Let me ask you some questions:
- Are only highly trained diplomats and negotiators able to use the appropriate words to influence another party?
- What is the impact of the words you use?
- How can you increase your awareness of the impact your words can have?
- How can you use words to reinforce your influencing skills?
In this article, we tackle these questions and show you how you can use words more effectively to achieve your goals.
The way we say what we want to say
There are so many ways to say what you want to say. And different people communicate in different ways:
- Some people talk a lot, while others say very little.
- Some people make a lot of statements, while others use more questions.
- Some people voice their emotions, while others hide them.
- Some people support their communication with gesture, while others are more restrained.
- Some people have a very lively facial expression, while others some are more controlled.
- Some people use the words that first come to their mind, while others choose their words carefully.
Skilled influencers are aware of the power of managing what they say and the way they say it.
The impact of what we say
To influence others, just saying what comes to our mind might work by chance. However, in most cases our reflex responses are not that effective. That’s because reflex responses represent how we feel and think without considering the impact our words may have on the other party.
Here are 3 scenarios to illustrate the importance of considering the impact of our words.
Reacting to a child who has behaved recklessly
Imagine you’re the parent of a 10-year-old child who has just done something reckless and only just avoided injuring themselves. In this situation, most parents would want to help their child to reflect on what they had just done and avoid repeating the same behaviour.
With this goal in mind, let’s consider some possible reactions you might have, and reflect on how they could impact your child.
- You might say, ‘Why are you so stupid? I’ve told you 10 times not to do this.’ How would this impact your child?
- Would your words have a different impact if you said, ‘This behaviour is unacceptable! Go to your room’ or ‘It’s not the first time you’ve done this! Why are you doing this?’
- What if you said, ‘Have a seat please. I would really like to discuss why you are doing this.’?
Of course, there are dozens of ways you could react. But before doing so, parents should always ask themselve: ‘What words will help my child change their behaviour?’
Delegating a task to a team member
Imagine you’re a leader asking a team member to perform an urgent task. You might decide to send a text message, phone them, organise a videocall or discuss it with them face to face.
How will the method you use influence them?
Let’s assume you decide to call your team member. You could say:
- This is really important. When can you deliver it?
- I need your help. This is an urgent task!
- Can you do me a favour? I’m in trouble and need this done by tomorrow 9am!
- I don’t want you to argue or complain. I need this done by tomorrow 9am!
- You’ve got no choice. I need this done by tomorrow 9am!
- Let’s review your workload together and agree on what you can postpone so you can deliver this by 9am tomorrow.
How might your words influence the outcome? Is there a right way and a wrong way to say it? Is there a best way? If you consider the options above, you might think it’s obvious what will work and what won’t. But in reality… it depends on many factors – you, your team member, your working relationship, your work environment, and the list goes on!
Ensuring safety on a freeway
Imagine it’s a foggy day. You’re in heavy traffic on the freeway. You lose concentration for a moment and bump into the car in front of you. The car behind bumps into you and so on.
Traffic stops. People get out of their cars and start to argue about who is at fault. There is a high risk of injury with so many people out of their cars. The freeway needs to be cleared and people must move to a safer place.
You decide to take the lead, but you are confronted with a wide choice of words and attitudes to achieve your goal. What is the best approach?
- Should you be directive and tell the other drivers what to do?
- Should you convince them that working together is the safest option?
- What would happen if you said, ‘Please, it’s dangerous here! We need to move to a safer place. Let’s have a meeting to discuss our roles and responsibilities.’?
All jokes aside, making the best choice under pressure requires a great deal of emotional intelligence!
Managing the atmospherics by consciously choosing your words
As we’ve seen in these examples, there are many options for achieving the outcome we’re looking for. There is no right or wrong option. But different options will elicit different reactions from the other party.
Before you respond to any situation, it is helpful to think about how your words will impact the other party and how they will help you achieve your desired outcome. Put simply, what you say and how you say it can invite either collaboration or confrontation. Depending on the situation you’re in, you’ll need to choose which is the best option.
Tips for negotiators
- There are times where being directive, challenging, confrontational or even aggressive might be necessary to help reach your goal.
- At other times, being collaborative, supportive, empathic and maybe even offering concessions will be more productive for achieving your goal.
- Work on developing your flexibility so you can control your responses and avoid your amygdala choosing your response for you!
- Take a look at our article on negotiation style [add link to 12b] to learn how to develop your flexibility.
How ENS can help
ENS consultants work with clients all over the world to help them learn how to negotiate effectively. Understanding how your words will impact on the other party is a critical skill for negotiators as they seek to achieve their outcomes in the most effective way.
Want to know more?
To discuss this article in more depth and explore how you can develop your negotiation capabilities, contact us on the form below.