Words as drugs

Nov 12 2010 by Janet Howd Print This Article

In a speech he made to the Royal College of Surgeons in London in 1923, Rudyard Kipling observed that "words are the most powerful drugs used by mankind".

If only this were true then all presenters could give whole audiences a high by getting them to snort definite and indefinite articles, nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs and adjectives and shoot up whole phrases!

Well. I'm here to tell you it can be true.

If we make sure that the knowledge we own is in as pure and concentrated a form as possible and then express our ideas in such an intensive way that they penetrate the inner ear, enter the brain and set synapses firing, we can connect up with a listener's whole system. We can then bring about a feel-good factor so strong that it will change the structure of minds and add such a buzz to each listener's thinking that its effects will remain with anyone who was within hearing long after the proactive language has been dissipated by a return to everyday realties.

The effect of such a volatile fix should encourage those who experienced its energy surge to search of their own volition for new words and concepts that will expand the thrill they experienced and encourge them to inject such-like phrases into contacts they make with audiences of their own.

Those audiences in turn - stimulated by so potent an inoculation - will search for ways to add conceptual flashes of brilliance both in terms of intellectual and entertainment value whenever they are called upon to share ideas.

If such persuasive powers can be unleashed into any presenter's system so as to make even detailed analyses of intricate concepts inviting and compelling, why are so many presentations dull and uninspiring?

I would suggest that it is because most of us are not prepared to spend time getting the information drug into its purest state before we administer it. And, because we are rarely around to observe the effect on those we inject when it becomes apparent we have little interest in follow-through.

If we deliberately contaminate our subject matter or allow it to become degraded through sloppy management, we fully deserve to be held responsible for any outcome that proves to be deleterious to our listeners.

But if we select out as carefully as possible what we believe to be pure information about the topic we are communicating no blame can be attached if the injection of informtion that sets the hairs on the back of the neck tingling in most people raises the hackles or offends the sensibilities of a few.

Who would have thought that after six years as a Management Issues columnist I would find myself pedalling drugs to its readers!? Yet here I am doing that very thing by suggesting that every time we have to persuade others of our ideas we must find ways enthusiastically to inject them with knowledge that we already own.

The only way to do this is to ensure that when we present we keep our brains focussed on triggering our tongues' ability to deliver only relevant phrases that will press home ever purer concoctions of clear definitions selected from the plethora of words that are at the disposal of anyone who seeks to share information with someone else.

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About The Author

Janet Howd
Janet Howd

Janet Howd is a voice coach who works with corporate, academic, legal, theatrical and private clients in the UK, North America, Australia and Europe.