Magic Words

Posted by on May 27, 2002

A Monday Morning Memo from the Drafty North Tower of the Wizard’s Castle

If you take pride in your rational, logical demeanor and consider yourself to be above emotional distractions, I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news for you. Beneath that calm, outer shell you’re just as out-of-control as the rest of us. Like it or not, the human mind is so staggeringly complex that the greater part of all mental activity is unconscious.

Have you ever been in a bad mood without really knowing why?

Professor Tanya Chartrand believes our inexplicable moods are linked to goals we didn’t even know we had. When we succeed at an unconscious goal, it puts us in a good mood. When we fail, we begin to feel blue.

To test her theory, Dr. Chartrand implanted an achievement mentality into the minds of a group of students by using words like “strive,” “success” and “achieve” in her opening comments to them. Later in the class she gave half the students an easy puzzle they were likely to solve while the other half received an impossible puzzle that guaranteed their failure. At the end of the session the students were asked to fill out mood questionnaires. Not surprisingly, those who had solved their puzzles felt good and the ones who had failed to solve them felt bad. But would you believe that not a single one of the students believed their moods were related to the puzzle? Even more astonishing, a control group who had NOT been exposed to the emotionally charged words of the “achievement mentality” experienced no mood changes at all, regardless of whether or not they solved their puzzles.

So if a person’s feelings are influenced by words even when they’re not aware of it, then what a word communicates to the unconscious mind (through associative memory in the intuitive, instinctual right brain) may be equally as important as the message it communicates to the rational, conscious left-brain. Might I suggest that you learn to choose words whose unconscious associations will accelerate your message? “I stepped into lemon sunshine that was vivid, startling and bright.” In that short sentence, one tart word, “lemon,” added the sparkle. Had I written, “I stepped into the bright yellow sunshine of a summer’s day,” the oatmeal droning of an unthinking writer would have only just begun.

Intellectually, emotionally and spiritually, words are the most powerful force there has ever been. Learn to harness their energy and they will richly reward you with happiness, wealth and honor beyond your dreams. So read Roget’s Thesaurus.

And dream big.

Roy H. Williams

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