Magic Words: Change What You Say to Inspire and Influence Others

In this episode, Jonah Berger, PhD ’07, shares the secret to persuading others and getting your ideas to catch on.

March 08, 2023

| by Jonah Berger Matt Abrahams

Words have impact. But when it comes to enchanting audiences and captivating with communication, Jonah Berger says some words are more potent than others.

Berger is a graduate of the Stanford GSB PhD Program and a professor of marketing at Wharton School. His most recent book, Magic Words: What to Say to Get Your Way, identifies language we can use to communicate more effectively in all sorts of personal and professional contexts. “Subtle shifts in language can have a huge impact on everything from convincing clients and holding attention to connecting with loved ones in our lives,” Berger says.

“Magic words” allow us to change minds, engage audiences, and drive action. In this episode of Think Fast, Talk Smart: The Podcast, Berger and lecturer Matt Abrahams discuss how we can leverage their power in our own communication.

Think Fast, Talk Smart is a podcast produced by Stanford Graduate School of Business. Each episode provides concrete, easy-to-implement tools and techniques to help you hone and enhance your communication skills.

Full Transcript

Matt Abrahams: Words matter. Leveraging language can help us achieve our communication goals. Join me as we take a deep dive into wording.

My name is Matt Abrahams, and I teach Strategic Communication at Stanford Graduate School of Business. Welcome to Think Fast, Talk Smart: The Podcast. Today I am really excited to speak with Jonah Berger. Jonah is no stranger to Stanford and the GSB. He was an undergrad here and then went on to the GSB to earn his PhD. He studied with one of our previous guests, Chip Heath.

Jonah is now a professor at Wharton, a consultant, speaker, and author of several incredibly educational and fun books, including Contagious: Why Things Catch On, The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone’s Mind, and Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces that Shape Behavior. I look forward to discussing Jonah’s research, his writings, and his new book, Magic Words. Welcome, Jonah, and thanks for being here.

Jonah Berger: Thanks so much for having me.

Matt Abrahams: Yeah, I’m super-excited for our conversation. Let’s jump right in. Persuasion and influence are topics that our listeners are thirsty to learn more about. In your book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On, you talk about what makes ideas, products, and services become popular. Can you distill down a few of the key tools and tactics we can deploy in our communication to help our ideas catch on?

Jonah Berger: Yeah. So I think one of the main takeaways from that book is the power of word of mouth and how to use it. So whether we’re making a presentation, whether we’re selling a product, we often want people to support what we’re doing. And sure, what we do matters — what we say in that presentation or, as marketers, what we say in an advertisement might have an impact — but we can have a much larger impact if we can get other people talking about our stuff.

If we can turn customers into advocates, if we can turn listeners and colleagues into supporters, if we can get them to share our message, not only will [we] have more reach — reach a broader set of people with that message — but we’ll have much more impact. And so Contagious is all about “Yes, word of mouth has power, but how do we get it?”

And so I spent a long time studying the science of word of mouth, why people talk and why people share about some things rather than others. We’ve looked at thousands of pieces of online content, tens of thousands of brands, millions of purchases around the United States and around the world. Again and again we saw the same six factors come up.

So in Contagious, I talk about those factors that drive word of mouth and drive consumer behavior and, more importantly, how we can leverage them to craft contagious content – how we can leverage them to build messages and ideas and products and presentations that will spread and catch on.

Matt Abrahams: Certainly word of mouth is powerful. I find myself looking for things to watch and listen to based on what my friends tell me, and products to buy. What’s one or two techniques that can help word of mouth develop?

Jonah Berger: Sure. The first big principle I talk about is something called “social currency,” and the very simple idea there is the better something makes us look, the more likely we are to talk about it and share it.

And so I talk about a story of a bar, for example, hidden in a hotdog restaurant. You walk down a flight of stairs. There’s this hotdog restaurant. But in the corner of the room is a phone booth, and if you go into the phone booth and you dial a number, someone will pick up the other line. They’ll ask if you have a reservation. If you’re lucky and you have one, the back of that phone booth opens and you get led into a secret bar called Please Don’t Tell.

And what I love about that story is, first of all, everyone can understand that story, that sort of hidden information. Really cool stuff. This place is hugely popular, though. Never advertised. No sign on the street, no sign inside the restaurant. How did they get so much attention? They did something really, really simple: They made themselves a secret. And if you think about it, there’s a little secret about secrets. If you think about the last time someone told you something and they told you not to tell anybody else, what’s the first thing you probably did with that information?

