Power words and communication techniques

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Words have magical power. They can bring the greatest happiness or the darkest despair.

Sigmund Freud

Words are powerful. They have the ability to inspire, motivate, and persuade; or discourage, dismiss, and dissuade. With your words, you can wield the power to plant the seeds of success or failure in the mind of another, and in the process you reveal who you are, how you think, and what you believe. Whether it’s buying in an interest group, promoting a product, building a team, or mending a relationship, the right words spoken at the right time can change everything. Power words and techniques can help us to engage our listeners and persuade them to follow our lead.

The right words spoken at the right time can change everything.

It is important in leadership to choose your words wisely because they expose the number one ingredient to success: your attitude. In the workplace, a positive collaborative mind-set can mean the difference between winning a customer, wasting an opportunity; or developing or destroying trust, and all is heavily influenced by the the words you use. Actions speak louder than words, but words and thoughts are the seeds of those actions. Words announce to your staff how you feel and what you think about important workplace values like respect, commitment, accountability, gratitude, initiative, service, and excellence. The words you choose and how you use them are key to your how willingly your team follows you and are at the core of realizing principle centred leadership.

The words we use let our staff know how we feel about core work principles.

Power words  are the words, phrases and approach that best elicits the reaction in the listener that we desire.  They are not normally complicated words or concepts that few people understand, rather they are generally simple words and easy to use techniques that need used in the right context to induce the desired reaction. A power word or phrase triggers an emotional response stimulating the reader or listener to make greater efforts to understand the message being conveyed. The most important power word to start with is also the simplest: “You”. “You”, “your” and “yours” are almost the only words that you can never repeat enough when you are trying to get a msg across. This is because people don’t want to feel like another member of the crowd. They want to feel valued, the first step to achieving this is to talk to them as an individual and make them feel unique. “You” creates “buy in” and feeds the all important “What’s in it for me?” . In contrast to “you”, repeating too often “I” – or “the company” – can limit a person’s willingness to see the information being conveyed as something relevant to them. Where possible use “we” in these cases to create an inclusive msg where you are in it together.

The most important power word in buying people in is also the simplest: “you”.

The second aspect to take into consideration when presenting a convincing msg is to include words which convey “cause and effect”. In short if you want someone to take an action, you need to explain to them why they should do it. In persuasive or argumentative speaking, we try to convince others to agree with our facts, believe our claim, share our values, accept our conclusions or adopt our way of thinking and when you are convincing someone you must say why. Cause and effect reasoning is a method that helps your listeners see why things have happened or will happen as they do. It shows the inevitable linkage between what happens first and what happens next as a result. Cause-and-effect words make your claims sound objective and rational, rather than biased and subjective, they also back up the usage of “you” and “we” as you are looking out for the effect the msg has on individual and you are sharing yourself in it. The most common word that convey cause and effect is of course “because” but others include:

  • Accordingly / As a result / Because / Caused by / Consequently / Due to / For this reason / Since / Therefore / Thus

Cause and effects words are vital to getting someone to buy in and channel the listening into why it matters to them.

Now that you “understand” the critical importance of repeating “you” in a msg and including the power words of cause and effect, we need to look at some concepts that can go into presenting a powerful msg and selling an idea. Whether we like it or not, fear is a powerful motivator. In fact, it is probably the most effective emotion to trigger to grab attention – just listen to a Donald Trump’s election speeches to hear a master at this! Fear – or in softer form the concerns people have at and about work – are one of the thoughts that most frequently go through someone’s mind: “Will i finish my project on time?” Will my contract be renewed? “Will i be able to cope with the stress? Do my colleagues like me?” Will I get home in time for my daughter’s school play?. All of these “fears” (and their variations) are real and the act of teasing (gently bringing up) the fears (concerns) staff feel does make people stand up and pay attention and eagerly await – and want to accept – your proposed solution which of course should follow. Therefore an effective communication technique is before you present your solution you want others to adopt, you – gently – get staff worked up about the problem they face. So, with that goal in mind, here are a few words that play on popular concerns. Please do include them sparingly and always have in mind the objective is not to create “fear”, but to get people to listen actively to your solution which as a good boss, should be something in everyone’s interest but your job often is to convince people of that.

