Words: The Latent Power of 'Not'
Imagine the immense delight you would feel to have an audience break into spontaneous applause after you’d made a significant point. You can appreciate, can’t you, that a reaction like that signals an audience ‘going for’ you and your ideas in a very big and tangible way.
Consider, too, speaking in front of a group of people and triggering silent “ahuh” or “yes” responses all the way through your presentation. The air would be electric with positive energy, wouldn’t it? Now, what if you could create tactical sentences that excite those responses at will? You may say to yourself now, “that can be something really worth learning, can’t it?”
Review your experience of reading the paragraph above. Can you remember the number of times that you felt physically in alignment with its propositions? Maybe you felt a few ahuh-ahuh-ahuh’s as you quickly absorbed the points, or maybe the sensations of agreement and approval were a little stronger than that, providing more than enough reason for you to remain interested and continue reading.
The internal sensations you experience from a mild “ahuh” to a wanton ‘go-for-it’ impulse feel good. Consider the value of these positive feelings being associated with you and your content as you deliver your message. If people associate pleasure and stimulation with you and your message, three things happen. 1) People will remember more of your content, 2) People will be much more likely to embrace your message, and 3) People will come back for more.
The sensations associated with ‘Yes!’ and ‘go-for-it’ responses are an important consideration in the relationships Charismatic communicators establish with audiences. They are particularly gifted in the assessment and management of emotion in those they seek to persuade. They take constant readings and actively engage in regulating the emotional mercury as circumstance demands. This gift can be seen as a combination of self-appraisal, the capacity to read and manage an audience’s emotional state, and the ability to fashion words in such a way as to make them irresistible.
Having felt the power of ‘Yes!’ and understanding the value of incorporating ‘yes’ triggers into your speaking style, your next step is to learn some of the patterns and sequences charismatic communicators use to evoke those responses. In this article we will review what you will come to know as ‘tactical negation’, or in simple words using the word ‘not’ to trigger positive reactions in your audience.
THE ‘YES’ NOT
The word not and its derivatives exist only in language. This is to say that ‘not’s’ are a mental construct and generally do not mirror the way your brain works. They are tough on your unconscious mind and that is why, for example, you can’t not think of evoking ‘yes’ responses when instructed not to think about them, without thinking about them first and then attempting to stamp a not on them. As you can see, it’s not all that hard to tie your mind up in ‘not’s’, is it not?
Some ‘not’s’, however, are better than others. You may not have begun to wonder where this is all taking you, until now. And as you begin to consider the immense possibilities of this simple word, you can appreciate, can you not, how a few cleverly placed ‘not’s’ can bring about a strong sense of the opposite? O.K., enough is enough!
The ‘not’s’ you are going to find relatively easy to integrate into your language style are connected to what are called tag questions. Some tag questions, such as “right?”, “O.K.?”, “You know?” and others that are part of powerless language can reduce your effectiveness as a speaker. However, appropriately inserted tag questions containing a ‘not’ can have the effect of producing silent affirmation in your listeners, thus significantly increasing your effectiveness. It would be useful to be able to use a linguistic device like ‘not’ and have your audience nodding in agreement as you go along, wouldn’t it?
During the important phases of building an argument it can be extremely useful to evoke your listener’s silent agreement on the points you introduce, to encourage them to feel a ‘yes’ coming on at various stages during the delivery of your argument.
A series of tag questions have been inserted at crucial points in this article to illustrate the usefulness of tag questions containing a ‘not’. Perhaps you’d like to scan what you’ve read so far to discover for yourself how a negative like ‘not’ can induce internal sensations of agreement.
Having completed your scan, begin to think about how you can insert similar tag questions into your speaking style. Try out a few of the following tag questions on occasions and notice the physical symptoms of agreement they evoke.
Isn’t it?/is it not? couldn’t you? hasn’t it?/has it not?
doesn’t it?/ does it not? could you not? aren’t we?/are we not?
don’t you?/do you not? shouldn’t you? wouldn’t?/would it not?
haven’t you?/have you not?/ should you not?/ you can add more to this list
can’t you?/can you not?/ won’t you?/will you not?
In future articles, I will cover a range of linguistic and rhetorical devices that, if used intelligently, can increase immensely your power as a communicator and public speaker.
(c) 2004 - 2006 Desmond Guilfoyle
Posted by Desmond at 7:00 AM