Brain-Based, Plain Speak with Melissa Hughes

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Transcript of Podcast with Melissa Hughes: 4 Brain Hacks to Amplify Your Message

#answersthatcount #brainhacks #sketchnotes

CM: Hello all, welcome back. I am your host, Charles Musgrov‪e of The Answers That Count podcast. Thank you so much for joining us, you know where you can find us. We’re on all your favorite podcast channels, whether you’re watching it, whether you’re listening to it, go to it, like it, subscribe it, and then you’ll be notified also when we post future shows. So, today is going to be an awesome show. I’ve got a returning guest on the show. Melissa Hughes, welcome back. And you are not the typical business person talking about a business message, but man, this affects business. This affects us in our business in our everyday life. So, tell me a little bit about… tell the audience a little bit about yourself so they will get intrigued right off the bat.

MH: Okay, well, I started my journey in a fourth grade classroom as a teacher and I just got jazzed about understanding how the brain works and how to make it work better. And fast forward to where I am today and learning is not confined to the classroom. In fact, all things being equal, those of us who know how to use our brain best, win.

CM: I love it.

MH: So, that’s what I do.

CM: The cool thing is, this is… all of you that are watching this right now are listening to it, this is a topic about how the brain works and how to give yourself really an edge in your thought process and your attitude. And, you know, I want to… let’s do a couple of things. Let’s give acknowledgement to your website, So, go to your website and you’ll see all the stuff about Melissa Hughes – all your background, your speaking, your books, and you also have a weekly newsletter called Neuro Nuggets. So, when you go to the website, sign up for the Neuro Nuggets, and then you’ll get a weekly message in your email box that is just really I find those just, I look forward to getting those on Friday. I think they come Friday morning, but they’re awesome to get. It’s a nice break. It really provides some good information. So, thank you for doing that.

MH: Absolutely, the Neuro Nuggets are really designed to be a three to five-minute video nugget on some fascinating thing about that squishy gray blob between our ears and how to make it work better.

CM: Yeah, you’ve got… and I will say on your on your website, you got a lot of cool content out there to own just like stress and how to how to combat stress, how to release stress, how not to be stressed out all the time, and really how the brain works. So, it really educates you in the process of your thought process so that you can you can better combat stressful situations.

MH: Absolutely. Absolutely.

CM: So, we are in we’re recording this in March, and it’s gonna be posted I think the day before St. Patty’s day so why don’t we always think of around St. Patty’s Day? The luck of the Irish. So, do you have something funny that you can like kick us off before we have just a little talk about is it really luck?

MH: Okay, so how about a pop quiz? Let’s start with a pop quiz.

CM: Okay.

MH: Shall we?

CM: Yes.

MH: So why should you never iron a shamrock? Cause you don’t want to press your luck.

CM: Oh, I love that. That’s great. Yeah, so don’t press the shamrock, don’t press your luck. I love that. Don’t iron the Shamrock because you can’t press your luck. So, is luck really…? Is it a real thing or is it just an outcome of our of our attitude and how we look at things?

MH: It’s a great question. You know, we when we think of luck, we think of happenstance or serendipity like things just happen. You know, we all know that one person who like wins, everything, it’s just always at the right place at the right time, always, you know, has the best opportunities. And what we’re finding out now is that lucky people share some very specific traits, which would indicate that we can in fact, create our own luck. Lucky people are just better at creating and recognizing the opportunities that are in front of them. It’s not that they have more opportunities than we do. It’s just that they’re able to see them better than the average…

CM: Yeah, so maybe they maybe they have a better outlook on their situation.

MH: Absolutely. So, there are a couple traits that they share. One is that they are grateful, and grateful people look for things to be grateful for. And so, they’re always kind of looking for the good stuff. Another trait that they share is that they’re unpredictable. And I don’t mean that in terms of in their relationships with other people, because that’s not always a good thing, but what I mean by being unpredictable is that they’re open to explore and experience new things and that can be something as simple as just taking a different route to work or trying a new restaurant, you know, little things like that are those are the things… we’re very, we’re very…

CM: Inflexible. So, don’t be inflexible.

MH: Yeah, and, and don’t be so tethered to your routine. Because the brain likes routine. We like the familiar. And so, when you are not as tethered to your routine, that’s when you experience things that you wouldn’t otherwise experience. So, things like that can really enable you to experience more luck, which is kind of not luck anymore. It’s you’ve created these great opportunities. And I wrote more about that in a blog that’s on my website about luck so if you’re interested in that.

