Skip to main content

Training your Brain: How?

According to the latest neuroscience, the human brain uses neurons in the left visual cortex to process written words as whole word units. The brain combines these words and their stored meanings to remember and understand information.

Analytical thinking is the process of remembering words and putting their meanings into context. This process is not simply accessing a mental dictionary. Every time you use words, you re-create their meaning.

The words you habitually use when you're thinking (and then expressing those thoughts) mold how you see the world. For example, people who habitually think (and speak and write) the word "hate" tend to find an ever-increasing number of things to hate.

This relationship between word usage and perception is hugely important in business. When you train yourself to speak and write using clearly defined words arranged into concise sentences, you're training your brain to think more clearly.

More important, when you write and speak more clearly, you increase your positive influence on your team. Due to their mirror neurons, they'll begin to imitate your clarity in their own thought processes. Clarity is contagious.

Conversely, if you habitually use fuzzy, ill-defined words crammed into long and convoluted sentences, you're training your brain--and the brains of your team members--to think less clearly. Confusion is also contagious.

With that in mind, here are three easy ways to hone your word skills:

1. Mentally edit out fuzzy buzzwords.
While most business buzzwords are simply annoying (like saying "utilize" rather than "use"), some are so fuzzy and vague that they automatically lead to confused thinking.

The worst offenders are: alignment, best of breed, client-centric, core competency, crystallize, customer-centric, diversity, empowerment, holistic, leading, leverage, generation, paradigm, robust, seamless, stakeholder, sustainability, and synergy.

Take the term synergy. In physics, synergy describes the creation of a whole that's greater than the arithmetic sum of its parts. Classic example: combining flour, water, yeast and heat to create a loaf of bread.

In business, though, synergy generally pops up when disparate organizations are combined, as in a merger, acquisition, or corporate restructuring. In business, however, synergy is rare to the point of nonexistence.

"Even when you have a deal that looks lovely on paper," says Wharton's Emilie Feldman, "getting cultures to fit together, people to stay on board, merging I.T. systems and back offices: all these things are really hard."

Rather than ask difficult questions and think things thoroughly through, decision makers unconsciously use the word synergy to make problematic deals seem more palatable, like slathering ketchup over rancid meatloaf.

Mentally editing out the fuzzy, vague buzzwords when you are talking, speaking, listening, or reading gradually clears your mind of the confusion they create, thereby making you smarter.

2. Simplify your business writing.
If you find yourself writing or reading long, complex sentences at work, edit and reedit them so that they express the gist in fewer words. Do this repeatedly and over time you'll automatically accustom your brain to shorter, clearer wordings.

Here's how this works. A subscriber to my free weekly newsletter recently sent me this fairly typical example of biz-blab:

Leveraging XYZ technology and compliance expertise can give your business an important competitive advantage. XYZ can help you manage the 'people side' of your businesses more effectively, avoiding compliance pitfalls and creating key benefits for the businesses and your employees, while simultaneously freeing up time for owners and executives to concentrate on growing their businesses by focusing on operations, strategy, and innovation.

While that paragraph is grammatically correct, it's using a lot of words to waltz around a fairly simple concept. I'm sure that if you read it carefully, you know what they're getting at, but it can be worded with much more economy, like so:

XYZ handles your personnel busywork so that you can spend more time growing your business.

Simplifying biz-blab to the fewest number of words doesn't just make your writing crisper, it also habituates your mind to seek the simple essence of needlessly complex concepts. The more often you practice this clarification process, the smarter you get.

3. Play the "one syllable" game.
This exercise trains your brain to use smaller, easier-to-understand words rather than complex ones. The concept is simple: Try to communicate business ideas using words of only one syllable.

For example, if I were trying to communicate the rules of the game using those rules, I'd write: "The point of the game is to talk and write with words that are so short that they can not be split."

While this kind of writing and speaking doesn't result in anything you'd actually use in a business discussion, the mental effort of oversimplifying accustoms your brain to reach for the small words rather than the overly complex ones.

Since complex words tend to "complexify" your thoughts (and your expression of them), habitually using common words leads toward clearer thinking.


Popular posts from this blog

People with depression use language differently – here’s how to Find it

From the way you move and sleep, to how you interact with people around you, depression changes just about everything. It is even noticeable in the way you speak and express yourself in writing. Sometimes this “language of depression” can have a powerful effect on others. Just consider the impact of the poetry and song lyrics of Sylvia Plath and Kurt Cobain, who both killed themselves after suffering from depression.

Scientists have long tried to pin down the exact relationship between depression and language, and technology is helping us get closer to a full picture. Our new study, published in Clinical Psychological Science, has now unveiled a class of words that can help accurately predict whether someone is suffering from depression.

Traditionally, linguistic analyses in this field have been carried out by researchers reading and taking notes. Nowadays, computerised text analysis methods allow the processing of extremely large data banks in minutes. This can help spot linguistic fea…

50 Inspiring Quotes to Help You Overcome the Fear of Failure

Based on hearing from readers of Pocket Changed, one of the biggest fears people have in their lives is failure. Afraid they won't succeed if they try something new
Fear that they might never "make it" doing what they are passionate about
Fear that keeps them from following their heart
Life is too short to let fear make big decisions for you. It is not easy to overcome the fear of failure, but once you build up the confidence to not let fear hold you back you'll acheive much more. Today's post includes some of the best quotes to turn to when you are afraid to do something because you think you'll fail. I hope that at least in a small way this group of quotes inspires you to take more risks in your life and reach for your dreams. "I honestly think it is better to be a failure at something you love than to be a success at something you hate." George Burns "I've come to believe that all my past failure and frustration were actually laying the…

The Moral Logic of Survivor Guilt

Nancy Sherman Ph.D.Stoic Warrior

The Moral Logic of Survivor Guilt

If there is one thing we have learned from returning war veterans

Posted Jul 20, 2011


If there is one thing we have learned from returning war veterans - especially those of the last decade - it's that the emotional reality of the soldier at home is often at odds with that of the civilian public they left behind. And while friends and families of returning service members may be experiencing gratefulness or relief this summer, many of those they've welcomed home are likely struggling with other emotions.

High on that list of emotions is guilt. Soldiers often carry this burden home-- survivor guiltbeing perhaps the kind most familiar to us. In war, standing here rather than there can save your life but cost a buddy his. It's flukish luck, but you feel responsible. The guilt begins an endless loop of counterfactuals-thoughts that you could have or should have done otherwise, though in fact you did nothing w…