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Last Updated on February 27, 2018

How to Make Your Words Powerful Without Sounding Aggressive

How to Make Your Words Powerful Without Sounding Aggressive

The way we use language can help convey context, feelings and emotions. Whether we’re writing or speaking, the words we use have certain ways to put across the ideas and opinions we want to communicate and there are two very distinct types: hard and soft words.

Hard words are short words with fewer letters that deliver a sharp and punchy sound. When we use these types of words, it’s to reflect an element of firmness and decisiveness and a way of getting a point across. Examples of hard words are: simple, correct, hard, accept, or at the same time.

On the other hand, soft words tend to contain more letters and syllables that convey a more gentle sound and reflecting a sense of softness and sophistication. Examples of soft words are: difficult, incomplex, legitimate, acknowledge or simultaneously.

    Hard words come from Old English or the Anglo-Saxon heritage. During these times, the English language contained a plethora of functional words such as prepositions and conjunctions, many of which contained short, sharp words of one syllable.

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      However, after the invasion of England by France in 1066, these Anglo-Saxon stark words become much more softened due to the French language influence. Since the language of the court, government and the upper class was heavily impacted by Norman French, the traditional Old English was infiltrated by the softer and more descriptive words we use today. As time went on, more influence on the English language came from Latin and Greek resulting in the language evolving into a more softened vocabulary and less complex grammar.

        Hard words vs Soft Words

        There are advantages and disadvantages to the types of words we use, no matter which type.

        Hard Words Are Sharp but Blunt

        The pros of using hard words are that they’re short, sharp and concise, meaning they submit a punch which is useful for getting important impacting messages across.

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        However, the con of using hard words is that they tend to sound rigid and emotionless often depicting a harsh command. When it comes to teaching children, parents are more likely to use hard words to show intention of unacceptable behaviour because these are the easiest words for kids to understand and therefore getting them to correct their unwanted behaviour. But the rigidness of these words can encourage children to continue bad behaviour because of the negative feelings conveyed through the use of these types of words.

          Soft Words Are Gentle but Vague

          Soft words are able to soften hard statements which has the ability to allow people to be more likely to accept and understand them. But the downside to soft words is that they can come across as lengthy and distracting which can make it difficult for others to get the main point of what you’re trying to convey. This ultimately can lessen that punch you need for getting important messages across.

          Governments, authorities and big organizations often use soft words in public announcements or press conferences because the use of soft words helps reduce complaints from the public. Soft words are a way of sounding gentle, sophisticated and responsible without offending the general consensus. However, these words can end up being abstract and empty – in other words, they sound good but don’t help to directly address particular problems.

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            When Words Are Put in the Wrong Place

            So what if we were to switch the situations where hard and soft words are used?

            If parents were to only use soft words when disciplining their children, the chances are they would still become uncontrollable because they’re too young to behave without rules and use of a stricter tone and language.

            Also, if governments and authorities were to only use hard words when dealing with public interactions, yes they’d be getting the facts across clearly but they would pay a price in terms of their audience not accepting harsh truths or offending certain groups within communities.

            Hard and Soft Words Together Are The Best Combination

            The optimum form of communication and to get your point or message across effectively, is to use both types of words depending on the evolving receptiveness of what you’re saying.

            The most effective formula is to generally use more hard words than soft. This helps take the edge off any harsh connotations together with avoiding abstract language which can distract and defer from your main points.

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              When you need to deliver that punchy message or you need the information to be concise and direct, hard words are your best option. But if you find your message is too blunt, is moving into the direction of negative receptivity or isn’t being understood fully by your audience, it’s time to include softer words.

              One of the most successful people of our generation was Steve Jobs. Not only was he a pioneer in transforming his field, he knew how to effectively communicate to an audience using both hard and soft words.

              In his speech, Jobs demonstrates his genius use of short but punchy words to tell his story yet interjects a range of softer words to allow an easier and more understanding pace for the audience.

              So, use the concept of hard and soft words in your everyday life. Be more mindful and aware of the types of words you use and how effective they are being in getting your point across to others.

              A great tool is to write down the most common words you’re using and identify how hard or soft they are. You can then use this to evaluate and change your hard and soft word combinations to become a better communicator and see how people start responding in a more receptive manner.

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              Anna Chui

              Anna is a communication expert and a life enthusiast. She's the editor of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

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              Last Updated on January 15, 2019

              How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

              How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

              Many of us feel awkward talking to strangers. I’m a very outgoing person, even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable walking up to someone and asking a question or starting a conversation. I consider myself pretty high up on the extrovert meter. So what is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

              In this article, we will discuss why we feel this way as well as some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

              Step right up, don’t be shy!

              Why We Feel Awkward Talking to Strangers

              The next time you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, tell yourself that’s completely normal. There are numerous reasons why it’s actually natural to feel awkward talking to strangers:

              Our Stress Levels Rise Around Strangers

              Numerous studies have show that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]
              So there you go, right off the bat you can see part of your standard response to strangers is due to a chemical reaction!

              A very interesting by product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

              Evolution Taught Us to Be Wary

              Evolution has also taught us to be wary of strangers in general. Humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources.

              When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

              Culturally Conditioned

              We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

              I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

              The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

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              Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at why you should talk to strangers more.

              Benefits of Getting over the Awkwardness

              Let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages of how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward. These are some high level benefits of talking to strangers.

              1. Broadens Your Network

              After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.

              2. Improves Your Communication Skills

              I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become.

              Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.

              3. Continually Learning

              So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment.

              Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.

              4. Increases Self Confidence

              Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves.

              Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

              So, how to talk to strangers to reap these benefits?

              How to Talk to Strangers

              Here are some tips to on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

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              1. Say Hello

              Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

              Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

              Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

              2. Ask About Them

              Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

              You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

              As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

              3. Just Do It

              One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

              When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

              Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

              4. Don’t Take It Personal

              One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

              When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

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              5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

              I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

              One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

              6. Detach

              A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

              Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

              7. Share Your Stories

              Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

              To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

              So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

              8. Give a Compliment

              Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

              When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

              9. Relax Your Body Language

              If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

              When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

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              If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

              10. Practice, Practice, Practice

              Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

              Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

              After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

              The Bottom Line

              As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

              There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

              Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

              Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

              More Resources About Strengthening Communication Skills

              Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

              Reference

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