Mastering the art of influence involves simply guiding other people’s attention, and the most powerful tool – which you already own! -- is your use of language. Your language is like a spotlight that directs WHAT others notice and – more importantly -- HOW they notice.

Compare these two experiences, and see the difference…

You are at a seminar in a hotel conference room. The speaker in the front of the room projects a picture on the wall, and wants you to notice something. He takes out a laser pointer and aims it at what he wants you to see. He doesn’t dim the lights or pull the window curtains -- he simply aims a little hand-held laser pointer at the picture and starts talking. It takes you a moment to see the shimmering red dot…

You are at Radio City Music Hall, the largest indoor theater in the world. The place is magnificent, and you are watching a must-see musical. The hall is famously styled in deco fashion. The stage is magnificent. The costumes of every performer sparkle. The music is flawless. Suddenly one performer comes forward to do a solo number. The room darkens while ALL the spotlights of the entire auditorium aim at the lone performer. In fact, the spotlights shine so brightly on the ONE person that everything else in the room literally fades from view. Your attention is riveted…

Think about your communication, and then ask yourself…

Would you rather point out your message with a twitchy little red laser-dot -- that people have to squint to notice, or would you rather shine an 800-watt spotlight?

YOUR sales presentations, marketing letters – or ANY occasion in which you are influencing – should rivet other people’s attention to your message.
And the fastest way to create this experience is to master your use of language.

Not to bend other people to your will, or manipulate other people cruelly, but to gently use language in a way that FEELS natural and comfortable to the person you are speaking to.

In just the past 30 years the effect of language on the human mind has been studied carefully, thanks to the pioneering work of a psychiatrist named Milton Erickson.

Dr. Erickson was a hypnotherapist who found -- in 40 years of practice
-- that using presuppositions in language could make for more rapid changes in his clients. Often he could create profound transformation in just one session!

He was constantly using presuppositions – things presumed to be true – to guide his clients to assume helpful things. In fact, his carefulness with language began even before his clients walked in the door. Sometimes he would literally write 20 pages of hypnotic suggestion, and then tighten all those pages of suggestion into THREE pages packed richly with subtle meaning and layers of presupposition.

He became so renowned that toward the end of his life he had visitors from around the world; Psychiatrists, therapists and linguists traveled from around the world to see -- up close -- how this eccentric wheelchair-bound Dr. Erickson made such dramatic changes in people using only brief conversation.

“Do you want to go into a light trance or a deep trance?” (Presupposing that they will go into a trance.)

“I wonder how surprised and delighted you will be when you find this problem has completely vanished.” (Presupposing that this problem will completely vanish.)

Not surprisingly, some business-minded researchers analyzed Dr. Erickson’s words carefully, and found that his unique conversational style would make for a powerful enhancement to the art of selling.

Of course, the use of presuppositions by sales professionals was already well known by the 1970’s. Many sales experts wrote guidebook after guidebook on the art of assumptive selling, a don’t-take-no attitude that begins by presupposing that the client will buy. (Sometimes called the “assumptive close,” the “either/or” close or the “illusion of choice” close.) “Do you want this in red or in white?”

Presuppositions are useful, certainly effective, but their ongoing use has contributed to the myth of the pushy salesperson, the kind who railroads people into a sale, whether they like it or not.

By unpacking some of the language patterns of Dr. Erickson (and others, beyond the scope of this brief report), there are other MORE artful ways of using presupposition in language.

Adverb Advantage

One of the MOST powerful things to use in language is an adverb. Adverbs are those words that SET THE TONE for the action – whether that action is purchasing your product or even THINKING about your product.

Imagine saying “He happily walked down the street.”

“Happily” is the adverb. (Usually, but not always, you can spot the adverb by the “-ly” at the end.)

The action is modified. Not just WALKING down the street, but HAPPILY walking. Notice what else changes when you say, “He sadly walked down the street”? After all, it’s the same action, but the perception of the action is different, altered by just that one word.

Here are a few must-use adverbs…

1. Naturally
“Naturally, the next time you sit down with a client, or speak with a client on the phone, you’ll be mindful of the effect your words are already having on your client’s imagination.”
“Naturally, this program will benefit you not just in the near future, but even more over time…”

2. Easily
You will find yourself easily using these methods in your own practice, with clients AND colleagues.”
“As a result of practicing these methods, you’ll easily find that clients listen to every word.”

3. Finally
“Finally you’ve found a financial planner whose options for you are reasonable AND fit with your most important long-term goals.”

