Four psychological language tricks to help you win within the workplace

Alex Van Gestel
Subtly changing your messaging over time will make your points more palatable (Source: Getty)

As the businessman and writer Stephen Covey once said, “proactive people recognise that they are response-able”. They choose their behaviour and know how the right language can move people in the right way.

Understanding the psychology of your colleagues and clients is key. Once you understand the lock in people’s brains, you can unlock gates using your verbal key.

Here are four psychological insights that can help you cut through the noise and win within the workplace.

Use unfinished sentences to find out what your boss is really thinking

By leaving sentences unfinished and raising the inflection in your voice, you are inviting the other person to provide the ending of the sentence. The other person fills in the pause and gives away a great deal in the process.

Read more: 9 languages that could lead to higher-paying jobs in Britain

Make sure you nod along with whatever they say next. With the right unfinished sentence you hear what the person would previously have left unsaid, as well as subtly reassuring them that you are in agreement.

Harness the momentum of competitors against themselves

The British journalist and propagandist Sefton Delmer used this technique against the Nazis in World War Two. He set up a radio station that seemed to be from Nazi forces and created initial content that made the listeners sure that they were listening to one of their own. Gradually, Delmer then introduced more and more subversive content into the broadcasts – undermining the Nazis from within.

Use the same technique when you want to persuade someone to your way of thinking. Find out what they think and reflect it back at them for a couple of weeks. Then gradually start introducing your own messages – the established trust makes this palatable to your audience.

Reflect your customers’ “metaphor landscapes” to drive more sales

Your customers will cluster into language cohorts. Once you identify the cohorts, you can more effectively target them with relevant and resonant marketing. Conduct research to establish what they say your product is “like”. Perhaps like a brand or product from another category, or like a footballer or other celebrity.

You will be amazed at how often their answers cluster together – with many of your customers agreeing to the same “metaphor landscape” or associations.

Read more: How emotional intelligence can transform your business

Once you have established the most often-used comparisons of your product among loyal customers, try using this metaphor in your marketing to attract new customers.

Establish your target audience’s “emotional weighting” through deep listening

People usually have either a noticeably rational or emotional bias towards a product, service or brand. Do your customers use emotional or rational language? Now reappraise your current marketing. Is it aligned to the way in which your customers actually talk about you?

This simple listening can help ensure that a brand or product speaks more directly to the audience. You’d be amazed how many chocolate products talk too much about their ingredients, rather than reflecting the emotional indulge language that their customers are using.

Once you have conducted this basic assessment, now research whether the emotional/rational bias changes according to the location or time: at home consumption, out of home, during the daily commute, at night. Do all of you marketing touch points accurately reflect the changing use of audience language?

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