Psycholinguistics explore methods to promote successful communication, with the emphasis on the words/language we choose to communicate a message with. In active communication we use words beyond their lexical meaning. The underlying intention or subtext will affect the way in which a message is interpreted. Language operates in a verbal, physical, social and psychological context. Listeners will make different connotations to the language we use, based on their backgrounds and experiences. Communicating effectively is at the heart of leadership. Therefore, language can become a powerful tool to master in order to sell ideas, persuade and when being diplomatic.
Guidelines to Enhance your Communicative Power through Psycholinguistics:
- Avoid using “BUT”
“BUT” disqualifies whatever is stated before. Rather opt for “and” in specific contexts.
- Avoid using “JUST”
“Just” has a subtext of limitation.
- “TRY” When used in certain contexts, “try” may seem non-committal. Be aware of using it when you sell ideas.
- “IF” This is a word that we use often, especially when we have to be diplomatic. “If” is a “conditional” which means that there is a notion of “maybe” or “uncertainty” attached to it. It is not an effective word to use when persuading. Replacing “if” with “when” or “having”, you create a concrete positive expectation for your listener.
- “I” When we answer a question, especially if we have to voice an opinion, it is quite natural to start with “I” or “I think”, “I believe… “ This is quite acceptable, however when you make a habit of starting all your responses with “I”, it could carry a subtext of arrogance. “I” can also be used as a positive technique. When conducting a confrontational communication it can be used to deflect and to minimize “attacking”.
- “ALWAYS/NEVER” Time words such as “always” and “never” carry a notion of permanence. If you need to be persuasive or diplomatic, they can be replaced with “tend to”.
- Understand the modal verbs. Certain modal verbs in English have a notion of politeness and diplomacy. If they are used appropriately, it could mean the difference between a command and a request. Most listeners will respond better to the notion of requesting or suggesting than being commanded. It is important to be aware of the “notions” behind the modal verbs to ensure that they are used diplomatically and persuasively.
- Time words. Time predicates imply a particular orientation in time. We often use time predicates without realising their full impact. Time words can be used to influence a person to think of an issue / problem / situation as having moved to the past, remaining a part of the present or having a specific impact in the future.
- Linkage. This technique links issues/situations or tasks that the listener perceives negatively with situations/issues or tasks that s/he perceives positively. By placing the positive issue/ situation or task first the initial perception will be more positive and this will soften the negative perception.
- Use Questions Positively. When you ask a question in a negative mode, you open a negative door. You can elicit a positive mode by phrasing your questions positively and you will generally get a better response.
The embodiment of these elements will not only enhance your overall communicative impact power, but also increase trust, clarity, and add interest to your presentations.