R Is For…

Just a quick post to talk about something I saw today among the millions of bits online. This was an eye-opener.

I was watching a short clip from an interview with author Jonah Berger, who among many things is a marketing professor at the Wharton School, and he had a fascinating observation about the power of words and how simple a subtle change can be.

In a nutshell, his opinion is that by adding an “r” or “er” to the end of a verb, you can change actions into identities. For example, a study showed that asking kids to clean a classroom was much more effective when calling them a helper rather than asking if they want to help.

Another example showed a 15% increase in voting turnout among people who received a mailer calling them a voter instead of asking them to vote.

His theory is that we hold our identities much closer to ourselves than our actions, and describing ourselves in that manner not only makes you feel better but also seems to others like you’re an authority or expert.

So, if there’s something you do that brings you joy and you want it to feel more like a part of you, add an r. Love to take photos? No, you’re a photographer. Do you enjoy hiking, or are you a hiker?

For me, it’s simple, and something I’ve been trying to be more intentional about. I don’t just write. I’m a writer. It’s my identity, and it’s time I owned it.


Chris Brewster, writer

Chris Brewster writes from his home in Waverly, New York. You can see more of his writing here. Chris also recently released his first book, A Lab in The Lab, which you can find here.

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