Simple linguistic constructions to positively engage the emotions of others including the Munro Z Model

11th September by Veronica Munro

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Simple linguistic constructions to positively engage the emotion

All language has an emotional effect on people. Yes, it is true. 

So, whatever roles you have, either professionally or personally, becoming aware of the language you use, and the impact you have on others, is crucial if you are to develop and maintain positive relationships and achieve the outcomes you want.

Whoever you are, language is your means of engaging and influencing others. 

STEP 1 - A starting point for you (or others) is to develop self awareness and ways to be more effective in how you engage with others (and perhaps yourself inside).

Find a pen and piece of paper and an uninterrupted place to complete this.

1. Write down (as below) and complete the following sentences with the first thing that comes into your mind for each individual sentence:

I must ..................

I have to ............

I ought to ..........

I should ..........

I need to ...........

2. Next - read these sentences out loud. Write down one word that describes how they collectively make you feel. Your word: ......... 

3. Next - Write down a score out of 10 for how they collectively make you feel. 0 out of 10 means you feel terrible, whilst 10 out of 10 means you feel wonderful. What is your score out of 10?  Write it here    /10

4.  DELETE the following specific words below and replace with the word in brackets.  Leave the rest of your sentence the same (adjusted, if necessary, so it reads correctly) (For example: ‘I ought to spend more time with the family’ becomes ‘I choose to spend more time with the family’) Try it!

I must (can)

I have to (am able to)

I ought to (choose to)

I should(could)

I need to (have the ability to)

5.  Next - Read each of the revised sentences out loud. How do they individually make you feel now? Your word ..........

6. Next - Write down a score out of 10 for how they collectively make you feel. Write it here    /10

How can I use this practically?

Having noticed how you feel when you use the language of Necessity(need, must, have to etc) or the language of Possibility (can, able to, could), you may be more aware of your preferences. This is not, however,the same for everyone. Some people respond positively when others talk to them using Necessity language, though others don’t. The opposite is also true. So how can you use these?

You can use BOTH and notice the impact each has on people and the way they respond.  Do they look upbeat and motivated when you use certain language, or do they look demotivated? What shifts do you notice in their body language, is it energised or is it slumped? Notice their eyes. Are they lit up or are they dull? Are they smiling or are they looking rather disappointed?

Signs to look for in another person to determine their engagement (and motivation)

Eyes:           Bright and open looking up / Dull, defocused, downward

Mouth:            Smiling / Lips turned down, disappointed

Face:               Soft face and forehead / Frowning, stern expression

Head:              Nodding in agreement / Still (THIS ONE IS KEY)

Voice:             Upbeat, normal / Downbeat, low voice, low volume

Energy:           Energised body, sitting up, alive / Slumped and low energy

How can I use this when speaking to large groups?

When you are speaking to a large group of people it is preferable to start with the language of Possibility. For instance, ‘We can all make a great impact in the market this year and it’s great to know you are up for it (Possibility), so now we all need to collaborate on the key issues we are facing and get them resolved as soon as possible’ (Necessity). You will definitely get people nodding to this statement. Why? Because you are using both 'filters'.

Personally, I start with a positive Possibility statement as I wish to raise their emotional engagement first of all. However the opposite (starting with a Necessity statement) is also effective: 'We all need to collaborate on the key issues we are facing and get them resolved as soon as possible, so we can all make a great impact in the market this year and it's great to know you are up for it'.

Nodding is a sign of unconscious agreement with what you or others are saying - this is what you are seeking to achieve here, and also by using the more complex model below.


This model is a highly effective linguistic construction to gain engagement, agreement and buy-in in more complex settings, for example when you are presenting information to people you don't know or not very well. When using this construction notice the impact it has on your ability to influence - notice more nodding heads.

How does it work?

The Munro Z model uses two pairs of language filters (1) Towards and Away From and (2) Necessity and Possibility. Below are some of the specific words you can use when people are motivated Towards something, and for those who are motivated Away From something. The words in brackets are the essential LINK words between each part of the model.

Towards:        Want, goals, outcomes (AND)

Away From:    Don’t want, want to avoid, leave behind (SO)

Necessity:       Have to, should, must, got to, need to, ought to (SO THAT)

Possibility:      Can, able to, could, possible to, potential to

Here is an example and a way to visualise it:

Munro Z Model


‘So what you/we want to achieve is flexibility and improvement around your interactions with people so that you can build a high achieving business andavoid failing to deliver your targets and feeling defensive. So what we need to do is support you in putting these newly learned skills into practice at every opportunity so that you can easily be identified as a key leader even more able to put your mark on the business. (And you can do all these things now, can’t you’)

A few tips to really help you gain engagement, rather than resistance:

Uses of We, You and I: 

  • Use WE either throughout, or particularly when discussing Away From and Necessity. (If we use YOU, this often comes across as us telling others what to do and that often provokes antagonism and resistance)
  • Use YOU with Possibility as appropriate. This can emotionally uplift others.
  • I can cause resistance in others as most people are more interested in themselves and what they think, rather than what others think.
  • It's a good idea to prepare and say your sentence out loud to test for how impactful it might be and perhaps make changes if needed.
  • You can also use this model in all communications.

Enjoy and notice the nodding!

Our sincerest thanks to Veronica for sharing this.

Veronica is the editor and co-author of ‘The Journey Inside: Coaching to the Core’.

Veronica Munro - ‘The Linguistics of Leadership’ Leading Minds Limited