The Echoes of the Mind (138-3) Power


Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.
~ American rabbi Yehuda Berg

Conversation is an exercise in social influence. People communicate their self-assessment of their own power.

Powerful and powerless forms of talk are defined in terms of the impressions they create for speakers. ~ American communication scholar Craig Johnson

Hesitations make a speaker sound uncertain. Disqualifiers signal incompetence and uncertainty. Tag questions asking for affirmation indicate dubiety. Intensifiers and frequent superlatives sap the strength of emphasis: the very opposite of the speaker’s intent. Self-critical statements publicize one’s own inadequacies and show lack of confidence. Slang and vulgarity indicate low class, and hence low power – examples: “you know,” “no problem,” “whatever.” Self-manipulations (playing with the hair or touching the face) and leaning backwards display discomfort and damage persuasiveness. Inappropriate facial expressions and gestures damage credibility. Incongruity between verbal and nonverbal messages show uncertainty and lack of conviction.

Powerful and powerless speech establishes and maintains power differentials in addition to reflecting social realities. ~ Craig Johnson

Powerless speakers are viewed as less credible, less persuasive, and less attractive.

Speak clearly, if you speak at all; carve every word before you let it fall. ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

The most powerful speaker is one that is at ease, conveying cogently and concisely at a modest volume, using standard language, with gestures that accent points rather than trying to drive them home.

The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak. ~ German-born American painter Hans Hofmann

Fiery, over-the-top speakers may be rousing in the moment, but their deal is less convincing.

Nothing lowers the level of conversation more than raising the voice. ~ Stanley Horowitz

The less people know, the more they yell. ~ American author Seth Godin

Calm assertion trumps aggression, even if the fury is muted. Passion may be momentarily persuasive but appealing to reason in transparent terms more surely affects convictions and beliefs.

The more elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate. ~ English theologian Joseph Priestley

In social situations, men exhibit more behavioral dominance: head shaking, closed posture positions, using closed questions, and directive remarks. Women show more affiliation: smiling, laughing, posing open questions, and sitting in open postures.

Men use more powerful language forms and assertive nonverbal communications than women. That does not make men more effective communicators.

Words – so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them. ~ American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne