Tap into powerful, yet background words of influence

You can tap into powerful, yet background words of influence. Background words can be a simple, but convincing means of influence. Robert Cialdini discusses some fascinating examples in his new book, Pre-suasion. One of Cialdini’s discussion points is the way an outstanding US health service even goes to the extent of aligning terms used in internal communication with its corporate healthful values and medical ethics.

This highly successful non-profit organization even goes to the extent of avoiding violent metaphors generally taken for granted and commonly used elsewhere.The organization uses achievement-related words such as goal and outdistance, but prohibits the use of words with menacing associations such as target, beat, mission and combat (disease). They don’t use bullet points; they use information points or dot points. They don’t attack a problem; they approach it.

All this may seem a bit corny, but it works.

Several studies have shown that subtly exposing people to words that signify achievement, such as win, attain, succeed, and master, increases their performance on an assigned task and more than doubles their willingness to keep working at it. So when you see a business office or call center where posters are prominently placed with messages in big font urging people to OVERCOME, SUCCEED, PERSEVERE or ACHIEVE, take note – these actually work.

Quite often such urgings are accompanied by photographs or illustrations. Research shows these work as well. For instance, a Canadian study found fundraisers in a call center were given information on paper carrying a photo of a runner winning a race. By the end of their 3-hour shifts, these callers had raised 60% more money than their comparable co-workers.

Conclusion: Initial incidental exposure to simple words or images can have a pre-suasive impact on later actions that are merely associated with the words or images.

Following the lead of others

You can read more about another powerful form of motivation in my article, “People follow the lead of others they respect.”

Photo by Nicolas Hoizey on Unsplash.

Kim Harrison

Kim J. Harrison has authored, edited, coordinated, produced and published the material in the articles and ebooks on this website. He brings his experience in professional communication and business management to provide helpful insights to readers around the world. As he has progressed through his wide-ranging career, his roles have included corporate affairs management; PR consulting; authoring many articles, books and ebooks; running a university PR course; and business management. Kim has received several international media relations awards and a website award. He has been quoted in The New York Times and various other news media, and has held elected positions with his State and National PR Institutes.

Content Authenticity Statement. AI is not knowingly used in the writing or editing of any content, including images, in these newsletters, articles or ebooks. If AI-produced content is contained in any published form in future, this will be reported to readers.

Leave a comment

Please read and respect our Comments Policy before engaging.


Further Reading

Harness powerful emotions in your messaging

Napoleon said, “Men are moved by two levers only: fear and self interest.” Not quite as simple as that, but fear and loss still feature prominently. Many people agree that the two most powerful emotions, especially in business, are people’s desire for gain – their...


No products in the cart

Send this to a friend