Matt Abrahams: Yeah, told somebody.

Jonah Berger: You told somebody because having access to information makes you look good, makes you look smart, makes you look in the know. And so the idea of social currency: It’s not just about secrets, but it’s about we’re more likely to share things that make us look good than make us look bad. If I’m the first person to adopt a new product or service, if I have information that not everyone else has access to, if something really good or cool or exciting happens to me that makes me look smart, I’m more likely to share it. We talk about frequent-flyer status because it makes us look good to our peers. We talk about a new album coming out because it shows we’re ahead of the curve.

And so the key insight there is, as communications professionals, as individuals who want to get the word out, we often spend a lot of time thinking about us, our message, our idea. We spend a lot less time thinking about how the audience will look if they tell people about it. When I’m selling a product, maybe I make a perfect advertisement and I want to make sure that everyone will love the ad; but I don’t think as much about, “Okay. Well, someone sees that. How are they going to look if they tell their friends about it?” Because the better that’s going to make them look, the more likely they’ll be to talk about it and share it.

Matt Abrahams: Wow. I love that insight. I want to know where that bar is. And I have to tell you that we often speak on this podcast about knowing your audience and taking time to understand what they need. And you’re adding an additional layer to that, which is: “It’s not only what they need, but how does your message impact them and how they feel, how they look? And that can lead you to greater success.”

And I have to tell you: You used that technique on me, as, in preparation for this interview, you sent me a copy — an advance copy of your new book, Magic Words. I read it. I told lots of people I know that it’s a great book and that they should pre-order it as a result of having that information, and I have to share with you some of my colleagues think I’m smarter because of what I shared from your book. So you helped make me look good, and you helped me become an evangelist. So thank you for that.

And I’d like to turn our attention to your new book. In that book, Magic Words, you explore language and its impact on behavior. In fact, I have a quote here. You write: “Words suggest who’s in charge, who’s to blame, and what it means to engage in a particular action. Consequently, slight changes in the words we use can have a big impact.” So my question to you, Jonah, is: What kind of impact are you talking about? And can you provide one or two examples that demonstrate that quote?

Jonah Berger: Sure. Yeah. So what I find fascinating is we use words all the time in how we convince others, hold attention. Even to connect with our loved ones, we use words. Yet while we think a lot about the general ideas we want to communicate – so maybe we get up in front of an audience, and our goal is to sell them on a certain project; we talk a lot about how great the project is — we think a lot about the topic or the “what” we want to communicate, but we don’t think a lot about the “how” we communicate it, the specific words we use when sharing ideas.

And unfortunately, that’s a mistake because it turns out that subtle shifts in language can have a huge impact on everything from convincing clients and holding attention to connecting with loved ones in our lives. And so by understanding the science of language, the power of language, how it works and these types of magic words, we can increase our own impact, whether that means being more creative, being more persuasive and holding attention and captivating audiences. In almost every area of life, we can use language to be more effective.

Matt Abrahams: You’ve got me sold on that. I have often told people that words matter. We really have to think about the language we use, and we need to make sure that that language is appropriate for our audience and serves a purpose for them and for us. Do you have some examples you can share about language use and how it can help us achieve our communication goals?

Jonah Berger: Sure. The book has six main types of words. I like frameworks, so I put them in a framework called the SPEACC framework — S. P. E. A. C. C. — because I couldn’t come up with something that had a K in it. S stands for words that evoke Similarity; Posing Questions is the P; E is for Emotion; A is for Agency and Identity; one of the Cs is Concreteness; and one of the Cs is Confidence. And so I’ll pick just one example from Posing Questions.

I find questions really fascinating because they do a lot of work. We often think about questions as collecting information, getting us an answer, but they also have a big impact on how people perceive us and how we see the world and perceive others. There’s some nice research, for example, on asking for advice, and often we think we shouldn’t ask for advice. Why?

Well, first of all, we don’t want to bother someone. So if we’re at the office and we’ve got a problem that we’re stuck on, we could ask a colleague, we could ask our boss; but we don’t want to bother them. They may not know the answer, and even worse, we’re worried they’ll think less of us. They’ll go: “Well, why are you asking me? Why couldn’t you figure it out yourself?”

And so we often don’t ask for advice. And not only is that bad because we don’t get the benefit of others’ thoughts and advice and collect that information, but it’s also bad because we’re missing out on a big opportunity — because when research examined asking for advice in a variety of experiments and situations that looked at how people were perceived when they asked for advice versus didn’t, not only didn’t they find that asking for advice hurt, made us look less smart, less knowledgeable, have less expertise in a space; it actually had the exact opposite effect.

