Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Refactoring Emphasis in Language

Language is one of the most ancient forms of knowledge encoding and transmission, yet we have so little conscious knowledge of how we can use it to achieve the communication that we want.

Words are programs, psychoglyphs running into other people's head. Shaping words means shaping active executable knowledge.

While reading "sleight of mouth" by Robert Dilts, I found a couple of very interesting concepts.

Look at the following sentences and feel the difference, although they have the same informational contant at face value:
  • I want to do X, but I have a problem
  • I want to do X, and I have a problem
  • I want to do X, even if I have a problem

I call "But", "and" and "even if" Emphatic Tags and they can be used to move the emphasis between:

  • justification, passive stance
  • equanimity, objective stance
  • drive, propositive stance

You can do a little word magick by restating sentences, while refactoring it for an emphatic change, and throwing them back with a more empowered meaning, even if you have never tried before.

The other emphasis trick is the enabler/toll stance.

Read the following and feel the different emotional effect in front of apparently identical information:

  • If you feel like putting some effort in it, you can do anything you want
  • You can do anything you want, if you feel like putting some effort in it

The sentence order makes a world of difference. The first part of the sentence sets the context, while the second part clarifies the meaning of the first one.

The if-opening sentence is a Toll Sentence. It's asking you for something, for a precondition, before giving you what you want. It's even hinting at the fact that you are not doing what is necessary. It feels like you are trying to convince someone of something.

The you-can-opening sentence is an Enabler Sentence. It offers you a wide range of options: anything you want, and it then points to the path to go and grab those options.

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