Coining the Right Words

A major step in learning how to intone the soft music of charismatic communication is to recognise that some words have greater value than others. You may realise that words backed by honest intentions are more valuable than those that are not. Further, some words have the potential to dramatically increase the value of your linguistic cash at hand. They can purchase more attention, more meaning, more understanding and more agreement.

If you invest your words wisely and seek to expand people’s choices with the persuasive words you use, people will begin to view you as a true leader. After all, if people associate you with benefit and choice, will they not be drawn to you for further guidance?

One of the most powerful words in the universe is the name by which you identify yourself. It will most likely be your first name, unless it’s a nickname that you embraced fully as a child and carried into adulthood. The mention of your favoured name can stop you in your tracks. Notice how you’re so highly attuned to hear that name that it can rise out of the din of a crowded room and fight its way to your ears.

Equally so, you associate your favoured name with gaining the full attention of others. From birth, you heard the sound of your name repeatedly and connected it to your being the centre of its’ speaker’s attention. Generally, you associated the speaking of your name with a positive emotion, like pleasure in being the focus of others.

If you use a person’s favoured name, either at the beginning or end of a sentence containing a suggestion, you will significantly increase the likelihood of the message being received favourably. Using an individual’s name anchors a positive emotional stimulus (as in the comfortable feeling you generally experience when people mention you by name) with the suggestion or statement contained in the sentence.

When communicating with groups and larger audiences it becomes impossible to refer to individuals by name, however you may like to consider selecting key, or influential, members of your audience and applying the above technique. If you have framed your sentence appropriately, their nods of agreement will have a powerful impact on the rest of your listeners.

Given that you cannot mention each and every member of a larger audience by name, what can you do to create similar outcomes to the examples given above? Think about it. What pronouns do you use when you think about yourself or engage in silent self-talk? You generally use the first person singular “I” or “Me”, don’t you? So, apart from having a particular affection for your favoured name, “I” and “Me” are substitutes for the name that embodies your broader sense of self.

If someone is to trigger the “I-Me” in you, which pronoun would be best suited for the job? The second person singular pronoun “You” would have to be first choice, wouldn’t it? If someone addresses you in the second person singular pronoun “You”, they’re directly triggering your “I-Me” sense of your self, are they not?

You may be thinking that “You” is also a second person plural pronoun. And, when it’s used to refer to a group, as opposed to each separate individual within a group, it can isolate the speaker from the group, rather than enjoin the speaker and group in shared space, and right you are. So, the secret is to refer to the singular “You”, and not the plural “You”, when you’re addressing groups, because you can speak with each individual as an individual if you use the “You” pronoun properly.

The singular “You” is one of the most important words in the English language because it triggers the “I-me” in your listeners and sends a strong signal that your content is all about them, and not yourself. In using the singular “You”, can you sense how you’re symbolically directing your attention towards each individual in the group? Have you ever, for example, attended a speech and felt that the speaker was communicating directly with you, or heard someone say, “I felt I was the only person in the room and that she was talking directly to me.”? Chances are the speaker framed most of her core message in the singular “You”.

This simple technique replaces the traditional relationship with audiences where listeners’ attention is directed towards the speaker. The reasons for doing this are becoming increasingly important. The singular “You” is becoming more necessary as people’s pre-occupation with themselves and their problems increase. It seems people have less time and attention to give to others in today’s high-pressure environment. Conversational Narcissism, where people constantly refer conversations back to themselves in a relentless pursuit of attention, appears to be a by-product of contemporary life.

An argument you might find quite compelling and rewarding is that if you design a form of communication that mirrors your listeners’ inclinations towards self-attention, your message will have a substantially better chance of being heard and acted upon. The second person singular pronoun “You” is pure linguistic gold because it taps into this trend and purchases the attention of your listener/s. Moreover, It earns the higher interest of your audience because it triggers emotions similar to those evoked when people hear their own name. It places you, the listener, at the centre of the communication.


Ross Bowring said...

Thanks for the great post. Very well thought out.

I linked to it on my blog,

Thanks again,

Ross Bowring

David said...

I'm not clear on how to use "you" as second person singular when speaking to a group. Would appreciate your elaborating on this.
By the way, I really like your work.

Mondodes said...

Hi David, Thanks for your comment.

In answering your question, I would firstly point out that this whole post is framed in second person singular.

Using SPS in prose/copy or in commercials or public addresses means delivering your presentation as though you were speaking to only one person. It enables you to enter "shared space" by utilising each and every audience member's imagination. In its most powerful form, you must be very careful to introduce content that cannot be challenged. Consider this example:

"It may just be occurring to you now, or perhaps it has earlier, (note that this statement cannot be disputed) that framing your message in second person singular can involve more than just using the word "YOU". (notice the use of the 'possibility word' "Can" which in no way induces negative will) And as you begin to contemplate the power of SPS, you can imagine, can't you, a number of different scenarios where this technique can help you overcome resistance? Imagine you are (notice the use of present tense), in front of a group of peers and superiors, in a presentation that aims to get buy-in for change. And the penny suddenly drops: creating a vivid picture of the future where the change has occurred and people are reaping the benefits of the change is a very effective way of shifting people in time so they can see a future that is not threatening. And you're thinking to yourself "I can do that because it simply requires a small mind-shift that is easy to make"

Its a short example but begin to notice that that the technique involves placing your 'audient' as a character within a story and using SPS as means to carry a one-on-one conversation with everyone.