“The pen is mightier than the sword.” Coined by English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839, this adage indicates the power of communication.
Even earlier in history, Aristotle described how words were important instruments that reflected his thoughts and shaped his thinking.
Words are powerful tools, both those said and left unsaid.
They help you connect. They help build relationships and can tear them apart. It is important to understand their power and choose them wisely.
A manufacturer asked employees for production and productivity suggestions. Only a few ideas were submitted. But when the company asked how it could make employees’ work easier, the suggestions came in droves. Same objective. Different words. Better results.
How You Say It Matters
A businessman I know breaks all the stereotypes of a professional. He wears a tie, but loosely around the neck. He is self-conscious about his hair, so he keeps a comb in his shirt pocket and constantly uses it.
He can say anything to anyone and get away with it. He can stand before an audience of 100 people, essentially tell them they are doing everything wrong and yet get applause.
The same message delivered by a buttoned-up professional would be met with silence at best, a chorus of boos at worst. The difference is his demeanor, and his delivery.
He comes across as a regular guy who is in the trenches every day. He communicates in a way that let his audience know that he “gets it” and then he tells it like it is.
He comes across like the guy who has been there, done that, started with nothing and built something.
As an author (“Who Stopped the Sale?” and “Who Knew?”), I am keenly aware of words that have no meaning, words such as very, really, good, a lot, just and nice. They are non-descriptive and add no value. With overuse, once-powerful words lose meaning and impact.
In business, words can positively or negatively influence how you are perceived and received. People will remember you more if you say something with substance.
Choosing Words Wisely
Choosing the right words is not difficult. But it takes practice and attentiveness. The first step is to identify the words you commonly use in speech, writing and thought. Then think about how they come across when you present them. When choosing words, these guidelines will help ensure your message is positive, effective and clear.
Avoid negatives. Words such as can’t, won’t, don’t, and shouldn’t communicate negativity. Use positive words. Instead of telling a customer, “We don’t have that in stock” say, “We can get it for you.”
Avoid using try, think, might, but and similar words that convey uncertainty and a lack of commitment. Instead, use confident action words such as believe, know, do, and will.
You would never tell your child, “I will try to love you.” You say, “I love you.” And, you would never say, “I might be able to help.” You tell customers you will help. Your boss will respond positively when you say, “I know that doing this will…” instead of, “I think that doing this might…”
Instead of saying you have to, which implies you have no choice, let people know you want to. This communicates confidence and inspires others to action. Along these lines, never use the word probably. It conveys hesitation. If you truly are not sure, say so.
Never show off. While you may have an extensive vocabulary, using words for the sake of showing your intelligence conveys a sense of superiority, which no one appreciates. Think about the situation, where you are and with whom you are talking before using your big words.
Listen to the person you are speaking with and use words that show you are listening and communicating relevant, meaningful information.
Think about the impact your words have on others. The way you speak – the attitude and tone – reflects who you are. Your words impact everything and everyone around you. They can contribute to your success or non-success, both in business and your personal life. Think before you speak. It will make an immediate difference. (Wards IdeaXchange contributor Richard Libin, left)
Richard F. Libin is president of Automotive Profit Builders (APB), a firm with more than 50 years of experience working with sales and service professionals to build customer satisfaction and maximize gross profits through personnel development and technology. He is at [email protected] or 508-626-9200 or www.apb.cc.