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Choose Your Words Carefully….

Knowing your audience means knowing more than just what they will relate to or find funny, it should also inform your choice of words. If I give a speech and I use the word ‘bleak’, whilst trying to persuade you to believe in my new book because it provides ‘hope’, I am moving the audience’s mind in opposite directions.
When we hear any word we have a reaction to it that is automatic and involuntary, the spoken word directs the listener’s attention to a section of realty that’s occupied by their existing associations in that section, thereafter the listener’s reaction depends on what associations they have in that section of reality.

One way to understand these associations is through what is known in psychology as ‘schema’, the pattern of thought that organizes categories of information and the relationships in our minds.

If I say to you the word ‘lemon’ and I then ask you to say what comes to mind, the likelihood is you will say things that sit in these three categories:

  • It is a fruit (category)
  • It is yellow (attribute)
  • It tastes bitter (cause)
“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” Rudyard Kipling
Car manufacturers know about schema and that is why you see so many of them using letters or having to conduct a lot of research before branding their cars, in case it means something untoward in particular countries. Try thinking up a new name for a company, say the name to a few friends and see their response, you will be able to pin down their reaction according to one of these three categories.

(Schema Categories: Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman)

(Effect of language: Pre-Suasion – A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade, Robert Cialdini)


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