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Words Have Power

December 9, 2014

wordshavepower

The purpose of communication is to help someone else to understand something in your mind. At the beginning of 2013, I started the foundation for my own communication strategies when I published Law Of Communication. I suppose this time of year is ideal for me to think about communications.

While few other animals have sophisticated vocabularies; we all communicate through a variety of vocal grunts, calls, songs, etc. as well as a range of silent gestures. The words we use indicate a great deal about our beliefs, methods, attitudes, and approach to business. They form opinions and mini contracts in the minds of audiences. One of the few parental sayings I will argue is that “sticks and stones might break my bones, but words cannot hurt me.” Words can be intensely powerful!

According to LanguageMonitor.com, there are over 1 million words in the English language, and a new one gets created about every 90 minutes – making it impossible for any one person to know them all. Thankfully, we don’t need to. According to the Reading Teachers Book Of Lists, an average adult has an active vocabulary of about 20,000 words. More interesting, the top 25 are used in over 30% of our everyday writing; and the top 100 are used in 89% of our writing.

One of the assignments I give to clients is to develop a word bank of at least 75 words and phrases they want to use regularly in their business communications. Words that reflect positioning or status, reinforce culture, elicit ideal responses, describe best customers, explain what the business does as well as how the it interacts with customers. Words can be common or proprietary, though it is best to minimize the use of industry jargon.

Like any other asset, this word bank gains value the more it is used. I find that this helps focus communications across a variety of formats, social media posts, article topics, presentations, and product design, as well as various stages along a sales cycle.

From its inception, Apple had a notion of being rebellious, breaking the rules, and attracting the round pegs that don’t fit into square holes. Notoriously, they had Steve Jobs’ strong ideals of how they were going to change the world, and likely didn’t need a word bank to help focus ideas. Even if you do have such a dominant, focused figure; I recommend this simple exercise.

In the early days of Internet, we had lots of choices in terms of search engines, yet Google rose to the top by keeping things ‘simple’, ‘straightforward’, ‘powerful’, and ‘easy to use’. I consider what they do to be highly technical, yet the company is so focused on these words that it hardly shows through.

From my own list, I am happy to explain how ‘attract’ and ‘positive’ influence me. Rather than targeting potential clients and trying to convince them to work with me; my approach is to create the circumstances where ideal clients will come to know me and trust me. Besides expressing ‘positive’ in the obvious manner (i.e. my positive outlook); I challenge myself to avoid using complaints and find new ways of re-working sentences and ideas to reflect what something is or could be (as opposed to what it is not).

As the calendar year comes to a close; I encourage you to make these two lists and incorporate them into your 2015 communications. I am sure you will be pleased with the impact they will make.

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