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Using commands

 

Techniques > Use of language > Syntax > Using commands

Method | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Method

Gain compliance to your commands by using a number of methods:

  • Ensure you gain attention first, for example by using their name.
  • Use simple sentences and short phrases.
  • Say exactly what you want the person to do.
  • Speak louder.
  • Speak slower.
  • Add emphasis to key words.
  • Align your body, perhaps using power body language.
  • Lower the tone of the whole sentence, particularly at the end.

You need not use all of these methods at once and should always use them appropriately, given the situation. The more stress you add to the other person, the more likely you are to trigger dysfunctional coping mechanisms.

When you are unable to give commands, you can phrase the request for action as questions, but still use the above methods. Depending on the intonation, body language, etc. this may be a subtle nudge or can appear as a veiled threat.

Example

Go to bed. (simple command)

Go upstairs and get into bed. (compound command)

Jeff, are you going to go to bed? (hidden command)

Discussion

A command is a sentence that is intended to achieve compliance in others, getting them to act in a certain way.

Speaking louder and slower and using emphasis creates contrast with surrounding words and hence causes further attention.

The intonation of a command is usually fairly flat, with the pitch at the end usually declining slightly to add further emphasis.

A lower overall pitch makes a voice sound more 'masculine' and triggers primitive responses (a lower voice can be an indicator of greater levels of testosterone). Margaret Thatcher, the UK Prime Minister in the 1980s, learned to lower her voice in order to be more commanding.

Using the volume, speed, pitch, etc. of a command, but using the form of a question causes cognitive dissonance which may lead to the person accepting the command, but not feeling able to challenge it as the verbal form is an innocuous question.

Note that compliance does not necessarily mean agreement. If you want the other person to buy into your ideas, then simply telling them to do so is not a particularly good idea.

See also

Power body language

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