As communicators and creative wordsmiths, we sometimes take for granted the actual intensity and forcefulness of the spoken or written word.
Words formulate perceptions, awareness and expectations. They develop emotional bonds and guide how we rationalize our thoughts. Since what we think affects behavior, there’s a strong relationship between the words we use and the end results.
Poorly selected words can destroy passion and spirit, crush self-respect, and lower expectations. Well-chosen words can encourage, inspire hope, create insight, influence thinking, and reshape the outcome.
Generally, when people get their way, they accomplish it with words. Their logic and reasoning are so compelling and powerful, listeners change their opinions and impressions, even abandoning their principles, to conform to what’s being communicated. Written words can be even more effective, since there is often a false presumption that when words are put in writing, they must be true.
Using words in a way that elicit impassioned or zealous responses generate power, often influencing other individuals’ judgment and behavior. Because this kind of authority is invisible and limiting, people can easily be coaxed, manipulated and dominated without their knowledge. We see such persuasive language all the time in advertising. For example, a powerful written description in a brochure detailing an expensive car might cajole a person into buying a luxury item he can’t afford and doesn’t need.
Decisions based on this type of word maneuvering are not built on facts, reasoning, logic, or one’s best interests, but on gut reactions to the individual communicating with the strongest words. When a reader or listener is capable of separating his emotional responses and recognizing these false or exaggerated assertions, they will become ineffective.
As writers, it is important to remember the persuasive craft we engage in and how our words impress and touch others. We never will be fully aware of how deeply our comments affect each other, but we do have a choice to use the power of communication in positive or negative ways. Let’s not forget, it’s a lot more than words.