Words matter

Not everyone has a shared passion that motivates the masses – but when you do it is a powerful force.

Greetings from Alabama.


I have just arrived down here to visit some friends and regroup after spending four days at a client conference. During the conference I was reminded again how much the words we use matter – I have written about this before, but it is a topic well worth returning to.


What are the associations that go with the words you are using (good and bad), how do they frame your message? The substitution of a word can totally change the way people respond to what you are saying.


Here is an example from the conference I was at.


The question was asked whether the social program run by the professionals at the conference should be called an answer or an antidote (as in; this social program is an answer or this social program is an antidote). Which word evokes stronger associations?


While the word answer denotes positive resolution, a correct response, an antidote, on the other hand, is a remedy, a fix, something that counteracts unwanted effects – it has a stronger inherent frame of reference. Antidote is more likely to get people to think of the program as a cure to the problem.


This type of approach is called framing. Framing is a way to use language to influence the choices people make by evoking specific associations – it is particularly prevalent in politics. However, we shouldn’t discount the potential it has to shape the language we use in organisations.


For more great examples and to learn more about framing language take a look at George Lakoff’s book “Don’t Think of an Elephant”. It might be the difference between your message getting the response you want, or falling on deaf ears.


See you next week from Washington DC!


Alignment is Michel’s passion. Through her work with Brandology here in Australia, and Brand Alignment Group in the United States, she helps organisations align who they are, with what they do and say to build more authentic and sustainable brands.

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