"As much as we thirst for approval, we dread condemnation.” - Hans Seyle
Understand, not criticize. “Instead of condemning people, let’s try to understand them. Let’s try to figure out why they do what they do. That’s a lot more profitable and intriguing than criticism; and it breeds sympathy, tolerance and kindness.” - Dale Carnegie
"Gratitude is the decision of the will, and if a decision of the will, the choice resides squarely with us. Deciding to be thankful is no easy task. It takes work." - Chuck Swindoll.
"To those who value words of affirmation, criticism feels like a knife in the heart." - Dr. Paul White.
It is often quoted that only 7% of communication meaning comes from words with 38% tone of voice and 55% body language. In electronic communication, the numbers most likely flip, with possibly 55% of the meaning emanating from words and the rest from context and electronic tone. Further, one might distinguish between emails and SMS (short message system) such as texting. Virtual, aka Zoom communication, fits then into another category. Zoom communication becomes even more complicated because participants can mute the video and the microphone. In fact, one might say the language is being creatively adapted and enhanced to suit the conditions of communication media.
Nonetheless, whatever the communication, words are important. This blog entry is devoted to “magic words” that promote communication and persuasion.
Magic Zoom phrases that promote persuasion
Bill Murphy, Contributing Editor of Inc. magazine, has identified magic phrases that can be used in Zoom meeting to promote communication and persuasion:
-Allow me to be upfront. This phrase conveys that the speaker is going to be honest and efficient and may say ideas that are not necessarily welcome.
-Tell me more. Most people want to know that others are listening and that they want to know more. This phrase does this in a non-judgmental fashion.
-What do you think? Most people want to believe that their opinions are solicited and valued.
-How can I help? Most people are grateful for assistance.
-You’re welcome, please and thank you. The Persuasion Law of Esteem (Kurt Mortensen) urges civility.
-I’m sorry, I interrupted you. The gift of uninterrupted time is valued.
-I’ve noticed that you do ___ very well. People like to hear truthfully that they are doing something well.
-I wonder how we can fix this. First, including the “we” indicates no blaming. Second, this phrase encourages action.
-Let me find out. This phrase indicates to others that you have information gaps and you will fill them.
Author Elaine Rè's magic words for negotiation success
Author Elaine F. Rè, Ph.D. in her book 101 Secrets to Negotiating Success outlines “magic words” that can make or break the negotiation. A deal can fall apart completely when the wrong word or phrase is used. Conversely, the right words can clinch the agreement and ensure a happy ending to the negotiation.” Her "magic words" are:
Unfortunately: This is a great term to use when disagreeing and yet showing empathy for the person or the person’s position. This term conveys partnership with the others rather than being adversarial.
Need: This word conveys the importance of the issue. “Need” means this is of critical importance and captures the attention of the listener.
Uncomfortable: This is another word to use in disagreement. Comfort is important to most people so they seek to make the “uncomfortable” comfortable.
Help Me Understand: These three words indicate to the listener that you want their expertise and knowledge. This makes the receiver of this term feel important. By using this phrase, the speaker is telling the listener that they really want to know how they reached this position.
Magic noncontroversial words: Perspective and situation
Example: In the 1970’s, among many jobs, a Columbus, Ohio prosecutor had the duties of criminal case intake and criminal mediation. They soon noticed that using terms such as “problem," “story,” and “your side” were stumbling blocks to smooth communication with the interviewees. These terms were received as irritating or “triggers.” People who were being interviewed would instantly retort,
-I don’t have a problem; They do!
-This is not my story. I am telling you the truth!
-This is not my side. I am conveying the facts.
The prosecutor realized that they could substitute those hot button words with “situation.” So, they began to ask each interviewee about their situation. There was no “blow back.”
Instead of “story” or “side” the prosecutor began to use the term perspective. Again, no “blow back.” so they continued using this noncontroversial term.
What terms are controversial or “triggers” is personal, so the speaker must pay attention to nonverbal and verbal communication to discern.
Magic words that promote agreement and compromise.
-Maybe: As an adverb, maybe can mean perhaps or possible. As a noun, maybe equals a mere possibility or probability, also uncertainty. Synonyms include concern, mayhap, or perchance.
So the word “maybe” holds out the possibility that a certain idea might work. It sets the stage for parties to continue to dialog.
-Wait a moment. What a valuable term! Parties involved in negotiation, problem solving, mediation, etc. want to be efficient and they want to be prudent, not reckless. Sometimes patience is the key. This phrase is urging all parties to pause and take a review.
Texas attorney and former US Speaker of the House (1955-1961) Sam Rayburn declared that “wait a minute” was the most valuable term he had ever used.
-Let’s take a fresh look. This term let’s all the parties know that these issues are worth discussing and parties need to stand back and take another view, another perspective, possibly leading to more creative problem solving.
