3 Powerful Word Tweaks That Changed The World
And how you can use the same principles to boost your influence.
You already know words have power.
But did you know that a single sentence or even a two-word phrase can change the behavior of millions?
Let me tell you three stories that should be told more often.
How words affected our climate.
In June 1988, James Hansen, a scientist from NASA, testifies in front of Congress about the greenhouse effect. In his speech, Hansen calls the consistent increase in temperatures caused by the greenhouse effect “global warming”. The testimony gets a lot of publicity, and the media spreads the term.
Hensen does this purposefully: the phrase “global warming” is supposed to make people listen. The word “global” is extremely influential: it instantly signals to your mind that this is something that affects us all, yet something that would be difficult to control or change.
But the fossil fuel industry and its political supporters aren’t interested in letting this newly distributed knowledge sink in.
They call to the rescue Mr. Frank Luntz, a top political & communications consultant. In his marketing lab, he gauges word impact by having people turn a dial to rate phrases as Good or Bad.
There’s only one condition: subjects need to react to each phrase as fast as possible.
The task: find a new name for global warming that doesn’t sound so scary. One that highlights the lack of clarity & scientific proof surrounding it.
The winner? Climate change.
Climate change doesn’t sound nearly as threatening. Naturally, climate always changes, and that’s not something we could or should act on.
According to “Influence is your superpower”, in 2001, President Bush used “global warming” in his speeches, while in 2002, republicans accepted “climate change” as the “right” term.
Years later, as climate impacts grow apparent, neuromarketers sought a new inspiring phrase to drive decisive action.