How The Right (And Wrong) Words Effect Your Desired Outcomes

The measure of the value of our communication is the outcome. And, if you are not getting the outcomes you desire, you need to change what you are saying or how you are saying it.

If someone is using a word or phrase which confuses you, your brain starts to internally search for meaning or comprehension. And while this process is ongoing, you are probably missing the next part of the communication.

Think of this when you prepare your next speech, presentation, response or memo.

As an example, I recently observed a newscaster who was working from a teleprompter to deliver information on a particular story which was extremely controversial.

Then, in an effort to personalize the story, she turned slightly, looked directly into the camera and said, “Irregardless of what you may believe . . .”

And at this point, at least temporarily, she lost part of her listening audience’s attention. Why? Because irregardless is not a word – – regardless is.

I assume many people are not aware of this, otherwise they wouldn’t commit this common error. However, the part of the audience which does recognize the error, briefly tunes out or may form opinions about the speaker’s credibility.

Your cultural, emotional and perceptual development is a major factor in your speaking style, and it is important to remember that another person(s) has a development which may differ considerably from yours.

If you desire to communicate on an even playing field, take into consideration which words will have what effect on the listener.

Think about the words you would be wise to avoid. In fact, we label these “avoids.”

Avoids are those words which might be considered acceptable in ordinary cultural or social situations, yet are to be avoided in presentational style.

Be cautious how you use the word ‘but.’ It is more than a connector of two ideas or phrases. ‘But’ is the equivalent of erasing the sentence or idea which preceded it. “That’s a great idea – – but . . .” or, “We sell the finest product in the market today – – but . . .”

Value judging words permeate most conversations, as in, “Here’s what you (should – – ought – – must) do.” These words reduce energy and often raise barriers between yourself and others.

The common phrase “Do you follow me?” equates with, “I am smart, you are dumb, so try to follow my reasoning.” The phrase, “This option is cheaper” implies that your product is cheaper, not just less expensive. The phrases “To tell the truth” and “In all honesty” may imply that you have considered other options, or, that in this instance you will be truthful.

When you are selling, the word investment is preferable to cost, and “O.K. this agreement” is preferable to “Sign this contract.”

The next time you make a presentation, speech, appraisal or summation, why not record it for self-appraisal only? Then see if you are using “avoids.”

Another classification of words, was researched by Dr. Milton Erickson, who was one of the main influences behind the science of Neuro-linguistic Programming.

Dr. Erickson found that there were certain words which seemed to have a special power in inducing trance-like states of focused attention and relaxation in his patients.

He found that by stressing these words in his questions, using them within a suggestion, or precluding the introduction of a powerful yet provocative idea, produced a state of ease, relaxation and concentration on the issues at hand.

Dr. Erickson labeled these trance words and here are some examples of their use:

  • “I am curious to know.”
  • “Most people would consider this a comfortable situation.
  • “Let’s examine the ease by which we can accomplish this.”
  • “Think about how this solution could lead to your peace of mind.”

These statements using trance words are followed by a brief period of silence (2 or 3 seconds) allowing the listener to contemplate their feelings.

Here are four additional trance words:

  • Wonder
  • Understand
  • Puzzled
  • Guarantee

Experiment with them using a tonal quality and a voice level which encourages contemplation. Now build sentences around these words similar to the previous examples. Then introduce them as the occasion arises for their need.

Next, let’s take a look at action words, or more particularly, words which encourage or give direction to action.

Of those hundreds, even thousands of words in the dictionary, there are those which when properly grouped direct others toward action.

Many presentations end without even the simplest call for action. On the other hand, competent communicators frequently embody a call for action in the beginning, the middle, as well as the end of their presentation.

Some effective examples of these phrases include:

  • “As you listen, think about what will be the best way to use this idea.”
  • “When I conclude I will ask you to decide if this idea has merit, and if so . . .”
  • “When I conclude, you can decide that the idea is workable and therefore usable, or you can decide not to decide.”
  • “Soon I will ask you to make a decision and remember that a decision of “Yes” or “No” works better than no decision at all.”

Another example of these phrases in action are trial closes. Again, here are some examples:

  • “Why not decide on option A or B and see how we can make this fit your needs?”
  • “If we start to prepare the paperwork today you will probably be enjoying the use of this product in 6 weeks, so why not, let’s get started.”
  • “What would need to exist for you to get this program started?”

Asking for action is not being pushy. However, the language must be selective and delivered in a tone that emphasizes mutual benefit as a response to action.

Another grouping of words which impact interaction are those which we call comparatives. These can be recognized by “er” endings such as: better, faster or nicer. Comparatives are seldom challenged by most listeners in conversational contexts.

Here are some examples where they are used as a statement of fact, which obviously implies that credibility has preceded the statement.

  • “Can you see why this is considered better (or wiser)?”
  • “This feature enables you to do this much faster and easier.”
  • “Isn’t this a nicer (or kinder) way to look at this?”
  • “This surface is softer (or tougher).”

Each of the words could, if supported by evidence, become a superlative. Remember however, a superlative implies the highest, the most extreme or the very best. So . . .

  • Better becomes the best
  • Wise becomes the wisest
  • Easier becomes the easiest
  • Faster becomes the fastest

If the idea, program, product or service has in fact proven itself over a protracted period, and if the information is supportable, use a superlative. Otherwise, stick to comparatives. They are seldom challenged by most listeners.

Continue to build these effective communication skills into your daily routine, while removing the ineffective habits and you will see results.

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