Asking for advice made people look better, not worse. It made others think they were more competent, smarter, and more knowledgeable. And the reason why, very simply, is it takes advantage of people’s egocentrism. Everyone thinks they have great advice. Most of us like ourselves. We like our own advice. We think we’re pretty good, right? And so when someone asks us for advice, we go: “Oh, that person must be really smart because they’re smart enough [to] ask me for my opinion.” And so asking for advice makes us look better, not worse. And you could say: “Well, hold on. Is that really a type of words?” That’s asking questions in general, but there’s also research on the types of questions to ask.

Matt Abrahams: [Mm-hmm].

Jonah Berger: We often, in conversation, do sort of introductory questions. At the beginning of this conversation, you probably said something like, “How are you?” and I probably said something back like, “Fine. How are you?”

Matt Abrahams: Right.

Jonah Berger: And those are good questions. They’re not bad. They’re polite. But when researchers looked at a variety of different types of conversations, hundreds of different types of conversations, they found that a particular type of question was particularly impactful, quite useful in shaping how others perceive us. It wasn’t these introductory questions, and it wasn’t mimicry questions: when someone asks, “What are you having for lunch?” “Blah-blah-blah. What are you having?”

Instead, it’s a type of question that’s called “follow-up questions.” And what follow-up questions are is when someone says something — “I enjoyed this presentation” — rather than saying, “Oh. I did, as well,” saying something like, “Neat. Oh, what part did you like?”

Matt Abrahams: Mm-hmm.

Jonah Berger: Or when someone says, “I had a really tough day,” not just saying, “Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that,” but, “Oh, what made it so difficult? Tell me more.” They’re questions that follow up on whatever someone said and show that you’re interested in collecting more information because follow-up questions do a few things.

First, they show you’re paying attention. Being polite is easy, but they don’t really signal that you’re paying attention. But if you took the time to listen to what someone said and follow up with what they said, it showed you pay attention and you care. You’re interested in learning more. And not only does that allow us to collect information, but it leads people to like us more. We show that we care about them and what’s going on with their lives, and so they like us more as a result. And so even something as simple as the questions we ask and how we ask them can have an important impact on how we’re perceived.

Matt Abrahams: I really like this notion of seeking advice and the benefits of doing so because you as a teacher, as a teacher myself, we often tell our students: “Seek feedback. Seek advice.” And many of them are shy to do that because, as you said, they’re afraid it demonstrates weakness or lowering their status. And I love the fact that research suggests it actually bolsters it. And clearly, the types of questions you’re giving examples to not only can help you getting input that you’re seeking, but it demonstrates that you’re listening and interested in what the other person says, which is a great way, as you said, of building trust and connecting.

I’d love to ask you about one other category of your SPEACC framework. We talk a lot on this podcast about confidence, confidence in communication. Any guidance around language use and confidence you can share?

Jonah Berger: Yeah. I think all of us, in our own lives, can think about someone that just exudes confidence. They have so much charisma. Whenever they speak, other people will listen. We can all think about someone in our own lives like that. And if you look, whether you look at gurus, you look at startup founders, you look at leaders that are often thought about [as] charismatic, they often have something quite in common. They often do the same thing, which is they speak with a great deal of certainty. And what do I mean by that?

Well, if you look at what some of these leaders do, things aren’t just going to happen; they’re definitely going to happen. A course of action isn’t just a potentially good course of action; it’s clearly the right course of action. Everyone agrees. This is unambiguous. This is essential. It’s irrefutable. It’s guaranteed. They use a lot of what some people call “definites.” They speak with a great deal of certainty. And not surprisingly, when someone speaks with certainty, when someone is so clearly certain about what’s true, it’s hard not to listen to them because they seem so convinced.

And I talk about five or six different types of language links to certainty, but I’ll pick one in particular here, and that’s a set of words and phrases called “hedges.” And if you look at academics — I’m guilty of this as much as anybody else — we often do a lot of hedging. We say, “I think this is the case,” “This might be true,” “This should work,” “It’s a good possibility,” “This will probably happen.” We hedge our language. We don’t say, “This is the best solution.” We say, “This might be the best solution.” We indicate uncertainty in our language.

