lincoln, and Lady Gaga is $9.67 from [Kindle is here].