Every Word Counts in Business Communication

Your words can make or break. This is particularly important if you are a leader. When you share stories to make a point, it is important to inspect the power and potential of each word that you use or embed into your stories, examples, and illustrations.

Some words are charged, some are loaded, and yes, some are toothless. Every word you use is born with a different mathematical notation. Some words are positive (+), some are negative (-) and some are neutral (0). When planning your business story, think about the power and potency of your words.

In recent years, I started exploring how to map the potency of words on a number line. Why? Well, because I had nothing better to do with my time. Nope. Far from it. I found it particularly important because your choice of words could empower or endanger lives, depending on how much power you have.  Here is an example to illustrate the Word-Power Concept.

If you want to elicit the best possible optimum emotional response, try to choose the words that have the potency to tug away from your listener‘s emotional chords. Beware of the fact that some words are like a bomb. They can do instant damage! Just as red and black mean different things so do punch and push.

As a rule of the thumb, try to leave your audience in a more positive, upbeat, and hopeful tone.


        -10 -9 -8 -7 -6  -5  -4  -3  -2  -1  0  +1  +2  +3  +4  +5  +6  +7  +8  +9  +10


Plot the following pairing of words on the number line and observe…

  1. Compliment and Congratulate
  2. Brush and Crush
  3. Destroy and Decimate
  4. Invent and Develop
  5. Cream and Lotion
  6. Season and Phase
  7. Electrocute and Shock
  8. Mermaid and Fairy
  9. King and Queen
  10. Fantasy and Dream

Have you noticed that some of the words are sharper and stronger than others? Even though the words are somewhat synonymous, each has a different coefficient. Mathematically speaking, this is an indication that when you are crafting your story or your message, you must pay close attention to your choice of words because some may leave your audience uplifted or devastated.

Your words are either giving or taking away dignity from your audience. Your words are either rising or falling. Your words are insinuating or generating a different picture in the minds of your audience. Take, for example, the words brush and crush. They are remarkably similar, but one is far stronger. One can get instant attention, while the other is a bit vague.

Hence, if you had to map out those words on the number line, “brush” would be positive and crush could easily be positive or negative, depending on your socio-cultural context. For me, I will place “brush” as +2; and crush at +8 or -8.

Based on neuroscience studies, words such as coffee or perfume elicit activity in the olfactory cortex of the brain. On the contrary, neutral words such as chair or key do not get such neural activity. Consider the impact of these words on the human mind: death, accident, trauma, robbery. I hope by now, you get the point.

In summary, your words are like an invisible laser beam loaded with tiny soldier ants. When unleashed or disseminated through a story, they can “crawl” up or down the hearts and minds of your listener. For this reason, if you are a leader, choose your words wisely.

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