It’s All About The Words

Have you ever wondered how important words are? We have all heard the saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” This article isn’t exactly about that…The average adult speaks about 7,000 words a day. That’s at least 7,000 times each and every day that you leave your imprint on others around you. That’s 7,000 ways others perceive you, and subconsciously define you. Not only are these 7,000+ words being said, but they are also being heard. What we say and how we say things are critically important.

I remember when I first became an office manager in the early 2000’s. One of my tasks was to cut costs as effectively as I could. So, I hit the ground running. One of our insurance agents had been writing our policies for over ten years. The relationship between him and my business partner was strong and most importantly they trusted each other. Ironically, a few weeks into my new role, one of our dedicated customers came in. We were talking about the fact that he just switched jobs and if I ever wanted to have him quote anything, he’s available. I knew at the very least I should branch out and get a couple quotes. Besides, how else would I know if I am comparing apples to apples? I’m fresh faced into this position. If I recall correctly, a lot of the details went over my head, but the bottom line… did not. Huge difference. Now, cut back to our original agent. I set up a meeting with him to review our policy and mentioned that I did speak with another agent and that his pricing was drastically (I mean drastically) lower… and, yes, the policies were apple to apples. This was my first major lesson in the importance of words, firsthand. This gentleman said the word “cheap” over eight times, in five or six sentences. His body language went from relaxed to stiff. He was not a happy camper. I will never forget this. Why? Because I remember thinking at that moment… “wow, he is not being very professional and he could say the same thing, in a much different way.”

To this day I almost never use the word “cheap.” Inexpensive… that’s the word. Yes, it has four syllables instead of 1 and it takes longer to say… but has far more impact.

Think about it, we don’t say “person” we say “customer” or “client.” If we say “neighborhood” instead of “area” it has a softer, more personalized touch. If you’re using the word “employees” while you’re talking to your talent, you might want to substitute “team members.” Now, some of us may say the above words that we shouldn’t. This doesn’t make you incorrect, it just leaves the door open for others to perceive the things you’re saying differently than what you mean. Let’s break it down more…. One of the things I love to do is to help build a culture filled with devoted team members. In creating this culture, you must walk the walk especially because you are consistently being watched by your team members. You’re their leader, not boss… see what I did there? The decision maker, the one who creates the good, bad and ugly (in their opinion) and solves the good, bad and ugly. If you want to overcome this perception, you must have the importance of the culture on the front of your mind every day. When we say “employee” vs. “team member” we immediately put our team members on a different level, figuratively. Yet, we turn around and need or want them to invest their time, hard work and dedication into our organization… like a team does. While saying the less impressive word one time may not have a huge impact. However, 100 times will. When you talk in terms of teams, your team will feel it. Some, sooner than others… but they will feel it.

The next time you’re in a conversation think about what words are being used. Then ask yourself, are they constructive and supporting? Or, could that individual use different words and use a different tone? How do the words hit your ears? If you would like to improve on the words you say, make a conscious effort. Give yourself a reminder in your phone, an email to yourself, or even a note on your desk with good ole pen and paper. Soon enough your habit for the more impressive words will take shape, and the not so impressive words will become a thing of the past. Remember, it’s all about what we say, and how we say it. Thankfully for us. We have about 7,000 times a day to improve on it.

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