The Word Leader Podcast

305. The Sheer Power That Words Can Have

August 29, 2022 Leandre Larouche
The Word Leader Podcast
305. The Sheer Power That Words Can Have
Show Notes Transcript

I was driving down in Toronto when suddenly I was struck with a sense of sadness and nostalgia. What had happened? I was driving by an avenue where an ex-lover was living when we were seven years ago. I associated that specific corner of the city with the heartbreak that occurred because it was around there I last saw that woman. But how could my emotions be triggered? It was because of the words written on the buildings on that corner. ICICI Bank and Intel. These words, with the image of these buildings, were carved into my mind in association with these feelings. This should all teach us a lesson, which is that words can trigger emotions in the subtlest of ways. When we write, we must be aware that words trigger emotions, and we can use this to our reader's advantage.

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I think it's utterly fascinating how quickly our brain associates emotions with words, even simple words. And it is amazing to me that people, especially entrepreneurs, and business owners, don't leverage that more than they do. So let me tell you a quick story of how I was reminded of that power because of a heartbreak that's seven years old. 

So earlier tonight, I was on my way back home from the north of the city in Toronto; I was driving back from an event. And so I was driving into Toronto, and I drove by a street called Eglinton Avenue. And I didn't realize I was by Eglinton Avenue, I was, I was driving down. It was a highway, basically. And so I was driving down the highway. And then at one point, I turned my head. And I see these buildings. And immediately I start feeling a sense of sadness. And I get into a different state. And immediately, I don't know why I'm feeling this way. But I look at the buildings. And one of these buildings is a bank. I think it's an ICICI bank, whatever it's pronounced. And the other building is an Intel office. And so these two buildings which seem innocuous actually triggered emotions inside me. 

Now, these words don't really mean anything. Besides, you know, the corporations that they stand for. But then I realized I was passing by Eglinton Avenue. And seven years a girl, I was dating someone who lived on that street. In fact, she was living in that specific area. And that reminded me of the memory. Basically, when things ended. And I actually took a bus there and I saw these buildings. And so these were kind of carved in my mind. So these words, which mean nothing good carved into my mind and triggered this emotion seven years later. And it's not because I really ever think about that breakup anymore. I don't. But if I see these buildings, I associate that with that person, I associate that with what happened. And so as a response, I might feel a minute or so the kind of sadness that I experienced seven years ago. So this is extremely powerful. It's powerful because I don't even realize I feel this way. It's completely subconscious. And it's not something that I control. So it's extremely powerful. And it's all the more powerful because these aren't even words that mean something. So imagine if you're using words that actually mean something. Now, the way that this can be used in a way that good writers use words in order to trigger emotions, is that they get to know their audience deeply. They get to know their philosophical stances, they get to know their moral values, and they get to know what kind of experiences they felt. And so it's amazing how just one word can make a difference. 

I'll give you a perfect example. I was working with a client on a book, and I'm gonna keep it vague because I don't want to disclose any detail about her book. But essentially, the book was designed for survivors of a certain type of disease. And the word that we were going to go for in the title was actually a word that a lot of these people that had this illness, they would recognize as a, as a word, that's a part of their treatment. And that's not a positive experience. So chances are if they see this word, you might be emotionally triggered negatively. So we decided to actually go for another title that didn't have this kind of connotation. Now, this is for the negative side, you can use a certain word or a certain set of words that you know for a fact will trigger positive emotions in your reader. So again, you have to know your reader deeply. But you can essentially control the way that they feel in the moment they read your text, simply by selecting very deliberately, your words. 

So imagine if you could convey a message to someone else. But you could also control the way that they feel and the moment you convey that message, wouldn't that be more powerful than if they just felt however they feel in that moment? If you could decide whether that person feels positive or negative, at the moment you are conveying your message? Wouldn't that make a difference in your delivery? Of course it would. And so that's why words are so important. That's why I know I can drive down the highway, see two buildings and feel, you know, the sadness of a seven-year-old heartbreak. It's, it's crazy, but it is true. And it is something that as an entrepreneur, or as a business owner, anybody who uses words in order to sell in order to find success in their life. This is something that you have to understand sooner or later. And this is also something that you're subjected to. And it's something to be conscious of because this can be used against you. Now, you can also use it in positive ways. If you manage to control the mood of your readers, as they read your message, and this is a message that is going to benefit them, then there's a lot of virtue in controlling the narrative this way. Now, you may notice I'm saying controlling the narrative. These typically have a negative connotation. So depending on your political leanings, your philosophical leanings, you may feel a certain way about controlling the narrative. And so every single word we say, every single word we write, has an effect on our readers. And so I want to challenge you next time you write anything, whether it be an email, whether it be a social media post, whether it be a blog post, or maybe a chapter of a book you're writing, I want to challenge you to choose your words deliberately, and to attempt to really control the mood and the emotions of your readers. And I can guarantee you that if you make this a practice, you will become a better writer, you will become a better speaker, and you will better become a better communicator in general. I hope this is useful. If you have any questions. Leave me a comment. If you want to learn more about writing if you want to improve your skills. You can find more at Trivium writing.com. I'll talk to you soon.