Words That Work Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: Words That Work outlines the importance of using the right words and the appropriate body language in a given situation to make yourself understood properly and get the most out of the dialogue, while also teaching you some tips-and-tricks on how to win arguments, tame conflicts, and get your point across using a wise selection of words.

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Words That Work Summary

Have you ever been in a situation where you’re trying your best to get your point across or simply convey certain emotions? And yet what comes out is far from your desired outcome? That’s because effective communication consists of more than just throwing words around and hoping for the best. With the right mix of phrases, gestures, and a little bit of knowledge about the psychology of communication, you too can learn the secrets of Frank Luntz‘s Words That Work.

It all starts with acknowledging the power of certain words and specific phrases that activate the human brain. Moreover, it eventually boils down to the audience you’re addressing. Naturally, although you may be using the same expressions and tone, different audiences will receive your message in different ways. As such, effective communication includes more factors of interest, which we’ll explore further below. 

For now, let’s explore my three favorite lessons from the book:

  1. Effective communication is tailored to the audience and uses organized and clear phrases. 
  2. A successful communicator addresses people’s feelings and conveys words that carry emotions.
  3. Addressing your audience right will help you both in life-changing situations and on a day-to-day basis.

Now, let’s tap into the secrets of effective communication by analyzing these lessons in detail, starting with the first one!

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Lesson 1: A good communicator conveys their message in a clear, concise way, with a strong focus on the audience they’re addressing

Not all audiences are the same, and a good communicator knows it. To convey your message effectively, you’ll have to take in account who you’re addressing. Whether you’re in a circle of simple, day-to-day people, your friends and family, or a group of individuals specialized in a given topic, your language will definitely have to vary between them. However, it’s not just about the audience you’re addressing. 

Similar words can prompt different reactions in people. A study shows that Americans were asked whether they think more funds should be allocated towards welfare or assistance to the poor. Three times more recipients responded positively to the latter. The two notions mean the same thing. But assistance to the poor calls for compassion and empathy. On the other hand, welfare has political connotations and is a way of spending government money. In a nutshell, that’s the power of words – and all influential figures know it!

Now, another thing you should keep in mind if you’re trying to communicate effectively is to keep your language as simple and concise as possible. Presidential candidates and other political figures worldwide have lost life-changing positions because they were using words too complicated for their audience. When you’re addressing a generally wide audience, it’s best to keep it as simple as possible. As a rule of thumb, short phrases and simple terms are best for conveying information to an audience.

Lesson 2: Use personalization and humanization to appeal to your audience

We’ve learned about the importance of targeting your audience right and using simple, yet effective words to relate a message. It’s time to focus on the emotional part of communication. Aristotle himself talks about this in his writings. He advises orators to target not only the ration of people but also their pathos or emotional side. 

So, how do you add emotion to your words? In two ways! You can either find a language that applies to a situation that everyone is familiar with, also known as humanization. Or go into detail and relate to their personal experiences, which implies using the personalization technique. When going for larger audiences and trying to gather people under a common goal, and implicitly, create less division and leave little room for your audience to feel excluded, you’ll want to use the power of humanization and personalization. 

Movement leaders, political figures, and peace advocates worldwide use these techniques. One way to personalize is to ask questions and address people’s concerns. Engage them in a thought process that leads them towards a conclusion of their own. Ronald Reagen himself used it in his presidential campaign. He asked his audience: “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?” – and after they got to the conclusion that he’s right, he won!

Lesson 3: Knowing your audience will help you persuade people better even in your daily life

Do you think that learning the secrets behind using the right words and how world leaders win audiences using highly effective communication techniques is something that you’ll only use if you’ll become a leader, a public speaker, or someone highly influential yourself? Think again! Building social skills is something that’ll make your daily life much easier, while helping you get out of unpleasant situations.

Whether you’re being stopped by a policeman for driving too fast, you’re late for a meeting, or you forgot something important at home, knowing how to address the situation will make everything run smoother for you. For starters, it helps showing gratitude and saying please and thank you. Then, it’s important to know who you’re addressing. Use empathy to relate to them, understand their struggles, and general knowledge to know a thing or two about their background, culturally or professionally. 

Make sure to present yourself as reliable and trustworthy and make them understand your situation as well. If you’re asking for a favor, make sure to be open, casual, yet appreciative. Acknowledge that they put in their time and energy to help you out and you’re highly grateful for that. At the end of the day, effective communication is about respecting the other, making it a point that you understand their situation and appreciate their efforts, while being empathetic if the situation asks for you to be the one doing a favor.

Words That Work Review

Words That Work explores the art of communication and how to build long-lasting social skills that will help you thrive in your personal and professional life. Using just a few practices, such as relating to your interlocutor, knowing your audience, or keeping your vocabulary short and concise, you’ll manage to win over crowds and people in your life in no time! Reading this book will reveal a great deal of insights on effective communication techniques. You will also learn how to get your point across more easily and how to strengthen your relationships.

Who would I recommend the Words That Work summary to?

The 35-year-old aspiring politician who wants to work on their people skills, the 40-year-old public speaker or ghostwriter for public personas who wants to enhance their communication skills, or the 23-year-old communication student who wants to deepen their knowledge in the field.

Last Updated on October 5, 2022

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Maria Deac

While working with my friend Ovi's company SocialBee, I had the good fortune of Maria writing over 200 summaries for us over the course of 18 months. Maria is a professional SEO copywriter, content writer, and social media marketing specialist. When she's not writing or learning more about marketing, she loves to dance and travel all over the world.