CM: Good, I like that. And we got some cool stuff to jump to, but one thing I always think of when it kind of takes me back to thinking, you know, we can’t necessarily control our altitude, where we are in life, but we can control our attitude, and that is the how we think about it and how we react to the circumstances that we’re in.

MH: Absolutely. Well said.

CM: Good, good. Let’s go to john, John’s gonna put up a sketch note. So, sketch notes, we’re going to talk about this today. And we’re going to put a copy of this on the YouTube channel in the description of the show. So, I’m going to post this out there so you can you’ll be able to see this. But let’s talk about the sketch notes. And what we want to talk about is – I wrote some notes down myself – how to frame the message to be most persuasive and you’ve got four secrets to amplify that message that you have on the sketch notes.

MH: Absolutely. So, one of the one of the things that we know about the human brain is as much as we’d like to think that we are purely rational and always using our best thinking brain to make the most intelligent decisions based upon the best information, we’re just not. We get faked out by shortcuts in the brain, and those shortcuts are called cognitive biases. And we’re all subject to biases. In fact, there is a bias called the blind spot bias, which posits that we don’t think we’re as biased as everyone else. And we all are. But these biases are important because they help you, once you understand them, then you can use them to frame your messages to other people and really give you an edge and being more persuasive and really amplify that message.

CM: Cool. John, can you put her back up on the big screen? So, we’ve got this the sketch that you had that you presented has the four of those right?

MH: Yep, four secrets.

CM: Four secrets.

MH: You have to get the sketch notes to get the secrets. But I’ll share a little bit about the secrets.

CM: All right, good. So, the four secrets, so give us the four and then let’s go through each one. And then we’ll summarize it in and say these were the four again.

MH: Okay, so the four that are on the graphic, and the reason that those sketch notes are so valuable is because your brain actually processes visual representations of information different than text. And so, I actually create these images, these sketch notes, for all of my talks and that’s my leave behind rather than a boring PowerPoint or just a sheet of notes. And I did that for two reasons. First, it helps me remember my four big topics, four big key points better, and it also helps you remember those four key topics better because you’re processing the visual image, rather than just hearing me talk about it or reading it off of a piece of paper.

CM: I love that because you know, when I saw that, I’ve got to tell you, that’s the first time I’ve seen that and I had that same thought it’s like, okay, I’ve really this is intriguing, just to look at how it’s laid out – the colors in it, the different fonts and how it’s spread out on the paper. So, I think that’s so true.

MH: It really is. And I’ve started doing them now for I’ve done them for my talks, several on my website. But I think people enjoy being a we have such short attention spans anymore. And so really, if I were to write in, in words, all of the information that’s captured on this one, 8.5’ x 11” image, it would require several pages.

CM: And then people don’t… they get lost in that and their eyes just glaze over, so that’s awesome.

MH: Yep, so the four messages, the secrets, that are in this info graphic are less is more, the contrast effect, the blemish effect, and the opportunity effect. And these are all framing strategies, ways to frame information so that you get what you want, so that your listener, your audience, your customer, your coworker, your boss, whoever it is that you’re trying to convey this message to, gets what you want them to get.

CM: So that would even be in a retail situation if you’re selling a product or service.

MH: Oh, there’s so much out there now on neuro marketing and applying cognitive biases to the way we interact with customers, or even in company culture, there are a lot of now studies, looking at biases and how it impacts company culture and team dynamics and all of it. It’s fascinating.

CM: That’s awesome.

MH: Yeah, and you don’t have to be a geek like me to get it and actually apply it.

CM: So, now we’re bringing it to the business person that’s watching and listening to this video, this will help you internally within your business, in your own culture, in your own people, plus how you interact with your customer base.

MH: Yep, yeah.

CM: All right. Great setup. Let’s go.

MH: So, let’s dig in. Let’s start with the opportunity frame.

CM: Okay.

MH: So, when we think of the opportunity frame, most people think of opportunity cost. And everybody knows what opportunity cost is – every time you say yes to one thing, you say no to something else. When you do one thing, you forgo something else, but we can use that opportunity frame to our advantage. There’s another bias at play here called loss aversion. And what we know is that we experience loss more severely than an equivalent gain. And we also work harder to avoid a loss than we do to obtain a gain. So what that means is losing $10 hurts much more than winning $10.

CM: I believe that.

MH: It should be the same amount of hurt or gain…

CM: I think you can also equate that to like, if you’re a sports fanatic, if you have a favorite sports team, it hurts more to lose the game than then the how good you feel if you win it.

