convey to compel 7: the senses

Evoke them to compel.

How do you learn best? By watching people do things? Maybe you’re more of a hands-on learner? Perhaps you like to read instructions instead? Why is this important?

Senses.

You know, the five senses we use to interact with the world… Leveraging them while communicating can help our words penetrate more.

Think about it: everything you experience in life happens via a cause-and-effect relationship with your five senses. Even the attention you seek from your audience depends on their senses. Them paying attention to you requires either listening or looking or both.

Therefore using language that evokes the five senses helps captivate your audience by helping them imagine your thoughts in one of these five ways:

Visual – how things look
Auditory – how things sound
Kinesthetic – how things physically and emotionally feel
Olfactory – how things smell
Gustatory – how things taste

Today we focus on evoking the first three senses: visual, auditory and kinesthetic. The reason is that we’re trying to increase how effectively we communicate concepts to people, and the vast majority of concepts cannot be fully grasped through smell and/or taste alone. However combining two or all of the kinesthetic, visual or auditory approaches to data processing will almost always let us grasp a concept fully. As such we’ll focus on using language that evokes these three senses today.

Now, for the sake of simplicity, throughout the rest of this post we’ll refer to this language that evokes our senses, as human language.

Examples of human language:

There are many words, word combinations and phrases that can stimulate our minds in a visual, auditory or kinesthetic way. Here are just a few:

Visual:

an eyeful
bright
clear
dull
focused
foggy
hazy
illuminate
imagine
look
picture
round
reveal
see
sharp
straight
view

A sight for sore eyes
Take a bird’s eye view
Can you picture that?
It’s not so black and white
Just imagine what it would look like
Let’s shed some light on the subject
Looks crystal clear
See how this works for you
Show me what you mean
Take a peek

Auditory:

bang
deaf
hush
listen
loud
melody
quiet
resonate
roar
screech
shout
silence
sound
squeak
tell
tune in/out
whisper
zoom

How does that sound?
Let’s set the tone
Loud and clear
On another note
Quiet as a mouse
That rings a bell
That sounds about right
That’s music to my ears
Tune in to what I’m saying
Voice your opinion

Kinesthetic:

catch
cold
concrete
crush
feel
feeling
firm
freezing
grasp
hit
relax
rough
scrape
sharp
smooth
soft
solid
strong
touch
trigger
warm

Do you catch my drift?
Get a grip
Get a handle on
Hit them with the truth
I have a good feeling about this
It just doesn’t sit right with me
It’s like you’re walking on eggshells
Let’s pull some strings
Let’s set the mood
Let’s stay in touch
Reach out to us
That feels right to me
The pressure is off

Impact vs substance:

Now, let’s make something very clear:

Just because you use human language does not guarantee you will keep your audience’s attention. Sure, this technique may help you grab their attention initially but if your subject matter is bland, no amount of speaking techniques will keep them tuned in.

Human language is meant to be infused into already good subject matter so that it penetrates more deeply by leveraging the path of the human senses. So how do we do this?

Human vs technical language

It’s important not to overuse human language. You don’t want to be saying a lot about nothing. Try to use it to replace technical language that does not stimulate the senses, but has the same meaning as the human language you’ll replace it with.

For example, instead of saying:

This well help you understand xyz

You can say

This will help you grasp xyc

It’s important not to replace all technical language just for the sake of doing so. There are technical words whose meaning cannot be replaced with other words. Those words are jargon (see our last post). If your audience understands the jargon you’re using, then use it to make your point.

When you can replace technical language with human language of the same meaning, do it. If you can’t, don’t. Taking this approach to using language that stimulates our senses is a good way to make your audience better grasp your thoughts.