People Buy Adjectives

We were working on a one-page proposal this week, the kind that is going into a board meeting for a yes/no answer, and tinkering around with the text. Wanting it to be minimal, I remembered a presentation I heard by Interact, a UK-based management training group that uses theatre techniques and real actors for training. They gave a demonstration workshop to the Geneva Learning Community a few weeks ago.

The lead trainer, Ian Jessop, a director and producer himself, spoke to us about linguistic audits, that is analysing the language we use and being mindful of how we use words and what they say to people. Here is what he told the group. Nouns are facts, they are not emotional. They are most appreciated by accountants, doctors and biologists who deal in things – dollars, ulnas and rattlesnakes. Verbs however are action oriented, future oriented and have movement and motivation. Activators like verbs.

Adjectives are about emotions. They help to define, tell stories and paint pictures and help people understand and follow. Adjectives are the things we buy. People don’t buy a car, they buy a fast, candy apple red sportscar, or a safe car. They don’t buy chocolate, they buy the richest creamiest, darkest chocolate.

So we decided, we were no longer talking about a workshop where participants would talk together and identify solutions. Now we were talking about an interactive, outcomes-oriented workshop that would feature peer-learning and generative dialogue, and build relationships among motivated, committed people working towards long-lasting outcomes. It’s all still true. Hopefully that sells.
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