There are certain situations in life in which your choice of words can quite literally define your future—during a job interview or when asking for a raise, for example. As any writer or linguist can attest, words are powerful, and the way in which you string them together can say a lot more about you than you think.
Thankfully psychologist Elizabeth Stokoe, professor of social interaction at Loughborough University in the UK, has identified the one word in particular that grants you the finicky powers of persuasion. Stokoe, who specializes in conversational analysis, regularly transcribes everyday conversations in an effort to understand their "linguistic and social components," according to New York Magazine's Cari Romm.
Through her research, Stokoe has picked up on the persuasive power of the word willing. In a recent speech at festival-slash-conference Latitude, she told the audience to follow up a rebuffed request with the word willing in order to change the person's mind: "If you ask someone Are you interested in mediation?, they might say yes or no. But if you ask them if they're willing to mediate, that requires them saying something about the type of person that they are," said Stokoe, as quoted by Romm. "So if we change words, we change outcomes."
Do you use the word willing when asking questions? Share your verdict on this theory below, and shop a good book on persuasive language.
This post was originally published on August 10, 2016, and has been updated by Sacha Strebe.