The Secret Science Behind How Leaders Talk

The Secret Science of How Leaders Talk, with Noah Zandan

Noah Zandan

Want to earn your audience’s trust in the first 15 seconds you are on stage? Want to be seen as authentic and likable? Noah Zandan has the answers, based on science and analyzing massive amounts of data.

In this episode, Noah shares the science behind what makes audiences perceive presenters as likable and trustworthy, as well as advice for improving your own communication. Listen in to hear what makes speakers seem authentic, tips for helping people clearly understand your message, and the surprising findings that came from his extensive research on communication.

Noah is the CEO and Co-Founder of Quantified Communications, and a pioneer in applying technology and AI to help people strengthen the way they communicate. Recognized as one of the most innovative domain experts in the rapidly growing field of people analytics and behavioral intelligence, Noah was featured on the main stage at TED2016 speaking about how leaders talk. He also spoke at SXSW on the Intelligent Future, delivered a TED-Ed Lesson in the Playing with Language Series with over nine million views, and was nationally broadcast discussing the future of personal analytics on NPR All Tech Considered.

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Listen in:

On Today’s Episode We’ll Learn:

  • What a speaker should do in the first 15 seconds of a presentation to earn the audience’s like and trust.
  • How to grab an audience no matter what you’re saying.
  • The unique ability that Noah noticed in highly successful people.
  • What makes some visionaries more effective and believable than others.
  • The common communication mistake CEOs and other presenters who want to be persuasive tend to make.
  • Key factors that impact how an audience perceives your clarity.
  • Why repetition is important.
  • What matters more than the actual words you say.
  • How using second-person pronouns impacts your message.
  • What makes written communication seem trustworthy.
  • Cues that help determine if someone isn’t being entirely truthful.

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Full Episode Transcript:

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Welcome to The Brainfluence Podcast, with Roger Dooley, author, speaker, and educator on neuromarketing and the psychology of persuasion. Every week, we talk with thought leaders that will help you improve your influence with factual evidence and concrete research. Introducing your host, Roger Dooley.

Roger Dooley:    Welcome to the Brainfluence Podcast. I’m Roger Dooley. I know you’ll enjoy this week’s guest and get some great science-based takeaways. Noah Zandan is the founder and CEO of Quantified Communications, based right here in Austin, Texas. Noah and his company are focused on the scientific analysis of highly effective communications and applying that knowledge to help individuals and teams speak in a more persuasive and impactful way. They’ve worked with firms like IBM, Coca-Cola, Salesforce, and even TED. That’s TED Talks, not the defunct airline.  Welcome to the show, Noah.

Noah Zandan:     Thank you for having me.

Roger Dooley:    Yeah. So, Noah, your degrees are in economics and finance, and you started your career at Deutsche Bank. How did you get into the science of communication?

Noah Zandan:     Yeah, so when I was working on Wall Street, we received amazing training in all the technical skills, financial skills, financial modeling, quantitative analysis, even preparing PowerPoint decks and large memos, but what I saw was that the people that were most successful, the managing directors and partners at my firm as well as the management teams, possessed an ability, a unique ability to influence others with the way that they communicate. And so, I saw myself being really, really well-trained for all of the individual contributor tasks, but not as well-trained for the leadership skills.

That problem just kind of stayed with me over time, through an experience on Wall Street, and in private equity in California, and then in graduate school, and I just started doing more research and understanding the social science and behavioral science behind influence and impact and persuasion and understanding that there’s a potential gap in the market for it.

Roger Dooley:    Mm-hmm. That’s really interesting because you’d think in the, obviously communication is important in every business, but the finance industry seems like more of a dollars and cents performance thing that somebody could be a horrible communicator, but if they made money every year, they’d be golden, but that’s not totally true. I’m sure there were a few bad communicators who were still kept around because they were so awesome, but you found that was really a key to success, huh?

Noah Zandan:     Well, think about it. Right. I mean, you know, my job as an analyst was to prepare the model, prepare all the information, do all the risk analysis, and then hand it off to someone to present, but, you know, if you’re pitching a billion-dollar transaction where millions of dollars of fees are on the line, and it’s not presented well, it doesn’t matter what data I put in there. You can study audiences. You can study influence. You can study behavioral science and it will all show you that the way things are communicated is more important than what is communicated.

