The Impact of Words

I am fascinated by words and their use, whether used verbally or in the written form and that includes both in the workplace and in the wider community. 

Did you know…?

The brain doesn’t process negative words well. So when you tell someone, “Don’t forget to book the appointment”, they usually forget. The word don’t has an effect on the brain’s ability to process the meaning of the instruction. It appears to process the instruction as “Forget to book the appointment”.  

Is there a better way to give this instruction?

Instead of saying “Don’t forget to book the appointment”, say instead, “Remember to book the appointment”. There is a greater chance that the appointment will be booked. 

Here is a test for you:

Don’t think about your favourite home-cooked meal…

Don’t think of its sweet aromas…

Don’t think of the flavours as you enjoy each bite…

Did you think about your favourite home-cooked meal? 

When we tell ourselves or others not to do something it firmly instills the idea in our brain, meaning we are more likely to do it.  

The word don’t is just one example of the impact of words on the brain. 

Signage

Is the meaning of this sign clear?

When I see a sign in the community, it usually grabs my attention. Not because I need to read signs. It has to do with the words that have been used on the sign. I often wonder if the person(s) who constructed the sign thought about the impact of the words used. 

I recently came across this sign in a carpark and it immediately caught my attention. Most of us skim read nowadays so could the sign be misinterpreted? Could it have been worded better? 

What is the purpose of the sign? Could the phrase, “No staff parking allowed” become understood as “Staff parking allowed”?  Isn’t the true purpose of the sign to say that the parking area is for customers only? So why not just say that? 

The next time you want to ensure that your message is understood and action is taken, think about your choice of words.

  • Will the person understand your true meaning?
  • If there is a possibility for confusion then how can you communicate your message better?
  • What words can you use that will have a clear message?

By considering your choice of words you may just find that the action you require from others may have a greater chance of happening.

What confusing messages have you encountered?

 

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Learn About This Author
Maria Pantalone

Maria Pantalone

Maria Pantalone is the author of Success Talks: Conversations with Everyday Leaders. Maria works with individuals and teams to make communication their strength so that their message is heard. She provides tailored programs in presentation skills, business writing and effective communication as a leader and team member. Maria’s programs help her clients to excel in their role and be recognised as leaders in their field.

Comments 2

  1. Avatar

    Hi Maria,

    I had not thought of it but so true. A negative message is just that – a negative message can compromise the intention of the writer.

    1. Avatar

      Thanks for your comment, Jim.

      Yes, a negative message can compromise the intention of both a writer and speaker.

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