Magic Words: The Science and Secrets Behind Seven Words That Motivate, Engage, and Influence

Magic Words: The Science and Secrets Behind Seven Words That Motivate, Engage, and Influence

by Tim David
Magic Words: The Science and Secrets Behind Seven Words That Motivate, Engage, and Influence

Magic Words: The Science and Secrets Behind Seven Words That Motivate, Engage, and Influence

by Tim David


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Years of experience as a magician taught Tim David that real magic is all about words, and the way they influence the minds of the audience. What sets a professional magician apart from an amateur are people skills like communication, influence, and engagement—skills that are also effective in the workplace. By applying seven “magic” words in a business setting, David offers tools for effective and persuasive communication.

You will learn:
  •   The secret word that Harvard psychologists discovered is the key to unlocking human motivation
  •   How one very special word (spoken only inside your mind) mysteriously has a profound positive impact on those around you
  •   The number one mistake that managers make during 1-on-1’s, and the one simple word that can fix it all
  •   What Dale Carnegie dubs “the sweetest sound in any language”
  •   How one tiny word can instantly change someone’s mind for the better
  •   The single word that an in-depth study of thousands of hours of call center recordings revealed as the quickest way to reduce differences and calm people down
  •   How the infamous “But Eraser” works and why so many people mess it up
  •   The REAL magic behind the word “thanks”

The seven words:
  Magic Word #1 – Because
  Magic Word #2 – "Name"
  Magic Word #3 – If
  Magic Word #4 - But
  Magic Word #5 - Absolutely
  Magic Word #6 - Thanks
  Magic Word #7 - Help

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780735205390
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/02/2014
Pages: 160
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Tim David was a professional magician for eight years, giving more than 300 live performances per year. He continues to practice and teach magic and in 2010 he was named the “Top Mentalist in North America”. His popular YouTube channel has received over 4 million views and his students hail from more than 70 countries around the world.

Now Tim is focused on helping sales professionals, managers and leaders, negotiators, and law enforcement become more effective and persuasive communicators. He presents more than 100 keynotes and trainings each year in addition to his audio programs, ebooks, and online training programs. His clients include 3M, Bayer, Verizon, Citizen's Bank, Travelers, Burger King, and many others. Visit him at and on Twitter @timdavidmagic.

Read an Excerpt


There is a problem we find in our governments, in our schools, and in our families. It affects every country in the world and every citizen in them. We invest years of our lives and billions of dollars in an attempt to solve it. Big companies battle it. Nonprofits dread it. Entrepreneurs study solutions to it. In fact, it’s taunting me right now as you read this. It’s big. It’s everywhere. And I don’t see it going away on its own anytime soon.


The biggest problem in the world?

Not being able to get people to do stuff.

Solve this problem and you can solve anything. If more parents could motivate their children and effectively lead them into adulthood, if more teachers could inspire and engage their students, if more doctors could influence their patients toward greater health, then this world would be a better place.

To do anything of any significance on this planet, you need an army. If you want to create lasting change or do “real and permanent good,” as Andrew Carnegie espoused, then you need to motivate a movement. I don’t care if you want to start a business, or a nonprofit organization, or a family. It doesn’t matter if you want to make a movie, write a book, or go to Mars. You can’t do it alone. It’s pretty hard to be a leader if no one is following. If you want to move mountains, then you need to be able to move people.


Most people try to motivate others by begging, bribing, and reasoning them to death. When that doesn’t work, they get desperate and start nagging, manipulating, or deceiving to get the results they want.

They believe that “getting to yes” is the only goal of their communication. In reality, that’s not good enough. Not only do we want people to say “yes” to us, but we want them to follow through and DO what they promised.

This is a book about words that turn into action. It’s about motivating employees, engaging students, starting movements, empowering children, helping customers, and becoming an influential leader. In short, it’s about getting people to do stuff.

Kind of.

I should start right away with the big secret of getting people to do stuff. It’s simple and yet paradoxical.

You can’t.

Getting people to do stuff is the goal, not the process. If you try to motivate people directly, you will fail. Anyone who has ever tried to change someone’s behavior knows this to be painfully true.

