Strategic Communication Tool – When Everyday Words Aren’t Enough!

Have you ever been in a situation when you wanted to communicate something to someone but just couldn’t find the right words for them to “get it”?  This is probably true for most of us!

Several years ago, I was anticipating a “difficult” conversation with a senior executive.  He was known for having the attention span of an ant so I knew I had to get to the point quickly and impactfully.  I had just read a book on Emotional Word Pictures and used this opportunity to try it out.  He was a runner so I crafted a story about a runner who ran a race, thinking he had won, only to be told he had not won because the judges did not like “his style”, despite him meeting all the “criteria” set forth in the race.  He was on the edge of his seat, even said, “Oh no, how awful!”  Then I said, “That’s how I felt when xyz happened.”  He clearly got what I wanted to communicate and it opened the opportunity for a great discussion.

In The Language of Love, Gary Smalley and John Trent share the powerful communication tool of emotional word pictures (EWP).  Simply put, EWP associates our feelings with a real or imaginary experience motivating others to identify with us emotionally.  By combining words, emotions and mental pictures, it enables one to grab and direct the attention of another, bring communications to life, lock thoughts into one’s memory and enhance meaningful relationships.

EWP can be simple sentences or longer stories as described above.  Here are some other examples.


  • When the direction of the project keeps changing, I feel like a rat in a maze. 
  • I fee like I’m alone on this island. 
  • What am I? Chopped liver? 
  • When a client was trying to explain why it was taking so long to reach his career goal, the picture became very clear when he started describing all the beautiful scenery and wonderful people he had met on the way to the top of the moutain.  Got it!   


Whether you want to “get others on your team to get on the field and play” or have someone “walk in your shoes”, try an Emotional Word Picture.  It’s an amazing communication tool when everyday words aren’t enough!

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