Words matter a lot! You may have heard that communication is 55% body language, 38% tone of voice and 7% actual words. Well, this myth has been debunked! While body language and tone of voice continue to be important elements of effective communication, we know that words are key to creating meaning and stimulating the emotional responses which make us want to listen and connect to the speaker.

Which Words Matter the Most When We Talk

One of the things I fuss about a lot (especially at Buffer) are words—very simple words, in fact. Should it say “Hi” or “Hey?” Should it be “cheers” or “thanks?” How about “but” or “and?”

There are many occasions when Joel and I sit over one line and change it multiple times, until we feel it really sits right. This is partly to improve our metrics for click rate and others. It is also to simply create the right emotion. The one key question we ask ourselves is:

“How does this make you feel?”

The question might sound very obvious. And yet, it’s a very different question to say for example “Which message do you want to send?” or “What is the content of this announcement?” By always focusing on how it will make someone feel whenever we write even a single line, we immediately improved the amount of responses we got from our users.

Recently we explored how much sleep do we really need to work productively. Let’s do the same with language. We’ll dig in to how our brain works and expose some of the most persuasive words in English.

Our brain while listening to words

Recently, a lot of the longstanding paradigms in how our brain processes language were overthrown. New and cutting edge studies that produced quite startling and different results. The one study I found most interesting is UCL’s findings on how we can separate words from intonation. Whenever we listen to words, this is what happens:

“Words are then shunted over to the left temporal lobe [of our brain] for processing, while the melody is channelled to the right side of the brain, a region more stimulated by music.”

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