Getting Action Using the Shame Trigger

[adsense float=’left’]Shame is an over-used emotional trigger. Once you know what it is, you’re more apt to see it, and the more you’ll feel that people are trying to manipulate you. My goal today is to give you a few examples of how shame is used against you as a persuasion tool.

Obvious Shame ThemeWhen people feel manipulated by your persuasion attempts, you will never cultivate a sense of rapport with them. They just won’t trust you in the future, because they know that when you need something, you’ll revert back to a manipulation strategy.

Here is a simple example of using shame to get people to take action that I found on Facebook. I’m sure you’ve seen hundreds of these types of posts yourself too:

Shame is triggered when you have conscious awareness that you've been ignoring one of your values.

This facebook message uses the emotional trigger of shame to get you to take an action. Shame is triggered when you have conscious awareness that you’ve been ignoring one of your values.

Do you see the shame trigger in the end of the message? It is the last sentence.

“Repost if you are against bullying. I bet 99% of you won’t, but repost this if you’re that 1% with a heart”

Shame is often confused with the emotion of guilt. Guilt is a feeling that you’ve wronged someone by your actions. In other words, your actions hurt someone else. The first two sentences of that facebook post are meant to trigger guilt, because it is a direct action on your part.

“The ‘gay boy’ you punched in the hall today; committed suicide a few minutes ago.”

Unfortunately, guilt is not very effective as a persuasion trigger, unless you actually catch the person in the act of the transgression. At that very point, they may have regret that they hurt someone and do something to show they are not really that mean.

But saying this six hours after the action, will only cause the person to get defensive. They will always say something to deflect the criticism away from themselves, like that the person had other issues going on in their life, and it is not their fault that he committed suicide.

Guilt rarely works as a trigger for action, so people turn to the emotional trigger of shame.

  • Shame is triggered when you ignore one of your values, and you have a conscious awareness of it.

The above facebook post was meant to trigger that emotion. Here is how it works:

Most people would say that bullying is bad. They assume that it is one of your values too. So they are trying to make you consciously aware that you have been ignoring that value. Ignoring, in this sense, means to do nothing about it. If you have been ‘doing nothing about bullying,’ then you should feel bad about it.

Hence, shame is triggered in your mind…

They also know that to get rid of that feeling of shame, requires an action on your part. You have to do something to prove that you haven’t been ignoring that which you value. Being ever so helpful, they even tell you what to do: “repost the message.”

It is a simple, and powerful request. And I’ve seen many people repost this message.

The alternative call-for-action stinks

If the call-for-action in this message just said: “Re-post this if you have a heart and are against bullying,” it wouldn’t have gotten the response that I’ve seen happen.

Shame is a power trigger. And it does work.

However, I think it is being overused. Since more and more people are posting these types of messages on facebook, I believe that it will lose its power. At least, that is situation for me. When I see these messages, I immediately see the shame trigger. And then I feel that they are trying to manipulate my emotions to get me to take the action that they want.

Now I am against bullying. But when I feel that someone is trying to manipulate me to do what they want (it benefits their cause), then I feel angry.

Anger is a more powerful emotion trigger than is shame. Anger lasts longer. And the longer it lasts, the more festering it becomes. And it causes you to want to get even with the person that tried to manipulate you. So you do an opposing reaction.

An example of this is with the gun-control issue.

One side is trying to use the argument of shame, that guns are hurting people. But the people that own guns, feel that their feelings of compassion are being manipulated by the shame trigger. So instead of turning in their guns and allowing for more gun control laws, they are digging in their heels and pushing back.

That is why I think that the shame trigger is being over-used…

Anyway, that is just an example. What do you think?

If you would like to learn more about using emotions to trigger people to take action, you might want to check out my Kindle book: Emotional Copywriting Revealed. It will change how you think of marketing, persuading people, and getting what you want.


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This entry was posted in Emotional Copywriting, Persuasion Techniques, Persuasive Techniques, Values of People. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Getting Action Using the Shame Trigger

  1. John Simmons says:

    Thank you so much for posting this. It is something that needs saying. As you know, I have pushed back on Facebook for just this kind of stuff. However, I think you have articulated it much better than I could. And I appreciate how you broke it down, make it accessible.

    Also, I love the point that anger is stronger than shame… and that the first reaction to guilt is defensiveness. I’m with you and hope that we will see less and less of this sort of manipulation.

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