The best Explain Pain messages are memorable, persuasive, easily retrievable and behaviour changing. Repetition is one of the most powerful rhetorical skills but of course you don’t want to put clients off or bore them to tears; however, there are ways of incorporating subtle repetition.
Use of anaphora is one such way. Anaphora refers to a repeating of a sequence of words, usually at the start of a sentence. Famous examples include Martin Luther King repeating “I have a dream” 8 times in what has become known as his “I Have a Dream Speech”, Charles Dickens in the Tale of Two Cities wrote “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times” followed by 7 more “it was-s” . Winston Churchill’s “we shall fight on the beaches” speech is so memorable even for those who were not there. “We shall fight them on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills…” Churchill’s message was not just about having a fight everywhere, the anaphoric language led to hope, a future and encouraged the listener to take some control.
Anaphoric language also adds rhythm, an aesthetic quality and emotion. All of these qualities add memorability. Repeating words at the start of a sentence is much better than repeating at the end as the listener is still open to what may follow.
But I can’t bring Churchill along to the clinic!
We all use anaphoric language. Here are some examples:
- I am reminded of the words Mark Jensen chooses during hypnosis exercises. They go something like this “every day and in every way, you will feel better and better.”
- If you want someone to stretch, try “this technique will stretch your muscles, stretch your ligaments, stretch your fascia, stretch all your soft tissues” (and stretch your underpants!)– you have popped five stretch reminders in and your client isn’t bored and is probably contemplating what else they might stretch .
- On setting a clinical contract “At the end of three sessions, we will summarise where we are heading. We will discuss what we think is happening, we will discuss how long it will all take, we will discuss what I can do and we will discuss what you can do.” You’ve just set yourself up for a lot of discussion.
- Let it go, let it soften, let a deep breath in, let it relax, let it be….
- Of course it could go the other way and anaphoric language may reinforce a DIM (Danger In Me neurotag) “It looks like the disc is degenerated, the L4 disc is causing the problem, the disc space is gone”. It may all lead to a narrow biomedical focus and belief that the disc is the total problem.
Use of anaphora is a rhetorical skill. Earlier in this blog series on using language skills to influence people I have talked about alliteration and rhyme. Next in the series I will discuss textual language and onomatopoeia.
I am sure you all use anaphoric language – contemplate, reflect and share your examples and thoughts.
Very very very best wishes,
Check out the incredible anaphora in this clip.