By Rachel Emma Silverman
The next time you’re in a meeting and want to get people on your side, just say ‘yeah.’
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- Mastering your next meeting could be as simple as saying ‘yeah.’
New research out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that certain words seem to help participants appear more persuasive in meetings and increased the chances that their ideas would win acceptance from the group.
Researchers Cynthia Rudin and Been Kim, a statistics professor and graduate student, respectively, at MIT’s Sloan School of Management , analyzed vocabulary usage and dialogue patterns in 95 meetings to see which words appeared to sway colleagues most.
Among the words most likely to result in accepted proposals: ‘Yeah,’ ‘give,’ ‘start,’ and ‘discuss.’
While ‘yeah’ may seem like an odd candidate for a persuasive word, it may have currency because it signals agreement with what others have previously said. Framing a suggestion as if it were an agreement, rather than a conflict, may win favor more easily in a group, according to Dr. Rudin.
Some words turned out to be good for steering colleagues away from a topic. ‘meeting’ was particularly effective when the speaker’s proposal aimed to halt discussion of a particular issue, as in “maybe this is something for the next meeting.” Those suggestions were almost always accepted, the researchers found.
‘Discuss’ was used in a similar fashion, to suggest how a meeting should be organized, as in ‘Maybe we should discuss this further.’
The researchers also tried to identify standard dialogue patterns in meetings, and found employees rarely offered compliments after negative assessments. Doing so makes an employee sound disingenuous, the researchers wrote.