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Beware Of Adjectives

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The power of adjectives

[To celebrate the return of Sr. Martínez to the blogosphere, this is a translation of the first article after his absence: El poder de los adjetivos published in ESTRATEGA on 10-June-2006.]

Let's see where this leads...

An organisation is composed of people and the relationships between them.

All human organisations are systems.

All systems tend to an equilibrium or to transformation. [Sr. Martínez uses the Spanish word 'escalada' which technically means 'rise' or 'increase' in English, which I am not happy with. I tossed around various other English expressions to capture this idea: progress or evolution, for example. I myself would have written 'change', except for the fact that Sr. Martinez himself uses 'cambio' meaning 'change' in other parts of the post. In the end I temporarily at least opted for 'transformation' but confess I am still unhappy with this word.]

  • All intentional change aspires to bring about a new planned equilibrium.

  • The method of moving from one equilibrium to another is by injecting a suitable dose of transformation.

    • Every dose of transformation implies a necessity.

    • Every dose of transformation implies an expenditure of time and energy.

  • No one knows what is a suitable dose of transformation.

All people have interests.

  • All people have something they want to preserve.

  • All people have something they want to achieve.

  • All change in an organisation implies an unequal profit for the affected parties. [I think Sr. Martínez is missing a very important point here - although it is not the subject of his post. Profit is only possible when a system is not in equilibrium but it is in the process of swinging back to equilibrium. Hence the tendency in recent years for continual change to provide the possibility of 'unfair' profit for some group or other.]

For people, what they can lose is tangible and evident, but what they can gain is a possibility and uncertain.

  • People's interests are always only partially conflicting.

  • COROLLARY: the external view and rational negotiation tend to an equilibrium.

For all people it is obvious and evident that their potential is greater than their actuality, but the perceptions of them by the others in the organisation are neutral and indifferent.

  • Reality is much less than the sum of ambitions.

  • When the brain becomes emotional, the feeling of well being and the perspectives become deformed.

  • Interests don't necessarily coincide with the emotions.

  • Words are easier than actions.

  • COROLLARY: The internal perspective and emotional negotiation tend towards a transformation.


To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?


  • Every meaningful success has been seen at some time by someone as a failure.

  • Every meaningful success has satisfied some emotion.


  • Emotion is internal to each person.

  • According to the context, people may hide their emotions.

  • In a company, people hide their emotions.

    • Hidden emotions can be detected in communication.

    • Implicit emotion can only be conditioned through communication.

  • In spoken communication, adjectives are often more contaminated with emotion than nouns and these are more contaminated than verbs.


  • Count adjectives to predict transformations.

  • Modulate your adjectives to prevent transformations.

  • Reduce them to return to a rational level.

  • Emphasise adjectives to move the conversation to an emotional level.

  • Choose the ideal adjectives to direct changes in the equilibrium.

  • Hold tight when you hear them.

This post is dedicated to someone who lost his job this week because he didn't understand the power of adjectives.


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