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A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

5 Power Words to Instantly Get What You Want

Trying to persuade a boss, a client, or even a family member to take your advice? These five words will help you get your way—guaranteed.

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In a Yale study, “You” ranked as the number one, most influential power word in English. Think about it: before making any purchase or decision, you first consider how it will impact your life. Most marketers try to do this for you, framing their product in terms of your needs, your desires, and your emotions. “You” shows empathy, which is necessary to convince someone that what you want and what they want are mutually beneficial. In fact, the only way to boost the power of “you” is to replace it with your audience’s actual name. You know it’s true, Dave. (That definitely just freaked out a few of you.) Make sure you never, ever use these words and phrases if you want to sounds smart.

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Logical thinkers (and, children) seek a cause-and-effect relationship between everything that happens; our minds crave order and answers. Using the word “because” satisfies this craving, and can also create empathy. Consider a classic experiment in which a woman tried to cut in line at the library photocopier. When she asked, “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine?” 60 percent of people let her go in front. But when she asked, “I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I am in a rush?” 94 percent of people said yes. Often a stated reason, however flimsy, is all it takes.

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Imagine you’ve won the lottery. Imagine you are suddenly a millionaire, able to afford whatever you and your loved ones desire. Imagine you never have to worry about bills again. Nice, right? In your fantasy, you didn’t imagine the years spent and hundreds of dollars wasted on losing lottery tickets, did you? When a person asks you to “imagine” an outcome, your brain unconsciously skips over worry and critical analysis, instead focusing on the fantastic feeling of the reality in your mind, according to D. Bnonn Tennant, author of How to Create a Business Site That Sells on the blog For a moment, fantasy becomes reality, and doubt disappears. Imagine that. (You’ve probably been using these words and phrases wrong your whole life.)

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The entire online shopping industry is predicated on the human brain’s desire for immediate results, and its relaxed impulse control when a desired outcome (say, reading the new James Patterson thriller) is offered quickly, and easily. Letting people know they can have something “instantly” bridges the gap between desire and satisfaction, removing time to reconsider the consequences, according to marketing strategist Gregory Ciotti on Hey—we even used it in this article’s headline. And here you are.

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Which phrase makes you feel more comfortable: “All sales final,” or “Money-back guarantee”? We guarantee you everyone went with the latter option. Life is unpredictable, and people want security. A “guarantee” alleviates the stress of making a risky decision, insuring an investment is proven to pay off—or, at the very least, can be repaid if satisfaction isn’t met, according to copy director Paul Suggett on Look for this word during your next shopping outing; we guarantee it’ll be waiting for you. (These common words used to mean completely different things.)