As best-selling author Daniel Pink says, “Motivation is not something we do to other people.” The old adage goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” However, you can make him thirsty.

Motivation and influence are about creating conditions where the human brain becomes “thirsty” in such a way that the body follows. The great news is that the vast majority of brains are already thirsty in some way. They are going through life with a series of wants, needs, and desires. You just have to drill down, find their motivation, and tap into it. When you do that, watch out! Your biggest problem will not be generating motivation, but directing it.

The seven magic words in this book aren’t just words. Their roots touch the deep needs that every person has. Saying “because” is about establishing purpose. Saying “yes” displays acceptance. Using a person’s name shows significance. These are deeply human drives that we all share. They connect us.

In order for any communication to get results—whether it’s a magic trick I’m performing on the stage, or a sales pitch you’re giving in the boardroom—it must begin with an elusive little thing called human connection.

Human connection is the soil where “getting people to do stuff” grows. Get this piece right and you can mess up in a lot of other areas and still get results. Get this piece wrong and the game is over before you’ve even begun.

When teachers are truly connected with their students, learning happens. When doctors are truly connected with their patients, healing happens. When companies are truly connected with their customers, business happens.


While the quantity of human interaction has been skyrocketing, the quality of human connection has been dissolving.

Social psychologist Sara Konrath believes that it’s no coincidence. Her research numbers are shocking.

A growing number of studies . . . over the past three decades have found decreases in empathic concern (i.e., sympathy for the misfortunes of others) along with increases in narcissism.

This pattern of decreasing empathy and increasing self-centeredness has led us to a situation where “getting people to do stuff” is all about us and our own motivations instead of about them and their motivations. It’s no wonder we’ve gotten so bad at it.

So the greatest problem in the world requires the greatest solution in the world: an immediate and widespread increase in human connection.

And words are a darn good place to start.

In 1967, UCLA professor Albert Mehrabian published two now-famous research papers that made a very bold claim. Only 7 percent of what we communicate to others has anything to do with the words that we say; the rest is transmitted through our vocal tone and body language (38 percent and 55 percent, respectively).

The phrase “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it” has since reached cliché status. Over the last five decades, “experts” have been brandishing this statistic as a means of selling their books or getting you to attend their body language seminars. This concept has been all but beaten into our heads—and often by people who don’t fully understand what the original study actually found.

If you believe their interpretation of Mehrabian’s study, then you should be able to watch a show in Spanish and understand 93 percent of what is going on from vocal tone and body language alone—even if you don’t speak Spanish!

It doesn’t work that way.

Here’s what Mehrabian himself said: “Unless a communicator is talking about their feelings or attitudes, these equations are not applicable.”

This explains why non-Spanish-speaking people can watch a Spanish TV show and accurately perceive the emotions that the characters are portraying.

However, words aren’t completely devoid of emotion either. As psychologist John Gottman points out, “Plays would not exist if words did not contain a great potential for communicating emotional information.”

And mastering words is an even more important skill in a time when emails and texts have taken over a significant percentage of our interactions.

So who’s right? Is what you say more important than how you say it, or vice versa? Does it depend on the situation?

Actually, it’s the wrong question.

What you say isn’t necessarily important. How you say it isn’t necessarily important. Even the intent behind what you say isn’t necessarily important either.

So stop worrying about all that stuff. It’s not about you anyway. Instead, start focusing on what people hear. Rather than look at percentages, we need to start looking at the overall effect that our communication has on the people we share it with.

How language affects people—that’s the true magic of words.

[It] wasn’t language itself. It wasn’t the utterance of language itself. It wasn’t even what somebody meant. But it’s how that language affected me.

—Walter Mosley, “Let That Weight Go,”


Your brain loves shortcuts. The world is a complex place and your brain is being relentlessly assaulted with an incredible amount of sensory information. You’ve got to have a series of preprogrammed responses to help you deal with the deluge.

That’s why when you hear a sudden loud noise, your body jolts to attention. When you see delicious food, your mouth waters. When the room is dark, hot, or both, you get drowsy. Automatically. You don’t have to think, it just happens.

