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The persuasive power of just 5 words

by on
in Office Communication,Workplace Communication

A study by Cynthia Rudin and Been Kim at the Massachusetts Insti­­tute of Technology offers insight into the power behind words and how they can be used in the workplace to produce favorable outcomes.

The study focused on vocabulary’s effect on persuasiveness and its ability to generate particular outcomes within a group. Words such as “yeah,” “give,” “start,” “meeting” and “discuss” rank among the highest in their ability to produce accepted proposals and positive re­­sponses in colleagues.

The power of the word “yeah” lies in its ability to create a signal of agreement, rather than a conflict, when used in framing a suggestion, Rudin says. When building a proposal, use words that foster agreement.

Other words proved potent in their ability to shift topics. For example, the word “meeting,” as in “maybe this is something for the next meeting,” was easily accepted by members in the group. Using the word this way allows members of the group to feel that their suggestions and proposals are not being ignored or rejected but are being saved for a more appropriate time.

The ability to shape a meeting’s structure is also influenced by the word “discuss,” Rubin says. “Discuss” was used to suggest how a meeting should be organized, as in “maybe we should discuss this further.” The use of this word helps open the meeting up for further exchange.

— Adapted from “At Work: Just Say ‘Yeah,’ ” Rachel Emma Silverman, The Wall Street Journal.

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