And again, sometimes we want to indicate uncertainty. Sometimes we want to be clear that it’s not certain what’s going to happen. But unfortunately, we often use hedges because they’re a simple verbal tick. It’s easy to hedge. And we often unconsciously undermine our impact as a result because if we’re sitting there saying, “I think such and such,” or, “This might be true,” or, “This should happen or might happen,” the audience is sitting there going, “Well, if you’re not even sure it’s going to happen yourself, why should I go along?” If you’re not even sure this is a good solution, if you’re not even sure this is going to work, if you’re not even sure this is the best course of action, I’m much less likely to be persuaded as a result.

And indeed, many experiments a colleague and I conducted in this space, as well as analysis we did of field data, shows that the more hedges we use, the less persuaded other people are. And so I think this has a clear implication: Ditch the hedges. If we want to persuade others, ditch the hedges. That doesn’t mean we can’t be circumspect in our language. That doesn’t mean we can’t shrink the world of things we’re talking about. But it’s better to be certain about a smaller set of things than uncertain often about a larger set of things.

Matt Abrahams: Well, I sort of/kind of think that what you’ve said is really/maybe a little important. I absolutely agree. Hedging language can really undermine what you’re trying to do. Yet there are, as you point out, times where I might purposely want to lower my status to invite others to speak. Imagine a boss who says, “We should do this. What do you think?” versus, “I think we should do this. What do you think?” Very, very different.

So when it comes down to confidence, it sounds like what’s most important is certainty. And that’s really, really helpful because nervous speakers, people who are new to positions and roles, often will use hedging language that can be working against them.

Jonah Berger: Definitely. I’ll give you one more simple approach, which is the idea of turning pasts into presents. And I don’t mean holiday presents here. So often when we talk about something, we use the past tense: “Oh, I liked their food,” or, “They had good food at a restaurant,” “I thought the job candidate did a very good job,” “I thought their résumé was impressive.” We’re using the past tense: Their résumé “was impressive.”

Notice in that situation we could also use present tense: “I think their résumé is impressive,” “I think the food is good,” “I think this destination is a lot of fun.” And it turns out that when we use present tense, people think we’re much more confident or certain in what we’re saying and are more likely to be persuaded as a result because past tense often suggests something was true for a particular person at a particular point in time.

“Their résumé was impressive” suggests that when I looked at it last week, I thought it was impressive. That doesn’t mean it’s still impressive. That doesn’t mean you will find it impressive. But it suggests it was impressive to me, whereas if I say, “Hey, that résumé is impressive,” I’m making an assertion: Not only was it true when I looked at it, but it’s going to be true for all people for all time. And because you’re willing to make that assertion, people think you’re much more certain about what you’re saying and they’re much more likely to be persuaded as a result. And so sure, hedging is one strategy. So is turning pasts into presents. But I talk about two or three others, and it’s all about using language to convey certainty.

Matt Abrahams: I love turning pasts into present[s]. I think that’s really fascinating. And in fact, it’s going to change how I ask my next question. Originally I was going to say, “I often say,” but now I’m simply going to say, “I say” that attention is the most precious commodity we have in the world today, yet gaining others’ attention is often not enough to be successful in our communication.

We need to be engaging, which I define as “sustaining people’s attention.” I know along with some of your colleagues you recently published research that looks into how language, particularly emotional language, can help us be engaging. What did your research find? And how can we leverage your findings to be more engaging in our communication?

Jonah Berger: Yeah, so I love the way you teed up that question. And we’ve done some work as to what gets attention — so things like looking at social-media posts, for example, and looking at what drives engagement, what leads people to click on something, or titles or headlines, ways to use email subject lines to get people to open them.

Often words like “you,” for example, can be quite powerful because they act as a stop sign. They say: “Hey, stop what you’re doing. This is specific to you.” Second-person pronouns like “you” suggest something is personally relevant, and so we’re more likely to pay attention.

But as you noted, for most of us, we’re not just trying to get people to open an email; we’re trying to get people to read it. We’re not just trying to get people to stop scrolling on social media and see our post; we’re hoping they’ll read it. We’re not just hoping that someone begins to pay attention to our presentation; we’re hoping they stay tuned for the rest of it.

And so one thing we wondered is: “Well, how can we hold attention more effectively? How can we use language in particular to hold attention?” And I think this is an interesting question because I think some of us think holding attention is all about the topic. If I’m talking about celebrity gossip, people are going to pay attention. If I’m talking about some new technology or Hollywood blockbuster, people will pay attention. But if I’m talking about climate change, if I’m talking about tax reform, if I’m talking about school budgeting, it’s going to be hard to get people’s attention — not only get their attention, but hold it.

