Originally written by Chakisse Newton
Originally published in SCACPA's CPA Report magazine
One of the easiest ways to dramatically increase your ability to influence others is to improve your language skills. Quite apart from learning lofty language, improving your use of language is a simple matter of utilizing the subtle effect that word choice can have on creating positive emotions. Here are five ways to use language as a tool to get better results and influence those with whom you interact:
1. Remind the listener of the benefits of following your suggestion.
If you’ve ever used a consumer product for your skin or hair, you’ve read directions on how to best use the product. Carol’s Daughter, a line of natural skin and hair care products, takes their instructions to the next level: “Dab onto a cotton ball, smooth over face and smile – radiant skin!” Stating benefits reinforces the user’s desire to follow instructions.
2. Make instructions fun (especially if you have to give obvious instructions).
Remember when a McDonald’s patron won a sizable lawsuit when she was seriously injured after spilling scalding hot coffee on herself? Starbuck’s warns without insulting us with the simple reminder, “Careful, the beverage you are about to enjoy is hot.” It sounds so much better than, “You know the beverage is hot. We know the beverage is hot. Please don’t burn yourself and then sue us.”
3. Make the mundane sound pleasurable, or at least more interesting.
If you’ve ever loaded a computer program you’ve seen a progress status bar with a message like, “Please wait. This may take a few minutes.” Blue Mountain Arts online greeting cards uses the same status bar, but makes waiting feel good with messages like “Warm thoughts heading your way…” and “Saving trees one card at a time.”
4. Make the language listener-focused and replace “I” with “you,” when possible.
The social networking site LinkedIn provides a standard request to connect with business colleagues: “I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” But, it’s more effective and certainly more personable to replace the I-focused ”message with something more welcoming like, “Please join my professional network on LinkedIn.”
5. Paint a pleasant picture that makes the listener want to follow your suggestions.
I received an invitation to a museum fundraiser which stated, “Because of your impeccable manners, superb upbringing and genuine southern hospitality, we invite you to spend a delightful Saturday evening mingling with your friends and savoring delicious southern cuisine, while supporting a wonderful cause.” This vivid imagery replaces the painful image of a stodgy event where you’re asked for money with one of an intimate gathering with friends, food and stylish social responsibility.