The words we use every day shape our realities, whether we realize it or not. Our word choices can make a powerful impression on the people around us, whether it’s the politeness of our phrasing at the grocery store or the formality of our speech in a significant client meeting. Different situations and different company demand different levels of vocabulary and formality, but there are some words that hold power, no matter what the situation is.
Whenever you’re pressing for something you want — whether that’s a salary increase or the last pineapple — there are 10 words that can help you get it:
1. Because. “Because” is the conduit you will use to explain your motivations for every element of your request. In author Robert Cialdini’s book Influence, Cialdini describes this as a “request + reason” and proves that this significantly increases the likelihood that your request will be obliged. In one case study that I read in college (but, sadly, couldn’t find it to link to here), one experiment had people ask if they could cut in line. The study found that people were far more likely to allow others to cut in line when the word because was used, as opposed to when it was not used (ie, “May I cut in line?” vs. “May I cut in line because I’m very late for an appointment?”). This was true even if the reason given was ridiculous (ie, “May I please cut in line because I need to get to the front sooner?”). The word because seemed to trigger something in people’s brains that caused them to oblige the request.
2. Thanks. A simple thanks is an expression of immediate gratitude, and if you start your conversation with it, you’ll start everything off on a good note. You’ll show that you’re appreciative, which will make people more interested and willing to help you out. Something like “thanks for your time” at the beginning of a meeting (or at the end of one) is all it takes to establish that positive tone.
3. You. When making requests, too many people make it all about themselves. They say things like, “I want this because I need it,” explaining their personal motivations or the logical reasons why they want it. Instead, try framing the conversation in the perspective of the person you’re talking to. How will your request affect them? For example, something like “I think you’ll see a rise in sales if you implement this,” makes them the center of the conversation, which makes it a more positive engagement.
4. If. “If” holds a ton of power because it gives you the opportunity to break a situation down into its most basic terms by exploring hypothetical outcomes. As long as you’ve done your research (or at least some brainstorming) here, you’ll come out in a good position. For example, “if we go with option A, we’ll see increases in both cost and productivity, and if we go with option B, everything will remain the same.”
5. Could. Using the word “could” implies openness, unlike the word “won’t” or “never.” This keeps the conversation positive, and further allows you to explore your hypothetical future outcomes, which is especially handy when your conversational partner has a counterargument or request for you. For example, “I could take on the extra work, but I’d prefer it if I had more flexibility on the deadline.”
6. We. Like the word “you,” “we” takes some of the focus off your own self-interest. As a first-line effect, this makes you seem less ego-centric and more welcoming. As a second-line effect, this implies that the two of you are a single unit, and that any positive benefit for you will be a positive benefit for them.
7. Together. “Together” works much the same way that “we” does. It implies a degree of familiarity and cooperation, providing a kind of conversational lubricant to make your requests easier to swallow. Anything you can do to make your request (and hypothetical future) seem like a mutual opportunity is going to help you here.
8. Fact. The word “fact” can help you out significantly in your attempts at persuasion. There’s only one caveat — the facts you claim have to be actual facts, supportable with empirical evidence or research of some kind. Still, using more facts in your dialogue will help you strengthen your position, and secure a more persuasive angle for your discussion.
9. Open. During the conversation, you won’t agree with everything the other person tells you, and you won’t comply with every request. But shutting these requests down with a “no,” or a “never” is negative and counterproductive. Instead, state that you’re “open” to the idea, but further negotiation would be required before you fully agree.
10. Will. “Will” is the word we use to switch to future tense, and it’s a powerful word because it implies what happens after the conversation is over with a degree of certainty. Stating that you “will” do something as a direct action provides a clear vision and mitigates the possibility of miscommunication.
These words aren’t magical, nor do they affect the listener as if hypnotized. But if used in the proper context, they can help you open the door to a meaningful and mutual negotiation. You’ll come across as more open, more intelligent, and more persuasive, which means you’ll have an edge when making your request.
For more content like this, be sure to check out my podcast, The Entrepreneur Cast!