The Trick to Gaining More Influence at Work

The Trick to Gaining More Influence at Work

Getting nowhere in your company’s meetings? Your choice of words might be the problem. A new study from researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology took an in-depth look at almost 100 office meetings and nailed down the keywords that were most likely to persuade.

If you think an erudite vocabulary gains you points, the results might surprise you: “Yeah” was actually the word that earned highest marks for garnering co-worker acceptance. The researchers’ hypothesis: The casual affirmative frames your own speech as agreeing with others’ thoughts. Not only does the word follow a line of thought, but it also indicates that you are, at least in part, attributing your idea to others in the room—which, of course, co-workers certainly like to hear.


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Runners-up in the study were words like “give,” “start,” and “find”—they were also more likely to trigger acceptance from the crowd and guide ideas along.

But your choice of words matters for more than just persuading the group toward your own speech. The study also pinpointed words that were best used when responding negatively to a coworker’s suggestion. “Meeting,” and “discuss” were both found to be good indicators that a statement was being politely shot down, because they were most often used in phrases like “I figure we could get back to it in the next meeting actually.” When a sentence was structured with this (kinder) vocab, the group was more likely to agree to pass over the previous statement.

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With meetings taking up as much as three-quarters of a manager’s schedule, according to the study, it's an important time to make an impact. Next time you're in one, make sure you're using the right vocabulary.


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