In my career as a strategist, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time carefully, meticulously selecting words. I can often spend hours tinkering and toiling over individual words in a sentence, to craft the most succinct and impactful articulation of an insight, to capture the feelings of an audience experiencing a certain tension, or the uniqueness of an idea that not only solves that tension, but is also inherently ownable by just one brand.
Equally, I’ve witnessed more than a handful of clients get tripped up by a single word in a strategy, or hung up on a throw-away remark.
Words matter. They’re the most important tool we have as strategists. Like an illustrator without a pencil, a photographer without a camera, or an architect without a slide rule — strategists without a keen grasp of language, word choices and story… well, they are quite impotent.
It stands to reason that I am therefore obsessed with the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows — “a compendium of invented words written by John Koenig. Each original definition aims to fill a hole in the language — to give a name to emotions we all might experience but don’t yet have a word for”.
When I first discovered this, it sounded like a little slice of heaven on the internet for a strategist like me. Then I discovered that many of these invented words are explained in videos, perfectly invoking the feelings and the emotions that each word is designed to capture. Cue: elation.
A couple that really speak to me as a Mindful Strategist:
The happy consquence of going down the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows rabbit hole? It can increase your EQ.
Turns out, learning new words for specific emotions, or better still — creating new words for emotions — is a contributor to emotionally healthier and physically healthier humans, according to neuroscientist and psychologist Lisa Feldman Barrett.
“You’ve probably never thought about learning words as a path to greater emotional health, but it follows directly from the neuroscience of construction. Words seed your concepts, concepts drive your predictions, predictions regulate your body budget, and your body budget determines how you feel. Therefore, the more finely grained your vocabulary, the more precisely your predicting brain can calibrate your budget to your body’s needs. In fact, people who exhibit higher emotional granularity go to the doctor less frequently, use medication less frequently, and spend fewer days hospitalized for illness.”
Which word in the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows is your favorite? And how did you feel differently about your day, now that you have the word Sonder in your emotional vocabulary?