A Helpful Adjective…

An important thing to remember when using adjectives – ANY adjective (although I am singling out just one for Power Word status) -- is to put the adjective BEFORE the thing you are describing. Happily, this works as well as an adverb when used this way, setting the tone of the item or behavior BEFORE they even hear what that item or behavior is! Think of it as creating a bias FOR your product or service before they even hear about it!

4. Unlimited
“Think of the unlimited comfort you will have, knowing that this plan is increasing in value for you, day in and day out.”

Steering their attention with careful verbs

5. Aware
“Are you aware of the benefits this program will have on your bottom line?”
“I know you’re aware of the short-term value of this plan, so let’s discuss the long-term benefit to you AND your family.”

6. Realize
“Have you begun to realize the value that this will have on your practice?”
“When you realize how easy this program is to maintain, you’ll find it even more valuable.”

7. Experience
“As you experience more and more the benefits of using these methods, the value to your professional life will be even more far-reaching.”

Finding space in their mind

8. Before
“Before you think about the value this package has to you and your company, let’s discuss the superb benefit this has for you personally.”
“Before you go ahead with this program, I have to tell you about a few of the bonuses you’ll enjoy by signing up this month.”

9. During
“During our conversation today, you may come up with even more reasons why this program is a perfect fit for you, so don’t hesitate to ask me to clarify any of those details for you.”

10. After
“After you become a platinum client of our firm, you may be surprised at the comfortable family feeling you’ll enjoy, and you may have a little feeling of regret that you didn’t become an inner circle member a long time ago.”
“After you consider the reasons why this program is so helpful, let’s take a moment to look at the temporary discounts that make this so affordable too.”

11. Among
“Among the compelling reasons why you’ll want to join our firm is one reason that shines even brighter than the rest, and our conversation today will help you to uncover what that is.”

12. Of course (“Of course” is technically a phrase, not a word, but I’m including it here anyway because it’s REALLY powerful.) You can also substitute the word “obviously”.
“Of course, the best part of this product is how easily you can use it…”
“Of course, the reason clients keep coming back to us is the ease of use and the outstanding customer service.”
“Obviously, the best part of this product is how easily you can use it…”
“Obviously, the reason clients keep coming back to us is the ease of use and the outstanding customer service.”

13. Expand
“To expand on the list of reasons our clients like this program, let’s take a look at the personal gains you can expect…”

14. Beyond
“Beyond all the financial benefits of enrolling today, there are three INTANGIBLE benefits you might not have realized yet…”

Words that Connect & Command

15. And
“Our conversation today has given you new options for choosing the best solution AND as you hear more about the unique advantages that my company offers, you can be sure in the future when you look back on today you will feel good that you HAVE made the right decision now.”

Here is an important tip: Use the word “AND” instead of the word “BUT.” The word “BUT” is also a powerful presupposition BUT instead of connecting ideas, it divides them by negating what was said right before it.

Notice how much more congenial and less argumentative the exact same phrases seem in the following examples.

Instead of:
“You are a great cook BUT I am watching my calories.”

“You are a great cook AND I am watching my calories.”

See the difference?

Experience the difference by substituting “AND” for the word “BUT” in the following examples below:
• “You did a fabulous sales job but I can’t afford it”
• “Your vital signs are good but your cholesterol is high”
• “This is an excellent retirement vehicle but interest rates are low right now”
• “I like you but I can’t go out with you”

16. As
“As you hear the reasons why the coaching program is helpful, you can decide for yourself whether you want the ongoing personal and professional benefits that this program will help you create.”

17. Causes
“The wisdom you have gained over the years causes you to realize the exceptional value of a having an objective business coach.”

18. Because
“Because you are committed to finding the best, most cost-effective solution, this is the program you want to register for today.”

Hidden Commands

19. Now
“As you consider the permanent gains this teleconference will help you create in your business – now – you can think for yourself of the ongoing value this teleconference will provide in your personal life as well.”

20. Stop
“When you STOP and consider how valuable this information is, you will wonder about the other interesting tools you could profit from, if you took the time to read this magazine every month.”


Author's Bio: 

Mandy Bass is the founder of Priority Living Systems, a success coaching and training company established in 1996 and credited with helping hundreds of professionals breakthrough their income ceilings. Mandy is also the creator of, The place where savvy professionals can find public speaking opportunities to help position and brand themselves as "go=to " experts in their field. Her works include "Ignite Your Secret Power,” and “How to Earn a CEO’s Income Part-time in Pajamas” and “How to Build a Successful Coaching Practice.” She can be reached at 954.587.8873 or online at