The most persuasive word you can use in a meeting is “yeah”

Usher said “Yeah” and the world agreed.
Usher said “Yeah” and the world agreed.
Image: Getty Images / Christopher Polk
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Words have power, especially in meetings. A new study from MIT’s Sloan School of Management finds that saying “yeah”, “give”, “start” and even “meeting” can boost a person’s persuasive powers among co-workers.

Statisticians Cynthia Rudin and Been Kim studied 95 meetings for the vocabulary used in proposals that were accepted by the group. They concluded that the most persuasive words are those that build consensus.

“Yeah” signals agreement with a previous idea, the authors posit. Using the word “start” in sentences like “I think we should start with the basics” is useful for building early alliances early; group participants want to appear interested in being productive. The word “give” indicates some benefit to the group. (As in, “This would give us market share.”) The word can also suggest that an idea is based on prior knowledge. For example: “Given speech recognition, I think you should go for the less fancy chip.”

The authors didn’t delve into what made some words less persuasive. Words contained in less popular suggestions in the meetings studied were “recognition”, “speech”, “fair”, “selecting”, “flat”, “animals”, “middle” and “bottom.”