The words we use to describe things are very important. I’m not just talking about using kind and compassionate words, having a non-judgemental attitude, or justifying a statement with that most abused of caveats, “but”. Words are (somewhat) a product of the conscious mind that affect us on an unconscious level. I first learned about this concept in the TED talk Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are. After watching, I deemed her research to be somewhat simplistic. Could the participants who adopted the “powerful body pose” for two minutes before a mock interview really have been hired at a rate of 100%, while the ones who adopted an un-powerful pose were not at the same rate? I knew that body language conveyed a message, but I didn’t know it conveyed a message to the mind of the poser!
Then I learned about one rather hilarious study. The participants were brought into a room and asked to read one of two short prose. One had words like “fast”, “quick”, “hurry”, “go” and other uppity language; the other read more relaxed “slow”, “calm”, “easy”, “old’. Then the participants had to walk a distance to another room to complete the experiment. Little did they know, the walk itself was the experiment. The crafty researchers timed the speed at which the participants would arrive at the second location. The result? You guessed it: the readers of the “go” prose arrived faster than the their more “slow” counterparts 100% of the time. (Read over the beginning of this paragraph aloud and see how you respond to the lists of words.)