-Let’s summarize: This term is called “behavior labeling,” which means one is saying what one is going to do before doing it. Behavior labeling is a valuable communication function so instead of simply summarizing, one is stating to the other parties what they are going to do. This captures the attention of other parties and they listen more attentively.
Expert negotiator and professor Roy Lewicki in his excellent book, Essentials of Negotiation, asserts that effective negotiators summarize three times as much as average negotiators. Average negotiators might summarize at the end of the meeting, whereas effective negotiators summarize as needed, maybe after a discussion of a single issue.
-And: “And” is a conjunction used to connect or to introduce a new topic or issue. “And” is used to keep the conversation moving. A new idea can be introduced by this noncontroversial conjunction instead of the conjunction. “But” is basically dismissing the previous idea. “And” is linking, connecting.
-Together/We: Together or we are terms that mean a collection, a group, a connection, simultaneously and combined action. These terms promote that problem solving is a joint concern. Negotiators use “together/we” to signify that the so-called “other side” is a negotiation partner, not an adversary.
Magic complimentary words or terms
This fits exactly into Kurt Mortenson’s Law of Esteem from his book, Maxium Influence. People, including negotiators, want to be appreciated.
Seattle, Washington, based attorney and mediator Robert Mussehl offers this:
“Magic words in my vocabulary are:
-Thank you very much!!!
-I appreciate you and your position
-I appreciate and respect you as a person.
-I appreciate your professionalism!
-I appreciate your sincerity.
Going to court will cost us a huge amount of money and will be very stressful on everyone involved.
As offers of the court, we lawyers have an ethical duty to help keep our courts from clogging and sparing taxpayer expense from cases that can be settled if each side compromises with a fair and just attitude!”
Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace sets forth:
The author asserts that workers, including negotiators, thrive on appreciation. They urge people to praise others for achievements, give affirmation of character and praise for personality. It can be accomplished one-on-one, written, public, or in front of others.
Magic words of realization: Transformation and aha!
During problem solving, mediation, or negotiation, parties’ ultimate hope is that there is a revelation, a realization, or a new thought that will break open the situation.
Example: Two business partners are fighting over projects and contracts as well as numbers and prices. Suddenly one partner exclaims, This is not just about numbers and contracts. This is about our relationship! Suddenly the conversation changes and the relationship becomes the focus. To some degree, the projects are secondary. The partnership has been preserved.
A transformational moment is often a surprise. Maybe new information is presented or a new perspective is viewed.
Magic words of sales and influence
Dan Seidman is a globally-recognized trainer on selling and influence. His book, The Secret Language of Influence, Master the One Skill Every Sales Pro Needs, contains a list of magic words in Chapter 8, “Critical Language Tips.”
-And: He recommends using “and” instead of “but.” He calls the word “and” a peacemaker and unifier of ideas.
He describes “might” as a lame, spineless word. Instead, he suggests simply stating the position strongly.
-When: He advises to use the term “when” instead of “if.” If reveals that the person is unsure of the offer. “When” indicates that the sales will happen. He lists this as a “presupposition.”
-Relationship: Seidman advises to use the term “relationship” when talking with client. This develops a bond.
-How: Beginning a question with “how” instead of “why” conveys that the speaker desires understanding. “How” seeks more information. Using the term “why” seems to be an indictment on the person hearing it. “Why” may carry emotional baggage from childhood dealings.
Magic words to get your way (persuasion)
Getting Your Way Every Day-Mastering the Lost Art of Pure Persuasion outlines a great array of do’s and don’ts with words.
Motivating Words to Use:
-Adapt, admire, advise, agree
-Collaborate, combine, confer
-Talk, team, together
Inspiring Words to Use:
-Advise, analyze, assist
-Encourage, evaluate, excite
Satisfying Words to Use:
-Able, advance, advice, advise
-Choice, choose, collaborate
-Develop, direct, discuss
-Secure, service, special, standard.
So, words matter, whether it is face-to-face communication, electronic communication, or virtual communication. It is well worth the time to “wordsmith” or “word doctor” communication. In most cases of negotiation and mediation, the parties desire a smooth flow of communication so the emphasis can be on reaching agreements and solutions.
See Recommended Books under “Blogs” drop down menu. Clicking on any book will lead one to the discounted Amazon site.
Roy J. Lewicki is the author of 'Essentials of Negotiation', published 2015 under ISBN 9780077862466 and ISBN 0077862465. Publisher: McGraw Hill Higher Education
The Conflict Resolution Training Program, Leader’s Manual, ISBN: 0-7879-6077-2. Prudence Bowman Kestner and Larry Ray
5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace.
Getting Your Way Every Day.