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The Final Four: Linguistic Pitfalls Part Two

Feb 26, 2008
Seems like some of my readers are paying attention and that's awesome. I wrote part one of this article a while back. It talks about eight common and avoidable pitfalls we have in language. In the article I wrote about 'but', 'if', 'try', and 'might' and how these words dilute the power of our language and dull our ability to persuade. Well, a few of my more observant readers noticed that if there are eight pitfalls and I only cited four, there must be four more traps out there with the potential to hurt us. Some readers went so far as to suggest I did this to demonstrate another persuasive technique--open loops.

Now whether or not I was being sneaky and slipping in an open loop on purpose . . well, I'm not going to admit or deny that at this time.

Well. . . if you've been awaiting in eager anticipation part two, thanks.

The first three of the final four: would have, could have, should have (woulda, coulda, shoulda).

Why are these problematic? First, they're all in the past tense and on the surface, this may not seem like a problem, but they can have an adverse impact on your ability to persuade.

Generally, you want to be leading people into the present time so they can and will act right now. We don't want their heads in the past, we want them with us. To borrow a phrase from Ram Dass, we need them to "be here now." The present is where we're selling, the present is where they're buying.

A lot of time this sort of nostalgic allows people to spin off into regret and whining, 'I should have done this. I could have had this. I would have been so much better off. . . '

Number eight of the top eight words . . .

Can't. I can't. Can't is a negation and negations have the potential to pose a serious threat to your persuasive abilities in essence canceling out all that you have worked to achieve. When I was in high school there was one teacher who forbid us from using the word 'can't'. He wasn't having it.

If you were to say, "You can't use negations", this forces your mind to first picture using negations then in some way negating that picture.

What happens when you say to yourself, "I just can't sleep." Well. . .it turns out, you can't sleep.

Negations force the mind to think of the one thing you don't want to think about. The most important element to persuasion is to get your prospect imagining themselves, creating a mental image, of them doing what you want them to do.

Words like "can't" create the very image you don't want the person to make.

You can use negation powerfully and creatively. Simply take care that when you use them, you use them properly.

So now that you've gotten part two, are you happy?
About the Author
Kenrick Cleveland teaches strategies to earn the business of wealthy prospects using persuasion. He runs public and private seminars and offers home study courses and coaching programs in persuasion strategies.
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