Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Most people never get to a place in their lives where they think about saving for their retirement.

Part of the reason for this is that people are never really sure how much money they will need for themselves in their old age and so they find it difficult to know exactly how much they should try and save. People also naturally feel like there is more time to build enough savings than there really is.

Due to a lack of savings, some people wonder if they will ever be able to retire.

Take a moment and think about this.

Are you still thinking?

I bet you were thinking about yourself and how the above statements applied to you!

In fact, I'd bet you started thinking about your own retirement situation as early as the first sentence of this post.


It is because of the words that I chose to use. I showed you last week that words mattered. This week, I thought I'd show you another way in which the words we use make a difference.

When someone communicates a message that is unspecific, a listener's mind tends to clarify the message FOR the speaker. It does this by making assumptions about the generalized, non-specific portions of the message that has been expressed – and it tends to do that from the personal perspective.

Let's look again at the first sentence of this post. When the term “most people” was used, your brain quietly thought “HEY! I'm most people! This might apply to me.”

Then when it encountered the idea of “a place in their lives”, that was also sufficiently vague and your mind began to contemplate that idea in a context of your personal situation. From there on out, every subsequent sentence was sufficiently vague that your mind filled in the blanks in a way that the ideas were about you exclusively.

And yet, I never specifically said a word about you or your situation.

I've just demonstrated another simple way of controlling a person's thoughts, but doing so in a way that seems quite innocuous and harmless. And it uses only words.

Sales and marketing gurus know this technique and use it all the time. And so do journalists and politicians.

In fact, this technique can make urgent messages for those stubborn people in our lives palatable, resulting in real and meaningful change.

Imagine that I was a friend of yours and I wanted to give you some important warnings about your need to save for your future. If I'd directly said to you:

“Look my friend, I am concerned that you won't have enough money for your retirement because you aren't making it a priority, you aren't saving any money, and I don't think you ever will until it is too close to too late for you. Then, by that time, you'll never be able to retire.”

The above is essentially the same message, but because it was about you and it came from an external source, it is very likely to be rejected. It won't pass the defensive structure of self-perception erected over the years by your conscious mind. You'd dismiss me entirely.

The very best way (and trust me, I have EXTENSIVE knowledge of this) to get someone to do or not do something is to create the illusion for them that their decision in the matter was entirely independent both in conception and execution.

So, how is this done?

By the use of nonspecific, general terms. Be confident that if you want a message to be personalized by an audience, you must master the art of sounding precise while the opposite is, in fact, true.

For example, if I were trying to sell you an alarm system, I would be unspecific in the following way:

“Countless lives have been lost due to preventable emergencies – there are a lot of threats out there and in society today, the smart ones protect themselves.”

It sounds specific, doesn't it? But in all reality, I have given no real data, I haven't clarified what I mean by the word 'threat' (instead, your mind is busy conjuring up what you consider a threat and feeling anxious about those terrible fantasies) and I imply that this alarm system is in the homes of everyone who is 'smart' – a demographic that we'd all like to belong to.

Now, note – I have not said a single word about you or your personal situation. But you are now terrified for yourself and your family and you also consider yourself to be smart, all of which means that you'll be wanting to buy this alarm system from me in the next few minutes. Especially if my pitch continues to employ these non-specific nouns and verbs.

The best sales pitch is one that is personalized, and the best way to personalize a message is to let you do it for me.

I could go on, but I think the point has been made.

Watch the sales pitches made to you by others, and, if you need to really communicate something important to a loved one...be careful of the words you choose.



P.S.  I wanted to call this post "You're So Vain", but I couldn't because then you would have thought the post was about you...from the start and would have defeated what I was trying to demonstrate.  So, if you've read this far, rename the post for me in your mind!

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