Four methods for leaders to influence and engage your team

As a young girl, I was fascinated by how to use effective language to connect, positively influence and communicate with all types of people in different situations. Are you curious about which words are more powerful and influential than others, including how to motivate, inspire and engage leaders on how to create high-performance teams?

Almost everything we do involves words. We use words to express ourselves, share ideas, and interact with others. They are how salespeople market, parents’ parent, and leaders lead. 

By some estimates, we use around sixteen thousand words a day. We create presentations, compose emails, and communicate with friends, co-workers, and clients. Even though we use language constantly, we seldom ever give it any thought. We may consider the concepts we wish to convey, but we often give much less thought to the precise words we choose. 

Interesting read of the book Magic Words – What to say to get your way by Jonah Berger, a marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Throughout the book, Jonah talks about the power of magic words and how to use them to have a big impact on how we connect effectively with others. Helping us persuade others to deepen social bonds and communicate more effectively. 

Are some words more powerful than others?

Yes, there is; let’s review some of my key insights and methods learnt.

1. Starting with the language of identity

How rather than just conveying requests or information, words can indicate who’s in charge and what it means to engage in a particular action. I learnt how to increase my influence by turning actions into identity (i.e., instead of asking for help or thanking someone for their help, referring to them as a helper or thanking them for being a helper – it changed the dynamic and status, making those around me feel important).

Sound too simple? Science says otherwise. A study published in Child Development found that students were thirty per cent more likely to clean up when teachers said, “Can you be a helper in clean-up?” instead of “Can you help clean up?”

For example, if you’ve just started jogging, you may not call yourself a runner yet unless you and others start referring to you as a runner, then you will become one a lot sooner. 

Another example includes being described as ‘loving dogs’ instead of changing this to being a dog lover. I have used this on my son, including identifying him as the ‘dog whisper’, and he reacts positively with glee. I have heard him refer to himself this way when speaking with others who have dogs.

Changing a verb-based description, e.g., ‘leads people’ to a noun, ‘a people leader’ made it seem like that person’s attitudes or preferences were more dispositional and thus stronger and more stable. 

Slight changes in the words we use can have a big impact. WHY? It has to do with the difference between verbs and nouns having a stronger response on our limbic system (the emotional centre of the brain). In my experience, we like to identify ourselves with strengths and a sense of worth. 

Turn actions into identities. Asking for help or trying to persuade someone to do something? Turn the verb ‘Will you help?’ into a noun instead of ‘Will you be a helper?’. Framing actions as opportunities to confirm desired identities will encourage people to go along.

2. Convey confidence

Words do more than just convey facts and opinions. They convey a communicator’s level of assurance in the information and thoughts they are delivering. Thus, our perception of ourselves and the effect of what we say is influenced by the words we use. 

Want to be viewed more favourably? Make a bigger impact?
Use definites. Words like ‘definitely’ and ‘clearly’, suggest whatever was said isn’t just an opinion; it’s an irrefutable truth.

Turn pasts into presents. Using the present tense can communicate confidence and increase persuasion. So to signal certainty, rather than using the past tense, e.g. ‘I loved that book’, use present tense, ‘I love that book’ instead, just one letter difference can have a different impact and outcome.

3. Leverage concreteness

Whether we’re conversing with clients, co-workers, family, or friends, we frequently succumb to the knowledge curse. We speak in a high-level manner that we believe is understandable. However, it can go right over the heads of our listeners. It is something I am learning about over time how to position the Neuroscience of leadership information in bite-size brain-friendly ways without it going over the heads of leaders who may know very little about their brain and why it is helpful to leadership without them thinking they need to be an academic to understand it.

The importance of showing we are listening to why talking about ‘fixing’ rather than ‘solving’ problems improves customer satisfaction.

4. Growth Mindset language

Another great author about using powerful words is Dr Carol Dweck, who coined the term growth mindset. Dweck’s examples of using the right language to ignite the desired response and or behaviour include ‘praising effort’ over praising intelligence and using the word ‘yet’ when doing something new or different. Yet, it encourages us to keep going until embedding the new habit or skill – tapping into the mindset of perseverance, keep going, you are on your way to achieving it.

A few powerful words can go a long way. If you are keen to learn more about how to apply powerful language to help with creating connections, leading others with influence and resolving conflict, click here to arrange a call. 

About Vannessa McCamley

Vannessa McCamley is a leadership and performance expert specialising in neuroscience practices that help individuals, teams and businesses grow in meaningful ways whilst delivering measurable results in healthy ways.

She has a passion for helping people and businesses to overcome obstacles and enabling them to reach their strategic goals. She brings a strong background in IT security and more than 20 years of business experience in collaborating with individuals at all levels and from several industries.

She is the author of Rewire for Success, an easy guide to using neuroscience to improve choices for work, life and well-being. 

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