The Power of Words

Back in the 1980s, in a new role, I quickly latched onto the power of words. I had just started in the role of communications manager in a small business. We produced all communications for a local government body. This included their organisation-wide documentation – policies, procedures, IT manuals and user guides.

One of my first tasks was to pull together a small team of writers.

As part of the shortlisting process, I set applicants a writing test and then let all the applicants know, in writing, whether they were moving forward to interview based on their writing skills.

One of the unsuccessful applicants took umbrage at what he considered my undiplomatic wording. While this was unintentional, the applicant was very unhappy and upset.

My boss, who was fully supportive of my decision, nevertheless said, ‘Gail, we have to be so careful of the written word. Once it’s committed to paper, it can’t be taken back, and words can so easily be misinterpreted.’

Lesson: ever since, I have been mindful of the power of words.

Whenever I write an email even, I check the tone of it. If the subject of the email is challenging, or the recipient is very sensitive, I’ll often write it and then set it aside for a day or two, coming back to it and inevitably changing some of the wording before I’m satisfied it ticks all the boxes of diplomacy!

Spoken words are powerful too

Of course, spoken words are also powerful. We’ve all heard the expression, ‘People may not remember what you said, but they’ll remember how you made them feel.’

We don’t know how people reading or hearing our words will interpret them, so it’s wise to always be mindful of the power of our words.

Leaving a legacy

When we write a book, I believe we do so through a subconscious desire to leave a legacy. Whether you’re writing your book as your business card to position you as an expert in your field, or for pleasure, you’re leaving a legacy either for your business community or for your family.

Even those whose aspiration it is to write a literary masterpiece, or a bestseller, in my experience, deep down, they are wanting to leave a legacy of some sort.

Writing your book as your business card

What does writing a book as your business card mean? It means that not only does it help you position yourself as an expert in your field, but you can use it as leverage at speaking events, in front of clients, in your program if you have one, and at business expos.

Over the years, you have accumulated a huge amount of knowledge in your specialist area. You have a unique set of experiences, and a unique take on your field of expertise. This unique approach to your subject can be very valuable to others who have less experience in that field.

The more mature we are, the more wisdom, knowledge and experience we can bring to our book, and the more valuable it is to our potential readership.

Deciding if you should write a book: 3 tips

If you’re unsure whether you should write a book, or if you have enough material for a book, first ask yourself these three questions:

  • Firstly and importantly, who’s your target audience?
  • Secondly, what have you got to say that is different from other books on the topic?
  • Thirdly, what ways will your book appeal to your readers – what will they get out of it that is new and different?

Another story about the power of words

A friend with a wife and young family told me that he and his wife recently had an appointment with a financial planner.

During the course of the meeting, the financial planner mentioned the word insurance. My friend related to this, because he was focused on asset and wealth protection. However, he noticed that his wife tensed up and disengaged from the financial planner as soon as he said it. Fortunately, the financial planner also noticed her reaction and changed tack, asking instead, ‘How do you feel about protection for your family?’

Her response immediately changed and she replied that of course she was interested in protecting their family.

Why did her reaction change so dramatically? Because the financial planner was now speaking her language. He had said the same thing, only with different words that made all the difference for her.

The power of words – everywhere

Everywhere we look, whatever we hear, we see evidence of the power of words. The algorithms of social media platforms such as Facebook work on the words that businesses use to present their offers to potential clients. How we react to the words and the way someone speaks to us evidences the power of words.

Choose your words well

Whether you’re writing a book as your business card, a novel, a self-help book, your memoirs … through the power of your words you are leaving a powerful legacy.

It’s important to get those powerful words right.


Gail Tagarro is a Book Writing Coach and Accredited Editor. She works with writers in any genre, fiction and nonfiction.


Acknowledgements

Images: Ocean by Griffin Wooldridge from Pexels; letters by Ylanite Koppens from Pexels


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