Roger Dooley:    Right. I think most smart marketers would agree with that, too, that it isn’t all about the product features and specifications. There’s a lot more going on.

So, Noah, your company and you use data and behavioral analytics to assess how people communicate. Can you dig into that a little bit and explain what you mean by that?

Noah Zandan:     Sure. When we say communicate, we really mean kind of present, how people speak, how people communicate verbally. And so, what we look at really carefully is what are the patterns of communication? What are people say? How do they say it? What do they do with their voices and their faces and their gestures and their words and their phrasing? How does that correlate with the audience response that they’re trying to get? Are they liked? Are they influential? Are they engaging? Do people trust them? We’ve been studying that for the past seven years.

Roger Dooley:    How do you know if somebody is trusted, or for that matter, if they’re creating good engagement? What are the metrics you use there? What are the techniques?

Noah Zandan:     Sure. When I co-founded the business, I started with an evaluation research PhD. The counsel that he gave me was nothing more than you have to go ask enough people. What we did at the beginning was we spent two years collecting data. We collected thousands of speeches and earnings calls and presentations and memos, and then we did quantitative research on it. So asked enough focus groups and audience panels that we recruited to just say, “Do you like this? Do you believe this person? Do you engage with this woman?” With enough patterns of understanding, you can really start to get to statistical significance in those results.

Roger Dooley:    Did you find pretty good consistency on those opinions? If you ask 100 people whether they like a speaker or trusted the speaker, did you tend to find that it was fairly consistent or was it all over the map?

Noah Zandan:     Two things that we found. One was more expected, and one was a surprise. So what was expected was it’s generally pretty consistent. There’s a few things like whether or not someone has energy or whether or not you consider someone to be humble or pretentious where you tend to see a bigger range in the 150 metrics that we built. Generally, everything else is pretty consistent. If you’re likable, if you’re engaging, audiences almost always perceive that the same way, assuming that it’s a similar type of audience in an expected context.

What was surprising was that those decisions are made in the first 15 seconds of a piece of communication. And so, what you say four minutes in, five minutes in, 30 minutes in, 50 minutes in, it doesn’t matter nearly as much as what you say in the first 15 seconds when our brains are firing so fast as to whether or not you like and believe and want to engage with the person in what they’re about to communicate, no matter what the length is.

Roger Dooley:    Yeah. I’ve heard that from speaking coaches as well. It’s really kind of borne up by the data on much of marketing. People evaluate websites in milliseconds. That first impression is really sticky and that’s before they’ve read the headline or done anything else. I assume that when that speaker steps out onto the stage in the first 15 seconds, it’s not even just the words that come out of that person’s mouth, but it’s their posture, their body language, whether they seem confident, and so on. Would that be true?

Noah Zandan:     Yeah. There’s the famous study that behavioral scientists like to question by Albert Mehrabian at UCLA that looked at voice, visual, and verbal. He found that 7% of audience preference is based upon the words that you use, literally just the content, and the rest is voice and visual. We’ve studied it on our own. We ran a factor model on it for a wide variety of audiences. We find that content is a little bit more important. We find it at about 11%, but everything else that your audiences are looking for is done from your voice and from your non-verbal communication.

Roger Dooley:    Mm-hmm. Reminds me of the study, and I don’t know where the original study was done, but Malcolm Gladwell described in Blink where people watched videos, and I believe without the sound, of doctors interacting with patients and they were able to accurately predict who would get sued or not without even listening in. Again, that sort of underscores what you’re saying. So much is that non-verbal communication.

Noah Zandan:     It is amazing how fast our brain processes that stuff. What we’re looking for in that is “Is this person similar to me?” We are looking for behavioral patterns that we recognize that feel familiar and then make us safe. It’s actually really, really kind of tied back to survival tactics for humans.

Roger Dooley:    What should that speaker do in the first 15 seconds?

Noah Zandan:     Well, depends on how they want to be perceived.

