Years ago, during the first parent-teacher conference at my son’s new middle school, the teaching team glowed over his abilities, achievements, and contributions to the classroom. It was the same diplomatic start as similar meetings at his previous school. They’d rattle off a list of strengths to take the sting out of the longer list of learning challenges to follow. This time, though, no sting. When I pressed for, you know, “the bad news,” they looked at me like I was talking about the wrong kid. Proving my favorite theory of strategic wording, one teacher nodded her head astutely and schooled me with this:
Here we don’t ask, “How smart is your child?” We ask, “How is your child smart?”
Same words, different arrangement. So simple, yet so powerful that they jarred the stuck thinking in my brain. In an instant, they changed the way I saw my own son.
That, my friend, is how you want your content to work.
The fellow who first claimed, “The pen is mightier than the sword,” knew that words can shape the brain long before science could back it up. Research now shows that negative words beget stress. In turn, stress begets negative thinking. Research also shows that positive thoughts and speech change our self-perception. Positive words can influence how we perceive the world around us. Literally, words help us shape our reality.
Want to influence your readers’ reality? Get them to desire and trust your offer?
Want to influence your readers’ reality? Get them to desire and trust your offer? Choose strategic wording that disturbs their stuck brains. Choose the subversive words that change beliefs, shape opinions, and influence ideas. The ones that make your reader not only catch the comet that illuminates the dark, but also make her feel like she’s the one who discovered it.
As a professional communicator, I was humbled by the teacher’s twist of words during our meeting. I was stunned by the profound immediacy with which my new perspective emerged. How could I have let someone else’s limited beliefs about “smart” settle so comfortably into my mom-brain? How could I have used those limitations to measure the success of my child’s development. I knew better than that.
“How is my child smart” aligns more naturally with my own ideas about how we meet the world. In one simple turn of a phrase, I found myself more focused on my son’s intelligences and less on standard (outdated) measures of it. From that day, I engaged more with how distinctly he thinks, how cleverly he learns, and how nimbly he connects the invisible things. I am often awed by his insight. For example, that very afternoon on the ride home from the parent-teacher conference, we passed one of those fish-eye mirrors at the end of a driveway. I thought out loud, “I wonder what the world would be like if there were no reflective surfaces?” Without skipping a beat, he replied, “We’d all die of thirst.”
Reshape customers’ thinking with strategic wording
Make your reader not only catch the comet that illuminates the dark, but also make her feel like she’s the one who discovered it.
If you’ve ever wondered how important word choice and wordsmithing is to your website and social media content, think of the boy trapped by old-school perspectives on intelligence. Imagine how he might have experienced those first few moments as an asset to his classmates and their community of learning. Believe me when I tell you, it changed everything! The strength-centered language we used to talk to him. The composure with which he listened. The responsiblities he assumed for himself. The chances he took, followed by either successes that stoked his self-worth or failures that coached him rather than diminished him. Words did that. Strategically selected and arranged for a mother and her boy.
Now think of your customer. How can your content make them feel like that?