The other day I was flipping through the Spanish newspaper El Periódico. On the front page – in big and not quite surprising these days – headlines about the European crisis. Pardon my French, but what pissed me off was not the fact that the paper talked enthusiastically bad about the economical state of our beloved continent. No, what really made me angry was that one headline which said that “the GDP in Europe only grew by 0.2%”.
What you witness here is the power of words. What you witness here is purest manipulation. Picture the same phrase without the tiny word “only”.
“The GDP in Europe grew by 0.2%.”
What an uplifting message. In the worst economical crisis since the Great Depression we managed to grow. Wow, we rock. Where is the champagne?
Now – add this darn little word…
“The GDP in Europe only grew by 0.2%.”
Man, we are miserable. Only 0.2%! This is pathetic – we are losers.
One word can change everything
We cannot change the media. Positive headlines don’t sell. They will always choose to pour more oil into the fire.
You as a speaker, on the other hand, can choose what to say and how to say it. Even if it’s tiny, even if it has four letters only, even if it looks like nothing – an “only” can change everything.
When you prepare your speeches and presentations, think about every word. Choose every word wisely. Sometimes you want to skip a word and say less to inspire your audience more.
That’s the “only” message.