Roger Dooley:    Well, they probably want to be seen, hypothetically, as knowledgeable, helpful, likable, somebody that you might want to do business with, or at least trust their judgment on whatever it is they’re talking about.

Noah Zandan:     Yeah. If you think about the process most people go through when they’re creating something to say, when they’re preparing for a speech, what does everybody do first? They start writing their script or they start thinking about their slides. Interestingly, the way that our brains work when we’re in an audience, and audiences are very selfish in what they pay attention to, is we’re not really paying attention to what that intro story is. Right? We are, as you said, we’re looking at posture. Is this person making eye contact with me? Are they smiling? Do they look comfortable? Are they happy? If you bring that presence and that’s a physical and vocal presence, then you will grab the audience no matter what you’re saying.

Roger Dooley:    I watched your Ted Talk, Noah, and I thought the insights were really interesting and you analyzed visionaries and what made some visionaries more effective and believable than others. You found that they focus on the present more than the future. That seems counterintuitive because you think of a visionary as somebody who’s talking about how great the world’s going to be or how bad it’s going to be, for that matter, in 10 years or 20 years or something like that. Explain why that may be counterintuitive, but how it works in real life.

Noah Zandan:     Sure. What we did was we looked at a pretty large data set of the world’s visionaries, everything from technology leaders to folks that BCG identified as visionaries to people back in history, the explorers, and we looked at their speeches, and what we were trying to understand was what do they do differently than other leaders. What do they do differently than the futurists? What do they do differently than CEOs who kind of don’t hit the mark and don’t influence as many people with the way that they communicate?

Yeah, we expected that they would place things into the future, but what we found was when you do too much of that, it actually isn’t that believable. And so, when everything is kind of this where it’s going to go, where we’re going to be, it seems a little bit more far-fetched. Whereas what the top visionaries do, and we used Elon Musk as an example here, is Elon Musk wants to, he literally wants to die on Mars, but not on impact. That’s a vision, right? Humans are not ready to do that yet, but what he does, and the reason you believe him is he says, “And here are the six things that we need to do in order to accomplish that.” Instead of this kind of far-fetched dream, it’s actually a very methodological, mathematical process-driven path to get there. And so, you start to say, “Yeah. I believe that. I mean, if we can build a rocket and then we can refuel the rocket in space, and we can help someone survive for a long enough period then maybe we can actually do this? And I believe this guy. In fact, I want to work for him because I actually believe he’s uniquely qualified to do this.” And he does that through his communication.

Roger Dooley:    Really what the present tense is doing is adding the reality to that future vision. So there is a future vision, but by, in Elon Musk’s case, identifying things that need to be done in a very sort of tangible way and presumably he’s saying those things with confidence as if he knows that these are the things that need to be done and that they actually can be done or will be able to be done in short order, that’s what gives the vision believability.

Now, the second thing was visionaries use simple language. That’s less surprising. I think that that’s a fairly well-known thing whether you’re writing ad copy or persuasive speeches or just about anything else. Rarely does jargon and convoluted phrasing work for you, but why do you think it is that despite all the research, so many CEOs and other communicators who want to be persuasive and believable end up using jargon? I mean, sort of long-winded ways of saying things?

Noah Zandan:     Well, I think a lot of us do it because we think that it makes us sound smarter. Professionalism is not a synonym for complexity. I think that when we use longer words and we speak in more academic terms, certainly in the scientific and technical communities, we believe that people will think that we’re smarter, but when you study it, you really start to understand what influences audiences. They’re turned off by that. It takes their brain longer to process it and, certainly, if they’re less familiar they’re just stuck on, “Well, what does that really complex word mean?” as opposed to, “Yeah. I believe this person” or “Yeah, I’m excited about what they’re saying.”

The other interesting thing that we found here, Roger, is, yeah, it’s a little bit more intuitive that the top visionary leaders are clear, but what does it mean to be clear? How do you actually understand linguistically what clear language is and if you can teach that to people, then you can really influence them?

Roger Dooley:    Right. So what would an example of that be?

