Why are some people adept at interviewing for a job or talking their way out of conflict? Psychologists who have worked with companies to design their advertising campaigns and slogans, and political advisers crafting the brilliant speeches of politicians know the answer: The way that words are used to influence, persuade and motivate. And brain science tells us much now about the connection between thinking and language.
Dr. Frank Luntz, author of the book Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear, and named the "hottest pollster in America," by the Boston Globe, gives us valuable insights on how subtle shifts in word usage can mean the difference between success and failure. You can have the best message in the world, but the person on the receiving end will always understand and attach meaning through individual perceptions based on a large number of filters, including values, experiences and personality. As NLP coaches know, the meaning of communication is what comes back at you, not what you send out. It's not enough to be correct, reasonable or even intelligent.
Luntz argues that the key to successsful communication is to put yourself in your audiences' shoes. Luntz outlines the 10 rules of effective language that all managers should master:
Luntz says that the corporate world is plagued by shoddy language. Employees and customers are inundated with jargon and "ad-speak" and professionals' job jargon. Skillful and successful leaders in organizations are masters of comnunication and work at their art. Words that we remember are not the common words of average people.They are pollitical, cultural and corporate words that have been artistically and thoughtfully crafted for a purpose, with great results.
Luntz identifies 5 great myths and realities about language and people in the U.S.:
Luntz identifies what he calls dynamic, impactful words for the 21st century: imagine, lifestyle, hassle-free, accountability, results, innovation, renew, revitalize, rejuvenate, restore, rekindle, reinvent,efficient, the right to..,patient-centered, investment, casual elegance, independent, peace of mind, certified, All-American, prosperity, spirituality, financial security, balance approach, anda culture of... He does stress that is not the use of the words alone, but the style in which they are used, will make a difference.
The real problem in our common language today, Luntz argues, is that it has been so coarsened and words once considered vulgar or obscene are now commonplace, with their original meaning forgotten. The other problem is that people believe that they own what they say and manner in which they say it, not realizing once it leaves their mouths it doesn't disappear but affects other people for a long time. Finally, so much of our language today is negative, harsh and aggressive, and all too often people use words that divide, demean and humiliate others.
Leaders in organizations should recognize that the content and tone of their language can have great effect on people, and choose their words wisely to inspire, influence, and persuade for the right reasons.