Never Let Emotion Trip Up Your Message

Editor’s Note: Brad Phillips is taking two weeks off to celebrate the arrival of his new son. This guest post is by Dave Nagle, a senior communications analyst for the public relations company Vox Optima.

Pick an issue…any issue. (Go ahead, I’ll wait.)

Odds are, you have an opinion about that issue. It’s also a good bet that someone else (and for that matter, a whole bunch of someone elses) has an opinion about it too. Those opinions probably fall on one side of the spectrum or the other, or in one of several places in between. That issue might be an emotionally-charged one, which means emotionally-charged opinions.

Oh, and if it’s a political issue? Hoo-boy….

The news cycle is chock full of coverage of issues with many talking heads expressing opinions about said issue. The more emotionally-charged the issue, the more emotionally-charged the opinions. Some of them are … shall we say … EXTREMELY passionate.


PR pro Dave Nagle


There’s nothing necessarily wrong with being extremely passionate, until it turns into a lot of screaming and shouting and foaming at the mouth. If they were looking to make a point or change a perception, in my opinion, they failed. Miserably.

There’s the old adage “never let emotion cloud your judgment.” For the sake of this discussion, let me modify that adage to “never let emotion trip up your message.”

Depending on the topic or issue, it’s hard to separate yourself from the emotion. I get that. We’re human beings; we have emotions. It’s only natural. But first and foremost, the goal in any interview is to effectively communicate your message, based on facts. Whether you’re the one communicating or preparing someone else to deliver the message, the desired effect is to make your point clearly and effectively in order to support or defend your position or strengthen or alter perceptions about your organization. An interview filled with rabid hyperbole and a lot of screaming and shouting does nothing to make your point. In fact, not only is your point lost, but you also run the risk of supporting the opposite point.

But to be clear, I’m not advocating completely checking your emotions at the door or switching them off like the android Data could in “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Sometimes, during an interview, emotions have their place. But the emotion must SUPPORT your message; it cannot BE the message. Emotions don’t last long. And then what are you left with?

Oh, and don’t try to fake emotion either. People are smart. They’ll see right through you—and then tune you out. So when preparing for that interview, consider the following:

  1. What point am I trying to make?
  2. How do I make my point clearly and factually?
  3. Is a degree of emotion appropriate? If so, does it SUPPORT my message?
  4. Is my emotion genuine, or am I faking it?

Remember, never let emotion trip up your message.

Dave Nagle, a senior communications analyst for the public relations company Vox Optima, has more than 20 years of expertise in defense industry, international and national public relations consulting, crisis and strategic communication planning, media relations, media training, and writing. He can be reached at

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