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Future Language

 

Techniques > Use of language > Persuasive language > Future Language

Method | Discussion | See also

 

Method

To get people away from a focus on the past or the present, use language that asks them to think about possible futures.

Imagining

Get people to imagine what may happen in the future. This is mostly done visually, but can also be auditory or physical.

For example:

  • Supposing ...
  • Imagine ...
  • How about ...
  • What would people say ...
  • How would you feel if ...

Consider the effect when, rather than saying 'You should get a new dress', you might say 'Imagine you had a new dress' or 'Suppose you had a new dress'.

Temporary

It can help get over fears of the future if you just ask people to think about the future for a short period.

  • Just supposing...
  • Take a moment to consider ...
  •  Just for a moment think ...

Notice the difference between saying 'Imagine you had a new dress', and saying 'Just imagine you had a new dress'.

Future present

You can add power to talking about the future by using the present tense of the verb instead of the future tense. You can also using words that bring it into the present such as 'now' and 'here'.

  • Just imagine that tomorrow you are happy here all day.
  • What if next year you are qualified and are in a well-paid job?
  • Imagine you're successful...now what are you doing?

Notice the difference between saying 'Just imagine you had a new dress', and saying 'Now just imagine you have a new dress'.

Discussion

Asking people just to consider a possibility breaks their past or present thinking, forcing them to consider alternatives. Possibilities, as opposed to certainties, supports the need for a sense of control, letting them feel they can still choose.

Going into the future forces the person to move away from the anchor of the overpowering effect of the present. This opens them up to new thinking, or at least reduces the effect of their previous thinking.

Another way to get people to think about their own future when they do not want to do this, is to paint a picture of other people in their future. If the target person can connect with those people, then they will also connect with their own actions and so start to accept possibilities for themselves.

Thinking about the future can hence be very motivating, changing the decisions a person makes about what they will do now.

Words like 'just' and 'suppose' are often enough to persuade them to try this, implying that it is a small and temporary action and that their present reality is not being challenged.

See also

Sensory Language, Temporal Language

 

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