  • Failure / Hate / Afraid / Agony / Danger / Humiliation / Alone / Vulnerable / Stress / Death / Pitfall / Mistake / Risk / Devastating / Stupid / Warning

Teasing the concerns of people can be a great way to get them to listen actively to your solution to follow.

Now we have engaged our audience, the next power word technique is to create a sense of urgency. Fear of missing out is not something exclusive to products or offers, it also exists with ideas and change. For example “leave campaigners” in the Brexit referendum, effectively reminded voters that “this was a once in lifetime vote”, change that we had just one chance to decide on! This fear of never having the chance again to create some change (no matter that people didn’t understand what that change was) did sway some voters. It is worth noting that the fear of missing out is normally a more powerful influence over us than the hope of gain. So what sort of words can you use to highlight that your idea is the change NOW needed.

  • Now / Hurry / Quick / Limited / Running Out / Fast / New / Deadline / Last Chance / Final / Never again / Expires

The fear of missing out on a great idea can motivate staff to follow your msg.

Building on our little foray into missing out tactics, let’s take a dive into the world of exclusivity and belonging. We all seem predisposed to want to feel that we belong to something unique and special. Ever noticed the most popular clubs all have exclusive door policies? Or the rumored benefits and connections accompanying exclusive societies and clubs? In term of work, people want to feel part of something that fulfills our deep need for purpose and makes us feel we are contributing to something that matters. Tapping into your existential intelligence and using words to add an exclusivity element to your msg increases the perceived value and importance, hence again making people want to go along with your proposal.  So what sort of power phrases can you include to make your listeners feel they are contributing to an exclusive project.

  • Our department only / You’re all uniquely chosen / You are one of the few / for your ears only / You’re the first to hear about… / I’m only sharing this with a few people.

Giving people a sense your words and ideas are exclusively for them can create buy in.

Fear mongering, scarcity, exclusivity and any other triggers you employ to grab attention are good. But if you can’t get your potential staff to trust you, then what’s it all for? If you don’t have the right emotional bank, there is no way they are going to follow your your msg.  Of course the primary trust building elements are built up over time and backed up by their belief in your leadership character that aligns with their own values. But in personal conversations, written communications and meetings there are still words that you can use to bolster – and more importantly remind – your staff that you’re a trustworthy leader who’s shown in the past that your make decisions in the team’ interest and look after them.

  • Lifetime / Guarantee / Authentic / Certified / No obligation / Dependable / No risk / Proven / Secure / Verify / Safety / Backed / Endorsed / Protected / Unconditional / Genuine

When convincing someone of a msg you need to use words of trust to remind people you have history of looking after them.

The final touch to powerful communication is to use inspirational power words and phrases. These are words that add energy to your msg and additional edge to the techniques used above.  Used right they inspire people to greater effort and belief. Some examples of these are listed below:

  • engage followers / unlock potential / tailor products and msgs / provide unforgettable experiences / instill values / empower team players / invest in people / breakdown barriers / overcome hurdles / inspire belief / feed passions / build missions / synergise ideas / be part of life-changing experiences /  guide towards goals / navigate around challenge / delegate objectives (not tasks) / help others find their voice / value diversity / create safe environments for expression / bring out creative juices / influence over control / upgrade procedures / compliment signature strengths guide staff on their educational (development) journey / confront weakness / embrace teamwork / spark ideas / “yes we can” belief / power of “not yet” / transformation / transparent decisions / deliverable goals / trigger emotion

Inspirational power words and phrases add a final persuasive edge to your msg.

Words can transform the way people think and act and hence using power words and techniques effectively engages listeners and makes them more likely to embrace your msg and follow your leadership direction. Words are the start of action and we should learn to use them wisely and see skillfully using them as necessary skill to keep developing in.

Words are the start of action.

Power words and techniques

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