It's time we talk about why the words and language you use every day in your business matter, why they can be the thing that ultimately lead to your success or your failure.
Why? Because I've heard so many times that your message doesn't matter because at the end of the day it's just a bunch of words strung together.
I'm breaking down two theories today that will help prove this all too common belief wrong:
- The Sapir-Whorf Hypthesis: This determines the nuance behind our words to help describe how we're actually feeling
- The Theory of Linguistic Performativity: This explains why language creates our reality, which is why different words have different meanings across the globe
When you understand the implications of each of these, you'll be able to better communicate what you do, set yourself apart from the crowd, and create your clients' perception of your business.
LISTEN IN OR READ THROUGH THE TRANSCRIPT BELOW:
RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE
- Albert Mehrabian
- David R. Novak
- Sapir-Whorf hypothesis
- The Theory of Linguistic Performativity
- Kari Schwear
- Caroline Mays Episode
- Book a Consult
“But Michelle, it's just words. It doesn't matter all that much, right?" This was the question that I was asked the other day during a podcast interview.
After the host asked me this question, I just decided, for the rest of the interview, to pantomime all of my answers, "Look, it's a message trapped in a box." No, no, seriously, I didn't do that, but I was taken aback by that question, that, "Your message doesn't matter and it's just words at the end of the day."
So on today's podcast, I wanted to answer the question, why do words and language matter so much to your business? So we're gonna break down some of the theories behind why words and language do matter, and then talk about the implications it has for your business.
"With words, we breathe reality into being," that's a quotation from Amanda Montell's new book, Cultish. And, A, I'm obsessed with that book, and B, I love this because in just a few words, she captures the essence of why words matter in your business, because I believe words are everything in your business. If you don't have the words to describe what it is your business does, the value it creates, then you might not really have a business.
I realize that sounds overly dramatic and like it's hyperbole, but when we start looking into the theories of language and communication, you begin seeing how important words are to your business, and how the words on your website that you use in your messaging and your marketing breathe the reality of your business into being.
But before we talk about the theories behind the idea that words create reality, and not in a manifestation kind of way, that is not what we're talking about here, I first wanted to dispel a myth.
It is a statistic you've probably heard a million times before regarding communication, that 93% of all communication is non-verbal. Let me tell you my friends, if you've been citing this statistic, please stop, because it is bullshit. It is complete bullshit, and an oversimplification of a study done by a man named Albert Mehrabian, in 1967, now he is a famous psychologist, and he conducted a study, and the study was on about 137 college undergrads. That's a super small sample size for my methodology nerds out there, and it's hardly representative. But what he was studying in this experiment was not about how much of our communication is nonverbal versus verbal, he was looking at something called message incongruence, and that is where my non-verbals don't match what I'm saying and how do we decide what is true in that situation?
So an example of message congruence is if I see you walking on the street and I'm like, "Hey, so happy to see you. I love your shirt. I am so excited to catch up," versus if I'm walking down the street and I see you and I raise an eyebrow and I'm like, "Ugh, it's so great to see you. What a fabulous shirt you have on. We should totally catch up some time," that is message incongruence, because the tone of my voice, the raised eyebrow, tells you that I'm not really meaning what I'm saying. And so when these college students made decisions about what was real about that message, what was meaningful about that message, they relied on non-verbals more than verbals, totally makes sense. You should do it that way.
But then this study was extrapolated out to mean that 93% of all communication, of all the meaning that we tried to communicate on a daily basis, comes from non-verbal, and this is not true at all. Not true, my friends. If I was not saying words and I was just like, "[inaudible]," you would have no idea what I was saying. I just said, "Without any words, we'd have no meaning at all. This study is bullshit," right?
So let's dispel that. Let's put that back behind us, because I think that perpetuates the myth that words and language and verbal language are not important.
If you want to read more about this, there is an excellent article from David R. Novak, on his website, that we will hook up in the show notes, 'cause at the end of the day, when someone lands on your website at midnight on a Wednesday, the words do your heavy lifting. Your messaging is what matters. And it's not your non-verbal communication or the verb- or your beautiful images on your website. Those help create your brand and your brand image, but it's the words that really do the heavy lifting.
So let's talk about why words and language matter, and this is the scholarly take. So here's a moment to get nerdy with me and my PhD in Communication. So there are two theories I wanted to discuss that support the idea that language, and having words, actually create reality, or as Amanda Montell says, breathe reality into life.
This first one is going to send you right back into your intro to communication classroom college, and it is the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.
Basically, that hypothesis states that language determines our thoughts. So here's a great example. The English language doesn't do a great job of coming up with words for complex emotions. Like we have the basics down-- happy, sad, angry, cheerful, anxious, but when there is more nuance, we don't have the language to describe it. So when somebody says how we're feeling, we can't actually put it into words. A great example of this, let's say the former President of the United States is being investigated for his business dealings in the state of New York. And let's say, because of this misfortune, you feel a little bit happy, a little bit joyful, and then there's part of you who feels bad about feeling good and joyful about somebody else's misfortune.
