CHARM SCHOOL TIPS FROM A COMPUTER
Joshua Feast believes artificial intelligence applications like Cogito will soon be available to aid in all the important conversations in your life–job interviews, first-date flirting, buying a house. Until then, though, take the advice of Cogito’s algorithms for some insights you can use right now.
LEAD WITH CONSISTENCY
One of the “honest signals” that shapes almost any interaction is emphasis—the amount of energy with which a speaker delivers his or her message. In experiments, Sandy Pentland has shown that speakers who maintain a consistent level of emphasis are seen as steadfast in their motivation and single-minded in their focus. Such speakers are viewed by others as strong leaders. Variable emphasis is a sign of indecision or wishywashiness.
PERSUADE WITH MIMICRY
When two people are in conversational harmony, they unconsciously mimic each other’s words, intonations, and gestures, a result of so-called mirror neurons that fire in response to others’ behaviors. Pentland’s research has shown that the effect works in the other direction, too: A speaker who subtly mimics his or her conversation partner is rated as more interesting, honest, and persuasive.
SOOTHE WITH RECOGNITION
Cogito uses readings of vocal-cord tension to detect when a caller is becoming excessively agitated. When this happens, the agent sees an empathy cue and is trained to respond by simply acknowledging the caller’s feelings. Just saying “You sound a little frustrated” can be enough to ratchet down the tension, says Feast. “Even if you say, ‘No, I’m feeling fine,’ you’ll immediately give me a ton of social credit for recognizing and caring.”