Noah Zandan:     Well, the way that we measure clarity, the top factors that correlated with whether an audience thinks that you are clear are, first and foremost, structure. The Navy years ago invented Flesch-Kincaid scores. People like to talk about those as grade levels. And so, how many words are in a sentence? How many syllables are in a word? The way that you structure and actually breaking it up into small bits helps an audience understand it better, especially when it’s spoken. And so, the two presidential candidates this year, one of them spoke at a third-grade level, one of them spoke at an eleventh-grade level.

Roger Dooley:    We can all guess which.

Noah Zandan:     Yeah. So, as you can imagine, that’s going to be highly correlated with whether an audience kind of keeps up and whether or not they’re actually saying, “Do I like this person or am I just trying so hard to follow what you’re talking about?”

One of the other things that we see as a really big factor for clarity is, in your language, is there a clear cause and effect? Is there a logical outcome to what you’re talking about? If I say that if you do this, then this will happen, it feels good and it feels clear that what you’re talking about has a flow. We see that highly correlated with whether an audience thinks that you’re clear.

Roger Dooley:    I’m curious. That wasn’t one of your points in your speech, and if it was in there, I guess I missed it, but what about repetition? Did you find any telling data that shows repetition is good or bad because, certainly, there are some public speakers who do that? They’ll state a key point, pause for a split second, and then repeat it again.

Noah Zandan:     Yeah. There’s the famous study called the rule of seven, which says that if you want someone to remember something you have to repeat it seven times. If you, again, I won’t use too many political examples today, but if you think back to politics at least in the last election, most people could recall Trump’s big lines. He was highly, highly repetitive in the way that he spoke those, and when you ask people to do recall on Hillary’s lines, they tend to struggle with it more despite who they have a political preference towards. Certainly, from an audience psychology perspective, repetition is key.

The rule of seven, like a lot of studies in behavioral science, has been disproved. The number’s actually somewhere between 15 and 21 now, which I think is a reflection of how much technology and confusion and notifications we have in our lives that the more you repeat, the more likely it is to be memorable.

Roger Dooley:    Right. Everybody remembers that Trump is going to build a wall, but not many people remember the details of Hillary’s immigration reform program, which she did have one. I actually wrote about that before the election as well that Trump had this very simple emotional message and something that people could visualize in their mind very easily. He didn’t do a PowerPoint that showed a picture of a wall. He let everybody imagine their own. But Hillary had this very nuanced program with, like, nine points of different things that she was going to extend, new programs that she was going to implement, and so on, and I’m sure it was probably pretty good policy, but from a communication standpoint, as you say, if she went through that, nobody would remember it.

Noah Zandan:     Yeah. I think it highlights one of the biggest things we see in communication is, again, it’s style over substance for most people in the audience.

Roger Dooley:    Which in politics isn’t always necessarily a good thing, but it’s kind of the way people make decisions, both from whether it’s buying a product or voting for a politician.

Noah Zandan:     Yeah. No. I certainly wouldn’t say it’s a good thing, but I think it’s a misconception in the way a lot of marketers and leaders work because we think so much about the substance. We think so carefully about, “Am I getting the words right?” It really is the style and the repetition and the way that the perception is more than the actual words.

Roger Dooley:    Particularly since most voters, talking about politics still, most voters aren’t topical experts. You know, if you are communicating to people who really know a topic, then getting your facts straight and your words right is really important because they’ll be analyzing it that way, but if you’re talking to people who have a very superficial understanding of various issues, then that simple communication really works.

Your third finding that you describe, I think, will also be pretty logical to our audience, and that is that using second person pronouns like you and your is a very effective way of communicating. I know that’s been advice for headline writers for years and any kind of communication. Put it in your email headline. Any time you can engage the reader as you, you have a little bit more of their attention. Explain how that worked in your findings.

Noah Zandan:     I mentioned earlier that audiences are selfish and we’re all looking for how this affects you. Our brains are always protecting ourselves and we always start with “I” and so, the magical trick there, what the best leaders do is they really start with “What does my audience want to hear? What do they care about? What are their problems? What do they feel like when they wake up in the morning and how can I change that?” If you really place that language into, and the second part of the finding that we had with that was it’s very perceptory language, so it’s how do they feel? If you could really make that emotional and put that into their heads, then you can have dramatic influence when you spread visionary messages.

