DON’T GET ME STARTED ON HEALTHCARE AND LANGUAGE

by Monica Murphy.

As a Communication Coach, I know that one of the best ways to move someone is through the language you choose to convey your message. Use the “appropriate “ language and you can persuade almost anyone to a certain response.

The Healthcare reform bill is falling in to a battle that is being fought with language of interpretation. It is really based on language more than fact. In fact, many Americans do not even know the details. They have heard and seen phrases that move them like:

“Death panel, cut off your rights, government wins, tax dollars pay for abortion, socialism”. These phrases evoke an emotional response. The associated press put out an article this morning citing that many of the town hall protesters were folks who have never been politically active. This can create a unified emotion of distrust in the government. Whether it is right or wrong, carefully chosen language can motivate in a powerful way.

Aristotle pointed out language can be used in three modes of persuasion: Ethos, persuading through the use of credibility, Pathos, persuading through the use of emotion, and Logos, persuading through the use of logic.

What we can expect to see now are more media pieces that use Logos, or logic to explain what these proposed healthcare reforms actually are. Chief Medical correspondent Dr. Timothy Johnson has been on air Fact Checking the reform bill. The network uses his ethos, or credibility to establish him as a trustworthy resource. He then uses Logos language, phrases like “ medicare has existed since 1965, advanced care planning provision, private and public options..” This logical language will help de-escalate the emotional reaction and allow the public to review the facts and make their own choices. The associated press ran an article this morning using the positive side of pathos language in referring to Glenn Beck’s 9-12 Project: which seeks to unify Americans around nine values such as honesty, hope and sincerity and 12 principles, including, “I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable.” The words “unify, honesty, hope, sincerity.. all emotionally charged words.

Language plays a key role in how we feel when receiving a message. A good communicator must choose their words wisely when speaking. They must consider their listeners. A good communicator will ask themselves: How do I want my listeners to feel and what do I want them to believe after they hear me speak? As communication coaches, we ask our clients this question as one of the starting points to delivering a successful message.

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