I Don’t Have a Poopie Diaper
Just the other day, my two-year-old son walked up to me and said, “I don’t have a poopie diaper.” I’ve learned that unsolicited feedback like this often means the exact opposite of what my son says. He was actually telling me he did have a poopie diaper… he just didn’t want me to know about it.
Why do I share this with you?
Because adults are not that much different than toddlers. We often say the opposite of what we really mean. And we often do the opposite of what we are told to do.
Example 1: If I say, “Don’t click on this link,” what will you likely want to do? You will want to click the link.
Example 2: If, in a sales letter, you see a bunch of testimonials followed by a disclaimer that says, “I don’t say this to brag, only to prove that I’m qualified to grow your business,” what is the person really saying?
Read between the lines. The person who writes this has already engaged in an internal dialog that looks something like this: “I am bragging, but I’m uncomfortable bragging, so I’ll just say I’m not bragging and hope my readers believe me. At least I’ll sound humble… hopefully.”
Example 3: Let’s say you’re negotiating to purchase something and the salesperson says, “Honestly, this is the best I can do.” What is he really saying? The word “honestly” implies he’s being dishonest. Otherwise, why would he have need of telling you he’s being honest? What the salesperson is really saying is that he will do better if you ask… he just hopes you’ll take his statement at face value.
Example 4: Do you have young children? If you do, you know how difficult it can be to persuade a toddler to do what you want him or her to do. Imagine this. You’re sitting at the dinner table and your child is refusing to eat dinner. What do you do? You say this: “I wouldn’t eat that if I were you.” You may need to say this in more than one way, or put some emotion into it, but chances are your kid will start gobbling up dinner like there’s no tomorrow.
Example 5: You’re reading a sales letter for a seminar and you read this: “There are only 110 seats available. Once they are gone, they’re gone. No exceptions.”
The person who says this is trying to establish urgency while showing you every card in his hand. It’s almost as if the person is trying to convince himself that he will stick to his limits. But what he really means to say is, “There are exceptions, but you should register now because I need at least 110 people to be there.”
My point: Language is a sensitive thing. If you take the time to study language patterns, you will become aware of the difference between what people say and what they actually mean. This is helpful not only in discerning the truth of a matter (as in the case of my son’s poopie diaper), but also in crafting your own sales messages.
-Ryan M. Healy