Worth a Thousand Words: Clarity through Image-Based Language
A picture is worth a thousand words - That’s a cliché so commonly used that its meaning is frequently lost. The saying indicates that a single image provides a clearer, more vivid concept of something than words can offer.
While that’s most assuredly true, when you’re at the workplace or purusing an education, it isn’t always possible to create a photograph, image, or visualization of the point you’re trying to get across.
That’s why “image-based language” and “image-based words” are incredibly important. The greatest leaders and thinkers are also storytellers; they use the tools of language to “paint a picture” with their words. This same skill can have significant benefits for anyone attempting to accomplish goals professionally or academically.
What are Image-Based Words?
Image-based language is built around words that create a clear visual concept in the listener’s mind. This is often done through an extremely shortened version of storytelling.
Imagine you work in product development. You’re sitting down for a meeting with your boss, and he makes one of these two statements:
- “Our new product is going to make our brand more visible.”
- “Our new product will be in the hands of every major movie star.”
While the two statements are near-identical in their outcome, the second is far more powerful. It gets the imagination going with thoughts of the product being held at a red carpet premiere or Hollywood hotspot. Such is the power of image-based words; they make a complex concept seem simple and attainable.
Study Highlights Importance of Visual Language
Recent evidence indicates that image-based words can lead to success in a variety of fields.
In a study performed by researchers at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Oregon State University, and Penn State University, hospital leaders who communicated health information using image-based words had better patient outcomes than those who did not.
Further scientific research indicated similar outcomes in other fields; image-based language led to more memorable speech and higher accomplishment rates. According to the authors of these studies, image-based words are woefully underused: “…more than 90% of leaders communicate visions without any image-based words.”
Taking this in to account, using image-based words is an excellent way to gain a leg-up on the competition and enrich your professional or academic career.
Using Image-Based Words at Work and School
Trying to paint a picture with words can seem daunting at first, like staring at a blank white canvas with a paintbrush in hand. To help you start your journey to become a master storyteller, we’ve put together a few tips for using image-based words:
- Be concrete: It’s important to not get too wrapped up in complex language or metaphor. The greatest examples of image-based language (“put a man on the moon”) lay out accomplishable goals using relatable terms.
- Be creative: Spend time visualizing goals and successes. These will form the basis of your image-based language. Few great communications are created off the cuff; instead, they’re refined and improved through critical thought.
- Be concise: Like Shakespeare said – “Brevity is the soul of wit.” As with all forms of communication, sticking to the point is effective when using image-based words. Whether you’re in the workplace or at school, provide just a snippet of the future you envision, rather than getting lost in fiction.
- Be human: While people can be great at comprehending data and statistics, they aren’t hard-wired for it. Image-based words are an excellent way to present data in a relatable, digestible way.
Start Telling Stories
A quick summary - image-based words are:
- Used to offer visualizations in everyday situations
- An effective method for inspiring employees, coworkers, and peers
- The strongest way to communicate important points
- More easily understood than abstract language
Good interpersonal skills may be important when it comes to the job marketplace and even the classroom. “Painting with words” is an excellent way to improve overall communication ability and increase your marketability.
Interested in going back to school? Take a look at CTU’s degree programs.