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The Inspiring Leader - Top 10 Language Tips To Inspire Others


Choosing your language carefully will have a big influence on your ability to inspire other people. Great orators and speech-makers know all about this and we can learn from them. We can also learn from psychology and how language works.

Let's be clear: this is nothing about manipulating the truth. The first principle is to be honest; other people will respect your integrity. Yet there are simple adjustments you can make to your language which will increase the likelihood that your listeners will be inspired.

These changes to your language work in two ways: they avoid sabotaging your message and they also empower your listeners. Here are my top 10 tips:

1. Use the inclusive 'we'. Using 'we' rather than the isolated 'I' is much more likely to inspire. If you look at famous motivational speeches in history - such as those from Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Winston Churchill, Barack Obama - you will find that they are all use inclusive language.

2. Describe a compelling future. Fill in as much detail as you can. People are inspired by aiming for a better future. This is another characteristic of the famous speeches already mentioned.

3. Engage the attention you want by using sensory language. This is done by choosing words that directly appeal to the senses: use visual words (eg. see, focus, view, scene, horizon); aural words (eg. hear, loud, whisper, harmony); kinesthetic words (eg. feel, grip, hold, touch, texture).

4. Choose language that encourages others to look for what they want rather than what they don't want. The law of attraction means that you get more of what you put your attention on. Therefore it makes sense to help others to put their attention on desired outcomes.

5. Presuppose that together you will succeed. This conveys an optimistic tone and it clearly signals your expectations. We all have an inclination to live up to (or down to!) expectations so it makes sense to set them high. Phrase statements as 'When we reach ...' rather than 'If we reach...' Express yourself in the positive rather than the negative: make it clear what the objective is rather than what it isn't.

6. Use language that is consistent with your actions - walk the talk. If your actions are not congruent, your language will be undermined and taken as merely hot air.

7. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Be clear as you can and check that your audience has understood the meaning you intended. Ultimately, the meaning of any communication is the response you get from it, so if you're not getting the response you hoped for you need to communicate more clearly.

8. Use 'Yes and...'. If someone comes to you with a suggestion and you reply 'Yes but...' they hear that straightaway that you are cancelling their suggestion with you own. This is deflating for them and discourages them from participating in the future. Simply changing 'but' to 'and' makes your reply additional to their original suggestion. It gives them recognition that there may be value in their idea.

9. Ask instead of assume. It's easy to fall into the trap of mind-reading. We see a certain behaviour and we assume we know the reason for it. Then, to make matters worse, we act on the assumption! It's far better to ask the necessary questions to find out what is really going on. This sensitivity to the people around you will encourage a stronger sense of connection and enhance the degree of influence you have.

10. Keep your sense of humour! Sharing a joke appropriately and seeing the funny side of a situation are both part of a healthy team. Humour can strengthen relationships and keep the human dimension in sight.

You can experiment with these tips to see what works best for you. One option is to focus on one at a time, say one each week, so can you get experience using it in a number of situations. As it becomes part of your natural language, you can move on to the next tip. Then you will see from the reaction of people around you how you can be successful at inspiring others.


Trevor helps leaders who want to inspire the people they lead. If you found this article useful, you may want to read 'Leadership Starts Here' http://www.inspiration-at-work.co.uk/articles/essentialStep.php If you would like to receive regular articles like this one or get a FREE copy of Trevor's 'Passport To Inspiration' simply sign-up at
http://www.inspiration-at-work.co.uk

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