And so what we’re interested in is: “Hey. Can we hold people’s attention even for these topics that might not seem as engaging?” And so what we did to do this, actually, is we looked at tens of thousands of online articles. And we looked not only at whether people looked at them, read them, opened them but how far down they read. Did they keep reading this content, or did they stop? Did they read a sentence and then opt out and do something else?

And we found a few things that are quite interesting. So first, style can make up for content. Sure, content is important. Sure enough, there were certain topics that people tended to — topics that held their attention more than others; but even controlling for that, certain language could hold attention for any topic. And so it’s not just about what you’re talking about; it’s how you’re talking about it.

And second, there were two main buckets that we found. One was types of language that make it just easier to keep paying attention. Concrete language was one of these things. I can touch a table. I can see a painting. I can imagine a cherry-red convertible. The word “beautiful” is harder to see. The word “strategy” is harder to imagine. Concrete language, because it’s easier to think about, is easier to process and holds our attention better.

Same with familiar language. The more-familiar words we use, or even easier-to-process language, encourages attention; but even controlling for that, as you noted, we also found emotional language was quite impactful. Emotional language did a great job of holding attention. And it wasn’t just that any emotion worked, or that positive emotion helped, maybe, and negative emotion hurt. It was really the tendencies or association with particular emotion. Some emotions, for example, tend to be relatively certain. Other emotions tend to be more uncertain.

Matt Abrahams: Mm-hmm.

Jonah Berger: An emotion like hope, for example, suggests I hope that something will happen, but I’m not sure. An emotion like anxiety and anxious language says we don’t know what’s going to happen. And so what we found is that language associated with uncertainty, whether due to emotional reasons or otherwise, was more likely to encourage people to keep paying attention. If you don’t know what’s going to happen, you stay tuned to figure it out. You keep reading to figure out what’s going to happen. And thinking about this, I think of — you mentioned Chip Heath and his great book, Made to Stick. They talk about opening a curiosity gap —

Matt Abrahams: Yes.

Jonah Berger: — where you point out you know something but you don’t know everything. And to me, that’s a lot of what uncertain emotions is doing. It’s saying: “Hey, stay tuned to figure out the answer.” And as a result, it’s holding your attention.

Matt Abrahams: Many of us use language in a way to try to demonstrate our competence. So we’ll use big words, complex sentences, remove emotion. And what I hear you saying is a lot of that actually works against us when we’re trying to be engaged and compel people to still listen to us. And so the advice to be concrete, to build curiosity, I think, is really, really helpful. And I challenge everybody to think about, when you’re speaking, what do you do with your language to engage people? Because it sounds to me like many of us are actually subverting our own goal of keeping people paying attention.

Jonah Berger: What I found fascinating about working on this book is there are just so many subtle things we can do in almost every area of our life to increase our impact. If we’re trying to solve a problem, for example, rather than thinking about what we should do, thinking about what we could do — literally switching one word, from “should” to “could” – helps us think more broadly and come up with more creative solutions.

Even if we don’t end up doing one of the things we thought we could do, it helps us think about a broader set of ideas and makes us more creative and better at solving problems. If we’re trying to get someone to help us out, rather than asking them for help, asking them to be a helper makes them more likely to agree to help us. Similarly, when we’re trying to get someone to vote, asking to be a voter rather than asking to vote makes them more likely to go along.

I put both of these ideas under a strategy called “Turning actions into identities.” Sure, voting is a nice thing. Sure, helping is a nice thing. But what all of us really want is to see ourselves positively — as smart, as efficacious, as competent — and so we engage in behaviors that allow us to claim desired identities. And so if suddenly voting becomes an opportunity to show that we’re a voter, well, now we’re more likely to do it. If helping is an opportunity to show I’m a helper, [I’m] much more likely to do it.

The same is true on the opposite side. Losing is bad, but being a loser? Well, that’s even worse. Cheating is bad, but being a cheater is even worse. Research shows that if you ask students — rather than saying “Don’t cheat” you tell them “Don’t be a cheater,” they’re much less likely to cheat because now cheating would show that they’re claiming this undesired identity.

And so when we want to motivate others, turn actions into identities. Even when describing ourselves and peers, if you think about it, often we describe ourselves using an adjective or, again, a verb. We say, “I am hardworking.” Well, that’s good. But imagine I told you about two people: someone who runs and someone who is a runner.

