A Shared Phenomenon: The Real Reason Words Influence Us
Updated: Aug 16, 2019
I'm happy to introduce my colleague Asha as a guest blogger! Welcome!
Let’s start this off with a cliche, shall we?
Words have power. What we say in our heads and what we say out loud shapes our reality.
Words determine our mood. And they can have a lasting effect on the outcome of our experiences and interactions beyond just a day. And they do. You ever been stuck in a rut that lasts several days or weeks even?
Well, there’s a good chance the language you used, whether in your head or out loud, had an effect that kept you in that rut.
I mean think about how many times you’ve woken up in a not-so-good mood, and said, “I feel like crap today.”
Then as your day progresses, it seems like one thing after another goes wrong. You just can’t catch a break. And you say to yourself, or perhaps to a friend, “It’s just one of those days.”
But what if on a morning like that you woke up, and despite that not-so-good mood, you said a gratitude prayer, fully allowing yourself to accept the things the way they are but keeping a positive spirit and repeating positive thoughts.
Can you remember a day like that?
Maybe, but probably not in detail.
Why? Because the “good” days are always harder to recall than the ones that aren’t. Nothing goes wrong. Nothing feels out of place. Your luck battery is fully charged.
But what influences these better-than-average days has to do with what you tell yourself and what emotions you carry with you from the moment you wake up.
The intent of recalling the days we get up on the wrong side of the bed and the days we don’t is to demonstrate the profound effect words have on our emotions and our experiences.
And if we know our words hold power over us, then there’s no arguing that they evoke emotional responses from others.
When I think about that, about how words elicit emotional responses, I often think about tv and film. Yes, the music and images are curated purposely to generate a specific emotional response. But the script, the actual words of the story, first have to inform the music and images on what emotional strings to pull.
Emotions expressed through words explains why great orators throughout history have been able to move people in droves.
And it explains why copywriters have the power to move people to act—the good ones at least.
As copywriters, we appeal to our reader’s emotional brain and persuade them to download our ebooks and enroll in our high-ticket courses.
After our readers make an emotional decision they justify it with logic, but only after their emotional brain told them, “Yes, you need this now.” So any time you move your reader to a hard yes, you’ve relied on their emotional response to your words to make that conversion.
You got them excited about your solution. You’ve instilled fear in them about the dangers of not solving their problem. Or you’ve made them long for an outcome they can’t resist—a better version of themselves.
Which is why the best writers in the world, copywriters or otherwise, have a larger-than-average vocabulary of tantalizing words. Or like me, just keep a thesaurus tab open on their laptop.
Writer Devon Delfino contributed an interesting take on words and emotions in a Grammarly blog post in which she discussed emotions in writing simply as, tone.
“Whether you’re writing a book, a tweet, or an email, emotion and tone help define the message.”
Delfino is explaining that the words we use and how we use them shape the tone of our work. The tone then acts as a guide for how our readers will respond to our writing. Tone is essentially a mirror of our emotions, which are then reflected to our readers.
But perhaps author Tiffany Watt Smith, who published The Book of Human Emotions, gives us the best explanation of why words have the power they do over us. In an interview with The Atlantic, Watts shared this thought, “In the biological sense emotions are collective. They’re shared. Our bodily responses belong to people and animals who were having emotions millions and millions of years ago.”
Aha! A lightbulb. Emotions are shared experiences!
The proof is in how we react and respond emotionally to words from others, in writing, on the big screen, or in person.
The emotional effect of words transfers from one person to another. Whether we intend them to or not.
To be a master of emotions one could argue then, is to be a wordsmith. A master of the pen—or keyboard if that’s your preference.
So if we understand this and use it to our advantage, it can have a profound effect on our happiness.
We can use words to control our mood by repeating positive mantras to ourselves, especially on the days we’re not at our best.
And we can use words to positively influence the people around us, be it family and friends or colleagues and strangers.
Words have power, yes. But it’s the emotion behind the words that move us, and it’s our human connection, the fact that emotions are shared, that allow us to be moved by what others say.
Asha is a conversion copywriter and email marketer. When he’s not writing copy for clients he’s reading best-selling non fiction, watching Harry Potter marathons or scrolling through NBA Twitter. Follow Asha on Instagram for helpful copywriting tips. And for those that dare start their own email list, Asha suggests ConvertKit as a place to start.