If you ask candidates and campaign strategists for the keys to a successful campaign, they say logistics like fundraising, poll numbers, and grassroots.

These answers aren’t wrong, but they overlook an equally important ingredient to victory: making an emotional connection with voters. If voters don’t connect with a candidate, they won’t vote for them. Our brains are hardwired to bond with others through stories, yet when many candidates hit the campaign trail, they emphasize data and policy, leaving voters unmoved.

Published with permission from the author.

Dr. Peter A. Wish wrote The Candidate’s 7 Deadly Sins: Using Emotional Optics to Turn Political Vices into Virtues to share strategies that gain candidates the advantage over their opponents. He outlines the sins to avoid—being pessimistic, canned, tentative, reactive, cerebral, partisan, and arrogant—and provides a road map for turning each sin into a winning virtue.

Drawing on past and current case studies of political winners and losers, cutting-edge neuroscience, and his experience working with candidates and campaign teams, Dr. Wish found that candidates who connect emotionally with voters don’t just win their hearts and minds—they win elections. I sat down with Dr. Wish to learn the moment he decided to write this book, his favorite idea that he shares with readers, and how he’s applied that idea to his life.

What happened that made you decide to write the book? What was the exact moment when you realized these ideas needed to get out there?

I was very frustrated that the Romney 2012 presidential campaign emphasized policy over person. As I worked more closely with the campaign strategists, I became convinced that Mitt Romney was not resonating or connecting personally with voters. Voting is a personal relationship. People vote with their gut, not their brain. Candidates must connect emotionally to the gut of the voter and make the voter believe that they understand someone like them.

The night of the 2012 election, I was in Boston with the campaign. Although they felt upbeat, I was worried. My fears were confirmed as the votes rolled in. Polling post-mortems of the election showed clearly that Mitt failed to make voters believe he understood people like them.

Then, following the election, Mitt did many of the things that I’d recommended to the campaign to humanize him. He released the movie “Mitt” and got in the ring with heavyweight boxing champ Evander Holyfield for a charity match. He began to show the public his human side—the “real Mitt.” It was too late. At that moment, I said to myself “I need to let candidates know that to win, they need to make an emotional connection with the voter. I’m going to write a book.”

Published with permission from the author.

What’s your favorite specific, actionable idea in the book?

My favorite idea is: know how to tell personal stories and be humble when you do. The more emotional content the story has, the more it lights up the listener’s brains and the stronger the connection that’s made. Oxytocin, the bonding hormone, gets released and physically reinforces the connection. Reagan and Kennedy were great storytellers, and today, Trump and AOC are. Media guru Mark McKinnon, co -host of The Circus on Showtime, has laid out a model that all candidates and politicians should follow if they want to emotionally resonate with voters.

What’s a story of how you’ve applied this lesson in your own life? What has this lesson done for you?

I love to tell stories. One of my favorites to tell people is how I grew up in a home that was so small that my mother could vacuum the entire house from the same plug. I always want to be underestimated and humble and believe strongly in what Dr Jack Schaffer calls The Golden Rule of Friendship: If you want people to like you, make them feel good about themselves.

For more advice on emotionally connecting with voters, you can find The Candidate’s 7 Deadly Sins: Using Emotional Optics to Turn Political Vices into Virtues on Amazon.