Less is more? Using language to manage reactions

We Irish have always been famed for having the "gift of the gab". Language is our currency and, when I was growing up, it was pretty much the only currency we had in any quantity! We all know what happened next...

This week, Brian Lenihan, Irish Finance Minister (and not a man who will be sleeping well in the next few days!) described the EU bailout amount requested as being "less than 100 billion euros." This is a perfect example of how, when giving presentations, speakers can frame numbers and statistics in order to create the effect they are after.

Example one: The loan is going to be in excess of 99.9 billion euros.
Example two: The loan is going to be less than 100 billion euros and substantially less than 110 billion euros.

The second example aims to minimise the perception that a large amount has been borrowed. This technique can be applied to any type of figure which you anticipate will be badly received. Alternatively, politicians use it to discredit opponents and cast doubt on their abilities to manage. I have noticed that children, who are eternal optimists, frequently use this technique; "I almost got an A!"

Language is a powerful currency but in this case, the EU are going to need something a bit more tangible to be paid back with.

Bloomberg's report on Minister Lenihan's speech

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