I had to use what? 50, 100 words to describe that, but in German, there is a word for it, [foreign language 00:08:58], the experience of pleasure, joy, or self satisfaction that comes from learning or witnessing troubles, failures, or humiliation of another. So there is a word, but it's just in German. We have to go to another language. Then once we know this word, it influences our thought and how we think about [foreign language 00:09:21] and our relationship towards it, but at least we can name that complex emotion as our feeling.
A second theory that illustrates how language helps create reality, is the theory of linguistic performativity.
This theory states that language doesn't reflect reality. Instead, language actually creates reality. Language is the catalyst that we use in order to create our reality.
So this idea was first described by a philosopher of language called John L. Austin, and he, basically, defines this as the capacity of speech and communication to act or consummate an action.
A great example of this is that in the Chinese language, and I got this from an article from Business Insider by Lenora Chu, in the Chinese language, they don't have a word for self-esteem. So if you don't have a word for self-esteem, it's not anything that is part of your reality. It doesn't really exist. You can't have low self-esteem, you can't have high self-esteem, because there's no such thing. It is not a part of their reality like it is in Western society.
So the bottom line here is if we don't know how to speak about something, how to use our words, then that something just doesn't exist. It's not a part of our reality, it's not something we can think about, it doesn't become a part of our culture.
So what are the implications of this for your business? And I wanna talk about three implications.
Number one, if you don't have the words to powerfully communicate the value your business creates to other people, yes, your business might exist, but it is invisible to other people because they don't have the words to describe what it is you do. They can't talk about you to other people, they can't refer you, they can't say, "Oh, my gosh, y- you know, Michelle Mazur is awesome at messaging. You should go talk to her." Th- if they don't have the words, if you're not giving them the words, it's, it's like your business is completely invisible.
And I noticed this the other day, I follow a woman who I think is an amazing thinker about business. And she shared a post, and then she shared a DM that was like, "I love your posts, but what the hell do you do? Like how do you make money?" And there is someone who is not doing a great job of describing the value her business creates and connecting that with her marketing. And, ultimately, that ends up hurting your sales, the sustainability of your business.
The second implication is differentiating your work, your business, from all the other people out there who do what you do. And here is the deal. As much as we like to talk about, "Oh, it's about your personality," it's really about how you communicate what it is you do. Your unique take on it, your unique process. And words, words are actually how we do that, right? So me, sure, there are a shit ton of people who do messaging work, but there's only one person who has the 3 Word Rebellion. That is me. I'm just like my clients, Kari Schwear. Yes, there are a lot of people who can coach you around your relationship with alcohol, but she's the only one who has a process to help you question the drink.
Or Caroline Mays, who's a great writer, the writer of amazing bios, which, oh, my gosh, that's such a commodity. There are so many people who can write a bio or an about page for you, but she's the only one who can uncage your epic credential. Do you see how important having those words are to helping me and other people stand out in the marketplace? Because our words are what help us differentiate from other people who do what we do.
And the third reason has to do with perception. And not your perception, but your audiences' and your clients', and your would-be clients' [laughs] perception of you in your business. So in a couple of weeks, I'll be releasing an interview with personal branding expert, Robin Graham. We talked about what the hell is branding, because I feel like that's a word that's thrown around and nobody explains to you what it is, but there was one thing that really stuck out to me during the interview, and it's really relevant here. That your brand is what other people think, say, and feel about your business. It's all about their perception. Who you are, what your business does, who you serve. That is the perception that is, is held in the mind of your audience.
But here's the deal. You get to control that perception, but you have to do it strategically and with intention. And, yes, part of that is your brand identity and we'll talk about that, but part of that is your message and the words you use. For me, you know I'm all about communication, messaging that matters, thought leadership, living in an ethical world, but one of my intentions that underlie my brand, my business, is that, ultimately, I want you to be powerful, to stand in your power. And I'm not talking like power over, I'm talking power with. The power of really confidently owning that message and what your business does for people.
So those are three business e- implications. So, right now, just ask yourself, what are your words currently communicating? If you go to your website and look at the words you're using, what reality are you creating? What perception of your business are you creating? Are you creating one where you're the only expert, or are you creating one where you sound like everyone else? Then ask yourself, is that how you want your brand to be perceived by others? Right now, what you have, is that how you want your business to be perceived by others?
If your answer is, "No, that is not how I want my potential clients to perceive me," then there's still a couple of days to book a consult with me to discuss the 3 Word Rebellion, messaging, and marketing program. This program helps you powerfully communicate the value your business creates, whether you're marketing to one person or a million. You'll leave with everything that you need to differentiate yourself in the marketplace, to be confident in how you're showing up and what you're saying, and you'll know exactly how to guide people from being strangers and unaware of your brand, and turning them into clients.
So to find out more, go to drmichellemazur.com/3wr and request a consult with me to see if there is a fit between us. And I do want to leave you with a warning, that the price of my one-on-one work is increasing on July 1st. So if you send a request for a consult with me before July 1st, you will get what my current prices are, and that will save you about $1,000. So go check that out at drmichellemazur.com/3wr. And, until next time, remember that your words, the language that you use on your website, influences how people perceive you, your business, and your brand.
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