Words Are a Really Big Deal

When was the last time you thought about the words you use every day? How carefully do you select them? Do you consciously choose terms or phrases that serve you well? Do you even think about the impression your words make on the people you speak them to?

 

Why all these questions about simple words? Because your words do have incredible power, they can build you up, destroy opportunity or maintain the status quo. Your words reinforce your beliefs, and your beliefs create your reality. 

 

And it’s not only about you. Your words can affect how other people see themselves, they can brighten someone’s day or send them into a cave of despair. 

 

In his book, Awaken the Giant Within, Anthony Robbins devotes an entire chapter to explaining the way your choice of words affects your emotions, your beliefs and your effectiveness in life. In one section, he examines how certain words impact your emotional intensity. Let’s say for example that a someone has lied to you. You could react by saying that you’re angry or upset.  

 

However, if you used words like furious, livid or enraged, your emotions and behavior would likely be very different. Simply saying you’re angry instead of furious has a big impact on your emotional intensity. It also likely changes the intensity of the other person too.

 

You control the words you use but only if you make a conscious decision to do so. That’s sometimes an issue for me because I find it hard to always stop for a split second to consider my choice of words. I don’t think I’m alone in having that issue. 

 

Remember, it’s up to you to speak in a way that will move you closer to being the person you want to be. It’s up to you to think, even if it is only for that split second, about the words you’re about to speak and the affect they will have on the people you’re speaking with. Speak as if every word you say matters because in many cases every word you speak does matter. 


No one will ever be 100% successful in always choosing exactly the right word at just the right time. That’s no excuse not to try and the more effort you put into it the better off you, and everyone you speak with, will be.

How You Say “It” Really Matters

If you’re a leader you will at times need to tell people what to do. The least effective leaders must do that far more often than more effective leaders. But sooner or later even the most effective leader will need to give clear, concise direction. What some people might call an “order.”

I don’t like the word “order” so I’m going to call it direction. The most effective leaders know this leadership fact: how you say something is every bit as important as the something you say. In other words, how you give the direction is just as important as the direction you give.

The timing of providing your people direction is critical to how that direction is received. If you give direction to someone during a very stressful time their reaction is far less predictable. When someone’s emotions are running high they could have a very difficult time accepting “one more thing to do.”

The most effective leaders will look for a time when a person is more open to receiving direction. This of course requires a leader to know and understand their people but that’s not a significant challenge for an effective leader.

Effective leaders know that “tone” also makes a huge difference. The same words can be interpreted very differently depending upon the tone of voice. The wrong tone can turn a harmless sentence into a hurtful insult in a hurry. By the way, I hate this next part but it is what it is…. if someone is insulted by what you said then you insulted them. The “sorry you’re not smart enough to understand how I meant that” excuse is completely unacceptable for a leader. The “I’m sorry you’re overly sensitive” excuse is no better. It took me too long to accept that but thankfully my bride is a patient person. 😉

Now I know you would never use those “not smart enough” words but your tone can cause someone to hear them whether you use them or not. We subconsciously use that tone when we assign the blame for feeling insulted to the person who feels insulted. I don’t want you to take the “blame;” I want you to step up and accept responsibility and choose better words and a more leader like tone.

The best leaders accept 100% responsibility for the clarity of their communications. They make certain their words are appropriate, they make certain their words are heard, and they make certain their words are understood.

Leaders, or more likely, people merely in leadership positions, who say it is their people’s responsibility to understand what they say are just mistaken. They may be in a leadership position but they aren’t leading.

If everyone, or most everyone, that you interact with is frequently offended by what you say or how you say it, you are not a leader. I can say that with confidence because I can also pretty much guarantee that no one is following you and if no one is following …. well, you know the rest.

I’ve always said that what a leader does is far more important than what they say. The one problem with that sentiment is this: if you say enough stuff the wrong way your people will turn away from you before they have the chance to see all the good stuff you do.

Words do matter, how you say them matters even more!

Words do Matter

I loved being a salesperson. To me it was great fun, often rewarding and almost always very profitable. When I was offered my first sales manager position I just assumed that would be even more fun.

I didn’t receive much coaching (okay, I received no coaching) on what being a manager entailed so I just kept doing pretty much what I was doing before. I also kept talking pretty much as I did before.

I was completely unaware that being in a leadership position meant my choice of words was now somehow more important. They carried more weight. It mattered more not only what I said but how I said it. It really really mattered who I said it to.

If I have struggled with one thing throughout my entire career it is understanding that fact.

The fact that words matter. The fact that when you’re in a leadership role or higher profile position, your words matter even more.

If you’ve earned the opportunity to influence others by leading then you need to understand that also means you have an obligation to do so in a responsible manner. I know full well what a challenge that can be, after all, you’re still just you. Why should your words matter more? Your role in the organization may have changed but you haven’t.

You need to get over yourself and accept the fact that choosing your words carefully is one of the sacrifices (if it’s even a sacrifice) true leaders willingly make. You can’t just say you’re a leader and you can’t just act like a leader, you need to BE a leader.

I don’t think I need to go into great detail here about why your words matter. Pretty much everyone knows that words matter; they know they can be hurt by words and they know that they can be lifted up by words too. The trouble starts when you apply those truths to other people’s words but not yours own.

If you are a leader then here is a leadership fact that you must always keep in mind: not only do your words matter, they matter more than most people’s because you’re a leader.

If you want to improve your leadership then improve your choice of words!

Your Words Matter

WordsWords are a big deal. I posted a tweet the other day that said we should think before we talk. Someone responded that sometimes we have to talk before we have time to think.

Now I like many people have spoken without the benefit of thought but “have to speak before we think”… I don’t think so. That sounds an awful lot like an excuse to me and a poor one at that.

Anyway it got me to thinking about the importance of words and that is the genesis of this post.

Words matter and they matter in more ways than we think.

Clearly what we say is vital, the words we select have major implications for how and even if, our intended message is received and understood. This is the area where people spend the majority of their time when “thinking” of something to say.

Just as important as what you say is how you say it. The tone of your voice can change the perceived meaning of many words. You know what you meant to say but your goal in communication should always be to make certain that the other person understood what you meant to say. If your tone is “off” there is a good chance you will be misunderstood.

Here’s is a little test for you in this area: If other people are telling you that you are snippy, hurried, loud, etc., then you most likely are. What they hear in your voice is their reality even if it isn’t yours. Remember, your goal is to be understood, so speak in a way that ensures that.

When you say what you say is also important. If people are too busy to listen, if they are distracted by other people or other things there is a good chance they won’t remember what you said even if they did initially hear it. If you want to be heard, make sure the person you’re speaking with is able to pay attention to what it is you’re saying.

Is there a purpose to what you’re saying? Why you say something will shape both the words you use and the tone you use to deliver them. You have the ability to tell what someone “really means” by how they say something. You’re not alone in that ability, other people have it too. Determine the “why” of what you’re saying before you say it, you may just decide to not say it at all.

Consider as well, who you are speaking with. While we always want to be respectful (I hope we always want to be respectful) of others it is even more important that we be respectful of ourselves. What we “tell” ourselves has an amazing way of becoming true. Never let anyone tell you that you can’t succeed; but for heavens sake, never, never ever say that to yourself. Just like other people can feed off our words, so do we. Make sure that you give yourself a “diet” of success words each and everyday.

Your words matter!