Like Pavlov’s dogs, we experience these conditioned responses because our brain has learned to anticipate what’s coming next. Some of these lessons are programmed into our brains through thousands of repeated life experiences. Some are preprogrammed deeper into our brains through hundreds of thousands of years of our ancestors’ experiences.

Is it possible that there are similar “cause-and-effect” responses happening in our brain when we hear certain words? Is it possible that there are certain pieces of human communication that universally command a very specific “shortcut” reaction?


It is also possible to intentionally cue up those reactions in the brains of those around us in order to more effectively communicate. You see, the words discussed in this book are not merely buzzwords or catchphrases. They don’t depend on the listener’s status or upbringing. (In some cases, it doesn’t even matter if the person is listening.) They lose none of their potency when translated into other languages, and they are unaffected by cultural shifts. The phenomenon created by these magic words is a deeply human, instinctive response.

You now know something that 90 percent of the population either doesn’t fully understand or refuses to accept.

Whenever you speak, you’re affecting the brain of anyone who hears you. If you choose not to speak, your silence affects them. Your communication changes their very neurochemistry.

The people who refuse to accept this do so because they are afraid of being manipulative. Some don’t like the idea of influencing other people’s thoughts for supposed ethical reasons, and some just don’t want the responsibility. However, in order to be an effective communicator, you must embrace this fact: whether you intend to or not, you are manipulating the thoughts, feelings, and actions of others.

Don’t worry, you’re in good company. Here are some of the great manipulators of history: Mother Teresa, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Winston Churchill, Maya Angelou, Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, and countless others who have used the people-moving power of words to ignite human rights movements, free slaves, empower the weak, and bring about political reform. They are great communicators, yes, but manipulators?

When we think of manipulation, we think of the not-so-great manipulators of history. People like Bernie Madoff, Frank Abagnale Jr., Benny Hinn, or anyone else who uses the same exact skills to sell bad used cars, acquit guilty defendants, or con the elderly out of millions. But in reality, both groups influenced the thoughts, emotions, and actions of lots of other people.

The difference, then, is in intention. No one doubts that communication is a powerful tool. And just like physical tools, communication can be used to build up or tear down. In the hands of Paul Bunyan, an ax is a helpful tool. In the hands of Lizzie Borden, it is a deadly weapon. It’s not the ax itself; it’s the intent of the person using the ax.

The rest of this book will provide you with powerful tools. Before using any of them, give yourself the “public relations test.” Ask yourself: “What would happen if this conversation were recorded and picked up by every major news outlet? How would the public feel about my intent? Would 95 percent of people agree that what I’m doing is the right thing?” When our intent is questionable, we tend to want to hide in the shadows. When our intent is positive, we have no problem shouting it from the rooftops.

Fortunately, most of us aren’t like Lizzie Borden. If you’re the type of person who would read a book like this, then I doubt your intention is to hurt other people with your words. Instead, the real danger for us comes when we end up like Chris Hanson.

In 2003, Chris Hanson was the punter for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Head coach Jack Del Rio tried motivating Chris and the rest of his team by placing a huge tree stump in the locker room along with an ax. Players were encouraged to hack away at the log a little bit each day in order to illustrate the value of persistence. “Keep chopping wood” was the metaphorical mantra.

Sometime around the fifth week of the NFL season, Hanson took a hack at the log and missed. Instead, he took a hunk out of his leg. So serious were his injuries that he was immediately rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery. Fortunately, Chris Hanson recovered and was able to continue punting footballs for the Jaguars.

In this case, the ax wasn’t really used as a tool and it wasn’t really used as a weapon. It was a powerful tool in the hands of an unskilled craftsman. That’s the dangerous middle ground where damage gets done and people get hurt. It’s the same with communication. It is a powerful tool, but all too often it is wielded by unskilled craftsmen.


Excerpted from "Magic Words"
by .
Copyright © 2014 Tim David.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Whereas most communication advice is concerned with what to say or even how to say it, MAGIC WORDS places the focus where it belongs: on the other person. Tim David offers keen insight into how to better connect with others in business and in life.”
—Adam Grant, New York Times bestselling author of Give and Take

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