MH: Absolutely, absolutely great analogy. So, there are some circumstances where you actually want to use the loss frame around your message. You know, it’s not… so many people in marketing is… there’s so many marketers that are always about the features and benefits, and this is what you’ll gain and this is what it does and in certain marketing assets, that’s okay. But when you’re interacting with a person with a human being, it might be advantageous to, you know, talk about what you will have to lose if you don’t buy what I’m selling.

CM: Interesting.

MH: We’re always talking about benefits, but sometimes you want to tell them what they have to lose. And a really great example of this is in insurance. How do people sell insurance? If you don’t have insurance, this is how bad your life is going to be.

CM: Right. Or life Insurance – if you don’t have this, then your loved ones are left without.

MH: Exactly, exactly. But you can apply the opportunity frame in a lot of different ways. And a close relative to the opportunity frame is the experience frame because when you frame your message in what you will experience if you do or buy or, you know, or subscribe to this theory that I’m positing, then people are much more likely to connect by experience than by effect.

CM: Yeah, I like it.

MH: So, experiences is a close second. So, let’s go to the less is more frame. We often think that the more choices, the better because the more choices we have, the more likely that you’re going to appeal to an individual taste or preference.

CM: Right.

MH: Well, there was a famous study done at Stanford University, and it’s called the jam experience. And what they did was they took bad two setups of jam displays into very similar grocery stores at the same time of day, same day a week. And one display had 24 varieties of jam; the other display had only six. You would think that the display that had 24 varieties of jam would have just sold a ton more.

CM: Right. That’s what I would think.

MH: Because people were allowed to sample the jams, but the metric was how many people buy the jams. What they found was the display with only six varieties had a higher sales number up to 30% higher than the 24.

CM: Wow. That’s interesting.

MH: Significant difference, right?

CM: So, you should tell that to all the ice cream shops so that they don’t have 50 different flavors of ice cream; maybe they have five.

MH: Right? Well, a really good example of this though is cars. When you go car shopping, too many choices is like what makes people go, “I don’t want to do this anymore. I want to go home. I can’t. It’s overwhelming.”

CM: Right, right.

MH: So, variety is good, but remember, it has a ceiling.

CM: Interesting. That’s a good point.

MH: The third one is the contrast frame. And this is one of my favorites because there’s the coolest story ever, behind this bias. And it’s Rosser Reeves was a marketing executive back in the 50s. And he actually did one of the political ads for Eisenhower. But he and a colleague were actually walking through Manhattan one day, and they came upon a beggar with a sign that said, “I am blind” and had a little bucket for money. He was collecting donations. Rosser Reeves said, “I bet I can increase the amount of money that people feel compelled to give him by adding four words to that sign.” Do you want to know what the four words are?

CM: What are they?

MH: The four words are he added it? “It is springtime and…” It is springtime and I am blind. What he did was he created a contrast between people that are walking down the street, and they see a blind man. The contrast is, oh, I can see all the signs of springtime around me…

CM: But he can’t.

MH: And he can’t. So, he created this contrast effect. And the contrast can work both ways. It can work as a positive and it can work as a negative. So better compared to worse, like when you contrast something compared to something negative makes it look more positive, but when you compare something negative next to something positive, it makes it look less negative.

CM: Right.

MH: So, it can work both ways. I thought that was just an amazing…

CM: That’s a good story. So, was he able to collect more money?

MH: He collected way more money. He collected way more money.

CM: So now when we see the people with the signs on the road, we’ll look for that – do they have a contrasting message on their sign? All right, so now we are moving to the fourth, and that is the blemish frame.

MH: The blemish frame is equally as interesting as the contrast frame. So, let’s imagine you’re selling something, and you want to list off all of those reasons why it’s the best and the greatest, and it’s the most improved, and it’s stronger and faster. And you’re listing… there’s this whole list of reasons why it’s an amazing product. Think about a pair of hiking boots. So there was a study done and they had this brand new brand of hiking boots, and they had two groups. And in one group they listed all of the features and benefits of this hiking boots, right? Every reason why you should buy this hiking boot. But then in another group, they had a lot of these reasons why you should buy the hiking boots, but they introduced one minor blemish, okay? It only comes in three colors or it’s not available for two weeks. So, there’s one minor blemish. It doesn’t make the actual product subpar, but what you’re doing is you’re introducing kind of one “Yeah, but…” in there, right? What happened was the group that had introduced the blemish, actually sold significantly more boots than the group that didn’t. It only operates under two circumstances. First, the people processing the information have to be in what researchers call a low effort state. And that means they’re not coming in like with a focused determination to buy something specific. They’re kind of the people that are walking by and they go, oh, come over here and look at these boots. You know, maybe I can use a pair of boots. I don’t know. So that’s kind of a low effort state.

