While I was shopping for a replacement cell phone battery at a neighbourhood joint, the shop keeper politely asked me, “You want the Samsung battery or normal battery?”
Earlier in the day I had spent time researching ways to spot a counterfeit battery. I viewed videos and read about subtle differences in the print, label and material of a fake. I scanned images upon images on Google to encase in my mind what a fake, low quality, risky counterfeit looks like so that I would be able to reject it if ever a dishonest seller offers it to me.
“You want the Samsung battery or normal battery?”
Normal battery. We both know what normal refers to, but the mere sound of normal made it seem, well, normal. Counterfeit, fake? Bah! It is all normal. Suddenly, my extensive research did not matter so much anymore. Admit it or not, the mere difference in wording subconsciously lessened my defences.
This happens to us all the time. The best marketers carefully pick words to suit a diligently framed context to influence thoughts, feelings and actions of buyers. Good leaders elicit actions by wordsmith-ing. Gifted speakers and conversationalists may do it without realising it. We at the receiving end sometimes accept these influences without ever realising it too, as the subconscious process of words, thoughts, feelings and actions influence one another.
Let us do an experiment. Imagine that a person is saying the statement below to you. Be aware of what you are feeling as you receive the statement.
“The cost of this phone is only $300. How would you like to buy it?”
Now rewind the scenario and imagine that the same person is instead saying the following statement to you. Again, be aware of what you feel.
“The total investment of this phone is only $300. How would like to own it?”
Which statement do you feel better about? The only difference is in the words. The person could take it further:
“The total investment to enjoying long-lasting, instant connection with your loved ones is only $300. You may be pleasantly surprised by the benefits of owning it. If it is O.K. with you, I will help you acquire this experience. All you have to do is to pen this paperwork.”
What if the person had said this:
“The cost of this phone is only $300. You may be surprised by the benefits of buying it. If it is O.K. with you, I will get you started with the initial payments. All you have to do is to sign this contract.”
Vocabulary makes a difference. “Cost”, “payment”, “buying”, “sign contract” are words with connotations that understandably put us on alert mode, heighten our defences, and perhaps remind us of unpleasant experience in the past. Compare the feelings that they elicit to alternatives such as “investment”, “owning”, “acquiring experience” and “pen the paperwork”.
Beyond our feelings and actions, words affect even our abilities. There is an exercise that is always demonstrated during the NLP Practitioner* training at The Pathlight Centre. It illustrates how one word – that is common in everyday conversation – affects your bodily reactions, and how easily you can empower yourself by replacing the word with a more resourceful one.
Consider what adults sometimes say to children: “You can’t do this”, whatever this is. I once met a 7-year old who had a habit of expressing “I can’t….” Her sibling had a habit of asserting to her: “You can’t…”
These are innocent little voices. At the same time, they also reflect the earnest beliefs of these young ones and the self-talk they probably engage in. What if the voice internalizes and repeats until adulthood? Whenever the child said “I can’t…,” I replied with several alternative statements:
“And what if you can…? How can you…?”
“In what ways can you…?”
“When you figure out how… then you can …”
I never did meet the child again, and only hope that she replaces her habitual expression to a more resourceful one.
I am glad the shopkeeper was honest to present me a Samsung battery and a normal on.e. Without knowing it, she gave me an invitation – an invitation to look at a battery as a battery; inferior in make to the other one, yes, but a battery nonetheless. With that, she gave me a choice – a choice to think of it as “fake” or “normal”. I extend the invitation and choice in whatever ways they apply to you.
* NLP or Neuro-Linguistic Programming is a human development technology pertaining to, as its name implies, the interaction between mental processes (“neuro”) and language structures (“linguistic”), and both their natural and deliberate construction (“programming”). NLP has applications across broad areas in sales, therapy, health, education, business, leadership and more – basically, in any field involving human beings. You may learn more about our NLP Practitioner and Master NLP Practitioner trainings here and here.