Roger Dooley:    I think you mentioned, too, that sensory words are important, words that engage the viewers or the listeners senses. Again, that’s good marketing advice as well. There’s fMRI studies that show that sensory words actually light up the listener’s brain as if they were experiencing whatever that sensation is. In fact, it even works if the sensory words aren’t used in that context. If you say, “I’m having a difficult day” or “I’m having a rough day,” rough actually lights up the brain a little bit differently and perhaps a more impactful way than difficult, even though the meanings are the same.

Even if whatever you’re talking about doesn’t necessarily engage the senses, sometimes incorporating a few of those sensory words really helps. But of course, again, getting back to the politics, a wall is rather visual sensory item compared to discussing extending a program for two more years or something of that nature that’s kind of abstract.

Noah Zandan:     It just, again, brings out the same point, which is as much as we all want to vote on policy, and we want to judge the best content, and we want to pick the expert, we’re pre-wired. Our brains make decisions really, really fast on this pre-wiring that happens subconsciously and it is. It’s senses. There are certain things that you can do when you communicate that really trigger those things, and if you can learn how to do that, it’s like magic.

Roger Dooley:    Okay. Noah, how would you go about analyzing … You’ve got all this great data, right, with all these key insights, how would you go about analyzing a speaker’s performance whether it’s Steve Jobs introducing the iPhone or, say, I came to you and said, “Okay, I do these speaking gigs. I want you to help me be a more effective communicator?” What’s your starting point and what do you look for and what’s your process?

Noah Zandan:     Sure. Probably two levels to the answer. One is how it works methodologically, and two is what do we do as a service, what do we offer to people. Which one would you prefer that I answer?

Roger Dooley:    You pick or both perhaps.

Noah Zandan:     All right. Quickly on the methodology and if you want me to go deeper and geek out, I’m happy to here. I said up front that we spent all this time collecting data and understanding audience preference through surveys. What we also did is there’s a bunch of new technology like natural language processing and computational linguistics and vocal mapping and facial analysis that actually allows us to look at those behavioral patterns and understand what correlates with the outcomes that audiences care about. And so, we’ve built a platform that can do that with technology and analytics and scale. We invest in a ton of training data and paneling in order to do that really accurately.

What that means, what we can offer to the market is we can take a speech, and that can be a piece of text, a piece of audio or video, and we can actually understand how an audience is going to perceive it, and then why. If you’re not trusted, are you not trusted because you’re using the wrong type of pronoun? If people don’t think you’re confident, is that because you’re speaking too slow? You can get a focus group together, there’s a few other ways to get responses like dial testing. What makes us unique is we could actually start to understand the why and we can offer that to leaders, to speakers, and we even through software are able to offer it to the masses and organizations through quantitative feedback.

Roger Dooley:    You mentioned the pace. What have you found about how fast or slow speakers go? Is there any consistent finding there or does it depend on the topic? I think there’s some common wisdom that many speakers speak too quickly and that they’re perceived of as being more knowledgeable if they slow down, but I’m curious what your data has found?

Noah Zandan:     It’s a bit of a topic of debate. I mean, the average speakers in our database, and we’ve measured over 150,000 people at this point, is 150 to 170 words per minute. Most audiobooks are recorded a little bit slower than that. If you look at the Presidential debates, they were anywhere from 190 to 200 as people are trying to cram in language and not get interrupted. When we’ve studied audience preference, you are right. Certainly, if you speak too fast people will think that you’re smart, but if it’s so fast, people will think “What is this person hiding? Why are they speaking so quickly?” What are they not comfortable holding the moment and actually letting the audience be there with them?

Roger Dooley:    Right. Well, there is the old phrase about the fast-talking salesman and that was not a compliment. That salesperson has something to hide.