CM: Is that an impulse purchaser?

MH: Could be an impulse purchaser, but it’s differentiated by the what they’re talking about is it’s not the people who are clearly focused and intentional about coming in to buy something specific.

CM: It’s not the hiker that’s going on a hiking trip that needs a pair of boots.

MH: Right.

CM: So it almost sounds weird, the way you describe that it’s almost creating a higher demand, because there’s some limit to it like if they can’t get it for two weeks, or if it’s only in three sizes, then then there’s some type of limitation on the ability for that boot.

MH: Yes, but the second, the second factor, though, the second condition is that the blemish always has to follow the positive information. You don’t lead with the blemish. So, you list off all of these reasons why this is the most amazing hiking boot ever. And the very last bullet is but it’s only available in brown and blue.

CM: Interesting.

MH: So, what happens is the comparison creates clarity about all the positives, right? The core logic is that when people encounter weak negative information, after having already gotten strong, positive information, the weak negative information highlights the salience of the positive.

CM: Right. So, it’s almost like they’re being transparent that okay, there is an issue with this, and it’s only in three colors, but that’s a minor deflection of how good that product is.

MH: Right? And, and being honest about that, what they call the blemish, right, or that minor flaw actually enhances the offering as a whole.

CM: Interesting. So how would you rank those? We’ve gone through the four – is there a ranking as to which one is most important? Or does it depend?

MH: I think it depends, I think it depends on the situation. I think it depends on what your intention of… and this, we, you know, we put these examples in terms of selling something, the jam, the boots, whatever, but, you know, you can apply these framing secrets to just conveying information.

CM: Right.

MH: Pitching an idea to your boss, or, you know, having a conversation with a friend. Whenever you’re trying to persuade someone to see a particular point of view, framing effects are especially helpful. They’re very powerful. And there are lots of them. These just four but there are a ton. You know, I talked them a little bit about the experience frame. You know, we value and remember experiences more than we do products.

CM: True.

MH: So, if you’re trying to sell something, but you frame the message in the experience, then you’re going to connect with people on a much deeper emotional level. And we know that that’s drives purchase.

CM: Yeah.

MH: So those are just a few if you’re really interested in understanding the power of persuasion, I would suggest Daniel Pink. He is one of those people that I… he’s on my list of people to belly up to the bar and share a bottle of wine with. I haven’t told him yet that yet. So, anyone who knows him feel free to like, share that information. But he’s got a lot of information out there, some great books out there, just check out Daniel Pink.

CM: Daniel Pink. Good to know that. That is just fascinating when you go through that. I see so many applications for that. So, I can also see where you would make an awesome not just a business coach but a personal coach on how to interact with how to just have that that extra edge and in your communication with co-workers, and like we said to start with, your end customer. So, I think that is so awesome. And I really see how layered that could be – just those four items we talked about.

MH: Yeah, and I think so I started to just become very fascinated with cognitive bias and the coolest thing is that once you understand bias, you start to see it everywhere. Like now I recognize it in my own interactions. I recognize it when I see other people interacting with one another. There are I think more than 280 known biases now. So, there are so many out there and the brain as amazing and efficient and just crazy smart as it is, it’s lazy. There’s a lot going on. And it’s going to take shortcuts wherever.

CM: Yeah.

MH: And those mental shortcuts are called cognitive biases. And that’s why we jump to inaccurate conclusions and make terrible decisions sometimes. And so yeah.

CM: That is some awesome stuff. So, tell us… so, we have the opportunity frame, you also talked about the loss aversion frame, the experience frame, less is more is number two. Number three is the contrast frame. Number four, the last one we talked about, was the blemish frame. So, a lot of information there, I know that it goes a lot deeper than that. But go to our YouTube channel, look in the description to get the actual picture of the sketch that we’ve talked about today. And that’s Answers that Count on YouTube. And, Melissa, you got a lot more information out there on the website. So, I’m going to encourage people to go and look at your website. There’s some information you have out there some content about how to hack the brain to live a less stressful life. So, you just got a lot of cool stuff out there and information that you can’t just get anywhere. Go to for all that information. So, Melissa, this has been an awesome show. Thank you so much for being on our show. This is the second time I look forward to having you again for the third time. So that’ll be in the future. So, thank you so much.

MH: Thank you for the opportunity. This is great. I love the opportunity to get geeky. Any day I can get geeky is a good day.

CM: I love it. It’s been good. And I know that all of our guests and viewers have enjoyed this immensely. So, thank you. Thank you. You’ve been watching the answers that count podcast. I’m your host, Charles Musgrove. Have a great day.

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