You’ve probably heard the saying, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” As a telemarketing manager, it used to baffle me how two people could deliver the exact same pitch and yet one would set five times more appointments than the other. I’ve come to believe that how we say it is at least as important as what we say, if not more. The reason for this lies in the physiology of the brain. So here’s some Science 101, but don’t worry … I’ll keep it simple.

Your brain is made up of many parts, but for our purposes, I’m only going to talk about two. The first is the outer portion, or the neocortex.

The neocortex is our “Thinking Brain.” It’s primarily responsible for things like:

  • Rational thought, logic, and language
  • Reasoning and problem solving
  • Judgment and impulse control

The other portion is the limbic brain. This is our “Feeling Brain.” The limbic brain is the first part of our brain to react to everything we see, hear, feel, taste, or smell. In other words, the first response we have to any situation or event is an emotional one, because all sensory input hits the limbic brain before the neocortex. This means we feel before we think.

Now that you know a thing or two about the brain, which part do you suppose controls decision-making?

If you picked the limbic “feeling brain,” then you answered correctly.

Does it surprise you that the feeling brain is what drives decision-making rather than the thinking brain? If you know anything about sales, it doesn’t, because you’re probably familiar with this well-know quote:

“People usually buy on emotion and then they justify it with logic.” – Zig Ziglar

Science is now confirming what salespeople have known for years—and the physiology of the brain explains why it is so.

This means that, as freelancers, business owners, consultants, and marketers, if we want to persuade and influence others’ decisions, we must communicate to the feeling portion of the brain more than the thinking portion. It’s not that people don’t want logic, facts, and figures when making decisions. It’s just that logic doesn’t drive behavior and cause people to take action … emotions do.

“Logic makes people think. Emotions make people act.”

Need more proof? Let me channel Cliff Clavin for a moment. The word emotion comes from the Latin word emovere. Here’s a word-picture for you:


Besides move, it’s also where we get the word motivation. The bottom line is, we don’t move or make any decision unless our emotions are involved.

So what does this have to do with using your voice more effectively? Well, everything … because the limbic “feeling brain” also processes vocal intonations or “tone of voice.” This means that your tone of voice is the direct link to the “emotional mixing board” in another person’s brain. Your tone of voice has a huge impact on the other person’s emotional response—for better or for worse.

Former owner and partner of web firm Jenesis Technologies, John is currently Director of Digital Strategy at Haines Local Search, a company providing local search marketing solutions to SMBs, including print and Internet Yellow Pages, web design, and local SEO. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks.

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  • Karel Vandenhove

    Nice article, but how does one use his voice, tone of voice etc.

  • Melissa Sherrin

    I’m with Karel – detail on *how* to utilize tone was exactly why I read the article, and it’s not there… bummer.

    • John Tabita

      Seeing I let you both down, and since you asked, I promise to make that the topic of another article very soon.

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