Noah Zandan:     Take a speaker like President Obama. When he started, and he was running for office, you know, we measured him. He’s a great communicator. We measure everything from one to 100, his scores were in the 70s and 80s. By the time he was finishing office, he was in the 90s. His pace throughout that time went down significantly. He started at about 160. By the time he was wrapping up, he was at 130. He knew he had the audience in his hand and he could hold that power, he could hold that magical pause with them, and it’s really, you have to be good to do it and to use it correctly because sometimes if you go way too slow, people just won’t think that you’re prepared or you’re so busy thinking about what to say next. For him, it worked really, really well and created a unique style of communication that audiences loved.

Roger Dooley:    Do any of these findings extend to written communication, Noah, or have you looked at that at all?

Noah Zandan:     They do. And so, the way that our platform works is we can use natural language processing and computational linguistics to understand written communication. We were really fortunate to partner with a guy here at the University of Texas named Jamie Pennebaker. Dr. Pennebaker wrote a book called The Secret Life of Pronouns and really what his big finding was when you think about written communication is what audiences look for, what grabs them is actually not, it is not the names of things. It’s not the complex words. It’s the simple words that we choose to say. If I say, “You and I are on a podcast together,” “We’re on a podcast together,” or “You are interviewing me on a podcast,” it actually means different things to an audience. There’s conscious decision, whether or not we understand it, in how we say that.

One of the biggest findings that he had was he looked at language of trust. He looked at liars and people telling the truth. What he found was that in written communication, if people use first person pronouns, audiences will perceive them to be more trustworthy. They’re owning their language. They’re taking message ownership. If people use third person pronouns, audiences will perceive them to be less trustworthy because they’re trying to escape from the language. There’s an inherent degree of conscious or subconscious guilt.

Roger Dooley:    Interesting. If you are inventing an excuse for being late, you don’t want to say, “Missed the bus.” If you want to be perceived as truthful, perhaps we shouldn’t be telling people how to lie effectively here, but we try to give useful information, it would be potentially better to say, “I missed the bus.” Right?

Noah Zandan:     Yeah. I trust you when you say that or when you say, “Oh. It was the bus driver’s fault.” Right? It sounds different.

Roger Dooley:    Right. You actually did a talk that got millions of views about the science of lying or the language of lying viewed scientifically. Let’s delve into that a little bit more and what other cues are there to help you determine if somebody might be not entirely truthful?

Noah Zandan:     Sure. I think it gets back to the theme that we’ve been touching on a few times here, which is we think that so much of our communication is conscious, but there’s all these things that happen subconsciously. And so, when we’re lying, polygraphs have been totally disproved because people have trained themselves to get around them, but when we’re lying subconscious things are happening in our head. When researchers and behavioral scientists have studied this, what they’ve found is that because we’re lying, our brain processes things differently when we’re speaking. And so, one of the things is how we use pronouns.

There’s three other main factors in that algorithm. One of them is how complex we use language. Liars actually think that they have to hide something, so they’ll tend to use language that is more complex whereas people that are telling the truth tend to be more straight up, tend to be simpler.

Roger Dooley:    Yeah. I think that complexity is an interesting topic. They’ve even studied it in academic papers. Of course, many academic papers, if not most, are written using very complicated language where the things that could be expressed very simply are expressed in long sentences filled with really long words. They’ve looked at that and found that papers that actually don’t really have any significant conclusions, in other words, they haven’t advanced the science or the art or whatever area they’re written in significantly, they’re perhaps just rehashing something that’s already know, they tend to use more of that complex language perhaps to cover up the fact that they really haven’t found anything useful.

Noah Zandan:     I love it. You know, I mean, even the smartest academics, right, we’re all susceptible to our own human behavior and our own insecurities in our brains. As much as we think we can cover for it, technology knows us better than we know ourselves and it’s just so powerful to start unlocking some of those insights.

Roger Dooley:    Other than complexity, what are the other lying cues?

Noah Zandan:     Pronouns, complexity. Liars tend to, they really tend to use longer, so we looked at length, and liars tend to use a lot more words than someone telling the truth. One of the examples that I pointed out in the Ted-Ed lessons was John Edwards when he was talking about an illegitimate child. Unfortunately, he was lying about it and he really felt the need to over-explain it. If he was speaking the truth, he would just say, “Not my child.”

Roger Dooley:    Of course, then there’s Bill Clinton who famously did not have sex with that woman.

