Borrow Words from the Best: Add Mimicry to Your Communication Repertoire

The power of other people’s phrases and templates for results and finding your voice

InThe Power of No* by James Altucher and Claudia Azula Altucher, the authors say that the second most powerful word after no is help.

In Wishcraft: How to Get What You Really Want*, my superhero-author Barbara Sher names two things for building ourselves an optimal nurturing environment: structure and human support.

In the early pages of Focal Point*, one of three business books I return to again and again, Brian Tracy cites leveraging other people’s knowledge and experience as a shortcut to the outcomes we seek.

The basic message is clear: Rely on the help and knowledge of others. It’s a no-brainer but we forget in our individual-oriented society. Or, we reach out for a wee bit of assistance, but nothing much and not too often and from only our closest allies.

One type of help from others we easily overlook is mimicry. From the minute we’re born, we’re learning from others by copying their movements, behaviors, words, and vibes. It’s so instinctive we’re often unaware that we continue this sort of copying into our adulthoods.

Turn that unconscious learning into deliberate learning through copying and you have the basis of apprenticeships, a method to mastery proven over the centuries. Copy from an expert or experts until that thing becomes second nature. Copy until the structure and essence of a form or skill seeps into your bones and your neural networks. And one day, after countless repetitions and variations, you’ll find you’re able to produce originally from that foundational marrow.

Because we’re no longer just talking about leveraging the help that is other people’s knowledge and experience, we’re talking about adopting their exact words for your benefit. No unique, individual brilliance required to advance. Learn and leap ahead by copying.

When it comes to communication, we can often find ourselves both at a loss for words and wanting to be fresh and original in a given situation. These two seem at odds, but perhaps they’re not. What if we just haven’t had enough training in the right, best, most effective words for a situation? Or enough encounters with proven communication models from which to draw? If you want to expand your way with words, ratchet up the results of your communications, maybe it’s time to consider outright lifting from the best. Taking others’ words, phrases, templates, scripts. Using them and practicing them over and over until they flow naturally from your tongue, eventually segueing into your own riffs on a theme.

Below are some examples of the kinds of resources that exist for this sort of linguistic borrowing, all from folks who are inviting you to steal their words. So just do it. Piggyback on their experience and assume their phrasing as your own. Once you grasp through repetition their underlying structure, ethos, flair, you’ll instinctively move on to experimenting with your own words, and with time and practice fluency will come. Apprentice. Journeyman. Master.


Exactly What to Say: The Magic Words for Influence and Impact* By Phil M. Jones Keep this short guide close at hand because Jones claims that the 23 specific phrases he dissects in its pages will give you a “fair advantage in almost every conversation.” What are some of these top influencers?

  • Just imagine…

  • What questions do you have for me?

  • What makes you say that?

  • Enough


69 Potent Marketing Words for Writing Copy That Converts: A list of marketing words to live by By Jonah Malin Malin’s article in Better Marketing is a godsend for those of us without formal training in the persuasive utterances of copywriters. He gives us 69 words (use them!) in eight different categories with brief explanations of why such terms pack a punch: Words that Build Trust (quality, endorsed); Words that Breed Desire and Inspire Action (exclusive, surprising); Words that Sell to Humans (small-batch, miracle); Words that Create Wonder (discover, you); Words that Energize Ordinary Senses (rejuvenating, attractive); Words that Tug at the Heart (adventure, crave); Words that Create Urgency (immediately, expire); Words that Make My Knees Weak (digress, avalanche).


The Ultimate Guide to Sales Scripts (With Examples) By Michael Halper From Halper’s article you can download for free 10 sales outreach phone call script templates, 16 voicemail script templates, and 25 proven email sales templates. Take note that this is merely what’s available on one site alone. The Google makes it easy. Get the free help of expert humans and copy their templates. On your way to comfort and facility with conversations, echo the language of giants.


Coaching Questions: A Coach’s Guide to Powerful Asking Skills* By Tony Stoltzfus (2008) Powerful questions are the lifeblood of effective coaching conversations and Stoltzfus gives beginning coaches and anyone who takes a coach approach to teaching, counseling, management, or leadership a boost with hundreds of sample questions in a range of categories along with pointers and rationales. Categories of questions, which are further subdivided, include getting started (master asking, significant conversations); life coaching/destiny discovery (motivations, barriers); a better life today (what’s missing, self-care); advanced asking skills (decision-making, reflection); coaching niches (small business, organizational).

For the less-is-more crowd, Michael Bungay Stanier devotes a whole book to the most important seven questions he thinks you need (The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More, and Change the Way You Lead Forever*). These questions are: What’s on your mind? And what else? What’s the real challenge for you here? What do you want? How can I help? What are you saying no to? What was most useful for you?


Lists of Things to Say in Awkward Situations By Paula Rizzo Though not the broadest, deepest repository, Rizzo’s quick cheat sheet is a reminder that you don’t have to know what to say or invent verbiage from scratch. There’s a five-point learning loop here: 1) Ask your nearest search engine….What do I say to someone who has cancer? What can I talk about at dinner parties? 2) Prepare yourself in advance with options. 3) Practice in advance. 4) Use the exact words. 5) Notice the response and evaluate for future use or adjustments.


My templates for you

Finally, here are links to a few of the templates I have posted online based on my 30 years in the small business world.


In review

  • There’s no need to re-invent the wheel when it comes to tricky or intimidating communication situations.

  • Instead, remember it’s okay to get help, including the help that is copying and borrowing the exact words and templates of experts.

  • Copying others is wired into us. Activate it consciously for your purposes, keeping in mind the success of the apprentice system. Mimic the masters until something seeps into your bones. Then you can make it your own.

  • Need the right words, phrases, or scripts? They’re as close as your nearest search engine. It’s that simple.

  • Learn on purpose with this 5-point system: 1) Research what you want to know for a particular situation. 2) Prepare options in advance that you can remember and feel comfortable using. 3) Practice those options. 4) Use them to the best of your ability in the actual situation. 5) Notice the response of others, evaluate, adjust.

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