A few years ago, Yale professor John Bargh conducted a fascinating study on the power of words. He organized university students into three groups to unscramble thirty separate five-word sentences.
- One group unscrambled sentences associated with aggression, containing words such as "bluntly" and "disturb"
- Another group unscrambled polite sentences, with words like "courteous"
- The third (neutral) group had words like "exercise" and "prepares"
After the assignment was completed, the students were told to approach the researcher to let him know they were finished; however when they found the researcher, he was already engaged in conversation (with an actor). The researcher ignored the students until he was interrupted or when 10 minutes had passed.
- The polite-word group waited 9.3 minutes before interrupting
- The neutral group waited 8.7 minutes
- And the rude-word group waited only 5.4 minutes
More than 80% of the polite-word group waited the full 10 minutes, whereas only 35% of the rude-word group chose not to interrupt. Afterwards, the subjects were interviewed to see if they knew why they did or didn’t intrude, and they couldn’t identify why.
Morale of the story? Being around negativity makes us act negatively. Choose to say "yes" today instead of "no" and enjoy a more positive interaction.