‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me’ is an old adage that many will recall from their childhood.
It is commonly offered as comfort to the targets of verbal abuse. It is also patently untrue.
Together with Kevin Morrell, of Durham University, Crispian Fuller, of Cardiff University, and Ben Bradford, of UCL, Loizos Heracleous analysed the state’s response to a crisis – the breakdown of law and order during the 2011 Tottenham riots in the UK.
The research shows how leaders can use language to shape perception of events and expectations about consequences. Used wisely, with appropriate safeguards, the messaging technique involved provides a powerful means for leaders to influence opinion and action.
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