The Logic of Emotion: How to Make Inaction Impossible (Tamsen Webster)

Tamsen Webster

Tamsen Webster began her keynote by working on getting Ramon Ray interested in purchasing a lovely Arctic Air Personal Air Cooler!

“It’s been ‘Seen On TV’! Do you know how hard it is to get seen on TV?”
“Look at how happy these people on the cover look!”
“If you buy now, I’ll throw in a free gift!”
“What would get you to buy this???”

Imagine, instead of a personal air cooler, that this is your product. You get it in front of someone and you want them to want it—but they do not. We believe that if we can just remove enough objections, we can get them to act. But…they do not.

Who among us hasn’t gotten a sales call (or tried to cancel our cable!) where the person on the other end of the conversation seems to have prepared for every possible objection? They’re prepared to sell—to PERSUADE into ACTION.

Have you ever answered an RFP where you had to address every possible objection—and still not gotten the contract?

The answer:
We need to create a messaging moment of truth.

Objections and Decisions

We believe on some level that objections precede decisions. But is that really true?

Webster was looking for pet insurance for her dog, Walnut. On one provider’s website she found the usual comparison chart: “Look at how awesome we are; look at how less-awesome our competitors are!” But their competitors had their own charts that showed themselves killing it compared to everyone else, too!

If overcoming objections (and comparison charts!) worked every time, we’d never lose a sale.

We are not rational decision makers;
We are rationalizing decision makers.

We cognitively rationalize decisions we’ve already made emotionally.

The Cognitive Miser

A cognitive miser doesn’t like difficult, complex questions. Politics is a perfect example. Sorting through every stance, belief, and qualification is too hard. So what do we do? How do we choose the candidates we vote for?

On height. Taller candidates in American elections have won 2/3 of the popular vote. The cognitive miser equates tallness with greatness—and with greater leadership and communication skills.

The cognitive miser has some favorite objections:
:white_check_mark: Time
:white_check_mark: Money
:white_check_mark: Other people

These “objections” are DEFLECTIONS—from a harder question, or from a difficult answer.


We tell stories to ourselves to feel better about our decisions. We tell ourselves those stories because they make things make sense for us and they make us feel good about those decisions. Whether it’s a new car, expensive jeans, or something for our dog, we have stories we tell ourselves.

Your customers also tell themselves stories about why going with you—or not!—is the best decision.

Story isn’t a squishy emotional thing; it is the logic of our mind.

If the story makes sense to us, then the decision makes sense.

What makes a story make sense?

The answer lies in the stories we tell other people. The structures we use to make the stories we tell to other people make sense are the same structures that make the stories we tell to ourselves make sense.

Stories need three parts:

  1. A beginning (Setup);
  2. A middle (Conflict);
  3. An end (Resolution).

The Star Wars movies illustrate this beautifully.

  1. Luke wants to be a pilot. (Setup)
  2. He discovers the evil forces threatening the universe. (Conflict)
  3. As a pilot, he saves the universe. (Resolution)

Stories are about a transformation: moving someone from Point A to Point B. What they had to go through to become something else (much like Luke Skywalker’s transformation from brat to hero). We want to move our customers from inaction to action, or from pain to joy.

But we need to understand what happens in the middle.

Between these two points is a moment where action becomes irresistible; Aristotle called it the Anagnorisis. The moment of recognition. The moment the character realizes the true nature of their circumstances, and allows action to happen. The moment Neo wakes up and realizes humans fuel The Matrix.

One of the most famous of these moments is when Darth Vader reveals that he is Luke’s father. It changes the nature of the story. It makes new action possible, and makes the previous plan impossible.

What is that thing that makes that moment happen—the “penny” in the “penny drop moment”?

Silent Assumptions

Silent Assumption:
A deep-seated belief about how the world works.

Silent assumptions are our lines of code; they program how we see and experience the world, and there are times that we don’t even know how they’re impacting us. Research shows 26 “primal assumptions” that impact how we see the world. How we see the world changes how we perceive every action.

Behind the comparison chart is the silent assumption that if we remove enough objections it’ll work out. These silent assumptions make everything make sense logically.


A story is an argument. A syllogism is the minimal viable argument; the minimum amount of information you need to change your mind (or to understand something).

You know that Walnut the dog is an animal because you know that all dogs are animals, and you know that Walnut is a dog, therefore you know that Walnut is an animal. We need those two pieces of information together to reach that logical conclusion at the end. This seems obvious—but so many marketers skip the middle and do not state the silent assumption. The argument, the story, the ad, doesn’t make sense.

A story needs to be:

  • Valid (complete, with all 3 parts: beginning, middle, end)
  • Sound (it needs to be true)

Too many marketers engage in solution selling (“you have a problem and we solve it”–not a valid argument) & gap selling (presenting a contrast with a future statement–but the two need to connect in the middle).

These two approaches don’t always fail, of course. And even if you have all three parts of the story, you won’t always succeed, because it also needs to be true.

Another silent assumption we tend to hold: Thinking objections drive decisions.
It’s actually the other way around: Decisions drive objections.

The cognitive miser doesn’t lay out the silent assumptions, or actively note that all three parts of the story aren’t there. The cognitive miser deflects to money/time/people to rationalize the decision they’ve already made.

Slap All Their Troubles Away

Vince Offer’s iconic Slap Chop commercial answers the silent assumptions driving potential objections.

If it is it true that we would eat healthier if it were easier, here’s a way to make healthy food with just one hand. One hand is easier, thus you will eat healthier.

It’s not like “South Park”’s Underpants Gnomes:

  1. Steal all the underpants;
  2. ?
  3. Profit!

You can have three parts, and they can all be true—but you also need to ask, “If Part One is indeed true, what information would make it so?” You need to STATE the silent assumption in Part 2 that makes Part 1 true, then make the connection in Part 3 that invites the next step.

Making Action Irresistible

What you need to know to make action irresistible:
Objections follow decisions, they don’t lead to them.

Story drives decisions.

We need that silent assumption that pulls the trigger to create that messaging moment of truth.

Lisa Rothstein of

:star: You can read the full Twitter thread of this presentation here

:star: Check out our exclusive interview with Tamsen here