Matt Abrahams: Mm-hmm.

Jonah Berger: If you had to guess, which of those two people runs more often: the person who runs or who is a runner?

Matt Abrahams: Well, I would say, based on what you’ve said, “is a runner.”

Jonah Berger: Yeah. Right? Being a runner suggests a stable trait.

Matt Abrahams: Yeah.

Jonah Berger: It’s not just something that happens once in a while; it’s who you are. And so rather than talking about yourself as hardworking, talk about yourself as a hard worker. Rather than talking about yourself as creative, you’re a creator, or someone else is a creator. Rather than being innovative, you’re an innovator.

By claiming these identities, either describing ourselves that way or others that we want to be perceived favorably, it encourages them to see those things as more-stable traits and have people think they’re more like a [unintelligible].

Matt Abrahams: So it sounds like, to me, putting ourselves in the role as a runner, as somebody who is a helper, really helps our audience see us as more engaged and to be somebody who’s more involved with that.

Jonah Berger: Now you can imagine.

Matt Abrahams: Before we end, I’d like to ask you the same three questions I ask everyone who joins me. Are you up for that?

Jonah Berger: Sounds great.

Matt Abrahams: Excellent. If you were to capture the best communication advice you have ever received as a five- to seven-word presentation-slide title, what would it be?

Jonah Berger: I’ll go with three words: Understand your audience.

Matt Abrahams: Aha, [yes].

Jonah Berger: So I’m in marketing, so I get to cheat a little bit. So I’ve been at Wharton now for, I think, over 15 years. And at a certain point once you get tenure, they ask you to teach the marketing core. And the main take-home from that course is: Be customer-centric. Great marketing doesn’t end with the customer. You don’t make a product and figure out how to sell it. It starts by understanding what products do customers want, or services, and designing those products. Same thing as a communicator: The better you understand your audience, whoever that audience is, the more effective you’re going to be.

Matt Abrahams: That is a theme that has echoed many times on this podcast, and thank you for adding to that chorus. Question 2: Who is a communicator that you admire? And why?

Jonah Berger: I don’t think I have a specific person in mind, but I’m always amazed when people can take complex topics and ideas and make them simple. So I was at the doctor recently, and I was dealing with a particular doctor who just made the simplest things complex. I had no idea what they were talking about.

And then, similarly, that same weekend I was at a local museum talking to someone about butterflies, and I know nothing about butterflies. Our son is almost 6 years old. Loves butterflies. And they were able to take the most complex things about butterflies and make them simple. And so I think anyone that can take a complex topic and make it simple is a great communicator.

Matt Abrahams: I agree. I call it “accessibility.” We have to take these complex topics and make them accessible to lots of people. And it is a true gift and art, even though there are some very specific tactics we can use. Question No. 3: What are the first three ingredients that go into a successful communication recipe?

Jonah Berger: I think, going back to what we talked about already, you’ve got to start by understanding your audience. Second, you’ve got to figure out a way to communicate it simply. But then I think, third, you have to, at the end of it, drive them to action.

I talk a lot about, in my last book, the Catalyst, whenever we’re trying to change someone’s mind, too often we start by pushing, by trying to add more information, persuade them, facts, figures. It’s much better to identify the barriers to change and mitigate them, and really think about: How can we help people get to where we wanted them to get to in the first place on their own? Asking the right questions that lead them down a path rather than forcing them down that way.

And so I think great communicators are good at not just telling their audiences what to do but helping their audiences see that the best way for the audience to reach what they wanted to do is to do what the communicator was interested in having them do in the first place.

Matt Abrahams: Aah. I love that. I love that. Pull them in your direction. Well, Jonah, thank you so much. We all benefit from what you have been able to teach us — or should I say thank you for being a great teacher. It’s been wonderful to learn from you and to have a chance to chat with you. And I wish you well on your book, Magic Words. It is truly magical. I’ve learned a lot. And as everybody listening in today has heard, it’s changed my behavior immediately. Thank you so much.

Jonah Berger: Thanks so much for having me.

[Music plays]

Matt Abrahams: Thanks for joining us for another episode of Think Fast, Talk Smart: The Podcast from Stanford Graduate School of Business. This episode was produced by Jenny Luna, Ryan Campos and me, Matt Abrahams. Our music was provided by Floyd Wonder. For more information and episodes, find us on YouTube or wherever you get your podcasts. Thank you, and please make sure to subscribe and follow us on LinkedIn.

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