There is an oft-quoted statistic published by a USC professor, Albert Mehrabian, which states that we communicate 55% of a message with our body language, 38% with our tone, pace, and pauses and only 8% with our actual word choice. As a student of communication, I find convincing evidence of this almost every day, but I believe it’s only relevant if there is a disconnect between our truth and our words. If there is an incongruency, the body language will trump the words every time. If there is total congruency between our body language, tone, and words… there is no issue of believability for the listener. But, there can still be big issues with understanding and impact.
Assuming that we’re speaking our truth and that our body language and tone lines up, the words we choose can make a big difference in the level of comprehension and influence that we actually have.
Here are some tips for choosing the right words and increasing your impact with those with whom you are trying to communicate and influence:
1) Learn and use their name.
You don’t have to overdo this. Two or three times in a business conversation will work wonders.
2) Emphasize what works.
We have a tendency to tell people what won’t work or what can’t be done versus what will work or what can happen. Always try to rephrase your words to highlight the positive versus the negative.
3) Partner with people.
a. How can I help?
b. What do you think?
c. How would you approach this?
d. What’s been your experience?
4) Speak to the good.
Appreciate and acknowledge people. It feels good and most people don’t hear it enough. It opens people up and makes them feel good about themselves and you.
5) More “You” – less “I”
“Here’s what we deliver” is different than “Here’s what you get.” The words “you” and “your” are your best friends when trying to influence.
6) Stay in control.
“I’ll find out and follow up on that” is better than “I don’t know.”
7) Stack your vocabulary with power words. Here’s Inc. Magazine’s list of the most powerful business words:
d. Others (prepositions, adverbs)
ii. Never (never worry again; never overpay again)
8) Connect with “and” versus “but”
“But” is usually the big eraser of what came before it in a sentence. Inserting “and” is almost always a better choice in the middle of a sentence.
Mark Twain once said, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is really a large matter… ‘tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” This week, step into your full ability to persuade, connect, influence, and create lasting impact by paying attention to your choice of words.