Noah Zandan:     But think about the language that he chooses there. Right. “That woman.” Right? He’s not being clear. He’s not directly taking ownership and saying it quickly.

Roger Dooley:    Mm-hmm. Interesting. So would it have been, perhaps, better to communicate by calling her by name or-

Noah Zandan:     Yes.

Roger Dooley:    Okay.

Noah Zandan:     And John Edwards actually, when he admitted that it was his child, used the child’s name.

Roger Dooley:    So using those terms to refer to other people is also a cue. That’s what I’m getting out of that that if you are telling untruths about somebody, you perhaps would be more likely to refer to them in some oblique way, either by a pronoun or some other phrasing like “that woman”.

Noah Zandan:     Yeah. And then the final factor, just to touch on it really quickly, is actually sentiment. So sentiment looks at the ratio of positive to negative language. Liars, not surprisingly, they feel guilty and they use more negative language. They’ll talk about things negatively.

One of the examples we like there is Lance Armstrong. When asked about whether or not he was taking performance-enhancing drugs, he used a lot of negative language to say no. Whereas people telling the truth, they don’t have, they’re not feeling guilty. They are actually more positive in the way that they communicate over a pretty large sample.

Roger Dooley:    Well, good stuff. Noah, what other communication tips do you have that perhaps you haven’t already hit on?

Noah Zandan:     I like the ones that we touched on. That people really think carefully about their content and under-think about the delivery. Talking about trust. Talking about vision. One of the other ones that we’ve been studying really carefully as a company is what makes people authentic? And so, we just released a big study of authentic leaders. If I look at kind of the communications field as a whole, the big thing that everyone’s been working on previously was storytelling. Nancy Duarte out on the West Coast has done wonderful work on how to be persuasive and how to resonate. What we’re seeing more and more and what we’re getting more and more requests for in our work is how do I sound authentic? How do I get past this script? How do I talk the same to my employees versus to my customers versus to my investors?

We did a big study on the Fortune 100 CEOs to understand who’s the most authentic, and what makes them authentic? What are the different things that matter? The number one ranking person for authenticity was Jamie Dimon. What he does masterfully is he sounds the same in every situation and then the big thing is what he’s saying, the words that he chooses to use are actually consistent with what his voice and what his face are expressing. And so, what audiences get tipped off to is if someone gets the content right, but they don’t look like they believe in it or they’re not smiling or they’re not kind of present with that content.

If you tell a joke and frown, right, people will think that you’re inauthentic. Whereas it’s kind of these small micropatterns of behavior, whereas if they’re highly consistent, people will think that you are authentic and they’ll believe you more.

Roger Dooley:    It seems to me, I’ve heard Jamie Dimon interviewed, he seems to be a fairly plain-spoken guy for a guy who’s CEO of a giant bank. I have to believe that goes back to some of your other factors about complexity and phrasing and so on, that if you can express your ideas simply and then, of course, have your body language, and facial expressions, and so on consistent with that, that’s got to be more authentic than not doing that.

Noah Zandan:     Yep. Exactly. Again, Roger, these factors are all highly correlated, and so, performing well on some of them and doing the right things with your voice and your face are going to be highly correlated with an audience’s perception of your authenticity.

Roger Dooley:    Well, I think that’s probably a pretty good place to wrap up, Noah. Let me remind our audience that our guest today is Noah Zandan, founder and CEO of Quantified Communications.

Noah, how can our listeners find you?

Noah Zandan:     The best place to start is go to our website, If you’re interested in going further into our research, we have our resources tab that you can click to there. If you’re interested in looking at any of the public presentations that I’ve given, you can just google my name and Ted.

Roger Dooley:    Great. Well, we will link to those places and to any other resources we talked about on the show notes page at We’ll have a handy text version of our conversation there too.

Noah, thanks for being on the show.

Noah Zandan:     Thank you. Appreciate it.

Roger Dooley:    Thank you for joining me for this episode of the Brainfluence Podcast. To continue the discussion and to find your own path to brainy success, please, visit us at



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  1. Jack Heald
    Jack Heald06-28-2018

    Good stuff. Trump is real-world proof of Noah’s research.

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